1 Vision Thoughts
Advice and Insight For Entrepreneurs and Leadership Teams
You’ve been lied to.
In fact, we’ve all been lied to. The reason? Most people don’t want you to know one simple fact: Uncommon success is achievable, and the path is a common one.
I thought success meant money, respect and maybe even fame. That warped definition led me to law school, where after one miserable semester I dropped out. Then I dove into corporate finance, where I suffered in a cubicle for over a year before I simply couldn’t take it anymore and handed in my resignation. I then tried real estate thinking that would give me the freedom and fulfillment I desired. Nope.
My client’s Integrator called me the other day, upset.
“Dale, we solve problems, but new ones always arise. It seems like just when we get going, something else breaks down. What are we doing wrong?”
In physics, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that, in a closed system, everything moves towards chaos. Everywhere in the universe, energy spreads out and becomes disorganized. It’s a phenomenon called “entropy.”
After years of working with entrepreneurs, I’ve found that organizations aren’t exempt. They all experience the effects of entropy and tend toward disorder. We call that “Hitting the ceiling.”
Here’s how you can put a stop to the disorder.
After a recent two-day Annual Planning meeting, Chris Martinez, the CEO of Central Electric said, “We always have an annual planning meeting, but this time was different. It was a dream come true, just as I had imagined it.”
He went on to explain, “The bonding of like-minded individuals on our leadership team that shares a common vision to help people reach their full potential is an amazing experience.”
Chris is referring to the experience of having a healthy and functional leadership team that is aligned with a common vision and executing towards that vision. We call this…
To state the obvious and put it simply, 2020 was a tough year for many businesses. Earlier in the year – Q2 – one would have thought the world was going to end.
Come Q3, businesses started to breathe again. What had to be done was done and there was acceptance and some comfort in “the new normal.”
I worried a lot about many of my clients during this time. I checked in during Q2, but their availability was limited and a few did not proceed with their usual EOS® sessions which would have provided me an opportunity to fully understand the scope of what they were experiencing.
AND THEN, AN AMAZING THING HAPPENED…
Do you know where your time and energy truly goes while you are working?
Do you focus your time, energy, and attention on the most valuable work that gets the best results for you and your business?
Does your work bring you joy and motivation?
The answer to all of these questions should be a resounding ‘YES!’ But in reality, most people would be lucky to be able to say ‘YES’ to even one.
On the second day of a recent annual planning session, the company visionary –somewhat exasperated – interrupted the proceedings.
“Guys, we have only an hour left. Why aren’t we focused on our big, burning, urgent problems?”
We all looked at the Issues List.
I said to him, “We’ve been selecting and prioritizing our issues all afternoon. What big, burning problems do you see up here that we aren’t talking about?”
After some examination of the Issues List, he said “they aren’t up there.”
How could this be?
“One of them has to go,” the integrator said. The other members of the leadership team nodded their heads in grim agreement.
“Maybe both,” said the operations leader. “We may have two ‘wrong people’.”
Jen, their production manager and Dave, the human resources specialist, seemed to hate each other. Every time they worked together, it was a fight.
I asked what they fight about.
“It happens every time we hire someone,” said the operations leader. “They argue about everything… who gets the resume first, who makes the screening call, who makes the offer. Every time it’s an ugly battle.”
“What does the process say?” I asked.
After a long silence, the finance leader sheepishly answered, “What process?”
After discovering your company’s core values, the next step in rolling out EOS to your organization is an all-hands meeting.
In that meeting, the visionary (or integrator) delivers a Core Values Speech. The speech paints a picture with history, stories, examples, analogies, and perhaps even “anti” examples.
The leaders share what acceptable behaviors look like in action. There is a hiring mantra: “hire for behavior, train for performance.” The Core Values Speech reinforces acceptable behavior and helps the core values permeate into the company and culture. Check it out…
When leaders ask me how they should use Scorecards and KPIs within their businesses, I ask them to envision an exceptional week in each function. And I then ask “What happened during the week to make it so?”
In a quarterly planning session six months ago, the team I was working with expressed great frustration with the inconsistency of their profit and cash flow. In some quarters, they did very well, while in others they barely broke even. In no recent period, however, did they generate as much profit and cash as they thought they should.
It was time for a deeper dive, so the team and I decided to pull out a tool called The 8 Cash Flow Drivers from the EOS Toolbox™ and see what we could do. Check it out.
One of the most powerful skills EOS® facilitates is the power of predicting a successful outcome. The cornerstone of this power is Rocks — the three to seven most important things that must get done in the next 90 days.
Rocks create mastery for teams in two ways:
When teams are faced with overwhelming issues, Rocks create a simplified, organized way to break these monster issues into bite-sized pieces that can be solved.
Rocks create a way for teams to stay laser-focused on the most important priorities needed to move the team or company forward.
Sounds too good to be true? Too simple to really be effective? Read on…
A company’s Core Focus™ answers two questions: ‘Why do we exist?’ and ‘What are we better at than anyone else?’ When combined, they help an entrepreneurial leadership team find their sweet spot and create a filter for making all decisions.
What makes answering these two questions essential right now is that entrepreneurs are constantly creating new ideas, seeking new opportunities, finding out about new products, meeting new potential clients, and wanting to solve all kinds of problems. This is why we need entrepreneurs more than ever and why I love working with them: so we can change and help the world! I really believe that.
The problem is, like Patrick Lencioni says, ‘When everything is important, nothing is important.’ So entrepreneurs and their leadership teams must take the time to work ‘on’ their business and think, debate, discuss – argue even – to fight to find their ‘sweet spot’, and then stay laser-focused on it, hitting it every time. Otherwise, they will chase the wrong shiny objects with no focus, no discipline, and no accountability.
Do you find moments of truth to be elusive in the workplace?
Even if you’re at a place that is ethical and are surrounded by people that aim to do the right thing, the truth can still be elusive. And when we don’t have complete truth in the workplace, perception wins.
I want to share with you some examples when perception contradicts reality and help you to implement truth in the workplace.
Sagefrog is a top-ranked B2B marketing firm specializing in healthcare, technology, industrial, and business services. Since its founding in 2002, the agency’s mission has been to accelerate success for business-to-business (B2B) companies through brand building and integrated marketing.
After slow yet steady growth for 15 years and an attempt at self-implementing EOS®, co-founders of Sagefrog, Mark Schmukler, and Suzanne Morris, decided to dig their heels into growing their agency and hired EOS Implementer®, Mark O’Donnell, who now serves as the visionary/CEO of EOS Worldwide.
Here’s what happened…
I just completed a quarterly session with a client who has recently been performing well and exceeding expectations. But this one had an interesting twist.
Shortly after our last quarterly, the company’s head of engineering left. He was exceptionally talented, so his departure left a hole. In response, they moved Engineering underneath Operations (it had been its own leadership team seat) and promoted one of the engineers, Matt, to run it.
It was a battlefield promotion and no one was sure how it would go.
Walt and Roy Disney. Henry Ford and James Couzens. McDonald’s Ray Kroc and Fred Turner. All polar opposites. One saw the future while the other made it happen.
By structuring their companies with these two vital roles at the helm, the visionary and the integrator, these entrepreneurs were able to propel their organizations to greatness – literally changing our world!
I have a confession to make.
As both an EOS Implementer® and a longtime user of the EOS Process®, I have a history of blowing off my Clarity Breaks™
In recent years I’ve gotten better. As they say in the recovery business, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
I am not alone.
A group of explorers was working its way through a jungle, hacking through thick underbrush.
Exhausted after several hours, they stopped to rest. Looking around, the brush was so thick they could only see tree trunks, leaves, and vines as the tunnel they had cleared curved out of sight. It was so thick they hadn’t even realized they weren’t traveling in a straight line.
One young explorer said, “I have an idea. Why don’t we climb a tree so we can see where we’ve been and where we are going?”
The audience sat in stunned silence. A panel of Minneapolis ad agency CEOs had just been asked how long they expected to keep new employees. “One year,” “two years,” “three at the most” came the answers. Then it was Media Bridge Advertising CEO Tracy Call’s turn. “That’s crazy,” she said. “I want lifers! How can you feel any other way?”
It was a moment that told you everything you need to know about the successful entrepreneur and EOS® enthusiast.
Every leader should ask:
“What verb describes how I most frequently impact our company’s Issues List?”
The only great answer to that question is “Solve.”
Put simply, great leaders and managers solve issues. They’re comfortable raising their hands and admitting they have an issue. They’re good at IDS™ing it – identifying its root cause, discussing it briefly, and then solving it by agreeing on a plan of attack that will make the issue go away for the long-term, greater good of the organization.
Sub-par leaders seem to be good at everything but that, but why?
“I don’t know an entrepreneur without a business operating model that doesn’t live in chaos,” says Adam Radulovic, President of XL.net in Park Ridge, IL. “EOS offers a path out of the chaos you’re probably in today.”
In September 2020, Adam and XL.net were accepted into the Forbes Business Council, the foremost growth and networking organization for successful business owners and leaders worldwide. It’s a testament to their hard work and perseverance, as they made their way through the chaos.
Adam describes what running his business was like before EOS.
“It was nothing for me to put down several energy drinks every day just to sustain myself,” he says. “I was putting myself under constant pressure. I’d say that for every day I worked in the business, I was aging five. I wore every hat in the company which was emotionally overwhelming as I was accountable for everything. It was like, ‘Let me grab this. I’ll just do it myself.’”
“Jim, it has been just a messed-up quarter. I would grade it a ‘C’ at best,” said the operations leader.
“I have to agree. Things are just off with us and the team. I give the quarter a ‘C-’,“ said the integrator.
The feedback went on in a similar fashion from the rest of the team and I have to say, I was baffled.
This was a great team that rarely had bad quarters. They had their struggles with clients and staff like everyone else, but nothing like “just a messed-up quarter.”
The crazy part was that the team and I really didn’t know what the cause was.
A cornerstone of the EOS model is using the discipline of measurables and scorecards for leadership and departments to proactively track performance and hold employees accountable. Every company’s scorecards are unique to you and your processes. And, you probably put a lot of work into finding the right set of indicators to track weekly so you can make better decisions.
When done right, your scorecards are a proactive tool, helping you anticipate problems before they actually happen. But are you still using paper, spreadsheets, and emails to organize and share your scorecards?
Catholic Charities is a nonprofit organization supported by generous individuals, foundations, businesses, and faith communities, serving people across the heart of Central Minnesota.
“Stressed and Blessed.”
That’s how Steve Pareja, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud, responds when asked how he is feeling about all the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“There is no leadership training, there is no MBA program, there’s nothing that can prepare leaders to lead organizations through a pandemic,” he says.
To help make the most of all the changes and challenges brought on by the pandemic, Steve credits EOS for bringing a discipline to his team that has helped point everyone in the same direction.
I worked with an entrepreneur who had no defined plan for his business. He was looking forward to just one day at a time. When I questioned what he wanted from his business, he shrugged. “I’m not sure? I just want to grow.”
It was no surprise to find that the rest of the team offered a similar response. The business was drifting on a directionless path. Their aimless behavior of working towards nothing, with no future target in mind, was clearly hindering their ability to grow. They were like a rudderless boat, floundering and going nowhere.
As Henry Kissinger once said, “When you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”
As Steele Benefits continues to grow, that growth has uncovered some issues for Wes that need to be resolved.
“We’re growing so fast that I don’t know how I would survive without EOS,” he says. “But I’m also, unfortunately, still at a point where I start my day at eight o’clock and I don’t turn the laptop off until six. Then I turn it back on at nine after the kids go to bed and it stays open until eleven. I even find myself opening it up again on Sundays to make sure I’m ready to go on Monday.”
As the saying goes, EOS is simple, but it’s not easy. And for Wes, one of the biggest challenges has been in letting go of the vine. Or in his case… ‘vines.’
Imagine you’re playing a sport but you can’t see the scoreboard. You don’t know the score and you don’t know how much time is left on the clock. You’re not sure if you’re winning or losing, and the frustrated coach tells you, “Just play harder.”
I know that sounds crazy, yet that is how a lot of companies operate. No one knows what the targets are or how they are doing in terms of achieving those targets—they don’t know if they are winning or losing. They are just working hard.
This results in wasted time, poor resource allocation, weak overall performance, and ultimately, terrible results. Just like playing that awkward sport above, the people in the company have no idea how they are doing and as a result, perform poorly – or at a minimum are frustrated, confused, unmotivated, and rudderless.
In contrast, imagine a workplace where everyone knows exactly how they are doing.
KAI Design & Build provides architecture, MEP engineering, interior design, construction management, program and project management services for public and private entities.
In 1980, Michael Kennedy’s father started KAI Design & Build from nothing in the basement of his house in St. Louis, MO. In 2008, Michael took the reins as president of the company then became the owner and CEO in 2017.
From a humble beginning, KAI and its family of companies have grown to some 400 people as Michael continues to build out the organization, attributing a lot of that successful growth to EOS®.
The global health crisis has caused many entrepreneurial companies to seek new ways to deliver services within the current constraints and limitations. So how will your organization continue to engage prospects, leads, and customers in our new, socially distant society? We recommend taking a look at these marketing strategies and committing to a marketing program for the long haul.
The second week of February.
According to U.S. News & World Report, that is when 80% of the people who SET New Year’s resolutions GIVE UP on their New Year’s resolutions. The reasons (and purported cures) are numerous, but this inability to sustain effort and commitment toward one or more big goals is simply human nature.
This is also true in business, as Gino Wickman discovered while observing his own leadership team (and those of many other entrepreneurial companies) and wrote about in Traction. No matter how aligned he and his fellow leaders might have been after a great Annual Planning or Quarterly Pulsing™ session, Gino noticed that 90 days later “you will get far off track, start to lose great people, lose sight of your vision, and end up right back where you started – in chaos.”