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January 2014

Leadership & Planning Lessons from the U.S. Marine Corps

Jan 8, 2014 2:57 PM
Bruce Hunter

Who knows why I was trolling a white paper written over 15 years ago for aspiring leaders in the U.S. Marine Corps.  As I read, I happened across a brilliant summary of the criteria required to both commit to and conduct a successful war.  The connection between mobilizing the public for war and mobilizing a company and its employees to embark on a new venture or direction became clearer.  I invite you to think about the comparison and how you might employ the following adaptation from the original article  to improve the connection between your company’s goals and the mobilization of your employees. 

The  Criteria Required to Conduct a Successful War:

1. Just Cause.  The initiative must be seen to protect and preserve value in one of several ways.

2.  Defence of self or others from attack.

3.  Retaking of something taken wrongly or by force.

4.  Punishment of concrete wrongs by an opposing power.

5.  Right Authority.The leader authorizing the action must be seen as a valid representative of the political entity.

6.   Right Intention.  Conducting an action must be seen as just and not a selfish air masked as a just cause.

7.   Proportionality of Ends.  The overall good achieved by the action must be perceived to be greater than the harm it may produce.

8.   Reasonable Hope of Success.

9.  A Peaceful Aim.The end goal must be a new order in which peace is restored.

10.  Last resort.  The action is being considered because there is no logical alternative or the alternative is significantly less desirable.

As interesting, the article went on to identify several landmines for any planning effort.  Here again, there are parallels to be drawn to your business initatives.

The Pitfalls:

  • The strategic panacea.Offering universal solutions (e.g. attempting to solve world hunger).
  • Emphasizing process over product.  Believing that going through the process is the answer.
  • Seeking the single, decisive act.  Looking for only the home run ball.
  • The fate accompli.  Believing that the outcome is assured.
  • Attempting to simplify or downplay the issues. 
  • Succumbing to paralysis of inaction.Something must come of the planning sessions.
  • Rushing to a conclusion.  Not examining the full facts or implications.

As with most lists, the above-mentioned are not exhaustive.  I hope you found them of value as you think about your next business initiative or planning session. 

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December 2013

Occam's Razor

Dec 2, 2013 7:18 AM
Bruce Hunter

William of Ockham (1287 – 1347) created the principle of Occam’s razor only to have it remain unheralded until 1852 in the works of Sir William Hamilton.  What is Occam’s Razor and why should we care?  While I’m taking some liberty in its description and application, it is the forerunner of the principle we know as the “KISS principle.”  Keep It Simple Stupid. 

In science, Occam’s razor is used as a rule of thumb to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models.  It encourages scientists to drive toward the simplest possible explanation for existing data.  It further submits that the simplest explanation is likely the most informative.  KISS.  Or, in my parlance, the ONE THING.  Focus…one of the most powerful contributors to improved personal and business performance. 

A quick real-world story of the power of focus and keeping it simple.

 In the world of finance, there are many firms that provide financial advice to those who wish to buy or sell a company. The challenge is to break through the clutter, which frankly, is most likely the challenge we all face.  How to credibly stand out from the crowd.  The firm in question was dealing with the same challenge.  They had developed a good reputation, well respected in the field of Mergers and Acquisitions, but were having trouble gaining traction and growth.  Sound familiar?  After struggling for several years trying various tactics to accelerate their growth, they hit on the winning formula.  They narrowed their selling proposition and hit it out of the park.  Here’s what they did…

First, they came to the realization that saying more was saying less.  They took a hard look at their web site and marketing collateral and realized that when compared with the market, they had a white-washed message.  Everyone was saying the same thing!  High expertise, team orientation, customer focus and orientation etc.  They needed to narrow, rather than broaden their focus.  The next thing they did was look at the market and concluded that with the greying of the baby-boomers over the next years there was likely to be a glut of businesses for sale.  Because of that, many would not be able to be sold.  The result for these owners was likely to be either selling to employees or have the business wind down.  The opportunity that presented itself and on which our M&A firm landed, was to reposition their company as being the Management Buyout Specialists.  They rebuilt their communication to reflect that focus and expertise. The business exploded with new growth and clients!  In narrowing their focus they simplified the value proposition and created differentiation in their customer’s minds.  What’s even better is that the benefit extended to all their work, not just Management buyouts.  By establishing expertise in a narrow field, that expertise created a positive halo across a number of practice areas.  Thank you Occam’s Razor!

Gary Keller, writing with Jay Papasan released a new book this year entitled “The One Thing” within which had a number of questions related, not surprisingly, to the “One Thing”.  I found them to be helpful in considering a number of personal and business challenges.  Here’s a selection of “One thing” Questions.

For Your Business…

What’s the one thing I can do to help us stand out from our competitors?

What’s the one thing I can do to improve our customer experience?

What’s the one thing I can do to make us more profitable?

What’s the one thing we could change that is holding us back?

What’s the one thing I could do to help the team succeed?

For You…

What’s the one thing I can do to achieve my exercise goals?

What’s the one thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?

What’s the one thing I can do to improve my skill at…?

What’s the one thing I can do to improve my relationship with my family?

The format of these questions allowed me to generate my own list which has proven to be very helpful in a number of areas.  The power of focus on the “one thing” helped me to cut through the clutter and get traction in a number of areas.  I hope it provides a similar benefit for you.


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November 2013

Here's What I expect.

Nov 2, 2013 6:04 PM
Bruce Hunter

Something wonderful happened in a meeting I was attending the other day.  An employee pushed back!  The business leader was in the midst of dressing down certain members of a team regarding a recent client meeting when my new hero piped up.  “You may have a point”, she said, “but this cuts two ways. I want you to know that you’re not blameless. You cut the legs out from under me in front of the client.  It’s going to take me a long time to repair the relationship I’ve built up over the last year.”  Well said!  It took guts to lay that on the table.  It is also a testament to the trust she had in the relationship between herself and the business leader.  Long before, they’d established the expectations for each of them in their roles as boss and subordinate.   And it’s that process and a real life example that I’d like to share now.

Setting clear expectations is perhaps the most important part of business leadership.  If it’s done at all, it’s often a one-way dialogue.  The most fruitful dialogue of course cuts two ways.  Here’s the process I’ve been using with success for a number of years.  It was developed by Ian Bell of Traction Consulting.

The business leader creates a list of his/her expectations of their team.  That list is then reviewed with the team and modifications made if appropriate following the discussion.
The business team spends time developing their expectations of the business leader.  That document, in turn is reviewed in a group setting, with the business leader.  Again, modifications are made, if appropriate.
 With these expectations as a core, individual meetings are held between the business leader and the team members to discuss their individual expectations within that umbrella document.

The result is transformative.  Because everything that needs to be said, gets said and documented.  There’s no misunderstanding on either side.  The best results are usually obtained with an objective third party facilitating the process to ensure that both sides are heard and emotions are held in check through the discussion.  The first time through can sponsor some interesting discussions!

Here’s the promised example.  It’s a document that is currently in use and may act to prime the pump should you elect to try it on for size with your organization.

  For Direct Reports:


Role model our company values.
Own your jobs:  don’t delegate up or allow me to take it from you.
Be honest by always telling me what you think, not what you think I want to hear.
Deliver and be accountable for your commitments.
Never make me chase you down for things you’ve promised me.
Always bring a solution to a problem and be prepared to provide a recommendation.
Have the courage to challenge and disagree respectfully.
Call me on mistakes in private.  Back me up with Staff in public.
Help me focus on doing the work that only the leader can and must do.
Use me as a resource, coach, counsellor and consultant but never a crutch.
Give me bad news as quickly as good…or quicker!
Value my time as I will yours.
You will lose your job if:

I lose confidence in your ability to own and do your job.
You ever lie to me, our Staff, or a Stakeholder.
Fail to do what you knew was right.
Compromise our company values or act without honour.

You will thrive in your position when:

You own your job.
You uplift and add to our culture.
Balance your life and your job.
You are yourself – which is the person I need you to be.


For our business leader:


Walk the Talk.
Be as open and honest with us as you want us to be with you.
Be there for us when you say you will.  (Staff, customer meetings etc.)
Back us up in front of our people. Critique in private.
Be open and clear about what you expect from us and if we fall short of your expectations, have a timely discussion.  Don’t harbour grudges.
Don’t back away from or avoid the difficult conversations.
Treat us like adults.
Listen to us and gain the facts before pronouncing sentence or offering solutions.
Don’t undermine us by going directly to our staff without our knowledge.
Be reasonable about timelines, needs and priorities.  We have other things on our plate too!
Respect the fact that we don’t work the way you do.  Minimize “drive-by-shootings; hallway hand-offs; hijackings etc.)
Provide us with the information and support we need to do our best work.
Encourage us to have fun by having fun yourself.
Allow us to take risks, fail and learn from our mistakes as long as it doesn’t place undue risk or cost on the business.




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June 2013

Got A Problem? Try Zooming Out!

Jun 24, 2013 5:54 PM
Bruce Hunter

I guess there really isn’t much new under the sun. I was reading Chip and Dan Heath’s latest book entitled “Decisive” when I came across a technique they ascribed to Kevin Dunbar who set out to understand how scientists think and solve problems. After several years of research studying the methods that scientists use to attack various problems, he noted that they universally used analogies to drive research forward. Many often weren’t aware that they were using the technique. What was surprising to me that I also had been using the technique for years in dealing with problem solving in business situations. Chip and Dan Heath described the process as laddering but I liken it to zooming out from a Google World Map. Here’s an example from the book of how it works…

Imagine that you’re a junior high school principal who believes strongly that kids should be outside engaged in some form of physical activity during the lunch hour period. You’ve got a problem however. The lunch line is slow, reducing the amount of time the kids have to spend outside. Speeding up the line would help. The problem therefore is how to speed up the line.

The Principle would likely start considering the problem at a granular level. Let’s imagine that there are two lunch lines and one moves much faster than the other. He’d likely examine the many variables from that faster line with the hope that he could identify at least one that he could apply to the slower line to improve its speed.

The process of “zooming out” calls for searching for solutions in ever broadening circles of influence. With our example of the lunch line, once he’d reviewed the closest situation, he could broaden his search to other lunch lines at other schools. If that didn’t yield sufficient fodder for improvement, or he wanted to expand his frame of reference, he could move to a broader perspective. Perhaps the study of other types of lines. Movie theatres, grocery or retail shopping experiences could be examples from which he drew inspiration. Broadening from there, he could search “experts” in the field of people movement. Disney, sports stadiums or amusement parks.

Problem solving becomes more abstract the higher one “zooms out”. If we broaden the problem description to that of flow, it offers further opportunity and scope. Now we are able to use an analogy of experts in managing the flow of a resource through a fixed space…plumbers, electricians by way of example. And on it goes.

Try zooming out on your most challenging business problem.

The biggest breakthroughs I’ve made with business challenges that seem insurmountable have come through this process of ever-broadening problem definition. We’re too close to the situation and can’t see the forest for the trees. Try it on one of your most challenging issues.

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April 2013

Huh? Getting Clear about your Company's Destination

Apr 29, 2013 7:48 AM
Bruce Hunter

“It is our job to competently maintain high quality intellectual capital, while continuing to continually facilitate progressive meta- services!”

“Our challenge is to assertively network economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance based infrastructure.”

You probably reacted to these statements the same way that the employee population of these two respective companies did. Whoa! I’m willing to bet that we’ve all been exposed to this type of baffle-gab. And yet, at least one person (and most likely several) thought these statements were abundantly clear.

Reading the Globe and Mail the other day, I found an interview which suggested an interesting experiment. Take your company’s Vision, Mission, Statement of Values and if you’ve got one, a Statement of Purpose and cover up the titles. Can you or your employees identify which is which? Most can’t which of course just underscores how well the communication will perform once it hits your corporate stage.

Great communication is short, simple, pragmatic and connects to the heart, not the head. It’s for that reason that I speak of a “Destination” rather than a vision. Here’s a short story to underscore the power of a Destination statement.
Ian, (name changed) had recently bought into a company and became its CEO, soon to be owner. Believing in the power of collaboration, he brought together the employees so that he could share his vision and mission for the company and get their input. Following his presentation, conversation commenced with several individuals taking part. Five minutes into the discussion a hand went up from the back of the room.

“Yes?” queried Ian. An individual who worked on the manufacturing line, stood up and addressed Ian and the rest of the employees.

“I don’t know about your Vision and Mission…but I’ve got one myself!” he exclaimed. “As I look around at this place and the state it’s in, I have a Vision myself. And that’s to help get this business big enough so we can move out!” And with that, he sat down.

To Ian’s credit, he listened. “Does anyone else feel the same?” One by one, the hands went up. “Here is an opportunity!” thought Ian. I’ll fast forward the story. Ian replaced the vision and took the statement, “Big enough to move.” as a replacement. Once that was determined, he had the rest of the team work on exactly what that meant, what needed to be done to achieve that goal and lastly, how they would measure whether they were making progress. Brilliant!

1. The Destination was succinct, motivating and abundantly clear to every employee.
2. It spoke to the heart, not the head.
3. It laid out the specific actions and measured their progress.

In their seminal work on effective communication, “Made to Stick”, Chip and Dan Heath reinforce the importance of clarity and simplicity using a concept taken from the U.S. army called “Commander’s Intent”.

“CI is a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired intent of the operation. No plan survives contact with the enemy. And in business, no plan survives contact with the customer. It’s hard to make ideas stick in noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environments. It’s got to be simple…the core of the idea. The tough part is weeding out ideas that may be really important, but just aren’t the most important. That’s the challenge of creating a really powerful destination statement. Finding the most important idea.

Herb Kelleher (the longest-serving CEO of Southwest Airlines) once told someone, “I can teach you the secret to running this airline in thirty seconds. This is it: We are THE low-fare airline. Once you understand that fact, you can make any decision about this company’s future as well as I can. That’s his Commander’s Intent or Destination Statement.”

What’s yours?

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March 2013

It's the people stupid!

Mar 27, 2013 11:13 AM
Bruce Hunter

I was walking the other morning with a small business owner, lamenting an email reply they had received in response to a job offer for an admin position. The reply contained several caveats to the offer. “I will work only between these hours. I would highly prefer to work in this location. Etc.” Of course the business owner was incredulous. “I can’t believe people these days! Imagine the gall of prospective employees these days!” However, the larger issue in my mind was that this small business owner hadn’t immediately replied with a “Thanks, but no thanks!” What were they thinking?

On reflection, I can empathize with this small business owner. They’d spent countless hours in the candidate search including some expense in advertising. Nothing through the interview process had sent up any red flags and the individual had been very personable with good experience. There was an immediate and ever-increasing need to fill the hole as work was going undone and the load, spread out over others including the business owner was putting a strain on the organization. The thought of renewing the whole process and starting again was daunting and could well hurt the business in the short term. There was quite the impetus to move beyond this annoyance and try to make things work out.

In some ways, I’ll bet we’ve all been in similar situations. It’s easy to deal with the problem employees. The incompetent or toxic are a slam dunk! They usually show their spots early so exorcising them isn’t a big deal from an emotional or cost standpoint. It’s the “tweeners” that are the issue. The employee that, every once in a blue moon, shows themselves to be somewhat useful, or even helpful. How do you pull the trigger on someone that shows some promise, sometimes? In retrospect and with years of siding with and trying to prop up questionable employees, I’ve come to my most important business lesson.

It’s about the people, stupid!

Good people are worth their weight in gold. They solve issues before they become problems. They are self-motivated. They make everyone’s job easy. The effect on customers, other employees and reputation has a multiplying effect! They provide value well beyond their compensation. The reverse is also true!

I know this is not new news to any of us. People make and break companies. Why is it then that we have to learn and re-learn this important lesson. Because I work by and large, with companies that have been built from the ground up, the issue is compounded. Those who sacrificed and bled for the company in the early years are often not well suited to help drive the company forward in later years. They’ve reached their Peter principle. Who wants to reward a loyal, dedicated employee with either a move sideways or out? Not many. Many businesses are sold at exactly this point in their lifetime to help avoid that very unpleasant task for the owner.

The Viet Cong employed an interesting strategy to weaken the American forces which ultimately saw the U.S pull out of Viet Nam. Rather than employing tactics to kill American soldiers, they focused on weapons designed to maim. If you kill someone, you remove one person from the war effort. Maim somebody and it takes many to respond to the injured. A weak employee in your company works exactly the same way. The effect of a weak employee is a tremendous drain on the organization’s emotional and professional resources.

Do this quick exercise.

Write down the names of those who report to you. Taking no more than 1 minute, assign either a “six” or a “nine” out of ten beside their name using whatever criteria you feel important. Be honest about your evaluation. Now deal with those you’ve assigned a six. Nobody can afford “sixes” in their organization. Reassign them or get rid of them. Simple as that. The effect will be transformative!

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January 2013

Where's Your Spock?

Jan 28, 2013 4:10 PM
Bruce Hunter

In the Star Trek prequel of 2009, we were introduced to James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock in their early days at the Star Fleet Academy. Far from demonstrating the fast friendship and companionship that they would develop in later years, the two start off on a decidedly frosty, adversarial foot. Kirk, then a recruit, is attempting to take his third shot at defeating a leadership simulation test known as the “Kobayashi Maru”. This apparently “unwinnable” test created in part by Spock, is defeated by Kirk who decides to play outside the box and reprogram the simulation to assure his success. Spock, always one to play by the rules, lodges a formal complaint to have Kirk removed from the academy for cheating. Kirk takes the opposite view. He argues that the only way he could have “won” the exercise was to go outside the rules. Two more different people one couldn’t imagine. And yet, time will reveal that their complementary leadership styles are exactly what’s needed to succeed.

One of the most common errors we see with any type of business leader…be they Entrepreneur or Executive is the propensity to hire in their own image. It’s not surprising. After all, what’s not to like? They’re hiring themselves. The candidate is immediately attractive because they speak the same language, see the problems the same way and quite possibly have shared leadership characteristics. Of course it’s not long before what attracted initially becomes unattractive and problematic. The two often end up fighting for the same space as leaders, creating animosity and distrust. The more effective route in the longer term is to hire a complement.

The first step is one of introspection and self-knowledge. You have to brutally honest with where you shine, and of course, where you don’t. The right hire is the person that will protect your back and fill in your leadership gaps. A trusted advisor or significant other can be a useful mirror.

The next step is to determine in broad terms, the type of individual (leadership characteristics and skills) that would form a complement to your own. The following provides several alternative roles that I’ve adapted from “Second in command. The misunderstood role of the COO” by Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles. As you read through each description, think about the individual that you believe would provide the strongest complement to your leadership style.

The Executor.

Has their “head down” to the business, focused on the operational details necessary for today’s success (vs. the role of the CEO to be “heads up” and designing the future success of the organization). Is very strong in the execution of strategies developed by the leadership team. Willingly shoulders the responsibility for delivering the results on a day to day, quarter to quarter basis.

The Change Agent.

Is specifically sought to bring new skills to the organization and to lead a strategic imperative like a turnaround, a major organizational change or a planned rapid expansion.

The Mentor.

Someone who has broad business experience and has most likely played a key leadership role. Is comfortable with being brought on board to mentor a young or inexperienced CEO (often a founder or family member of a private firm). A rapidly growing entrepreneurial venture might seek an industry vet with seasoning, wisdom and a rich network.

The Foil.

Individual brought in to specifically address a gap in leadership skills or persona. Bill Gates and two of his previous COO’s are examples. Jon Shirley provided a calm, self-effacing balance to Gate’s brilliant and often intimidating style.

The Partner.

A co-leader. Just as there are doubles specialists in tennis, some executives are more effective when paired with “equals” with complementary skills.

The Heir Apparent.

The position and individual is brought in to groom or test a CEO.

The variation in individuals and roles are as varied as the leadership competencies and styles of those with whom they will work.

Who’s right for you?

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December 2012

Got Enough Grit?

Dec 12, 2012 8:10 AM
Bruce Hunter

I love to read stories about survival. Lost on the open sea. Surviving a prison camp. Post-holocaust Earth. The people in these stories are inspirational. Doggedly persistent. Full of Optimism. Resilient and resourceful. The big question that goes through my mind is how I would stack up. Would I be as resourceful or would I be a casualty? How long would or could I hold out against seemingly insurmountable odds? Hopefully, I’ll never have to find out. I’d like to think I would be among the few that survive but until you are faced with the situation, you never know. I do know however, that people with this quality are exactly who you’d like to have on your team or working alongside you. Do you have enough of these folks on your team?

I was doing some research on the psychological traits of the Entrepreneur for a new book the other day. Without going into great detail, there are a number of studies that focus on the “Big Five” traits associated more highly with Entrepreneurs than the general populace. Extroversion. Tolerance of Risk. Curiosity. Self-orientation and Persistence. While researching, a newsletter from Mike Fox of Brightlights Inc. arrived which focused on additional research being carried out on the subject of “Grit”. Professor Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania has been carrying out a number of studies to determine the correlation of Grit and success in jobs and education. Her studies found that people with higher “grit” scores had higher GPA scores and success in several other pursuits. Another author, Paul Tough has just completed a book also studying the trait defined as: perseverance and passion for long-term goals among children in inner-city environments. “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” cites these traits as being instrumental in children surviving and later prospering outside of that environment.

The biggest business challenge I hear from CEOs and business owners is about people. Call it ownership thinking, initiative, stick-to-it-ness, leadership. They long for more people on their team that have the right skills and will step up and take accountability and leadership. They’re looking for more people with Grit. Unfortunately, most make do with the people they have, hoping these employees will somehow magically transform. In the majority they don’t. As a leader, it’s your first responsibility to put the right team on the field. The biggest learning I’ve heard from these leaders over the years is this. “I wish I’d made the move to upgrade my team earlier. The better the people we’re had, the faster we’ve improved as an organization.” How does your team stack up? You may need a few more with “Grit”.

6’s and 9’s Exercise: Do A Quick Review of Your Team.

Try this in no more than 5 minutes. Write down the names of the people in the most important leadership positions in your company. Thinking about each, assign them either a “6” or a “9” out of ten as it relates to the value they are providing or could provide.
What are the scores you’re looking at? Are you leveraging the folks you scored “9” strongly enough? Any “6’s”? Why are you tolerating any? Sometimes this very quick exercise can bring clarity to people decisions to the benefit of all.

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October 2012

One Step Solution to Building an Ownership Culture

Oct 19, 2012 4:15 PM
Bruce Hunter

Stop Piggy Backing Their Monkeys!

A friend and I were walking the other day solving the problems of the universe when we hit upon a recurring subject…our kids. The stories we’d shared about our kids over the years had a familiar and consistent theme. “Why can’t they shoulder a little more responsibility?” The evidence was compelling.

• Piles of clothes left exactly where they were dropped in the haste of coming in the door.
• Dishes left out after use, sometimes for days.
• Bedrooms and washrooms that looked like the aftermath of an A-bomb drop.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll stop there. If you have kids, you’ll no doubt be able to expand greatly on the list I’ve started. Of course the culprit ultimately responsible for their behaviour was also clear. We were.

As a generation, we’ve become very closely connected with our kids, their lives and many of us feel responsible for their success. In shouldering that responsibility (well beyond that shared by a previous generation I might add) we’ve taught our kids to abdicate theirs. They’ve learned that if they wait long enough, someone will intervene on their behalf. Rather than rely on themselves, we’ve taught them to rely on us. We’ve figuratively pushed them aside and piggy-backed their monkey.

So what’s different in business? How often have you heard or thought this yourself? “Why can’t my employees shoulder more responsibility and own the problem? Why are they putting the problem on my back?”
Who is really to blame? The dirty little secret is that it’s a problem of our own doing. Have a look in the mirror and you’ll find the real perpetrator. It’s no secret that the toughest thing anyone can do is put trust in another.
Remember the first time you tried to teach someone a new skill? It’s tough to see someone struggle through the process when it’s so easy for you. Commensurately tougher when there’s a lot on the line. A quick story of someone that got it right.

A client of mine had just hired on a new account representative. The employee was new to the business and the company had just picked up an account that was to have the first client/agency meeting the following day. A lot was on the line. My client handed the responsibility for the meeting and agenda to the new employee as they would be the lead on the account. At five o’clock a meeting had been called to preview the agenda and content. Needless to say, it was not a “ready for prime time” document. It fact, it was a mess!

Here’s where the “getting it right” part came in. To his credit, my client didn’t take over the process. The natural reaction would be to save the situation by inserting themselves and their experience. Rather, he offered feedback and some key points that needed to be made and left the employee to rework the document prior to the meeting. My client then departed the office and didn’t see the output from the revision until the meeting with the client the following day. The monkey had been up for grabs and he’d steadfastly refused to give it a ride. Wow! How many of us would have moved to “save the day” ourselves. A few I’m sure, including myself.

Here are some simple steps to create an ownership culture:

1. Provide situational clarity, context and candour. Treat employees as adults and they’ll give you the same back. The more they know, the better they’ll be able to help.
2. Build a common understanding of underlying purpose. You’ve got to share the same goal line.
3. Make sure the expectations and respective roles are crystal clear. Ambiguity means dropped balls.
4. Track and review performance. What gets measured gets done (and improved upon).
5. Work “on” not “in” the process. Your value comes in direction, not the doing.

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September 2012

What's your Rant?

Sep 18, 2012 12:50 PM
Bruce Hunter

The movie “Network” which opened in 1976 to great acclaim, had within it, the most penetrating rant that has ever existed on film.
Howard Beale, a Network newscaster entered the studio building. A security officer opened the door for him. Beale mumbled, “I must make my witness” and proceeded to the studio stage. As the countdown to air ended, he began…

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. A dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and nobody seems to know what to do and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. We sit watching our news while some newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 643 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
All I know is that first you’ve got to get MAD!

You’ve got to say, “I’m a human being god damn it! My life has value! “So I want you to get up now. I want you to get up out of your chairs! I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it and stick your head out the window and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

“So”, you may be asking yourself, “Where’s this going?”

My question to you is this. “What is your rant for your business?”

Call it purpose. Call it your “one thing”. Call it a rallying cry. Every business started with an idea. A gleam in the eye of the entrepreneur who set out to either right a wrong or saw an unfilled opportunity in the marketplace. That idea had passion behind it. Rediscovering that idea or identifying a new idea and the passion which fuels it has the power to reboot you and your business.

We’ve worked with hundreds of businesses and business leaders over the past few years. One thing has become abundantly clear with each. Those that are consumed by a rant, a passionate belief that anchors their businesses, are by far the most vibrant and successful. The reverse is also true.

We sat with a business owner a few years ago which bears testament to the power of a rant. This particular firm was conceived in the early days of the internet and email. (Yes it’s an old story but remember, I’ve just quoted from a movie from 1976!). At the time many, if not most, marketing service firms had jumped on the bandwagon that spoke to the ability to measure email blast effectiveness. Send out hundreds of email and you can measure, to a very discreet number, that campaign’s effectiveness. That was a huge benefit to those marketers trying to defend shrinking marketing budgets in the face of a tougher economy. The easiest and possibly the safest solution for our business owner would have been to play the game the way others had begun to play. Except for one thing. He had a rant! He believed that all of these companies had missed one important thing. They’d forgotten that customer value starts with the customer, not in measurement. His rant and that core idea permeated his company, his employees, his business pitches and keynotes. “Start with creating true value for the customer as the first step and work backwards toward you.” The company flourished and was eventually sold for a nosebleed price. It was built around a rant and a passion which differentiated and created value.
Here’s the unfortunate postscript. The company had been bought by a company monolith seeking to kick start its own growth. Over the course of several years it strangulated the rant and the business suffered. The passion turned to pain and just last month it closed its doors.

So, to use Howard Beale’s words…”First you’ve got to get mad!” What’s the rant for your business?

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