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How I Remembered to KISS at The #UP2015 Conference

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As a conference speaker I normally show up to an event, meet and greet as appropriate, step on stage, share my experiences/thoughts, exit the stage, network, and then exit the building – on to the next event.For me, the experience generally centers around speaking and sharing relevant experiences/thoughts with the audience to help them increase their performance.  Seldom do I get to be a participant at the conference.

Yesterday I spoke at the first UP (Unlimited Possibilities) 2015 Conference for the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce.  In this case, I didn’t have an immediate “next event” awaiting my arrival, so I decided to shake up my routine – I decided to be a participant.  When my keynote and breakout session was completed I picked up my conference bag (yes I played the full role of the participant) and headed to my workshop of choice.  I decided to attend a workshop, taught by Brian Mininger, with an intriguing title: Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).

My introduction to the KISS concept was during my younger days in the USAF.  I had one particular training instructor, can’t remember his name, that loved to espouse the values of KISS.  Keeping it simple was the key to success.  He reminded us not to overcomplicate things and, as only a training instructor in the military could, he had a not so subtle but memorable way to remind us when we were violating the principle of KISS.  So maybe I attended this workshop as a throwback to the good ol’ days or maybe Brian laid the bait just right to peak my curiosity – either way I was there.

Brian’s workshop didn’t disappoint me.  He, like my training instructor, espoused the values and benefits of keeping it simple.  He didn’t present any complicated, convoluted formulas for success, nor did he cloak his nuggets of wisdom behind a veil of mysterious analogies or metaphors that serve as pieces of a puzzle that only few could put together.  Brian’s information was new to some and a refresher to others – it was practical and relatable for business owners.  I’m compelled to share a few of the lessons learned with you.  So here they are, 3 things Brian taught/reminded me:

  1.  If you don’t find and honor the thing that brings you the greatest joy and fulfillment, you’ll spend your life punching a clock.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not a clock puncher.  Focus on those things that give you energy, not those that drain your energy.  What’s your passion? 
  2. If you don’t pay attention to your market, that lack of attention and knowledge will put you out of business.  What are your market/industry trends telling you?
  3. Figure out what people need, even if they don’t know they need it. Find out what keeps your customers up a night.  What do you know about the needs, interests and frustrations of your customers? 

The beauty of these three lessons is in their simplicity.  Sometimes there’s a tendency to devalue the simple and overly value the complicated, after all if it’s too simple anybody could do it, right?  That’s exactly the point – anybody can do it, so do it. Your success and the success of your business depends on you doing the simple things.  I suggest you consider how the above lessons and questions can help you strengthen your performance as a business owner/leader and the overall performance of your business. I thank Brian for reminding me that I’m still able to keep it simple.

What are some additional words of wisdom you’d share with business owners/leaders?  Remember, KISS!!!!

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Lessons from Cynthia Radford – SCANPO #NPSummit2015

This morning Cynthia Radford kicked off the SCANPO conference by giving us a great overview of the Leadership Challenge.  Cynthia did a phenomenal job condensing two days of information into 2 hours of meaningful and enriching dialogue.  For those that could not be in attendance here’s a snap shot of what I heard/learned.  Hope this is helpful to you.
  1. Leaders are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
  2. The 4 qualities of admired leaders are: Honesty, Forward Looking, Inspiring, and Competent.
  3. There’s a deep human yearning to make a difference.  Leaders set the stage for people to meet this need.
  4. Our job as a leader is to get everyone pointing in the same direction.
  5. Leaders are expected to be credible and have a vision.
  6. Leaders get people to struggle together toward the same goal/cause.
  7. Clearly articulated goals can draw other people in. Engaging opportunities can pull folks in to serve a greater cause.
  8. We must learn how to put common sense into common practice.
  9. Leaders must predict the impact of change.
  10. A desk is dangerous place to try and see the world.  Get out there and look around. Can’t stay tethered to the desk.
  11. We need competitive compensation packages to attract and retain high quality, competent people in the nonprofit sector.
  12. Asking disruptive questions requires courage.  It may aggravate people, but it must be done.
  13. Leadership isn’t a solo act.
  14. Trim back the bureaucracy and cut back the silly rules when you can.
  15. If we show trust in others, it’s usually reciprocated.
  16. Folks who can’t trust others will never be effective leaders.
  17. Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
  18. Reflect on your experiences to discover what enables you and what disables you.
  19. Active listening will build trust and collaboration.
  20. What’s the most meaningful way I can recognize someone?  Great question to consider. Think about the ways that you say thanks in authentic ways.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot.
  21. Sustainable organizations cultivate leadership at all levels.
  22. Love em’ and Lead em’

The above nuggets of wisdom should serve as a reminder of what we’re able to do to improve our leadership effectiveness.  Thanks Cynthia.

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Creating a Collaborative Culture

Are you dealing with a toxic environment within your workplace? Can your employees barely tolerate each other? Do you fear that your employees are one miscommunication away from recreating a scene out of Lord of the Flies? Well it sounds like you are struggling with creating a collaborative culture and your employees are suffering as a result.

According to Inc. Magazine, “Building a collaborative culture requires defining and building a shared purpose, cultivating an ethic of contribution, developing processes that enable people to work together in flexible but disciplined projects, and creating an infrastructure in which collaboration is valued and rewarded*.”

While we agree that refining processes, systems, and structures contribute to a culture of collaboration there are two things that carry greater weight: strong leadership and healthy relationships. A team without a strong leader is like a rudderless ship, adrift in the wind. And what will happen to that ship? Well, we don’t know and neither do those on board. The ship ends up wherever the external forces determine. In addition, a team without healthy relationships is like a puzzle with pieces that refuse to stick together, even when they fit. Either way it is not a good situation to be in. But when leaders understand and commit to setting the right tone, and relationships are valued, it lays the groundwork needed to build a culture of collaboration.

Think of building a collaborative culture as Teambuilding 2.0. And truly fostering teamwork among your employees is more complicated that just getting them to be civil to each other. Perhaps everyone does get along great within your company. But even though everyone smiles at each other, and no one’s birthday is ever forgotten, somehow nothing ever seems to get done. And just because everyone gets a cake on their birthday does not mean that you are fostering teamwork. A truly successful work environment means more than cake. It means getting things done with and through others. Here are some of the most common challenges that leaders and teams face:

  • “We can’t serve our external customers because we haven’t figured out we’re each others’ internal customer first.”
  • “How can we collaborate with other organizations when departments, divisions, and units within this agency don’t even collaborate with each other?”
  • “Our culture is too toxic to be collaborative. We don’t trust each other and everyone thinks their way is the right way.”

Leaders and teams that are successful at cultivating a collaborative culture demonstrate several traits and characteristics:

  • They are believable. When we’re believable, people have confidence in our words and intentions. We increase our credibility and trust in each other. When the leader is believable the team not only trusts the leader, they trust each other.

 

  • They are teachable. Teachable means we are ready and willing to learn. We have the capacity to be instructed and then grow from the lessons learned. When the leader is teachable the team is teachable.

 

  • They are accountable. Accountable means we acknowledge that we are obligated to accept responsibility for our actions and required to answer to someone. When the leader is accountable team members increase expectations of self and others.

So are you struggling with cultivating a collaborative culture? If you ask the right questions and look in the right places sooner or later you’ll uncover culture killers within your team like: lack of trust (someone’s not believable), lack of listening (someone’s not teachable), or lack of results (someone’s not being held accountable).

The Weathers Group is a 12-year-old management-consulting firm based in Columbia, SC that specializes in organizational development, executive coaching, and facilitation. So if you’re tired of living in a Shakespearian tragedy and want to start creating a collaborative culture, let us know. We’ll provide the support to ensure that your company’s future is a bright one.

*http://www.inc.com/comcast/building-a-collaborative-culture-regardless-of-your-size.html

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