Measuring Innovation

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Measuring InnovationMeasuring innovation is where the rubber meets the road. While it’s very easy to wax eloquent about innovation, I’ve found that for most companies, measuring innovation is quite a tall order. Moreover, even for those organizations that do measure innovation, are they measuring the right metrics, for the right reasons? I’ve authored many posts on the topic of innovation, and have lectured often on the necessity for executives to completely embrace innovation as a core focus area. The power of innovation to totally transform a mediocre business into a category dominant company is really only deniable by the ignorant or the prejudiced. However even those businesses that embrace the concept in theoretical fashion can fail to implement productive innovation management programs if they do not understand how to measure its impact. In today’s post I’ll address how to measure innovation…

So, how do you tell if an innovation initiative is successful? According to Scott Anthony at Harvard Business Online, perceptions of inital successes or failures are often times misleading when it comes to whether innovation will be successful on a sustainable basis. To validate his assertion, Scott presents a simple case-study of two innovation initiatives and asks which one would you deem as being the most successful:

  • Innovation A: This initiative enjoyed huge first-year revenues of $200 million thanks to “a clear value proposition, clever positioning, and a strong distribution network.”
  • Innovation B:  This initiative offered what was at best an ambiguous business model and generated only $220,000 during its first year.

So which initiative was more successful? “It’s obvious, right?” he says. “Innovation A is the winning proposition.” Not so fast…Is revenue the only things that matters? Just because something is easy to measure, and appears to be an obvious win, in and of itself this doesn’t necessarily constitute a victory. Were the right things done? Were the right metrics measured? Let’s see…

  • Innovation A was Vanilla Coke. “It was a line extension that largely cannibalized sales of Coke’s other products,” says Anthony, with the note that Coca-Cola unceremoniously discontinued the flavor only three years later.
  • Innovation B was Google. Enough said…

The Take Away: “Before making a decision about an innovation,” notes Anthony, “make sure you know what type of idea you are evaluating. Then make sure you use the right metrics for meauring the success of that idea.”

There is great truth in the old axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” and perhaps nowhere is it more applicable than as applied to the practice of innovation. Let me be clear…measuring innovation is not difficult at all if you understand it. The problem lies with the uneducated managers and executives who view innovation as a vague, ambiguous, and undisciplined area that sucks time, resources, and investment without demonstrable return. While the aforementioned sentiments couldn’t be further from the truth, they nonetheless represent the opinion of many uniformed people in a position of authority. They simply don’t know what they don’t know…

There are three CIOs in the corporate world, the Chief Information Officer, Chief Investment Officer, and the Chief Innovation Officer…of the three I believe the one position that a company cannot due without is the Chief Innovation Officer. As with any other important discipline, your enterprise needs to place someone in charge of innovation. Without a dedicated innovation champion it is likely that your initiatives will die a slow and painful death. Furthermore your CIO needs to be set up for success and not failure. This means that he or she must have total buy-in from executive leadership that innovation is a corporate mandate and not a corporate albatross.

Let me attempt to simplify what many strive to make complex…Innovation is simply a philosophical mindset that is used as a catalyst to accelerate growth and efficiency. It is a business driver and nothing more. However the reason innovation is one of the most powerful business drivers is simply because it is a disruptive, high velocity, and high return discipline that can create a much greater impact than other drivers. 

The truth of the matter is measuring innovation is as simple as aligning your innovation initiatives with your business objectives. While innovation can be measured in many different ways, the following bullet points will give you examples to use when framing your metrics and analytics:

  • What to Measure: Focus on measuring the things innovation is designed to impact: process, growth, differentiation, and profitability.
  • Innovation as a Percentage: Measure the trends…Look at the sales growth or contribution margin caused by products or services launched within the near term (i.e. past three years) as a percentage of the overall line item. The greater the influence of innovation as a growing percentage of the whole category being measured, the more healthy, vibrant and sustainable your enterprise is…
  • Track Efficiency Gains: Measure speed to market, milestone hit rates, benchmark productivity, and other metrics designed to measure innovation’s impact on process and efficiency.
  • Track Competitive Separation: Measure how innovation is impacting win/loss ratios, changes in market share, increases in brand equity, competitive differentiation and other competitive metrics tied to innovation initiatives.

The bottom line is that most of the current market data indicates that companies that embrace innovation as a key business driver are the fastest growing and most profitable companies in the market. Businesses that use innovation to create, disrupt and disintermediate will attract the best talent, have higher brand loyalty, and have the best chance at long-term sustainability. Don’t hesitate…innovate!

Bill Clinton Gets It Wrong

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Say it ain't so Bill...Bill Clinton gets it wrong again…During a campaign rally in Orlando last night in which Bill Clinton was introducing Barack Obama, he built his warm-up speech around what he called “the four things that really matter in a president.” According to Bill Clinton, the four things it takes to be a great president are: 1) Philosophy; 2) Policies; 3) Ability to make a Decision, and; 4) The ability to Execute on Decisions. Wow…What about Character, Integrity, Track Record, Service Above Self, etc. (see “Leadership DNA“).

I’ll agree with President Clinton that the ability to make a decision is a good thing, but only if the decisions made are good decisions, made for the right reasons, and made at the right time. I’ll also concede that the ability to execute is a desired quality in a president. However, most people I know aren’t looking to elect a philosopher as president, nor are they looking for a policy wonk. What most people are looking for is a candidate who has a proven track record of facing difficult challenges with integrity…a candidate who will subordinate their self interests to the interests of this great nation. As a top CEO Coach, I know a bit about leadership, and what it takes to be a great leader. John McCain has all the leadership traits we could possibly look for in a president, and why we listen to the drivel of media bias over the substance of a long-term, demonstrated track record of success is beyond my compreshension.  

While I won’t turn this post into a long rant, I’ll simply close with the following thoughts: John McCain gave this country 5 and 1/2 years as a prisoner of war. When he was given the opportunity to leave early because of his status as the son of an Admiral, he rejected the offer so that other soldiers who had been there longer could return home. This demonstrates the strength of character and the quality of decisioning I want in our next president.

Bottom line…If John McCain can give us 5 and 1/2 years in a prisoner of war camp, I can give him my vote for four years in the oval office.   

Increasing Sales in a Down Economy

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

If your trendline is going down...contact us!Increasing sales in a down economy should be a subject near and dear to the heart of all those that read this blog. Few things are as important in today’s economy as building your sales funnel and increasing revenue. It is no wonder that amongst the most frequent e-mail inquiries I receive each week are messages asking for suggestions about how to increase sales. This week I received an e-mail with an interesting twist on the age old topic…Perhaps a sign of the times, the question was: “What is the fastest way to increase sales?” The message was sent in from the CEO of a mid-market company whose sales have been flat for the last few quarters. The introduction of speed into the equation gives me a chance to put a fresh spin on an often over-discussed, but nonetheless mission critical topic…

There are any number of strategies that can lead to increases in sales over time, but few that are designed to have an immediate impact. The bottom line is the fastest way to increase sales is to acquire new business in bulk. The following strategies (in no particular order of preference) represent just a few of the available options, which if implemented correctly, will allow you to jump-start sales in an aggressive fashion via various forms of bulk sales acquisitions:

  1. Hire a Rainmaker: Not all sales people are created equal, and moreover not all sales people are rainmakers. Rainmakers are the rock stars of the sales world in that they not only come with an established book of business, but they also possess the ability to create new business via their well honed professional network. Rainmakers are not merely experienced sales reps, but rather they represent the top 1% of the sales profession. These are seasoned pros that rain significant transactions like they were going out of style. One of the most important things any CEO or entrepreneur can do is recruit rainmakers. While rainmakers won’t come without a tier-one compensation plan and a significant amount of freedom, they are worth the investment. Real talent produces real results, and I’ll take a proven performer over a project eleven times out of ten.
  2. Form a Strategic Partnership: Find companies who sell non-competitive products or services into the same vertical, and form a partnership to mutually increase one another’s distribution. Joint Ventures, strategic alliances, corporate partnering, licensing and distribution agreements, and numerous other collaborative business arrangements provide an exceptional opportunity to catalyze sales growth. In addition to rapidly generating a new revenue channel, the formation of key partnerships often times provides the additional advantage of creating competitive barriers to entry into certain markets or product lines.
  3. Remembering to include the WIIFM Factor: Understanding your clients/potential clients WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical. It is absolutely essential to clearly communicate how and why your product, service, or solution will benefit them. Remember that sales isn’t about you, rather it’s about solving the needs/problems of your existing and prospective clients. If you approach sales from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals you will find few obstacles will stand in your way with regard to closing the deal.
  4. Focus on the Right Clients: Few things add instant credibility and bulk revenue like being able to say that Apple, Bank of America, Disney or other name brand businesses are counted amongst your clientele. While there is considerable revenue associated with landing the big account, the real value comes in the ripple effect of being able to leverage their brand equity into increasing yours. Engaging name brands will add value to your business, your revenue and your brand. Develop a sales strategy for winning the business and begin the process of landing key accounts. The sooner you start the faster you’ll find the power curve in your selling process start to shift in your favor.
  5. Roll-up the Competition: Find competitive or synergistic businesses and target them as candidates for mergers or acquisitions. Growth by M&A can rapidly increase market share. By targeting businesses that sell into your vertical, but have a different client mix, both companies can add revenue and better manage your risk via diversification.
  6. Better Serve Your Existing Clients: What many organizations fail to do is to understand and serve the unmet needs of existing clients. Doing this one things can unlock huge revenue potential from your current client base. It is far more cost and time effective to increase the revenue from your existing clients than it is to develop new clients. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the proverbial bird in hand…
  7. Launch an Aggressive Marketing Campaign: The first six items mentioned above require you to drive the results and find the customers, whereas this tactic will drive the customers to you. A well conceived tactical marketing initiative can drive targeted results in a short time frame. An aggressive combination of PR and digital marketing can create a windfall of new business sometimes within a matter of days. For these reasons I tend to favor direct marketing campaigns that utilize digital mediums which are extremely cost effective, highly targeted, and measurable in real time.
  8. Outsourcing Funnel Development: I am a big fan of outsourcing the front end of your sales engine…The highest and best use of your sales force is to be engaged in direct engagement opportunities. If your sales people are spending all their time generating leads they are not engaging in serving clients and potential clients. For substantially less than the cost of one fully burdened sales employee you can outsource lead generation to a firm whose sole competencey is filling the funnel for your sales staff. With this model your sales staff will now spend the overwhelming majority of their time selling as opposed to prospecting. Two side benefits of this model are that you can recruit sales people more easily when the company provides the leads, and you can also drive down your overall cost of sales by reducing your sales compensation because they are no longer required to engage throughout the entire sales cycle.
  9. Expand Your Brand Online: Since the large majority of all buying decisions either begin or conclude on the Internet, you better be visible online. In addition to the basics of search engine optimization and traditional search engine marketing, I would strongly suggest getting involved in social networking. Just by having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social networking platforms, you not only open-up a new communications channel to your existing clients, but you also make yourself readily available to those looking to find what you have to offer.

The bottom line is that there is no reason to have a sales trend line moving in any direction other than upwards. If you understand how to architect a sales engine that hits on all cylinders throughout the entire sales cycle it is possible to see rapid sales growth even in a declining economic environment. Good luck and good selling…

*Disclosure
N2growth is in the business of providing many of the services contained in today’s post.

Effective Compensation Plans

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth 

Compensation Plans“Can you provide any tips for modeling a winning compensation plan?” is today’s Myatt on Mondays question which was asked by a CFO of an Internet marketing company. While certainly a great question, I must admit that I have been reluctant to address the topic of compensation in previous posts as compensation theory is not only complex, but it often varies greatly based upon the situational realities of different workplace environments. That being said, there are definitely key elements which serve as the foundation for any well designed compensation plan which I’ll cover in today’s post…

As critical an issue as compensation is to a company’s health and well-being it is not something that should be assessed solely on its own merits. Compensation is interwoven into the core of a company’s culture and has many touch points across the enterprise. Moreover the best compensation plan in the world will not make up for a lack of leadership, a poor product or service offering, a lack of integrity or any number of other more important corporate characteristics and values. As an example, if you have a best in class compensation plan, but a low quality product offering you won’t attract quality clients or quality talent. Rather you’ll just attract mercenary employees looking to exploit a compensation plan and who will disappoint clients that will in turn seek solace from your competitors.

Taking note of the above referenced caveats, it has still been my experience that if you desire to effect change or influence culture within a corporate setting the most effective catalyst is a well engineered compensation plan. A fully integrated comp plan built upon sound underlying business logic is one of the very few strategic management tools available to an organization that can lift company morale, as well as have a simultaneous, dramatic positive impact on both the top and bottom line.

In order to thrive in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, it is essential that companies invest in processes that reward profitable behavior, align groups (i.e. teams, business units or operating entities) and meet the strategic goals of the enterprise. Realizing the direct correlation that a properly designed compensation strategy has to operational and financial performance, it is mission critical to implement an integrated compensation model that is fair, rewarding and profitable for the both the company and its employees. In order to be effective for all concerned parties, an integrated compensation plan must provide the following benefits:

  • Create a better alignment between strategy, efforts and results;
  • Create the proper relationship between fixed and variable compensation overhead;
  • Grow revenue by quickly adapting to changing business conditions and competitive threats;
  • Increase profitability by cutting administrative costs and tying compensation to variables that keep compensation overhead within industry norms while advancing business initiatives;
  • Serve to focus corporate culture and behavior on revenue growth and profitability;
  • Serve as a leverage point for recruiting and retention efforts;
  • Create goal congruence between the employees and the company;
  • Serve as a foundational catalyst for change management across the enterprise;
  • Preserve continuity of equity/ownership;
  • Provide long-term wealth creation for key employees without disrupting continuity or creating a funding hardship for the enterprise;
  • Maximize tax advantages for the company and its employees, and;
  • Enhance the overall quality of company benefits plan by providing a wide array of meaningful benefits to employees at all levels.

Before diving in and re-engineering an existing compensation plan, careful consideration should be given to both the current dynamics and future goals of the enterprise. In assessing the various options for the architecture of an integrated compensation plan the following items must be taken into account:

  • The organizational and operating history of entity;
  • The compensation history surrounding the entity and its employees;
  • Current compensation of employees bench-marked against national standards, local competitors, current production, and future business goals;
  • The duties, responsibilities and current risk exposure of employees, and;
  • The employee’s current and future role as team members of the company.

Let’s take a look at some of the building blocks available to management when considering different compensation options. The following items are all viable options to be included in a fully integrated compensation plan:

  • A Competitive Salary and Benefits Program;
  • Executive Perquisites (company car, use of corporate jet, club memberships, housing allowance, expense accounts, etc.);
  • Commission and Override Structures;
  • Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans;
  • Deferred Compensation Plans;
  • Incentive Stock Options (ISO’s);
  • Non-qualified Stock Options (NSO’s);
  • Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPP’s);
  • Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP’s);
  • Phantom Stock Ownership Plans and other Non-qualified plans;
  • Profit Sharing Plans;
  • Bonus Pools, and;
  • Project or Initiative Based Incentive and Participation Plans.

As noted above the implementation of a compensation plan in and of itself will not heal an otherwise ailing company. However a fully integrated and well designed compensation plan rolled out in a healthy corporate culture based upon quality, integrity and character will have a dramatic positive result.

Are CEOs Getting a Bad Rap

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

This is not how you want to be viewed...Are CEOs getting a bad rap? In a word, yes. As a top ceo coach, I can tell you that CEOs are under siege…in fact, I would go so far as to say that CEOs as an occupational class are in a state of crisis. I understand that Americans are upset about the economic debacle we find ourselves presently entangled in. I’m upset and outraged as well. What’s frustrating to most is that there are many more questions being posed than answers being given at this point in time. We’ve entered the blame zone of rash allegations and finger pointing in order to deflect responsibility. While I understand that no sane person could have watched the events of the last few weeks and not want to pin the blame on someone, simply assigning “villain” status to chief executives as a class because their compensation plans seem egregious to some is not the answer. In today’s post I’ll examine the issue of CEO Compensation and why I believe CEOs are unfairly being vilified.

So, is CEO compensation out of control? In some cases I absolutely believe it is, but not in every case as many politicians and pundits would have you believe. I take great exception to those chief executives that take advantage of the position they hold, the shareholders they represent, and the relationships they’re entrusted with. That being said, the CEOs described in the preceding sentence don’t constitute the majority of chief executives. I have called for transparency in previously addressing the issue of Rogue CEOs and Board Accountability. That being said, rogue CEOs are the exception and not the rule. Most chief executives are hard working professionals who take their fiduciary obligations very seriously. Moreover they hold the position of chief executive while incurring great personal risk and sacrifice.

At face value, I don’t care how much money a CEO does or doesn’t make. The issue is not the amount of remuneration paid out to CEOs, but rather on what basis, and when it is paid out. Simply put, CEOs that perform deserve all the compensatory benefits that accompany said performance, and to compensate them for the risk they undertake. Conversely, those CEOs who fail to perform have no business maximizing compensation to the detriment of the stakeholders they were supposed to be serving. Let me use the actual case of Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers to see if I can help you clarify your thoughts on the topic of CEO compensation. I would ask that you watch the video and form an opinion from what you see:

If you were to just watch the above video of his recent testimony without knowledge of the whole picture, I think you would probably come to the conclusion that he displays a lack of sincerity, credibility, and remorse. One of the oldest and most highly regarded investment banks failed on his watch, and all you witness in observing his testimony is what appears to be Dick caught in a self-serving, sanctimonious CYA maneuver. Now, lets take a look at things with a bit more disclosure, and from a bit of a different perspective. Look at the following revenue and profit numbers (I rounded the numbers for simplicity sake) under Dick’s leadership of Lehman Brothers leading up to the failure:

  • 2004 Total Revenue: $21 Billion – Net Income: $2 Billion
  • 2005 Total Revenue: $32 Billion – Net Income: $3 Billion
  • 2006 Total Revenue: $46 Billion – Net Income: $4 Billion
  • 2007 Total Revenue: $59 Billion – Net Income: $4 Billion

During the time frame noted above, Lehman showed steady growth in both revenue and profitability under Dick’s leadership. If you look at the most aggressive estimates of the amount of his total compensation during that time period it totals nearly $480 million dollars. This number is less than 1% of the $140 Billion of gross revenue and less than 4% of the $13 Billion of net income earned over the same period.  I don’t believe this number is in and of itself a bad number, especially given the fact that most of Fuld’s compensation was incentive based. Fuld had no employment contract, received no golden parachute upon exit, and there were no last minute insider stock trades that he benefited from. Dick Fuld didn’t receive excessive compensation any more than his other executives and investment bankers did. They were highly compensated in an industry that offers lucrative pay. While not palatable to all, it is certainly not a crime.

The real issue surrounding Fuld is not his compensation, but rather his poor decisioning in failing to manage the risk associated with the complex synthetic and derivative securities they were participating in. However he was not alone in this regard, as all other financial institutions were trading in these securities as well.  

Let me shine the light squarely on those individuals whom I believe are the real culprits in this debacle. It was not the investment banking CEOs, but the corrupt CEOs of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the corrupt politicians who allowed them to function without oversight and accountability. I must also chasten the shameless politicians who use national tragedy and congressional testimony as a publicity platform to air venomous soundbites in order to transfer blame and cater to their constituencies leading up to an election. Oversight is a good thing, but where were these concerned politicians leading up to this mess. Arm chair quarterbacking and shameless self-promotion at the expense of others is not why we elect our public servants, but I digress…

Bottom line…it is not wrong to assign some blame to the rogue CEOs who deserve it, but it is terribly wrong to assign blame to those good chief executives just because CEO is printed on their business card.

Deal Transparency

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

The Power of AuctionsIf deal transparency isn’t at the forefront of your M&A strategy, you might want to stop and do a bit of thinking. In some ways the world of corporate M&A is much the same as it was 20 years ago, and in other ways the events of the last few weeks have changed the landscape dramatically. The Bailout, the current capital and credit crunch, and the outcome of recent litigation have taken and already inefficient market and made it even more so. In today’s post I’ll share my observations as to what might be the single biggest trend that will influence how transactions will be closed in today’s changing marketplace…deal transparency.

Over the years I have participated in the M&A process from virtually every angle possible. I have been a principal of a company being acquired, as well as a principal of a company conducting acquisitions. I have also served as an executive working on both acquisitions and dispositions teams, and as a professional advisor representing both the buy-side and the sell-side. I’ve been around long enough to remember the days when proprietary transactions (deals that didn’t get shopped) were the norm. However with recent events, exclusive transactions will be all but dead unless you’re very comfortable painting a bulls-eye on your chest.

In a recent decision in Delaware, the court found independent directors of a target company personally liable for what the court called a breech of fiduciary obligations by holding a “passive” sale. If officers and directors on the sell-side cannot entertain exclusive deals without incurring personal risk, guess what…they won’t do it. Combine this with what will most certainly be an environment of increased regulatory oversight, and enhanced investor scrutiny, and you’ll quickly arrive at the same conclusion that I have…Most deals will have to become very transparent in order for the sell-side to be comfortable in moving forward.  

Moving forward it is my opinion that virtually all deals will get shopped (advantage sell-side). The environment today simply reflects a bias toward auctions when looking to sell or finance your firm. The spoils simply go to the highest bidder on a price basis, or the highest bidder on a value add basis, but in either case (preferably a combination of the two) it usually boils to the most aggressive bid winning the transaction. As an advisor who often represents the sell-side, I am particularly fond of this proliferating trend.

This frenzied world of deal auctions is a function of supply and demand, but as I mentioned above, it is also a function of fiduciary obligation in maximizing shareholder value. In fact, “Go-Shop” provisions are included in most of today’s agreements with potential suitors. “Stand-Still” provisions are becoming a thing of the past as they set-up the seller for third party allegations that the seller failed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities by agreeing to sell the company at a “low-ball’ price, and/or by signing off on measures designed to dissuade competing bidders. The offset for buyers to induce them into agreeing to a go-shop provision is the inclusion of a provision to pay a break-up fee should the seller unwind the deal due to a better competing offer.

Let me point out that savvy sellers know the difference between cattle-calls or shot-gunning a deal vs. inviting a small group of the right buyers to the table in a controlled bid process. The fastest way to taint your deal in the market is to not be discerning or discriminating in selecting who should be invited to participate in your transaction. Sellers that fail to recognize the subtlety of what I’m describing in this paragraph will soon find themselves receiving a very costly education from the buy-side when few if any suitors express an interest in your deal.

As I mentioned above, pricing is only part of the deal. Since I discussed non-financial value adds in a previous post entitled “Capital vs. Influence” I won’t go into a deep discussion here other than to state that sophisticated sellers look for more than just price when selecting their buyer.

The most critical factor in running your transaction is the selection of the right sell-side advisor. Your advisor should be able to guide you in defining your benchmark valuation metrics, understanding your negotiating leverage points, helping you prepare your offering documents, advising you on which buyers to solicit, how to manage the deal auction, and ultimately how to close the deal with the right partner at the right price.

Bottom line…The auction environment, properly managed by the right advisor can be your best friend by proving transparency and maximizing valuation. Conversely, attempting to auction your company for sale with the wrong advisor will end-up in massive amounts of unnecessary brain damage being incurred, and an increased risk profile. Good Luck and Good Selling….

Increase Employee Engagement With More Fast FACE Time

While the majority of our readers are CEOs, savvy senior execs, and seasoned entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that we’ve been experiencing a rapid growth of late in readership falling within the ranks of developing leaders. So when Phil Gerbyshack was kind enough to offer to do a guest post I was estatic! Phil has established himself as a prolific writer and speaker whose savvy is well beyond his years. Phil is the co-author of Help Desk Manager’s Crash Course, and offers advice for new managers at The Management Expert. He currently serves as a vice president for a financial services company headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. You can follow Phil on Twitter @PhilGerb. What I most appreciate about Phil is his passion for improving the lives of everyone he interacts with. I’ll believe you’ll see this shine through is his post below…enjoy! 

According to Gallup, at least 7 of the 12 reasons employees are not engaged in their work is because of something their direct manager or leader could have influenced, but didn’t. 7 out of 12 reasons! The good news is you can change that, if you’re willing to give your team a little more FACE time.

Yes, investing in your team by simply giving them more of your time can have a huge impact. But where do you start, what should you focus on, and how can you fit more activities into your already hectic day? Instead of just paying lip service to your team with inconsistent and unstructured interruptions, use the following formula to give them some strategic FACE time, maximizing the return on their time and yours.

F – Feedback time
Make time each day to give the members of your team feedback on their performance. Find something positive to say, without shying away from dealing with difficult topics. Invest time to find at least 1 positive piece of feedback for every negative one. Tie the conversation back to your team’s mission, vision and values. You don’t have to take a long time for feedback time. Just 5 minutes for each person on your staff each week, focusing on specific, personal feedback will be enough to show your team you appreciate them, and will also offer time to make a minor course correction if they have strayed a few degrees off center.

A – Action time (Time investment: 5-15 minutes a day)
Make time each day for action time. Do something that moves you closer to your team’s or your personal goals every day. Some days I spend all day in meetings and I forget to do this, and then I feel like I’ve wasted a day. On those days I catch myself before I leave for the day, I make time to do something, anything, to get closer to key goals and objectives.  Doing this helps me feel productive, and helps me move the needle at least a little bit every day. Leading by example is a powerful motivator for high performing team members.

C – Connection time (Time investment: 5-15 minutes a day)
Make time every day to connect with a different member of your team on a personal level. Ask about what matters personally to each person. Take time to really tune them in and listen. Remember the number 1 reason people leave a job is because of their direct supervisors, and in my experience, the reason they leave is specifically because employees don’t feel their supervisors cared about them. Taking a few minutes each day for connection time is a great way to show you really do care about who they are; even when they’re not producing for you.

E – Expectation setting (and resetting) time (Time investment: 5-15 minutes a day)
Make time every day to realign or set expectations about what the most important tasks and goals are for your team to be focusing on. The more clearly your articulate your expectations, the better chance your team has of actually achieving them.

As mentioned above, it’s also important to reset expectations as needed. If a deadline has changed, let your team know this as well, so they can shift their focus onto new critical tasks or needs. Remember that some people like to know WHY the expectation has changed, so include this whenever possible to keep these folks engaged as well.

By investing just a few minutes each day into some FACE time with your employees, you will improve your team’s morale, and in turn, their engagement. This will not only save your firm money, but ultimately it will save you considerable time and brain damage as you cut down on employee churn.

The choice is yours: a little FACE time with your team now, or a little face time with your supervisor and the HR department later, when your turnover increases and you’re spending all your time reviewing resumes and interviewing new candidates for your team.

Thanks to Phil Gerbyshak for sharing his insights on how to maximize workplace productivity through better employee engagement.

Dealing with Tough Times

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Few would disagree that we’re in tough economic times…however it’s not the tough times, but how you choose to deal with them that’s important. There has been no shortage of unsettling news over the last few weeks. With disequilibrium in the capital and credit markets, tough times for the average American aren’t usually too far behind. Some of you reading today’s post have already felt the constraints associated with tough economic times. However rather than pen assuaging platitudes in an attempt to provide comfort, I want to provide you with simple and clear direction; Don’t panic, don’t quit, and most importantly get your head back in the game. I’m going to rely on the video above to communicate what I believe is a sound approach to dealing with the tough blows that life can dole out. If you find the above video inspirational, you might also enjoy a previous post using Michael Jordan as an example of the benefits of enduring and pressing through tough times…