Tag Archives: leadership

Put ‘Moxie’ Into Your Leadership


Today’s guest blog is from John Baldoni, leadership development chair at N2Growth, first published at Forbes.

Once upon a time when we admired someone for their grit and determination we said they had moxie. It’s an old-fashioned word popularized in movies of the Thirties and Forties about those who battled the odds. It’s a word that has always stuck with me, and for that reason I decided to focus my newest book on what it means to have guts, gumption and perseverance – moxie!

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders operate in challenging circumstances. They need to advocate for their ideas as well as for the people in the teams they lead. It takes an individual with the courage of convictions to push forward, sometimes against big obstacles, in order to achieve success.

Leaders must also persevere. There is no shame in being knocked down; it is what happens next that defines your character as well as how others perceive you. Roll over in defeat and no one will want to follow your lead. Get back up again and continue the struggle and people will pay attention to you.

At the same time, savvy leaders learn from experience. They may have been flattened for good reason. Their ideas may not have been well developed, or their perceptions of themselves was overblown. Too much ego and not enough awareness!

MOXIE spelled out

And so in exploring the concept of moxie I realized that if I turned it into an acronym it would illuminate what I believe how leaders should behave. Specifically, leaders must demonstrate five key attributes:

Mindfulness – being self-aware as well as situationally aware.

Opportunity – seeing possibilities where others see obstacles.

X-Factor – demonstrating character in all they do.

Innovation – applying creativity to risk and reward.

Engagement – working with others to achieve mutually beneficial goals.

Put these attributes together and you have an approach to leadership that will provide a way forward for leaders. In my experience in working with executives at every level, those who have succeeded demonstrate attributes of moxie in various ways.

First they are mindful they know themselves and they are willing to listen to others. They seldom accept the status quo. When it comes to opportunities they investigate. They also look at problems as opportunities. That is, if we can solve the problem we can solve bigger issues. They are individuals of character; they possess the right stuff of leadership. They innovate by pushing themselves, and especially their colleagues, to think about thinking differently and doing differently.

Most important perhaps they realize that as individuals they can achieve very little. They must mobilize others to action. Not with their words but through their actions. That starts by creating conditions for people to succeed.

Those with moxie are those who do not accept defeat easily. Rather they view it as a learning experience. For that reason they are people of determination. They also have grit, a willingness to buckle down when times are tough. And they are resilient types. And so while moxie might be word more popular in previous generations, it is as timely today as ever.

To learn more about being a top leader, try John Baldoni’s course, Do-It-Yourself Leadership, at SoundviewPro.

The Biggest Ethical Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

Today’s guest blog is from Mark Pastin, president of the Council of Ethical Organizations, a non-profit organization located in Alexandria, Va.

I am often asked about the biggest ethical mistakes leaders make. In 35 years as an ethics consultant, I have seen some doozies. You only hire an ethics consultant if you face an ethical issue. And once an ethical mistake occurs, it is extremely hard to set things right with the public and media already believing that companies routinely engage in unethical conduct. Most of these mistakes are entirely avoidable – if you are on the lookout for them.

Here are three of the biggest ethical mistakes made by leaders in reverse order.

The third biggest ethical mistake made by leaders is confusing legal advice with ethical advice. The job of legal counsel is to tell you the legal consequences of various courses of action – not whether you should take those actions. An action can be legal but still be unethical. Many of the investment activities that led to the 2008 recession were perfectly legal – and also perfectly unethical. It is a mistake to use legal counsel as your conscience just because you are used to disclosing confidential information to your lawyers. Once you step outside of the domain of legal advice, legal counsel is no more able to give good ethical advice than any of your other colleagues.

The second biggest mistake is fixing a problem going forward without owning the problem’s history. This never works but it is very tempting to leaders who don’t want a past problem dragging their organization down. How often have you heard a CEO say, “As soon as we learned of the problem, we fixed it.” That is simply not good enough. You need to show that the organization recognizes the harm caused by an unethical practice and is taking steps to rectify past harm, while avoiding repeating the same action. Everyone will be asking, “What about everything leading up to the present?” You have to be ready to answer this question.

The biggest ethical mistake of all is judging the information you receive by the person from whom you receive it. I know of no ethical fiasco that did not present clear warning signs. Somehow these signs were ignored – and not without reason. The information that would enable you to prevent an ethical crisis often comes from individuals who are risk averse, whine about everything, and have a chip on their shoulder. I have just described one type of whistleblower. Whistleblowers are highly protected under current law. This is especially true of whistleblowers in the defense, financial services and healthcare sectors where whistleblowers are not only protected; they can sometimes receive bounties in the tens of millions of dollars. Sharp leaders ignore the source of troubling information and evaluate the information without bias. An ethical leader is always asking, what if this information, although from a questionable source, is true? Would I gamble the future of my organization on it not being true?

These ethical mistakes can be avoided if you are on the look out for them. The most important way to avoid ethical mistakes is by paying attention to information that you would rather ignore or believe to be untrue. Ethical mistakes tend not to go away. The longer you know of an unethical action without reacting to it, the worse the consequences of eventually admitting the mistake. Leaders who avoid big ethical mistakes know that such mistakes, even if not involving illegal activities, can destroy the reputation of an organization. And they know that ignoring or covering up such a mistake simply compounds the consequences. Ethical leadership is not just about having and acting on sound values; it is about confronting the facts no matter how uncomfortable it may be to do so.

To learn more about ethics in business, enroll in Mark Pastin’s course Influence with Ethics at SoundviewPro.

Fix the Culture!

Today’s guest blogger is Brian Bedford, co-founder of MillerBedford Executive Solutions.

How many CEO’s value the culture of their organizations as the main driver of the company’s success? How many really take the time to define what the culture should be, cultivate it, nurture it, and the most difficult part, make sure all employees uphold it? We’re talking way beyond posting Core Values on conference room walls and on the website. To answer our question, we would say far fewer CEO’s are treating the culture with the respect it deserves.

Core values should be the guiding principles for all employees to follow when making decisions and deciding what actions to take. However, employees’ behaviors and actions don’t always match the stated core values. And these actions which deviate from those expected – even small ones – if left uncorrected can lead to the slippery slope of culture decline and later to a company’s demise.

Here’s a good example of what we are talking about. GM’s Core Values are stated as: “Integrity, Individual Respect and Responsibility”. Now let’s consider their actions…we’re sure many of you have followed the woes of GM’s ignition-switch recall. Under certain conditions, the faulty switch caused the car to slip from the “run” position to “accessories” which was possibly linked to 31 crashes and 13 fatalities. An engineer testified that GM made a “business decision” not to replace the $2 part. So what went wrong? On GM’s website you see that employees are trained annually on “Winning with Integrity”. The right words are in place, and employees were trained? But where was the accountability or the “teeth” in the process to ensure the words drive each employee’s actions? We would bet that no one individual set out to use a defective part that could cause so much damage, but rather, slowly, gradually actions were taken, decisions were made, behaviors chosen that eroded the core values. What became allowable or acceptable was not upholding the Core Values they stated. No one “called” people on their misgivings or gave them feedback to correct their wayward behaviors.

Compare this to the recent success of Ford. In the April issue of Fortune magazine, Ford’s CEO Alan Mullaly was given credit for “saving the company without resorting to bankruptcy or bailouts by doing what previous leaders had tried and failed to do: change Ford’s risk-averse, reality-denying, CYA-based culture.” Last year, Ford earned $7.2 billion in profit – far more that GM or Chrysler. You can bet Mullaly did more than posting the new Core Values on the walls to get that huge organization to change their ways. You can’t change a culture and keep all the same people, so we’d bet some of the key positions have new incumbents too.

Here’s another CEO who is taking culture very seriously. After hearing a major investor’s most important advice, “Don’t [mess] up the culture (only he didn’t use the word “mess”), Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, sent an email to his team. That email has now gone viral – you may have seen it…in Working Life called “Don’t [Mess] Up The Culture”.

In that email to his team he instructs that their next team meeting will be dedicated to Core Values, and prior to that meeting he wanted people to know why culture is important. Here’s one of the things he said, “By upholding our core values in everything we do. Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to [mess] up the culture. Each one of us has this opportunity, this burden.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO, needs to fix an entrenched culture-and quickly-if she is going to succeed. Maybe she needs to start with a similar email to her team.

You can learn more about corporate culture from Brian Bedford and Julie Miller in their Soundviewpro course Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success.

Do You Really Want to Take the Plunge (Tell the Truth)?

A guest blog with John Stoker, the Founder and President of Light Storm Consulting, Inc. and DialogueWORKS, Inc.

We all have “undiscussables”—things we think and feel but usually don’t say. Whether or not we decide to share those issues, however, is a different matter. Chris Argyris, American business theorist, believed that if organizations would talk safely and openly about their issues and concerns, then immense learning would take place that would allow individuals, teams, and organizations to solve problems, improve decision making, and increase their overall effectiveness. No one will argue with that, but the operative word is “safely.”

Years ago, when I was training at an electric generating station in the Midwest, someone in class said, “We’ve got major undiscussables here!” Naturally, I pressed for an example. The participants in the class told me that the company procedure for obtaining materials and resources to fix things at the plant was a major obstacle to getting the work done and keeping the

turbines online and generating electricity. “So,” I asked, “what do you do when things break down?”

They all laughed and said, “Oh, we have the ‘Rat Hole!’”

“What’s that?”

“We’ll tell you, but if you ever tell anyone, we’ll lock you up there forever!” I promised I wouldn’t say anything.

My class members said that the Rat Hole was a secret room deep in the recesses of the plant stocked with equipment, tools, and resources that they had easy access to. There were welding rods, asbestos clean-up suits, gloves, cleaning fluid, mops, buckets–you name it, they had it all stocked away. When I pointed out to them the costs involved in maintaining a “duplicate” storeroom, their only response was, “That’s what we have to do to get the job done and keep things working.”

When I asked them if they had ever brought up this problem with their managers, they responded in the negative, “There are consequences for doing that around here!” I was told.  Obviously, the inability to bring up concerns safely had large financial ramifications for this company. Failing to speak up always comes at a cost.

Please note: I am not recommending that whatever you hold to be “undiscussables” should always be shared. (Those of us with significant others have learned this the hard way!) Nevertheless, it is wise to stop and think about what might be appropriate to share, or what is better left unsaid.

Has the person I need to speak with reacted negatively or emotionally in the past?

One of the most frequent justifications people offer for not speaking up in a business setting is the fear of negative consequences such as making your manager angry–which shows up as yelling, name calling or some form of belittlement. And there is also the fear of retaliation, such as missing out on a promotion, being fired, being given difficult assignments, or not receiving a raise. If these are your thoughts, you need to consider whether the relationship or the situation would be improved by speaking up, rather than just leaving things how they are presently.

If this person has never reacted negatively to feedback in the past, then you will have to admit to yourself that you don’t really know if they will react negatively in this situation. You might also ask yourself why you are assuming they might react negatively. Rumor? Past experience? Other people’s experiences? Objectively examine the source of your negative assumptions and the negative feelings that accompany those thoughts. If you lack evidence that negative consequences will occur, then perhaps it is worth the effort to speak up.

I’m sure that you can generate other questions that will help you to objectively assess your situations more objectively. The fact is, we all have issues that we judge to be undiscussable, some of which really are better left unspoken. Other concerns–if they negatively impact our results, our relationships, or the level of respect we are currently experiencing–may be worth talking about. Behaviors and work processes will never improve unless concerns can be identified and discussed. If an issue really matters, most people want to know about it. That, after all, is how things get better.  If you had broccoli in your teeth, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Only you can determine if taking the plunge will be worth the reward that follows.

You can learn more about real conversations at John Stoker’s course REAL Talk – Creating Real Conversations for Results.

Leadership Is a Contact Sport: Ask

A guest blog with Marshall Goldsmith, the top-ranked executive coach in the world.

“Soliciting feedback” is just what the words imply. It is when we solicit opinions from people about what we are doing wrong. As simple as it sounds, it is not always so simple. Most people have two problems dealing with negative feedback. This may not sound like many, but they are big problems. The first is we don’t want to hear it and the second is we don’t want to give it.

The reason we don’t want to hear it is because negative feedback is inconsistent with our self-image and so we reject it. Did you know that of all the classes I’ve taught 95 percent of members believe they are in the top half of their group? While this is statistically impossible, it is psychologically real. Proving to successful people that they are “wrong” works just about as well as making them change.

The reason we don’t want to give it is because our leaders and managers have power over us, our paychecks, advancement, and job security. The more successful a person is the more power they have. Combine that power with the fairly predictable “kill the messenger” response to negative feedback and you can see why people don’t want to give feedback.

There are some other difficulties with traditional face-to-face negative feedback. Most of them boil down to the fact that it focuses on failures of the past not positive actions for the future. Feedback can reinforce our feelings of failure, and our reactions to this are rarely positive. More than anything, negative feedback shuts us down. We need honest, helpful feedback, which is hard to find.

That’s enough about what’s wrong with feedback. Let’s talk about the good stuff. Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist not sabotage the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Be supportive and helpful—not cynical or negative.
4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, without my personal assistance, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact—work friends, peers, colleagues—and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to 1) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are in fact going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

You can learn more about improving your leadership skills at Marshall Goldsmith’s course Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better.

Trust Matters Even To The NFL

A guest blog with John Baldoni, chair of the leadership development practice of N2growth. Originally published at Forbes.com.

The NFL is sitting pretty.

You bet! After a series of widely publicized domestic assault cases, repeatedly botched attempts to impose discipline, and the performance of a commissioner who has been AWOL for most of the recent crisis, the fans keep flocking to the gates and even more fans are watching on Sunday (as well as Thursday and Monday).

The NFL is a business but it is a business like few others. First off, it is exempt from anti-trust code and its individual franchises play in taxpayer-supported stadiums. It is also very lucrative. The NFL itself rakes in $10 billion a year, over a billion coming from sponsorship dollars. It is a pseudo public institution that as an institution is tax-exempt. The teams pay taxes on their revenues, not the league itself.

While a few high profile sponsors – Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s and Visa – expressed concern about the way the NFL has managed the abuse cases, no company has disassociated itself with the league.

Trust in the NFL has eroded, says Barbara Kimmel, executive director of Trust Across America-Trust Across the World, “primarily because many view the players as role models. In other words, they set an example for lots of people, including young fans.  The NFL is caught up in a crisis based on a small number of bad apples.”

While fans do of course express outrage at players who transgress by beating up women and children, their discontent is merely vocal. Their feet stay firmly planted in the stands or propped up on footstools as they watch the game at home on TV. And maybe that’s okay. Say you needed a prescription medicine and the company producing that drug had broken laws (as have some major pharmaceutical companies) you would still take the drug if ordered to by your doctor.

Fans do want sponsors to do what they are not willing to do themselves: give up the NFL.  Over half of those surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos said sponsors should drop their support of the league. Not surprisingly more women (58%) than men (49%) believe that sponsors need “in some way” to stop supporting the NFL. At the same time nearly 80% said they would continue watching the games. Jason Maloni, an executive with the strategic communications firm Levick, told Reuters,” It should not be lost on anybody that America is of two minds when it comes to football in the last month. They are voting with their hearts.”

We humans are good at compartmentalizing issues. We can choose to look at issues the way we want to. For example, I can root for my team because I always have. And if one or two miscreants misbehave, well, most of the players are okay guys. And they are. Professional athletes are not exempt from breaking the law though it can seem they receive preferential treatment. [Case in point. Ray Rice who was allowed due to his celebrity to avoid jail time and consequently avoided jail time even after cold-cocking his significant other.]

This does not mean that fans have any trust in the league. As Kimmel writes in a recent blog, “trust is taken for granted. It is assumed that it just ‘exists’ when, in reality, it rarely does. Some leaders might argue, ‘Why bother? Maybe we’ll get lucky and never face a crisis.’ [Yet] it’s much less expensive to build a foundation of trust, than it is to ‘manage’ a crisis and attempt to build trust after the crisis. Building a foundation of trust also brings tangible and intangible benefits.”

Trust is the currency organizations need to survive not simply for its public image but for its own health. As Kimmel points out there are real-world advantages to trust. These include “greater personal effectiveness, increased employee responsibility, improved collaboration (and) decision-making speed, and improved morale.”

As for the NFL we have seen what happens when a lack of trust prevails. Perhaps now is the league’s opportunity to show us what good can occur when trust returns.

To learn more about leadership from John Baldoni, enroll in his course Do-It-Yourself Leadership.

The Hidden Path to Predictable Success

A guest blog by Les McKeown, President and CEO of Predictable Success.

How to not just grow your business, but scale it

As a serial entrepreneur – I helped start over 40 companies before I was 35 – and the co-founder of an incubation company that helped launch (and grow) literally hundreds more, I uncovered a pattern few entrepreneurs and business leaders spot: At any point in time every organization – including your business – is experiencing one of seven stages of growth.

Because each stage impacts businesses differently, you can obtain a significant competitive advantage simply by knowing which of the seven stages you’re currently in. In fact, it’s only by being aware of where you are on the growth cycle that you can truly tailor your strategies (and direct your team) to make optimal decisions for future growth.

Thankfully, the seven stages are hiding in plain sight – once pointed out, most people recognize them intuitively. Here’s a quick summary:

Early Struggle
It feels like you’re hacking through the jungle as you fight to keep your newly-born business alive. The main challenge is finding enough cash to keep going until you’ve established a profitable, sustainable market for your product or service.
The mortality rate of organizations is high in this stage – around 80% never make it out of Early Struggle. Those that do are typically led by passionate visionaries who are highly focused on one thing: finding their market.

You’ve found your market and broken through Early Struggle. Now you have a sustainable business – it’s time to have Fun! The key focus moves to maximizing sales, as you shift from “finding” a market to “mining” your market.
This is the stage when the organization’s myths and legends are built, and ‘big dogs’ emerge – loyal high-producers who build the business exponentially during a time of rapid first-stage growth.

The success reaped in ‘Fun’ brings with it the seeds of Whitewater: the business grows, and inevitably becomes more complex. In Fun, you delivered consistent quality in a (relatively) simple environment; in Whitewater, you must learn to deliver consistent quality in the face of complexity.

Doing so requires you to put in place consistent processes, policies and systems, but this brings turmoil as the ‘big dogs’ and other old hands – maybe even you – chafe at their loss of freedom and autonomy. The organization seems to be going through an identity crisis, and you may even doubt your own leadership and management skills.

Predictable Success
Despite the turmoil, you’ve persisted with the implementation of needed systems and processes. Now the organization has the tools it needs to manage complexity, and for the first time is scalable: you can grow the business to whatever size you wish, subject only to the constraints of your industry.

This new scalability hasn’t come without a cost, however – you may have lost some of the big dogs, who couldn’t accept their perceived loss of flexibility and freedom, and the culture of the business may have changed in a way that some find hard to accept.

In principle, any business can stay in Predictable Success indefinitely. In practice, the newly implemented systems and processes often expand, reaching ever deeper into the organization. In response, creativity, risk-taking and initiative decline, and the organization becomes increasingly formulaic and arthritic.
In Treadmill a lot of energy is expended, but there’s little forward momentum being achieved. With an overemphasis on data over action, on form over content, good people start to leave and the entrepreneurial founder(s) – if they’re still there – may become frustrated, and at worst, disruptive.

The Big Rut
Treadmill is a dangerous stage in any organization’s development: if it is checked in time, creativity, risk-taking and flexibility can be re-injected, taking the organization back to Predictable Success. Left unchecked, however, the organization eventually declines further, becoming a bureaucracy and sliding into The Big Rut.

In The Big Rut process and administration are more important than action and results. Worse, the organization loses its ability to be self-aware, and cannot diagnose its own sickness and decline. Once in The Big Rut, an organization can stay there for a long time, undergoing a gradual, slow decline into irrelevancy.

Death Rattle
Eventually, for all organizations in The Big Rut, there is only one conclusion: after a brief Death Rattle (when illusory signs of life may be seen in a final attempt to resuscitate the organization, whether by the selling off assets or by being acquired), the organization dies in its present form.

Do you know which of the seven stages you’re in right now? If you’re not at the peak stage – Predictable Success – what do you need to do to get there (or get closer)? If you are in Predictable Success, what do you need to do to ensure you stay there?

You can learn more about Predicable Success by taking Les McKeown’s course Lead Your Organization to Predictable Success.

Twelve Traits of a Change Agile Organization

A guest blog by Phil Buckley, a senior change management professional.

Change agility is rapidly becoming a key skill of successful organizations. It is the ability to quickly respond to new developments—consumer choices, competitive threats, economic conditions, government regulations, etc.—so that opportunities are realized and challenges are managed.

Many common practices slow down an organization’s response rate. Annual strategic planning, siloed resource management and static personal objectives (and incentives) encourage leaders and their teams to complete their commitments as originally agreed, regardless of its current importance.

Agile organizations align three drivers of speed: leadership, resourcing and culture. Here are traits of a nimble organization:

• View change initiatives as a portfolio of opportunities versus a list of projects managed separately
• Know their roles in change including acting as an unbiased assessor of value delivery
• Are prepared to alter assumptions about an initiative even if it means changing direction and abandoning unproductive work
• Own the success of the change after it is launched

• Are assigned to the highest priority changes according to need versus negotiated minimum requirements
• Have right people selected for key change roles including experience, capability and motivation
• Are easily transferable across initiatives and roles
• Are dedicated to measurement of benefits and continuous improvement

• See change as an enabler of ongoing success versus something to get through now
• Understand the organization’s vision and how the change initiatives will help achieve it
• Give honest feedback that is listened to and rewarded
• Discuss, share and follow lessons learned

An organization’s ability to quickly change how it operates to achieve its goals is a key ability to ongoing success. As the speed of change continues to increase, it may not be an option. Adopting these traits could be a good start.

To learn more about change management, check out Phil’s SoundviewPro course Building Your Change Capability.

Obstacles to Overcome in Business Succession Planning

A guest blog by Paul White, Ph.D., a psychologist, speaker, author and consultant.

As a psychologist who assists business leaders and their families in developing wealth transfer and business succession plans, it has become evident that the primary challenges are clearly nonfinancial in nature. Sure, there can be some financial hurdles to overcome, but due to the expertise of the wealth transfer professional community, the fiscal issues almost always can be addressed. What is left to be resolved are the myriad of relational, family dynamics and personal meaning issues.

Three challenges stand out that cause business owners to delay putting together even a minimal plan:

1. You are busy
Until you become disabled or die, you will almost certainly always be busy (and planning needs to occur before this happens.) As Stephen Covey brilliantly communicated in his quadrant of activities, planning falls into the “important but not urgent” quadrant. The process needs to occur. But, planning usually is not urgent, so it keeps being put off until some life event thrusts it into the realm of urgency.

2. It takes mental and emotional energy over a period of time
Facts need to be gathered. You need to sit down and become clear about your goals for the business, for your spouse, for your employees and for your family. This doesn’t happen in 10-minute snippets or even a three-hour session. So, for the planning to get done, it takes a commitment of time, energy and actions over time.

3. It involves other people
I’m not talking about your broker-dealer or insurance carrier. What you decide about the future of your business will affect your employees, along with your spouse and your family (whether or not they are actively involved in your professional practice.) As a result, it is critical to involve them and get their input.

Uncertainties cause fear

Business succession planning is difficult because there are uncertainties. You don’t know how long your health will be good or whether your adult child will be able to manage the business. Most astute business leaders learn how to assess and manage the risk associated with the unknown. But when it is your business and your family involved, the decisions to be made take on far more personal relevance. As a result, they often get delayed.

Finally, business succession planning is sometimes avoided because you have no idea what you would do if you didn’t work. For many of us, our work becomes our identity. We love it. But we have no clue what life after work looks like. So we don’t want to think about not working. The problem is — this really puts your business, your family and your employees at risk should something unfortunate happen to you.

Action steps

The worst thing you can do regarding your business succession plan is to think about it but not take any action. Why? Because by thinking about it, you can deceive yourself into believing you’ve actually done something. Following are potential action steps I would encourage you to take:

1. Talk with your spouse, major employees, and involved family members. Start by telling them you understand you need to do some business succession planning.

2. Identify an expert to coach you through the process, which includes
● Thinking through the issues that need to be considered
● Helping you design a process that includes all relevant individuals
● Keeping you on task over time
● Assisting you, your staff and your advisors get the needed tasks completed.

3. Begin to talk to the others involved. Start by finding out what they want (it may not be what you want), and hear their perspectives. They may not be honest if they hear what you want first and their thoughts differ from yours.

4. Use your coach to help you work the plan, step by step. Get some aspect completed. Don’t get bogged down by the apparent complexities. Take it a piece at a time.

You have completed several large, complicated projects over your career. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be as successful as you are. Don’t let your future, your family, and your employees suffer as a result of not taking care of your succession planning.

Learn more from Paul White in his SoundviewPro course Leading Successfully Through Challenges and Obstacles.

Turn Your Mobile Device into a Classroom


It’s been five months since we launched SoundviewPro, to provide free video business courses for people looking for efficient ways to improve their business skills.

During the past several months, we’ve added many courses on leadership, management, personal development, professional development, computer skills and more. Courses are being added weekly as we continue to build a strong base of content to match the needs of our business customers.

Every course is free of charge and consists of a group of classes broken up into short video segments. The short videos allow for easy display on mobile devices and tablets. Each trainer is an expert in their field and Soundview brings that expertise to bear in these concise skills courses.

When a customer signs up to take a course, an account will be established for them which includes their personal information and also tracks their courses and stage of completion. They can view a course one class at a time, viewing videos as they progress. While customers can view courses for free, supplemental learning materials including tests, additional readings and a certificate of completion are available for purchase.

Here is just a sampling from the subjects now available at SoundviewPro.


Leading Successfully Through Challenges and Obstacles with Paul White

Helping Successful Leaders Get Even Better with Marshall Goldsmith


Solving Today’s Employee Engagement Challenges with Les Landes

Installing an Accountability-Based Culture for Success with Julie Miller & Brian Bedford


Becoming a Powerful Business Presenter with Stanley Ridgley

REAL Talk – Creating Real Conversations for Results with John Stoker

Personal Development:

Building Brand [You] with Cyndee Woolley

The Five Keys to Experiencing Extreme Personal Productivity with Jones Joflin

Technology Skills:

Microsoft Excel 2010: Introduction with Robert Devine

Microsoft PowerPoint 2010: Fundamentals with Donna Zarbatany

Please check out the courses and let your colleagues know about this free resource. Our goal is to transform the way business people learn the skills they need to move forward in their business and career.