Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting Aligned!

To win the race, members of the crew team must row in sync, towards the same destination, utilizing and leveraging each others inherent strengths as much as possible. As in sports, those in family businesses (owners, family members, and employees) must similarly align and work together to ensure family and business success.

Yet alignment is frequently questionable in family businesses. This leads to further conflict and ultimate decline, even death of the business. Additional impacts over time from this include increased tension and distance within the family relationships.

The root cause for much of this in my experience has to do with lack of "real and open" conversations, for balancing family and business needs is not always easy. One is constantly pulled in two different, often opposing, directions. Each member has different ideas on how to run the business, it's direction, it's purpose, and so on.

Rather then talk about such "hot" issues, they are often pushed aside, hoping they'll go away, which of course they never do. Secondly, even if the members were to communicate, it's also lack of understanding what exactly they would discuss, to achieve such alignment.

Having given much thought, I believe there are 7 key areas that contribute to achieving alignment, which can be effectively meaningfully discussed, once more effective open communication is established. And it is alignment that leads to long-term success, of both business and family relationships, both of which are so intertwined in a family business.

These key factors include:
  1. Within
  2. Purpose (Internal and External)
  3. Vision
  4. Values
  5. Strategic Focus
  6. Goals
  7. Role
In my upcoming posts, I will expand on each of these areas. As you read this post, as well others, I would most welcome your thoughts, your input.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Healthy is Your Family Business?

Following my recent post "Getting Along, Getting Aligned, Getting Ahead", I just finished writing series of posts on behaviors and motivators. The better that is understood and applied, the better we do at getting along with others, which in turn contributes to more effective communication and to then more effective alignment. But what do we exactly mean by alignment? What does that include? How do we make that happen? I'll be writing on this topic in my upcoming posts.

Before moving onto that topic however, as we're about to enter the new year and therefore thinking this will be a great time to do a heath check on your family business, I wanted to share with you the "Family Business Health Check" that I just designed. See below. Go ahead, give your family business a physical and determine it's health. From this, you'll a sense of where additional work is needed to improve the health of your business, and the health with family members who are directly and indirectly related to your business.

To start, please answer the following questions to the best of your knowledge. Then follow explanation below.

1. All of the family members involved in the business, directly and indirectly, understand and are aligned with the business’ purpose, vision, mission, values, and goals?

2. Everyone knows what each family members wants?

3. You are able to openly share concerns, differences of opinions, and issues with your family members and we are able to resolve our differences?

4. Your business is run professionally, without family issues or dynamics negatively impacting or complicating business matters?

5. Family members, and non-family members in key positions, challenge each other, in a productive way, to build healthier business and stronger relationship, with family members and non-family members?

6. Your family has regular meetings and retreats to deal with family business issues, in a safe environment?

7. Your family has clear guidelines for family members and their conduct within the business?

8. The senior generation in your business shares their philosophy their plans for succession and is open to new ideas and ways?

9. Family members inside and outside of your business communicate openly and bring up issues so that they can be discussed and resolved without any animosity?

10. Family members are clear about their roles and responsibilities and those are aligned with each individual’ inherent strengths and intrinsic motivations?

11. Family members hold themselves and each other accountable?

12. Family participates in long-range planning and is aligned with the direction, strategic focus and base strategy?

13. Family members are kept informed of business performance, challenges being faced, and other matters?

14. Family members are in the business by choice, not out of obligation, guilt and other related feelings?

15. Family members effectively communicate and manage & leverage each other’ differences for greater individual and joint success?

16. Family members are continuously learning and growing?

17. Family members genuinely care for, support, trust and respect each other?

18. Family members maintain healthy boundaries between home and business?

19. Family members understand and respect what each contributes to the business?

20. Family members participate in both shared activities as well as activities that give them their own space?

21. Family members understand and respect family values and traditions?

22. Family members feel they are treated fairly, heard and appreciated?

23. Family members are encouraged to seek experience outside of the family business for their further development and growth?

24. You have a clear process for making different types of decisions, especially as it involves family?

25. Family members effectively manage boundaries between family roles and business roles?

So, how did you do? How many no's? Yes's? The more no's, the greater the chances of your business failing, and most likely when you least expect it. Don't let this happen to you and your business.


P.S. To get even greater value from this Family Business Health Check, do the following:

For each question, instead of yes and no answers, assign a numerical range. For example, for each question, ask them to respond on scale of 1-10, with 1 being strongly disagree to 10 being strongly agree. On questions where there is a wide gap between some answering say as opposed to 10, or where you have consistently high scores, they may give you insights into potential issues that need/must be addressed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Motivator #6: Passion for Tradition

The other day, I was at a gathering of retired army officers, which took place at the home of my brother-in-law who himself is retired from Army. I observed that many came proudly wearing their uniforms and they continue to follow army traditions, protocols, even after retirement. Their language consists of topics related to ranks, operating procedures, strong values and believe in the cause.

These army officers were exhibiting passion for tradition.

Folks who score high on this passion work hard, and many even giving their lives, for causes they strongly believe in. For example, they are say either Republicans or Democrats, Prolife or Prochoice, vegetation or non-vegetarian, and so on. And if you share beliefs, it's great. If not, it can be challenging.

Who do you know who shares this passion? Where and how do you see them adding value? And knowing what you now know, how would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?

Motivation #5: Passion to Lead

I have a dear friend, whose nickname at home is "The General". At her family gatherings, no matter what the event, she takes charge.

Another friend of mine loves to sell. She is Type A, driven to achieve. I one day asked her why is all that achievement important to her because I know internally she is not driven by money. Her reply, I like being #1. Pretty clear.

These people share the passion to lead.

Who do you know who has this passion? Where and how do you see them adding value? And knowing what you now know, how would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?

Motivation #4: Passion to Serve

Do know those who love to volunteer, to help others, to teach, coach and mentor? They just can't resist not helping someone in need? They are caring souls who want to make the world a better place.

The other day I was a Rotary Club gathering . Rotarian's mission is service - in the community and throughout the world. Rotarians build goodwill and peace, provide humanitarian service and encourage high ethical standards in all vocations. The Rotary motto is "Service Above Self". For me personally also, this speaks to my heart and when I am with such people, I feel so much at home.

Clearly, Rotarians, as well as I, share a strong passion to serve, motivator #4.
  • Who do you know who has this passion?
  • Where and how do you see them adding value?
  • How would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?

Motivator #3: Passion for Beauty and Balance

Do you know people who have a deep appreciation for nature, beauty and harmony? Who absolutely need down time to re-energize? They crave work/life balance--as opposed to workaholics?

They are also very protective of our natural resources, our environment. For example, to save trees you'll find them printing documents 2-sided and they are big into recycling, etc. They also tend to be creative, artistic. You'll find them in the arts, decorating, designing, and other creative endeavors.

These folks have a passion for beauty and balance.
  • Who do you know who has this passion?
  • Where and how do you see them adding value?
  • How would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?

Motivator #2: Passion for Results

Do you know folks who are internally driven to achieve? Bottom line oriented? Want to squeeze the most out of every resource they have? They think in-terms of ROI? They love to invest, to earn, and are very conscious of how they use their time?

These folks have a passion for results.
  • Who do you know who has this passion?
  • Where and how do you see them adding value?
  • How would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?
  • How would you sell to someone who has this passion as their top driver?

Motivator #1: Passion for Learning

Do you know people who love learn? They are continuously reading about variety of subjects, participating in webinars, taking courses, and so on?

They are curious, they seek to understand, to gain deeper knowledge. These people have a passion for learning. Afterall, as the famous saying goes, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste".

Who do you know who has this passion? Where and how do you see them adding value? And knowing what you now know, how would you motivate them, so you get the best out of them?

Or let's say you had a prospect, or customer, who is high on this passion. How would you sell to them? What words would you use? How would you craft your offering, etc.?

As you read about motivations, in this post above as well as upcoming 5 more posts on these motivations, after reading the description of each, reflect on the questions above.

Why Do You Work? What Moves You?

  • What gets you pumped, energized, jumping into action?
  • What gets you out of bed each morning?
  • What gets your team members out of bed each morning?
  • What would it be like if you and each your team members knew and each were doing more work that is aligned with the inner passions?
Sure, we need to earn, to pay bills, and so on. Very simplistically speaking, we are born, we get an education, we get a job, we earn, we pay bills, and then bang, one day we're done. But is that it? I think not.

In my recent posts, I have written about the 4 behavior styles, which are important for that understanding, and application, significantly contributes to:
  • Improved communication
  • Improved personal and professional relationships
  • Higher levels of workplace engagement
  • Greater productivity and performance
To further strengthen relationships as well as live more fulfilled lives, it's also important to understand what at our core moves us. Then when we do work that is more in alignment with that deeper passion, work and life become more enjoyable and we're more successful too. With that in mind, over the next 6 posts, as promised, I'll share with you some insights into each of the 6 workplace motivators.

Of course, as with behaviors, please note that each of these motivators which you are about to learn are present within every individual. Only the degree of each varys and that they all interact in various ways to move people into action. Therefore, in a nutshell, it's important to understand these behaviors and motivations in totality rather then each in isolation of the other.

So what I am sharing with you is a very simplistic overview of each of the motivators. To better understand what moves you and your team members into action, and how they then carry out those actions, it's important to take the assessment and have it professionally interpreted.

In the meantime, my hope is by your gaining these basic insights alone will start to help you in various ways. Of course, if you have any questions, please just ask.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pop Quiz on Behaviors :)

OK gang, you just finished learning about the 4 behavioral styles. Let's practice applying what you have learned over the last 4 days.

Here are 4 different scenarios. Can you identify the style of each of these individuals?

1. John is a successful engineer. He is very precise, patient, logical. Great with details and can communicate them clearly and exactly. He avoids conflicts and functions best when working alone. In his field, he is an expert.

2. Sally is strong-willed, results focused, tries her best to get everyone to focus on achieving her goals. Hates taking care of details. She took a huge risk to start her own business in a very competitive industry. She is determined to succeed.

3. Jimmy is very social, loves to talk, and glad to help people, and enjoys getting attention. He is the one who loves to go to social gatherings, pays lot of attention to how he looks and is great to cheering people on. When it comes to details however, that can be a problem for he missed on critical details.

4. Suzie is a calm, logical person who does not like sudden changes. She likes clear instructions and what's expected from her. While she can work alone, she does like being part of a team, around people and values honesty and a logical well thought out approach. Before starting any project, she likes to plan it out in details step by step before diving in. She is loyal and hard working and is able to also focus on details of the task while also being at the same time sensitive to the people around.

Behavior Style #4: Compliar

Think Al Gore, Monica Geller on Friends, Accountants, Auditors.

These folks are critical thinkers, direct and to the point in their communications, very detail and fact oriented, precise, accurate, compliant, logical and meticulous. They see the holes before the net, they fear being wrong, they tend to avoid conflict and they love to ask questions.

On the other hand, by some they are viewed pessimistic, cold, distant, picky, fussy, hard-to-please. But hey, you want them on your team for they'll catch potential critical mistakes before they happen, so they can be prevented.

For them a famous saying could be "In God we Trust, All Others Use Data". They like to test things out for they want proof. And if High Cs are reading this, I am sure they must have found my typos in this post already and that they already have long list of questions on what I have written, and on this topic in general.

Oh, one critical piece of data. This style in particular is not comfortable with physical contact, specially from strangers. So when you come into "contact" with them, I recommend you keep some distance, giving them their space.

Can you visualize those within your circle who fit these characteristics?

Behavior Style #3: Steady

Think Laura Bush, Mr. Rogers.

These folks are absolutely wonderful for they serve as a calming force when it seems all hell is breaking loose. Plus they are extremely loyal and very dependable, getting done what they commit to. They are the rock you can count on to be there when you need them. But don't let the calm easy going nature fool you. They have strong opinions but they just don't express them vocally.

In addition, they are great listeners, consistent, patient, quietly persistent, highly sensitive, tolerant, friendly, tactful, diplomatic, amiable, stable, understanding and team players. They love to build long-term relationships.

They are also great at reconciling factions, and they serve as a stabilizing force. Before they start on a project, they love to plan it out, draw it, and then think and act step wise. Start one task, finish and then move onto next. For example, they'll read a book start to finish before staring another one.

By some though, they can be viewed as unconcerned, as if they are not with the program, hesitant, inflexible, stubborn, detached, indecisive, resistant change, overly sensitive. It's just that they time to ponder alternatives and make decisions.

For these people, they do fear personal rejection and loss of stability so be sensitive to this when dealing with them. As for emotions, they are pretty good at hiding their emotions so you gotta be very attuned and sensitive to know what they are really feeling and thinking under that cool calm collected surface. For they'll quietly tolerate conflict, till one day it builds to a level that it can erupt like a volcano, leaving everyone stunned and surprised.

Can you visualize those within your circle who fit these characteristics?

Behavior Style #2: Influencer

Think Bill Clinton, Robin Williams, Cheerleaders.

Without these people, life would be dull. They bring fun, high energy, cheerfulness where ever they go. They are people people, life of the party, friendly, excited, enthusiastic, persuasive, optimistic, trusting, entertaining, talkative, lively, confident, inspiring, to name just a few.

They are comfortable with touch, with physical contact, and they tend to make decisions very quickly. Sometimes they appear disorganized and they have a tendency to throw around names. It's just how they are wired.

By some though, they can be viewed as say unrealistic, poor listeners, self-promoting, chatterboxes, scattered.

Yet when you need someone who is great at networking, to liven things up, to promote an idea, make connections, get your message out to lots of people, these are great people to have on the team. If they like you and what you have to offer, they will actively promote you.

With these folks though, make sure you make time to socialize first and then get to business, stay away from hard facts and don't focus too much on details. Details is not their thing. As for their fear , it is social rejection and when it comes to conflict, they run from it.

Can you visualize those within your circle who fit these characteristics?

Behavior Style #1: Dominance

Think Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Hiliary Clinton, Michael Jordon, Barbara Walters.
  • Cut to the chase
  • Get it done, now
  • Move on

If you're a high D, you got the gist and are ready to log off this post at this point I am sure. No problem. All other types, I am sure will continue reading.

This style shows up as very competitive, independent, decisive, direct, results oriented, take charge, loves big challenges, fearless, blunt, head strong, impatient. Many times they are labeled as Type A, Alpha Males (applies to women too). This is how they are naturally wired.

While it's not High Ds intent, some view them as demanding, pushy, aggressive, egotistical, abrasive and other similar choice words. In the right role and situation though, they add tremendous value to the team for they are not afraid to take on tough challenges. In fact, they thrive on them.

These individuals are forward looking, great in situations where quick decisions are needed, where one needs to say take on a tough competitor, make the impossible possible. And they love change and in conflicts, they'll fight back. So never back them into a corner for they don't like to loose control or to loose.

Can you visualize those within your circle who fit these characteristics?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Judge a Book By It's...

Yes, you said it...cover.

Yesterday I mentioned I'll be writing over the next 10 days about 4 different behavior styles and 6 different workplace motivators. Before I dive into that, I want to bring up two additional very important points.

First is human beings are way to complex to define by any one label. So while the information I will share with you will help you in gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of yourself as well as others, please be mindful that there is so much more to each of us. Secondly, recognize that behaviors and motivators interplay.

For example, let's look at Joe (a real person, a dear friend of mine, whose name I have changed here as I don't share personal information about anyone on these blogs, aside from my own).

Joe on the surface (behavior) comes across as a pushy, dominating, aggressive individual. For those who are turned off by such behavior, as I too was at first, they often miss out by what he has to offer for deep in his heart, he has a heart of gold. You see, he has a strong drive to serve, to help others succeed. So if you get Joe in your corner, you have someone who will go to great lengths to help you get what you want.

Then there is Jane. On the surface she comes across as friendly, as charming, as someone who is there to help you. Yet on the inside she is driven very little by need to help others and instead her real drivers are power and prestige. In the right situation and role, she is a huge asset.

Therefore, as you gain greater insights into behaviors and motivators through my upcoming posts, please recognize that they do interplay, and therefore avoid the tendency to "judge a book by it's cover" alone.

Getting Along, Getting Aligned, Getting Ahead

As we're about to enter the holidays when there will be many gatherings, I wanted to continue on the post "Why Can't People Get Along", that I had written back in January of this year.

In my experience, a big reason for disagreements, distance between people, lost productivity, low engagement, turnover, etc. is simply because people can't get along. That often happens when people don't understand each other.

When they do get along and enjoy being with each other, they more effectively align, and it's simply amazing what they then can achieve. This is true not just in business but also in our lives outside of work as well. In fact, here's the formula to achieve nearly anything in life:

Simple Strategy + Systems/Processes + People + Action ===> Success

So no matter how good the strategy and systems and processes you have, nothing happens till people make it happen. And that doesn't happen 'till they are engaged in their work and with each other.

Therefore over the next 10 days, I am going to share with you, one each day, key pieces of information on each of the 4 basic personality styles and 6 key workplace motivators. Personality is what you can observe and motivators are what "internally" moves one into action. As you gain a deeper understanding of these and begin to apply this knowledge in your various personal and professional relationships, I am confident you're going to experience stronger connections, better results and greater joy.

One point to note though is that as you learn about these styles and motivators, it's important to recognize that there is no one style or motivator that is better then the other. Each style is important for everyone adds value. In addition, majority of individuals while they tend to exhibit one primary style, we're all complex beings and therefore we each have a mix of all styles generally and which one shows up more often depends on a given situation.

In any event, as you gain deeper understanding and apply of this knowledge, my hope is it will help you in numerous ways, as it has helped me. So for the next 10 days, I'll send you one post each day. (I'll do my best to keep 'em short and to the point.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Five Ways to Fight Your Fear of Sales

My dear friend Kara S. McKinn and I recently published another article in the September/October 2010 issue of Association Now, publication of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). The article is entitled Five Ways to Fight Your Fear of Sales. For my blog readers, it is reposted below. Enjoy!

Many association executives have a secret: They don't like to sell. Stereotyped images of slick salespeople backing customers into the proverbial corner or dreaded repeat phone calls from someone who considers you a "hot lead" come to mind when we hear the word "sales."

In the "good old days," those of us who didn't like sales could often avoid it. But in today's economic reality, products and programs that used to almost sell themselves are hurting, and staff in departments as disparate as membership, certification, professional development, and conventions have added sales to their burgeoning to-do lists.

Selling in our experience can actually be a satisfyingly enriching experience. Making the switch from dread to success is often simply a matter of realigning your thoughts and actions. Here are some ideas to help you get started.

1. Understand what selling really is. Selling is simply fulfilling your members' needs with products and services that will help them meet their needs. It's matching problems to solutions.

2. Think in terms of connections and networks. As association professionals, we know how to connect with our members, nurturing helpful networks of like-minded people. This action of catalyzing connection and sharing is just selling by another name.

3. Ask and listen. In associations, we know how to ask great questions, to probe, and to listen to what members really need. We possess a thorough understanding of our products and services that will help our members achieve their desired outcomes. All we need to do is make the connection between members' needs and our solutions.

4. Invite and ask. Once you've asked probing questions, listened to members' or customers' answers, and discovered the connection between their needs and your offerings, it's time to invite and ask them to make the purchase—"invite" and "ask" being the key words. We can't really sell anyone what they don't need, at least not if we want to establish long-term relationships, which are essential to associations. We care about our members' success. And that's what professional selling is all about—helping others succeed.

5. Leverage your personal strengths. There is no one right way to do sales, so just be your authentic, natural self. Some people become subject-matter experts. Others enjoy picking up the phone and initiating conversations. Leverage your unique strengths to drive sales in a way that's comfortable for you. Otherwise, it can be hard to generate internal energy, which often leads to inaction. When you leverage your unique strengths and motivations, the inner energy naturally flows to provide the fuel necessary to do sales.

Once you make this mental shift, you can see that selling is really about establishing and enriching long-term relationships that help others succeed. Even the most sales averse among us can find that process to be fulfilling, deeply satisfying, and even joyous.


To view the article on ASAE's site, go to:

When Do You Need an Outside Facilitator?

In my recent posts, I have emphasized the need for regular communication between business partners, and even more so in businesses where family members are involved. I have also written much about the need to have an outside facilitator, someone who is objective and neutral. But how do you know when such a person is necessary, even crucial, and what do you look for in such a person?

Here are some key signs indicating you need external help:
  • Emotions run hot;
  • Some dominate the conversations, stalling participation from others;
  • Conversely, people remain quiet, saying very little;
  • People appear to be walking on egg shells, dancing around sensitive yet critical issues, which never seem to get resolved;
  • When healthy dialogue is missing. People roll their eyes, looking here and there, and appear to agree readily;
  • You know you need to communicate but you just can't seem to get to it, or are not sure what to do, or are uncomfortable for whatever reason;
  • You need greater objectivity in the conversations.
Here are some key elements to look for in the facilitator:
  • Must have deep understanding, preferably through real experience, of both business AND family/partnership dynamics;
  • Is sensitive to group dynamics, not only among partners and among family business owners, but also dynamics that occur between owners and non-owners, non-owners and non-owner family members--yes, it's very complex;
  • Strong at picking up undercurrents, the unspoken;
  • Is an excellent listener, observer and has good communication skills;
  • Can keep the conversation focused and on track;
  • Can manage conflict and emotional vulnerability;
  • Is objective and neutral while being respectful and understanding of various inputs.
If you are experiencing any of the signs above, get some help, NOW. Don't brush issues under the carpet, hoping they'll go away and all will work out just fine. If people are walking on egg shells, it's only a matter of time before stress fractures occur and the eggs crack. It's not a question of if, but when. Speaking from experience, before it's too late, get some help. You'll be thankful.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sherpa Passang, From Tragedy to Triumph

On our way to Everest Base Camp, we stayed overnight at a tea house in Thamol. As we were sitting around, a man approached me, selling paintings he claimed to have painted himself. What caught my attention though were his hands. On his left hand, all fingers were gone and on the right, only small stubs of his fingers remained.

Having traveled enough in that region, I was skeptical. I "assumed" he had purchased them from some group and was selling them to tourists, capitalizing on their sympathy. While I sent him away, without a sale, something kept nagging me, telling me he was sincere. Unable to put him behind me, I inquired about him and came to know his story.

He was once a Climbing Sherpa, which means he would help climbers get to top of various mountains in the region. And on one of the treks, he had met with an accident and lost his fingers. His story touched my heart so deeply that I requested one of the local men to find his home and take me there, which he did early following morning.

To be perfectly honest, in someway I was looking for answers for myself, for I know all too well the inner struggle one faces when restarting oneself after having a successful career. I wanted to learn from his story, e.g. what he went through after the accident, of all possible careers how did he decide to paint, and how and from where did he find the inner strength to push forth to reestablish himself.

At his home, I met his wonderful family and saw where he lives and works. Given the language challenges, I got some sense of his story over a wonderful cup of tea his wife made for us. At the end of the conversation, I happily purchased one of his largest paintings for to me it's a testimony to the human spirit, how with the right frame of mind one can overcome great adversity.

Today, whenever I look upon my own journey and I feel the emotional ups and downs given the challenges of restarting, I find great strength when I see his painting and when I think of him. Sherpa Passang, you're my hero. Thank you.