Breaking out of your business activity trap prison

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Business owners, CEOs and senior executives face a myriad of challenges in today’s business environment. Many of the challenges are related to understanding the ever-evolving business, economic, technology and political environments - not to mention the specific technical business changes presented in the professional field you and your team members embrace.

New and exciting products and services are continually being introduced to the market. These new business tools are available today and can be incorporated to assist your businesses to improve overall performance and profitability. However, the challenge we face is to find the time to invest in learning, adapting systems, and incorporating the new technology, tools and services while adjusting our current processes, maintaining our business efforts and dealing with a hundred other things. We must also keep the company mission in mind and lead our teams to success. This is no small task.

The trap we face is that it takes time, money and focus to step out and properly delegate our responsibilities and hold our associates accountable for results we have agreed upon. Stepping out of these day-to-day activities takes a tremendous amount of energy and effort. We get stuck in the business activity trap prison without a focused plan, resources and support. We do the same operational things that are important, day after day, subjecting our businesses to short term success but future harm. While our businesses earn revenue today, we sacrifice tomorrow. If you, as a leader, are not planning, looking at new innovations and adapting to the anticipated future environment, then who is? The answer is no one.

We know we must be open to change to be relevant in the long-run. We should be developing, introducing improvements, testing new tools and systems to help our associates but also to free ourselves from day-to-day technical and recurring business functions. Our goal must be to create, innovate and deploy better systems that produce more sales revenue and reduce our costs to gain a higher overall profitability. We can continually strengthen and grow our businesses through this process and applying best practices.

ThistleSea coaches have a fourteen-year track record of helping business owners, CEOs and senior executives free themselves from the business activity trap prison. This allows them to benefit from a more profitable business. In addition, ThistleSea clients understand the future, position their companies correctly and create a better life for themselves and their families with more time to pursue the things they value the most.

Give us a call for a complimentary discussion to see if a ThistleSea business coach might help you escape your business activity trap prison by starting the discovery process to build your action plan. Don’t hesitate to give us a call today.

“Because your business should lead to Abundance.”

Leading yourself first

relationship with yourself.jpg

It's not an accident that "leadership" is our Abundance newsletter topic more often than any other. But we don't often discuss that "leading yourself first" can make the difference between a life of abundance... and not. In fact, we estimate that 95% of our clients list personal goals - ways they'd like to lead themselves better - when they're considering the futures of their businesses.

From eating more healthily to spending quality time with loved ones, it seems that leading yourself first isn't part of business school curricula or a requirement of funding pitches. It's multi-faceted, and some things are likely to come more easily to you than others. We divide it into a few arenas, and for the sake of brevity, we'll list just a few items under each:

Oh, man. Go to sleep.

Oh, man. Go to sleep.

Your bedrock tools

  1. Define your values
  2. Recognize and reduce your negative self-talk
  3. Prepare a personal mission statement

Your physical self

  1. Get plenty of rest
  2. Exercise regularly
  3. Get regular check-ups

Your personal finances

  1. Put insurance policies in place
  2. Complete estate planning
  3. Create plan for retirement (financial and otherwise)

Your mind

  1. Prioritize your activities to maximize your time
  2. Spend quality time with loved ones
  3. Spend time on a hobby

As with any changes, it's best not to do too much at once. If you've been working hard to lead yourself and you're not gaining traction, try to do a little less. And contact us for assistance.

"To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring was funny."

Or "How my bunions led me to hire a business coach."

I decided to write this post after reflecting on my time as a client at ThistleSea (I'm the only one in our office who can do this). This may give you an idea of why someone might hire a business coach.

I came to business coaching when the business was almost exactly 18 months old. I spent the first 13 months working between 70 and 80 hours weekly, and my 34-year-old body had begun to inform my brain that this was not a sustainable plan. What were my clues?

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

There are no pictures that accurately represent how unpleasant marriage was at the time.

  • I was missing important family events regularly.
  • I had very few relationships outside of the business.
  • My feet had developed problems that weren't healing. (This after many years of tap dancing and running without issue.)
  • My marriage was pretty unpleasant.
  • I arrived each day at work prepared to fight fires.
  • If I wasn't putting out my own business fires, I was covering so that employees could put out their fires.

Looking back now, it's not hard to categorize my challenges. But under pressure, I couldn't see them:

  • Work/life balance was poor
  • Systems were not in place (in my case, HR systems were weak)

 (I don't know if ThistleSea's Wexford office was literally at a cooler temperature than my business, but when I would arrive at a coaching session, there was a clear feeling of "Ahhhh...." I could breathe. I could think and plan, ask questions, propose solutions, write, be still... I had no fires to fight.) Getting to the root cause of anything is difficult under pressure, so it was important that pressure could be relieved.

Let's use one of my examples.

PROBLEM: "My feet had developed problems that weren't healing."

WHY? (1)
I was on my feet for 8-10 hours, 6 days per week.

WHY? (2) 
I had to help the staff get the work done.

WHY? (3) 
There wasn't enough staff capable of meeting the company's requirements for the amount/quality of the work.

WHY? (4)
Staff didn't stay very long.

WHY? (5) 
We didn't clearly explain what was required when we hired new people. So we hired some people who didn't understand the work or weren't capable of doing it.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

Yeah, I wore this. Yeah, it was as ridiculous as it looks.

To tie my foot problems directly to employee hiring (1) was funny, (2) did not happen overnight and (3) did require making intermediate adjustments. That is, I didn't go straight to having an amazing system for hiring and then magically experience foot healing.

I'll talk a bit more about what happened in my next post. 

TAKEAWAY: When you're having a problem in your business, write it down. Ask "why" 5 times. You'll get very close to the root cause, and that's where you need to be.

The CEO Genome Project findings

By: John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Our team at ThistleSea Business Development, LLC works with clients to apply best business practices and personal effectiveness strategies. The results help them run more profitable and successful businesses and have careers that deliver more fulfilling lives.

An article in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart,” reviews a behavioral study called the CEO Genome project. The University of Chicago and the Copenhagen Business School collaborated to identify the common traits of the most successful CEOs. They used data and interviews from over 17,000 C-suite executives (including 2,000 CEOs) covering career history, business results and behavioral patterns. Distinguishing behaviors were identified in four areas taken from those who were hired as CEOs (and those who weren’t) and those who excelled in the CEO role (and those who underperformed).

These findings are important because business leaders can significantly increase their odds of becoming high performing CEOs and top performing business executives if they deliberately develop the following behaviors. For this article, we will call them leaders.

1. Decide with Speed and Conviction
Leaders found as high performers move forward and make decisions. They understand that slow decision-making causes bottlenecks, frustrated teams, and over cautious staff. It stalls progress within their company.

Bad decisions are better than a lack of clear direction because they can be fixed. Mistakes are viewed as learning experiences by top performing leaders.

Having a wide view from a variety of data and information resources is required but must not be overdone. To make a call, 65% of the information is enough for these high performers. Perfection slows progress. They cannot wait for a perfect answer.

2. Engage for Impact
Top performing leaders lean into the discomfort. They set a clear course by understanding their stakeholders’ needs and motives. They have an unrelenting focus on creating value and driving performance and results.

Leaders are also principled in their communication. They stand out by making decisions fast with great conviction. The studies showed leaders who are more decisive are 12x more likely to be a CEO. A wrong decision is better than no decision. According to the findings, leaders were given low marks on decisiveness 94% of the time for deciding too little, too late and given low marks only 6% for deciding too quickly. Only 1/3 of the leaders are terminated for bad calls while 2/3 are terminated for indecisiveness. Results-oriented, engaged leaders who consistently understood their stakeholders were 75% more successful in their role.

3. Adapt Proactively
When you’re watching a close sporting event, you’ll see that sometimes the coach must throw the playbook out the window to win. Business leaders are, at times, required to quickly adapt. Those who can master adaptation are 7x more likely to succeed in their role. To successfully adapt, these leaders are consistently scanning wide networks and diverse sources of data and information. They have a great sense of change and can make strategic moves to their advantage. They also spend 50% of their time on long-term thinking.

Leaders use coaches and recognize the value of having diverse advisors who are objective and whose judgement they trust. As one colleague of mine would say, “Never drink your own bathwater!”

These successful leaders recognize setbacks as a part of their job. Setbacks are part of learning and offer opportunities to modify and improve.

4. Deliver Reliably
Leaders who had the ability to deliver reliably were twice as likely to be selected for the CEO role and 15x more likely to succeed. Board members, investors and employees love a leader with a steady hand they can trust.

The keys to delivering reliably? Set realistic expectations, plan, budget, assess the business to develop an independent point of view, build a strong team, align and execute. Establish meeting cadence, dashboards, clear accountability, monitor performance systems and make rapid course corrections.

If you want to see how you rank in these 4 traits, take the 5-minute online assessment at http://CEOGenome.com.

Contact us if you would like to discuss how we assist business owners, executives and other leaders improve their performance through understanding their impact and adopting successful behaviors and best practices. We might be a good fit to assist you and your team. ThistleSea is confident in our ability to positively impact your continued success and growth.

The Cure for a Business Filled with Assumptions

One of the most important concepts I discovered as a business coaching client was just two words long: “Never assume.” What kinds of things did I assume as a business owner?

  • Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for success.
  • Employees will follow the company’s policies and procedures. (In retrospect, "HAHAHAHAHA!")
  • Staff members will share their discontent with me if it occurs.
  • Employees will share my values.
  • Vendor relationships are adversarial in nature.
Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Turns out there's a reason EVERYBODY knows this saying.

Were my assumptions wrong? Well, yes and no.
 
Some stakeholders knew my vision for success. Some employees followed company policies and procedures. Some staff shared discontent with me when it occurred. Some shared my values. Some vendors tried to take advantage of the company. The problem was not that my assumptions were all wrong; it was that by assuming, I could never be sure.

Business coaching helped me to understand the dangers of assuming, and then to make changes in my behavior to stop doing it.

BEFORE (Assumptions) AFTER THISTLESEA COACHING
Every stakeholder knows and shares my vision for
success.
I need to know the vision. I need to communicate it often. We
need to discuss it, ask questions about it, and lead people to
share and adopt it.
Employees will follow the company’s policies and
procedures.
"These are our company’s policies and procedures. Here’s
where they’re written down, and these are the people who can answer questions.
You’re expected to understand and follow them. If you choose not to do so, here
are the consequences you can expect."
Staff will share their discontent with me if it
occurs.
"We’ll check in as a group daily and with each other
periodically. Your supervisor will meet with you individually on a regular
schedule, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, speak openly,
receive performance feedback, etc. If you’d like to speak directly or you’re
experiencing a problem that isn’t being resolved, here’s the best way to
schedule time together."
Employees will share my values. "The values that drive our company are _____, ____, and
_____. We honor our values among ourselves, with our customers, vendors and
competitors. On Wednesday, Amanda demonstrated our value of ______ when she
________."
Vendor relationships are
adversarial in nature.
"Here’s what we need and expect now, as outlined in our
written agreement. Let’s schedule a 6-month review so we can correct any
issues, learn about new services, etc. If we have immediate needs, what’s the
best way to get a fast response?"

Assumptions can be hard to identify, particularly if you’re assuming things correctly.
 
Communicating clearly elevates the importance of top performance in your company. It gives all parties the opportunity to decide, “Now that I understand this, am I on board? Or not?” It leaves no room for drama, ambiguity, excuses or blame.
 
The next time you’re surprised at something that happens in your business, ask yourself why. It’s likely that you assumed incorrectly… just like I did. Let us know if we can help. Reviewing your assumptions may be your key to success.

ThistleSea Announces Two New Leadership Coaching programs

For those desiring to be more powerful, effective leaders

Executive Leadership Coaching Program

This advanced program is designed to strengthen the competencies of business owners and executives, set a baseline for both individuals and organizational current leadership, review benchmarks for the current state and help establish goals and priorities for future leadership development and coaching. 

This program will help you self-discover, reflect upon and identify the strength of your leadership competencies and skills in ten core areas. These core areas are a unique compilation of knowledge and insights gleaned from top leaders, executives, educators and mentors from around the world. 

The 10 core areas include: 

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Communication Skills and Conflict Management
  3. Self-Discipline, Focus and Decision Making
  4. Relationship-Building and Social Intelligence
  5. Executing for Results
  6. Persuasion and Influence
  7. Teamwork and Innovation
  8. Shaping Culture and Organizational Change
  9. Thinking Strategically and at a Higher Level
  10. Positive Psychology


Emerging Leadership Coaching Program

Some employees who are great at their technical work may be emerging as potential leaders for the future. As the company grows and retirement of the baby boomer generation accelerates, what are you doing to avoid the high cost of turnover? Are you training your high potential employees to successfully take on new roles in supervision and leadership positions? 

The Emerging Leadership Coaching Program is designed for the high potential employees who are part of a company’s transition plans to move into supervision, management and executive leadership roles in the future and for those leaders who want to refresh their own leadership skills. 

This program focuses on strengthening leadership through application of best practices in the following 15 areas:

  1. Business Systems
  2. Choice Management
  3. Coaching
  4. Communications
  5. Customer Experience
  6. Financial Management
  7. Gross Profit
  8. Human Resources
  9. Leadership
  10. Management
  11. Marketing
  12. Motivation
  13. Personal Effectiveness
  14. Sales
  15. Strategic Planning

Both programs are designed to provide you with the tools for a leadership journey that will inspire and excite, strengthen the business, and apply leadership best practices. Organizations can use these programs in a group, one-on-one, or customized for their specific needs. 
 

To learn more, contact one of our ThistleSea business coaches at 724-935-1930 or info@thistlesea.com
 

A Path to Growth or Destruction?

Using peer review as a strategic competitive advantage

By John D. Laslavic, LPBC

Many company leaders are strong-willed individuals. While this can be a strength, it can also reveal itself as a dangerous strand of stubbornness that can negatively impact a business. Some may struggle with obtaining and integrating advice from peer groups.  

Common feelings CEOs and presidents express about having peer review (i.e. board of directors, advisory board, outside committees, a business or executive coach, etc.) include:

  • “What if people find out I don’t have a strong vision and action plan for my company?”
  • “I’m not that comfortable communicating internally… or externally.”
  • “Will I lose authority by involving others in my thinking?”
  • “Will a board (committee, coach, etc.) interfere with my decision making?”
  • “It costs too much and takes too long.”
  • “I know what I’m doing, and people should focus on my getting it done.”
  • “What happens if I try something (based on peer review) and it fails?”
  • “I don’t really understand what the board (committee, etc.) was trying to say.”
  • “It’s a pain.”

Just because a company uses peer review of some kind doesn’t mean it’s effective, however. Organizations already using peer review may be on the wrong path if they see the following happening:

  • Peer review group agendas not focused on vision, future direction, policy, strategy, KPIs and financial results.
  • SMART goals not established.
  • Peer review participants unwilling to voice their opinions. 
  • Company making adjustments for individual people’s needs without consideration for the company’s mission.
  • Minimal communication from the owner, president or CEO.
  • Decline or stagnation in company growth.
  • Key employees leaving the company.

If you observe these situations in your organization (or you’re observing these situations as a trusted advisor), you might consider recommending or improving the process by inviting people to serve in a peer advisory capacity who:

  • Are financially independent from the company.
  • Are not afraid to voice their opinions.
  • Know things you don’t.
  • Agree with the company’s mission, vision and values.
  • Agree to be open to suggestions, listen to and work closely with peers who desire to bring new life to the company.

If used properly, peer review is an excellent way to provide your organization perspective to improve governance, business operations and product/service growth. 

Our ThistleSea team advises that 2017 business planning and budgeting should begin now. Evaluate your current peer review efforts to gain additional expertise and ideas. Adding an advisor, business coach or a peer review group to assist you might give you the advice and guidance you need to excel. Just be open enough to take their good advice and put it into action.

Contact a ThistleSea team member if we can help you and your company create a peer review process. Doing so should help your company grow revenue, expand operations and help you to personally prosper.

Volunteer Leadership and Governance

Serving on a not-for-profit board

A note from John

Many busy business owners and executives devote time to serving on not-for-profit boards of directors. They give back to their communities, professions and special causes by providing their business expertise. This type of volunteer leadership improves communities and enhances the lives of those served by these outstanding men and women.

Taking on a role as part of a volunteer board, however, cannot be taken lightly.

There are certain legal responsibilities that each board member should be fully aware of before taking on the role. The board acts as trustee of the organization's assets and ensures that the not-for-profit is well managed and remains fiscally sound. In doing so, the board member must exercise proper oversight of the organization's operations and maintain the legal and ethical accountability of its staff and volunteers. The main legal responsibilities of a not-for-profit board are often summarized in "the three Ds."

  1. Duty of Care: Board members are expected to actively participate in organizational planning and decision-making and to make sound and informed judgments.
     
  2. Duty of Loyalty: When acting on behalf of the organization, board members must put the interests of the not-for-profit before any personal or professional concerns and avoid potential conflicts of interest.
     
  3. Duty of Obedience: Board members must ensure that the organization complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations, and that it remains committed to its established mission.

In addition to its legal responsibilities, the board acts in a fiduciary role by maintaing oversight of the not-for-profit's finances. Board members must evaluate financial policies, approve annual budgets, and review periodic financial reports to ensure that the organization has the necessary resources to carry out its mission - and remains accountable to its donors and the general public.

It is important that your organization has up-to-date bylaws to ensure liability protection based on state law. Your not-for-profit should also have a risk management strategy, and each board member should be clear on their duties and responsibilities therein. When these elements exist, board members can focus their energy on accomplishing the mission through working together.

Adapted from grantspace.org

Advice from a Trail

Photo by Wendy Lydon

Photo by Wendy Lydon

In September, 2015 Wendy had an exciting vacation with family in Yellowstone National Park. She picked up several “Advice from . . ." writings authored by Ilan Shamir and is sharing them with you to expand the thinking and apply to your business.

Walk into beauty

Being a leader is a beautiful opportunity to change your lives and the lives of others. Take time to enjoy the business and life you have created for yourself, your team and your family.  

Stay on your path

Start with the end in mind and work towards achieving your dream. Outline your goals and stay on track to reach those goals.

Find inspiration around every turn

You just never know what may be around the next turn.  Leadership and ownership requires some flexibility and agility. You will always be faced with something new around each bend. Take the time to be inspired by others – and to be the inspiration for others.  

Tread lightly

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Be vulnerable and allow others to truly see you. Your business needs your care and attention, so take the time to analyze opportunities before making decisions.

Pack life with good memories

Being a leader and business owner is an exciting opportunity for you to live the life that you want. Be sure to have fun and provide an environment where your team enjoys coming to work every day!  

Every day has its ups and downs

The life of a business owner and leader is not always an easy one! Stay focused on the great work you are doing and how you are providing opportunities for others to achieve their goals. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  

Watch your step!

Don’t move too fast. Be sure to build the plan and work the plan! And closely evaluate anything that may appear as an obstacle. Have an optimistic view that anything in your way is a checkpoint to regroup, reinvent and recharge!

Am I ready to hire my first employee?

So I have a company and I'm thinking about hiring an employee. Are there best practices I should follow?

Although the hiring process may be complex, ThistleSea outlines 10 specific steps to make it more clear.

We suggest you follow these 10 steps:

  1. Design the position.
  2. Prepare a revenue forecast.
  3. Prepare the job description, performance standards and performance evaluation.
  4. Seek candidates.
  5. Select the top 5-10 candidates for phone interviews.
  6. Disqualify candidates who do not meet the job requirements.
  7. Schedule and conduct first face-to-face interviews.
  8. Conduct employment checks.
  9. Schedule and conduct second face-to-face interviews, during which the performance standards are reviewed in detail. (At this time it may be appropriate to conduct behavioral assessments.)
  10. Make your decision and prepare the offer letter!

Would you like to hire with confidence? Contact ThistleSea to make it happen!

"Because your business should lead to abundance."

Wendy Lydon featured in "Common Threads: Inspiration"

Common Threads Inspiration: The Global Sisterhood of Empowering Women's Success Secrets by Dr. Shellie Hipsky profiles 33 women with inspirational stories of overcoming obstacles, living their dreams and helping others achieve success. 

Wendy describes what happens when she first meets with clients. "Usually the first thing is, we're sitting here in my office. I have a big whiteboard behind us... on one side, I always draw a sun. I ask, 'So what is the sun for you?'"

"We have to know where we're going, so we can determine how to get there."

This and other books in the Common Threads series are available from Amazon.

What is the sun for YOU? To learn more about business coaching at ThistleSea, click here to contact Wendy directly.

Pittsburgh-area business coaching practice moves to new offices.

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC is pleased to announce it has recently moved to a new location in Cranberry Township, PA. The new professional business development office is located in the Cranberry Professional Park at the following address: 301 Smith Drive, Suite 5, Cranberry Township, PA 16066.

John D. Laslavic, LPBC, president of ThistleSea Business Development commented, "Our new offices provide us with additional space to expand our coaching and training services to area businesses and to serve business owners more effectively." The company will also hold networking events on site.

ThistleSea Business Development, LLC has been serving area businesses since 2005. For more information, call John or Wendy at 724-935-1930.