Build A Winning Team

Recently, I was listening to the Tom Leykis show. I am a fan of Tom Leykis. He always has stimulating, shall we say, discussions that really get you thinking. And that’s what I like about the show. He was talking about the question, “Why should employees be loyal to their companies?” And, “Why should you be loyal to a company that makes you give them 2 week’s notice if you’re quitting, yet if they want get rid of you – your butts on the street tomorrow? Why should you be loyal to a company that you work for 10, 15, or 20 years, and then they just decided to down size one day, and you’re holding the bag. Why should you do your job better than the next person, when all they’re going to do is give you more work?”

Now I can really relate to this and maybe you can too. Let’s face it, a lot of us are in business for ourselves today because that’s the kind of thing we got sick of. We wanted to our own thing. Because we had a better idea. Like Ford. We wanted to do it “Our Way.” Like Frank Sinatra.But I began to think about the other side. Have you ever hired somebody, with all the good intentions in the world and then found out that they weren’t loyal to you at all? They were consistently late. They didn’t care about your business or your customers. All they cared about was their paycheck. They just took a day off, because, they felt like it.Or maybe you put a tremendous amount of time into training this person on your business, and they ended up stealing your clients? Many customer’s have come to me, as their consultant and ask me how to deal with a specific employee issue. They say, “Mark, I don’t know what I’m going to do with this person. I can’t get through to them. They’re constantly making mistakes, their slow as molasses, they have no sense of priority, their poor attitude is dragging the entire office down.”So I ask them, why don’t you fire them? They say, “Are you kidding, if I fire them, they’re going to take me to court and I know I’ll lose. Because it’s happened before. So I just live with it. But it’s costing me money, it’s costing me customers and it’s driving me crazy!”Listen folks, you can’t live with it anymore. We small business people can’t afford to make very many mistakes. We make a mistake and the big guys will chew us up and spit us out – lickety split. And you’re going to find yourself working for the MAN again. So “How Do You Build and Maintain a Winning Team.”If you have an employee problem, are looking for ways to get your staff to be more productive, or wondering how you can get your employees to get stuff done BEFORE you tell them to, then you will be interested in what I have to say.With the help of several member consultants of Virtual Consulting, we have prepared a “How To – White Paper” on developing and maintaining a winning team. It has been designed specifically for small business managers and provides specific step-by-step instructions for building a strong, loyal team. The good news is that it is now available FREE just for the asking. That’s right FREE!It provides detailed answers to the following questions:Recruitment

  • What are the main factors in selecting the right person for the job?
  • Isn’t it a crap shoot? How do you know if someone will work out?
  • What can you do to find out about a candidates character?
  • I often hear people say, “Uhhhg newspapers, I get such poor quality there.”
  • Where do you look to find the right person?
  • How do you get the right person for the right job?
  • What are your legal rights?


  • What can we do to keep good people?
  • How can we hold them accountable to get their job done properly and timely?
  • What if they don’t? What kind of things can we do to motivate people to be more timely, accurate and team oriented?
  • How can I make my goals, THEIR goals?
  • How do I get them to care about my company and customers?
  • What if the positive things don’t work?

Legal Issues

  • How do we let people go without risking a lawsuit?
  • Do’s and don’ts when recruiting.
  • When and how should I conduct exit and entrance interviews?
  • How to ensure that your employees do NOT have legal recourse.

AND MUCH MORE. The program also includes the necessary forms for interviews, performance tracking, meeting logs and more. It also provides the names, telephone numbers and web sites for many employee related resources, including governmental agencies, FREE help lines, and small business consultants.Just so to and ask for the “Build a Winning Team” White Paper and we will rush it right on out to you.

A Matter of Honor

I recently read an article that talked about a high-school biology class where nearly 25% of the students were caught cheating. Apparently they had plagiarized entire sections of their semester-long reports from various Internet web sites. The teacher had isolated the offenders and had given them a failing grade. The parents of these students protested that the failing grade was “too harsh” a penalty for their cheating children. Unbelievably, the school board agreed!

The article went on to point out that a Rutgers University study found that more than 75% of students cheat. The Internet has made plagiarism quite easy. There are many web sites where students can get ready-made reports for all kinds of topics. Schools also have access to software that allows them to catch plagiarists just as easily. But apparently they often choose NOT to use it. Why? Because they feel that policing plagiarism might hurt a cheater’s self esteem. In fact, many student groups have attacked the use of anti-plagiarism software as a potential violation of student rights!My question is… What will happen to these students when they have to compete in the real world? In the real world if you plagiarize, you suffer the consequences. That could mean litigation, retraction and most certainly professional embarrassment.Ok, I know what you’re thinking… What does all this have to do with business improvement?
Everything.If we really care for people, then we tell them what they need to hear. If we are too concerned about offending them or hurting them then we are in part responsible for their failures. Think of how much those high school students will be hurt in the future simply because parents, teachers and administrators were unwilling to bruise their fragile egos.Let’s face it many, if not most supervisors are at the very least uncomfortable holding their employees accountable. I am not saying that we should create an environment where perfection is the goal. I rather encourage peak performance rather that perfect performance. But it is critical for business owners, manager and supervisors to distinguish between a “mistake of the heart” or a “mistake of the head.” A “mistake of the heart” is a situation where an employee intentionally did something that was known to be wrong and tried to get away with it. A “mistake of the head” is when an employee is working hard to do the right thing but, for some reason, it does not work out that way. With mistakes of the head, we should be very lenient. With mistakes of the heart we should be quite strict.One way to ensure that we are creating an environment where mistakes of the mind are tolerated and mistakes of the heart are not is to make your expectations crystal clear to your staff. Over the years I have noticed that communicating expectations is paramount in achieving peak performance. The following are areas in which leaders should develop clear expectations for team members:1. Culture – Communicate your company’s culture clearly by modeling the kind of behavior that you want to see. If you are looking for more honesty and integrity then model honesty and integrity. Like it or not, they will do as you do, NOT as you say. This starts at the top. If you are a business owner, don’t expect your managers to accomplish this if you can’t.2. Rewards – When people do well we should congratulate them publicly. This should be done with great fanfare but in a genuine, sincere way. There’s nothing worse than phony flummery or flattery. Give sincere appreciation.3. Chastisement – When we need to provide chastisement or correction it should always be done privately away from any other staff member. We should be forthright in expressing our disappointment with the staff member’s poor behavior NOT anger with them as a person.4. Correction – When correcting make sure that you communicate the methods and procedures expected. This should include deadlines with non-negotiable dates as opposed to dates that can slip as well as priorities. What’s to be done first, second and so on.5. Performance – Paint a picture of the outcome for your staff. Show them a vision of a “good” job versus a “bad” job. Make sure they understand the degree of effort that you expect them to each contribute to the successful solution.6. Measurement – Establish a system to measure performance in small increments as well as a format for consistent communication. This forum will give you the ability to ask the right kind of questions to determine whether they are “on-track.” At this point you can provide feedback and make suggestions on course correction.7. Resources – Make sure that they understand the resources that are available to them. This could include staff, facilities, technology, equipment, outside consultants and so on. Encourage them to use the resources to their best advantage but in a cost effective way in order to achieve their goals.

As leaders it’s our job to foster integrity, honesty and honor. Team members look to us for confidence, guidance, direction and innovation. To whom much is given, much is required. As leaders we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else in our organization. Does this mean that we need to be perfect in order to achieve peak performance? Not at all. But is does mean that when we are wrong that we, as Dale Carnegie advises us, “admit it quickly and emphatically.”Remember your team members are not just a resource, they are PEOPLE. As I have said many times, we live in an age of relationships. How can you create relationships that go beyond just getting the job done? And how can we do so with integrity and honor?

Lemonade From Lemons

Coming back from a nice day at the beach recently my wife spotted a lemonade stand by the side of the road. The stand was operated by two young children around 10 or 11 years old. We were a little thirsty so we decided to stop and get a drink. As we pulled up to the stand we could see the excitement in the kid’s eyes. They scampered to and fro to prepare the cups of lemonade for two more customers. “Ice or no ice,” the miniature salesperson asked me. I gave the child a buck, which included our standard 50% tip.

They carefully poured two glasses of icy drink and lovingly placed a slice of lemon in each of our cups. These kids were thrilled to be able to act as little entrepreneurs. I looked over at the father of one of the children. He obviously was the chaperone for the day. Even he was animated and full of life. He smiled, welcomed us and even thanked us for stopping by. As we left, two more cars were pulling-up and the kids were frantically fixing another pitcher. Our drinks were finished by the time we got to our car but the pleasant warm feeling was with us for the rest of the day.I couldn’t help but think: “If only ADULT entrepreneurs could be as enthusiastic about their business as these kids were about a little lemonade stand.” That’s when it hit me. WOW! That’s it! The reason Kathy and I always stop at these lemonade stands isn’t because of the cold drink or the cheap price or even the blessing we might bring to the children. It’s because of the way it makes us feel.Those kids love being lemonade merchants and it shows. They are passionate about making people happy. They feel great about what they are doing and consequently we feel great at being part of their adventure. We are attracted to them because of their sincerity, passion and integrity. It’s not about the product, service or the money.Today people are facing difficult circumstances. They are struggling to make payroll. They are seeking to replace lost business. Almost a year later, many are still dealing with the aftermath of September 11th. Most of us are working diligently on delivering a better product or providing improved service or even trying to do both at a cheaper price. Many are looking at ways to increase profit so they can survive and grow. I say this is only a very small part of the solution.Chances are your competitors are offering a product or service that is very similar to yours if not indistinguishable in every way. It may even be cheaper than yours. If this is so, then how can we get an edge over the competition? By becoming focused on making customers FEEL good about being involved with our product or service.We live in the most extraordinary economic period in history. As a result we must take extraordinary measures to ensure our success. This means learning how to attract people to us. Business is about relationships. Whether we’re looking to attract business partners, customers, or talent, we must understand that people look closer at WHO we are rather than WHAT we do. This is as true for multinational companies as it is for single practitioners. Why has every business associated with Enron divested themselves of that relationship? Surely not because of poor product performance or substandard service or even low profit potential. The fact is that Enron’s product, service and profit potential has been excellent. Yet based on “who they are,” no business partner in their right mind would align themselves with Enron at this point in time.I’m not talking about taking the high moral ground or being a lily-white ethical leader in your industry. I think that discussion been blunted over the last few months by just about every political, economic or social pundit of our day. My point is that we need to create passion in our business as much as we look for ways to improve profit. Here are some “passion creating” ideas that I know will attract the right kind of customers and partners to your business:1. Be crystal clear about the vision for your business. I get physically ill when I come into a company and the CEO hands me their mission statement. Remember that your DESTINATION is far more important than your mission. It is the end result that motivates and excites people.2. Seek business relationships that add value to the customer interaction. These are likely to include what I like to call “relationship enhancements.” These are variables that are more important to customers than they are to the bottom-line. They could also be relationships that provide access to valuable technologies or complimentary (not competitive) product offerings.3. Rally your people around the guiding principals of your business. Focus not so much on teaching your people “what” to do but rather “why” you do it that way and how it has strengthened business relationships in the past.4. Expect more from your people. Hold them to a higher standard. No organization can survive and grow without a system of accountability. As business leaders we are accountable to customers. Our team members must also be accountable to specific duties, responsibilities and levels of performance.5. Impose your values on others. This goes against the grain. Most would say we DON’T have the right to impose our values on others. The fact is that all we really have is our values. Any job can be taught but can we really teach reliability, honesty, enthusiasm, integrity and so on? Does that mean we should only expect that from certain team members? I say we should hire people based on value consistency and fire them for value inconsistency.6. Be open with information. Successful people are information hounds. They are always hungering to know more. I believe the more your customers and partners know the more you will be able to incite passion and differentiation.7. Differentiate not just your product selection, service delivery or profit potential but the emotional quotient in business relationships. Get to the heart of how people feel about your business, product or service. We can’t MAKE people feel a certain way we can INFLUENCE the way they feel based on our actions.What are you doing to attract more customers to your business? I hope it’s more than just providing an excellent product, spectacular service or a great value. For these are no longer enough. They can be easily replicated by your competition. Improving relationships is the key element in attracting customers and partners today. You may feel that this easier said than done.
There are however techniques that can be employed to help to build and strengthen relationships.

Team Innovation

Today, businesses large and small like to say they are “team oriented” (whatever that means). I guess it means they work in teams. Big deal. Does that improve their performance? Does that mean that the quality of their product or service is better than the competition? Does that allow them to complete a project more timely, profitably or effectively? Is teamwork really a better way to go about solving problems than say the “hermit” approach? What about Thomas Edison or Leonardo DaVinci or Alexander Graham Bell?

If you’ve ever worked on a team you know there is one thing that can not be avoided: CONFLICT. At some point someone is going to disagree with somebody else and then, look out! Getting to a simple solution can take hours or days while these two “team-members” fight over minutia. Sound familiar?Let’s face it, often times, teams can hit roadblocks that can sabotage their success. There are a number of things that can be done to ensure good teamwork:Conflict is GoodAs team leaders we must not allow ourselves to think that we solely carry the burden of resolving conflict. I see so may managers, owners and team leaders rush to squish the most subtle sign of conflict within their team. Without conflict we can not reach the best solution. This also places us in a patronizing, parental position that encourages your team members to abdicate personal responsibility for resolving conflict. It keeps them from developing the skills to necessary to grow, mature and hold each other accountable. Allow the team to detect conflict and manage only those that escalate.Guidelines for Managing ConflictAs leaders we need to model guidelines that set the tone for resolving conflict. In this way we will be educating our team members to take responsibility. These should include:

  • No personal attacks
  • No heated outbursts
  • No backbiting
  • No hostile assumptions

Establishing Expectations
Over the years I have noticed that communicating expectations to the team is paramount in achieving exceptional team performance. The following are areas that team leaders should develop clear expectations for members:1. Work methods – Make sure your team knows the methods and procedures you expect them to follow when completing the job. If they do not they may frustrate themselves by taking the “long route” and end up disillusioned.2. Deadlines – Make sure that the team fully understands the time frame for completion. This should include non-negotiable dates as opposed to to dates that can slip.3. Responsibilities – Ensure that every team member understands their role in the team process. This should be communicated one-on-one with each team member prior to establishing the team. Also ensure that the team members responsibilities are consistent with the teams responsibilities.4. Priorities – It is critical that team members know the proper priorities. What’s to be done first, second and so on.5. Performance – Paint a picture of the outcome for the team. Show them a vision of a “good” job vs. a “bad” job. Make sure they understand the degree of effort that you expect them to each contribute to the successful solution.6. Measurement – Establish a system to measure performance in small increments.7. Communication – Establish a format for consistent communication with the team. This forum will give you the ability to ask the right kind of questions to determine whether the team is “on-track.” At this pint you can provide feedback to the team and make suggestions on course correction.8. Resources – Make sure that your team members understand the resources that are available to them. This could include staff, facilities, technology, equipment, outside consultants and so on. Encourage them to use the resources to their best advantage but in a cost effective way in order to achieve their goals.As leaders it’s our job to foster innovation. Team members look to us for confidence, guidance, direction and innovation. What can you do to set the stage for creative thinking in the teams that you lead? How can you get your team to discover the best solutions in the most cost effective manner. Remember teams are not just resources, they are people. As I have said many times, we line in an age of relationships. How can you create relationships that go beyond just getting the job done. How can you create relationships that can produce the kind of Edison, Bell and DaVinci innovation.

Office Politics

Someone asked me the other day: “Mark what do think is the biggest challenge for small businesses today?”

I didn’t have to think about this very long. I know they were expecting me to say something about: the affects of the economy or the stock market or the impact of technology or the lack of funding or resources or even the breakneck speed which we are expected to operate at.But the reality is that these are relatively minor forces when compared with the most powerful force of all:Office Politics!If you could walk with my consultants and I, in and out of businesses we each see everyday you would see the obvious yet devastating result of office politics. I believe it is by far the biggest obstacle to change and growth for companies today. Not that this is new. Office politics has been with us for decades. But the changing financial, political and social landscape makes it more insidious than ever and literally threatens the survival of many small businesses and even larger organizations.Why? Because of the exorbitant cost associated with office politics.The cost of office politics is a kind of activity-based cost. It includes time lost, waste of resources, low staff morale and ineffective delegation. Some of these costs are tangible but not accountable. Often time this kind of loss is ignored or neglected. Since many political activities are cross-departmental, office politics can render an organization completely dysfunctional in a very short period of time. While it is usually unwise to let office politics freely develop, unfortunately many companies cannot tackle such a political problem and let it erode their productivity and profitability and sometimes even endanger their survival.Office politics is about the application, distribution and negotiation of power and resources in an organization. This power includes authority (formal power) and influence (informal power). Politics is basically the application of that power. The desire for power is determined by one’s personality. Leaders can affect this principal in every organization. Strong, ethical leadership regulates the application of informal power (i.e. influence) to avoid the overuse and abuse of authority. Abuse of authority will lead to a chain of negative effects such as low staff morale, conflict, bias, bad image, poor communication, dishonesty and social conflict.When ethical leadership exists, office politics will abate. This is because ethical leadership is essentially self-management and self-control as an example for subordinates to follow. It is the strongest influence for change in any relationship. As I’ve said before, leaders act the way they want their team members to act. Cultural actions cannot be ordered or commanded. Most political office issues are symptoms of weakness at the senior management and organization level.While every organization is different, most have some type of definable culture. Some call this the organization design. It is essentially referring to the general distribution and structure of authority, responsibilities and resources in the organization. Poor organizational design is a common cause of office politics because ineffective organizational structure allows too much room for the negotiation for authority and resources.The organization chart in the business leader’s mind is far more important than the official one. Ricky W.O. Lau, author of Politics in Business calls it the “hidden organization chart.” Often times this means that the leader has bias and personal favor to individual members but does not act openly and his delegation is based on the hidden organizational chart rather than the official one. This is a common yet unfair and very detrimental management practice.While delegation is the distribution of specific work, responsibilities and authority, in an effective organization, delegation must be based on the organizational structure. Otherwise, there would be structural overlap, confusion, conflict and politics. Conflict usually involves different interests of different people (especially in different departments). Conflict may be minimized if the focus is on the whole organization rather than individual department or individuals. Some management styles may easily lead to office politics because the focus is on the performance of individuals and departments rather than the organization as a whole.Certainly interdepartmental conflict cannot be completely eliminated. Nor should we attempt to do so. It is important to remember that disagreement is not equivalent to conflict. People may disagree or criticize others if:

  1. They view the matter from another viewpoint
  2. They have misunderstood other’s meaning
  3. They want improvement
  4. They want to challenge others’ position or power.

Out of the above four motives of disagreement, only the last one is the result of conflict and is a political motive. However, when a manager is too politically sensitive, he may mistakenly treat the first three motives as political motives, and interpret the conflict as an intention to challenge his position or power.Desire of power may be a strong motive to perform, but it may also lead to a negative and destructive result. An effective manager should apply his influential power rather than authority because abuse and overuse of authority can lead to poor relations, distrust, misunderstanding and disorganization.Are office politics an issue in your business? If any of these symptoms are present in your business, its time to think about making some core changes to your business culture. At the Small Business Advisory Network we like to say that we influence decisions, improve performance and inspire change. That’s what our consulting, workshops, web site, weekly articles and The Small Business Hour Radio Show are all about.

Standard of Care

For several years many small business owners have asked me the same questions:

“How can I grow my business without significant capital investment?”

“What can I do to stabilize the trends in my business?”

“How can I out-market my competition in the midst of price erosion?”

“How can I maintain a consistent level of revenue to ensure a consistent level of profit?”

“Why are my people loyal one day and turncoat the next?”

“What can I do to motivate my staff to invest more time and effort in effectively selling or delivering my product or service?”

“How can I eliminate excuses and inspire commitment?”Because these are the most frequently asked questions, I have invested considerable time and effort in seeking out the EXPERTS and learning their methods in dealing with these challenges.I have made it my mission to vigorously study the masters in management, sales and marketing. The philosophy that I espouse is an amalgamation of what I have learned DIRECTLY from the leaders in business, such as: Tom Peters, Jack Welsh, Stephen Covey, Peter Drucker, Zig Ziglar, Tom Hopkins, Jay Abraham, Tony Robins, Morris Shechtman and many others. I have found that while these business gurus have different approaches, they all seem to agree on six absolutes of successful business management in the 21st Century:1. We are entering an age of uncertainty, expanding knowledge and unrelenting change.
For these reasons, what worked in the past will no longer work in the future. Even the most successful companies must commit to continuous improvement. Uncomfortable introspection must become a habit – -a willingness to eliminate dysfunctional behaviors, and a determination to model a culture that can tolerate unpredictability, uncertainty and vulnerability. Old methods must be torn down and new paradigms constructed.2. “WHO we are” is far more important than WHAT we do.
The increase in knowledge and change has created an “Intra-personal Revolution.” Individual performance and quality of life will reach new heights by focusing on the internal frontier within each person. A good product or service is no longer adequate. We must leverage relationships and personal values to gain cooperation and market share. Leaders must first change BEFORE they can expect their team-members to change.3. Business leadership will be rendered impotent without deep commitment to a pre-defined, consistent value set.
This focus allows organizations to clarify and act on core values, which will ultimately serve to create a tangible and unified culture. Corporate mission or vision statements will be useless without clearly articulated and non-negotiable boundaries that are enforced and protected. Values without boundaries are merely platitudes. There also must be value consistency between decisions. Strong leaders never have two sets of values to choose from. It is more important to make “value-consistent decisions” than it is to make the “politically correct” decisions.4. Accountability must precede profitability.
Accountability does not exist outside of a relationship. People must be accountable to “someone.” No one can be accountable to himself or herself. This will produce conflict and confrontation but that is not bad. On the contrary conflict avoidance must be eliminated. In fact confrontation is the highest expression of love. Leaders must move from “taking care OF their people” to “caring FOR their people.” In this new culture to demand less from our employees is as unfair to them as it is to our customers and ourselves. There will be no consistent profitability without accountability.5. Peak performance must replace adequacy.
Mediocrity, which has become the standard of performance, must become intolerable. Successful leaders should set expectations high enough so they are just barely within reach. They should demand greater effort, invest more time “inspecting” performance and be willing to confront damaging behaviors and attitudes. This will inspire individual growth. Companies cannot grow unless the people in them grow first.6. Companies must become “learning organizations.”
Leaders and their employees who develop the capacity for self-analysis and adaptive learning will have a remarkable competitive advantage. They will win the battle for mind-share and market-share. This includes quantitative as well as analysis both for internal as well as external elements of the business. When the people within the organization resist learning in place of simply performing job functions, stagnation begins.I have seen what can happen when these six absolutes are satisfied…. Businesses become stable, client loyalty improves, revenue and profits grow, employee turnover drops, new initiatives can be launched quickly and effectively, market differentiation occurs, employees give not out of obedience but out of discretionary effort and there is cooperative, harmonious teamwork. People go BEYOND what is expected of them.This is not a dream. It can be a reality. I have seen it with my own eyes. It is important to understand that this is NOT exclusive to my consulting practice. I know several consultants, like myself, who employ similar tactics with similar positive results. You see, in business, as in medicine there is a new standard of care. It is a standard that focuses on preventative maintenance and improving health rather than merely treating symptoms and constantly fixing aches and pains.But as in medicine, the patient must believe they need to become healthier in order to accept treatment. You may be making money, but this is not the only measure of health. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your sales erratic – up one or two months then down for the next few months
  • Are profits unstable or is there a lack of natural growth in the business?
  • Is there a high employee turnover rate?
  • Is there political infighting, blame shifting or a lack of accountability among your employees?
  • Is there an absence of discipline or self-centered attitudes?
  • Have dysfunctional behaviors like dishonesty, insubordination or emotional outbursts occurred in the workplace during the last six months?

If any of these symptoms are present in your business, its time to think about making some core changes to your business culture. These changes begin with the ability to cope with the unrelenting daily change in our economy. They are an outgrowth of our ability to change ourselves first BEFORE expecting others to change. They are interwoven with our commitment to a pre-defined, consistent value set. And they are an example of our ability to hold others accountable for peak performance rather than just mediocrity.

At the SBA Network we like to say that we influence decisions, improve performance and inspire change. Let us know how we might be able to assist you to inspire change in your organization.