Posted by: drewdice | January 12, 2013

Spotting Jim

I was reading a blog post by Ted Coine earlier today,, and it really struck me – how often I see companies struggling with the people part of the equation:

– Finding good people (by good, I’m not just talking about the folks who have the requisite skills, competencies and experience. I mean the cultural fits – people who share the same values and belief systems. I’ll take these folks over the skilled, but culturally mismatched any day)

– Successfully onboarding and launching new hires (it doesn’t matter if it is a front line employee or senior executive, onboarding is critical. The first 90 days sets the tone for the new hire’s future at the firm. Are they getting the right blend of formal and informal learning? Understanding how to successfully navigate the organization – roles, responsibilities, cultural norms, politics – you know – ‘the way things really happen around here’? Clear expectations, measures of success, and a path to achieving success?)

– Ongoing development and engagement (too many times, organizations look back and say: ‘what happened to Jim? when we hired him, he showed so much promise; was so motivated. what changed? While I agree 100% that the individual needs to take responsibility for his/her success in a firm, so too does the organization have a responsibility to ensure that the employee is groomed, grown, provided opportunities to flourish and given regular feedback and development opportunities. Poor culture will trump a shining star anytime, and believe me, these stars have options outside of your firm)

We can, and need to do better – at Jim spotting (see Ted’s post – link earlier in this post), and just as importantly, at having the right culture, mindset, systems and processes to prevent the Jim’s from ever getting to the point of thinking about leaving.

Posted by: drewdice | January 6, 2013

Critical Path to high performance – part 1

Each of us has very personal goals and aspirations – like us, they are unique to us.

Even so, there are some core and common components to high performance that we all share – one is ‘continuous learning’.

I believe that people want to do well, do good, and progress. For this to occur, learning must be an integral part of the equation.

In your quest for progress and achievement, here a one way to help you make continuous learning part of your every day:

– Be your own observer: If you surround yourself with a solid peer group and mentors, you will get feedback to help you grow. That said, mastering the art of self reflection holds tremendous power and value. How?

– Ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions: ‘What did I learn through that experience?’ ‘How could we accomplish a better outcome?’ ‘What did I/we miss?’ ‘If I/we could do one thing differently, what would it be?’

To do this successfully, there are two key component of being one’s own observer:

– Make the time to do this consistently
– Be a conscious observer (externally and internally) through daily interactions, projects and initiatives

Posted by: drewdice | December 31, 2012

Be the Change


Much like many businesses and consumers have conditioned themselves and been conditioned to buy or sell with a cyclical rhythm to sales, discounts and deals, so too do many individuals, teams, organizations, governments, (you get the picture) condition themselves that there is a magic to starting anew when the calendar turns January 1 of a new year.

Think about it:

-health and fitness goals

– career goals

– educational goals

– monetary goals

-familial goals

-religious goals

While I absolutely believe in the power and importance of having clearly articulated, documented goals, I offer for consideration that today – any day – is the best time to chart the course (or update a currently charted course) for personal and professional growth, along with the associated impact created as a by-product of that growth.

Here are elements of a recipe that will foster continuous improvement, progress, impact and fulfillment:

Stay true to your purpose: Many find the topic of ‘following one’s passion’ to be a chicken-or-egg discussion. Does one discover her passion first and then follow it, or, is a better approach to ‘do some stuff’, and uncover passion along the way? My personal belief is that our passions are alive inside us, sometimes waiting to be realized and fulfilled, and that finding ways to live into one’s passions is a powerful way to live. What organizations one serves, what charitable organizations with whom one chooses to affiliate, what professional and personal circles one creates – can all align with one’s passion.

Reflect early and often: Daily reflection brings immense learning and insight – and can help to avoid repeated mistakes, wasted time and energy, while also increasing positive impact.

Give endlessly: I never quite understood the phrase “give until it hurts” – why would giving hurt? Quite to the contrary, not giving hurts – individuals, organizations, communities. Each of us has more than adequate mental and physical capacity to have positive impact by giving. ‘Exercising this muscle’ yields immeasurable benefit.

Continuous learning: Question everything – seek to understand the true needs – of loved ones, friends, business partners, customers – only through understanding can we create alignment, meaningful relationships, loyalty and relationships well beyond a transactional level

Feel free to mix these ingredients with your favorite recipe – and continue experimenting on an ongoing basis. I look forward sharing in your growth and evolution.

Posted by: drewdice | September 21, 2012

You get what you measure

Connecting learning to performance.

More and more, organizations are making (have made) the shift away from learning programs and efforts that cannot be connected to tangible business outcomes. Makes sense, right? Companies should invest where they will get a healthy return.

So, trace that back to primary education. and the current movement of measuring teacher performance, in part, by student results on standardized testing.

I get the intent behind the movement – connect teacher performance to the performance (and, in theory, learning) of students. An unintended consequence, however, of this recent move is that teachers may be inclined to teach to produce the outcome of passing tests, not to help students learn to acquire knowledge needed to be properly prepared to thrive in today’s competitive global economy.

In my not-so-humble opinion, we need to consider the desired outcome, and then connect the systems, processes, measurements and incentives to align to those outcomes. In this case, I’m not sure we’ve accomplished that.

Posted by: drewdice | July 19, 2012

What leaders do

Motivate or inspire?

Too many times, I hear leaders say things like: “I wish my people (or a subset of people) were more motivated”, or “What can I do to get people to work/produce like (fill in a name)?” or “What can I do to better motivate….?”

By now, you know how passionate I am about improving performance – of individuals, teams, business units, and entire organizations. And my personal perspective, and the belief to which I subscribe is that, in the above scenarios, the leaders are asking the wrong questions.

To me, motivation comes from within – attempts at extrinsic motivation, in most cases, have negative unintended consequences (if you condition people to perform for a ‘carrot’, a result will be that they want bigger carrots), while also cause people to narrow their focus, often times losing the bigger picture (for more information on this topic, Daniel Pink does a great job: A person’s sustainable motivation comes from within her – this is where passion lies, and this cannot be given to one person by another.

Inspiration, on the other hand, is a whole different ballgame. In my opinion. it is absolutely the role of the leader to inspire her people – employees, clients, shareholders, communities.

Inspiration comes from understanding what is most important to a person or population, and drawing those things out – it is a ‘pull’ rather than a ‘push’. With inspiration, here is what good leaders do:

Connect: With understanding comes the ability to accomplish amazing things. Think about people you know who do a great job connecting with others

Engage: This is about truly ‘being there’ with another person – being dialed in, totally focused and present, and having meaningful interactions with others

Model: After a period of time, people stop listening to what others say, and watch what they do. One of my favorite quotes is: “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying”. Inspirational leaders get this, intuitively and model the way forward

Transparent and authentic: No hidden agendas. The ‘why’ connected to what is being asked or what is done is clear, so people can make a committed decision to enroll in the mission – or not. There is no half-way or passive committment.

Be the change you wish to see – through inspiration.

Posted by: drewdice | March 12, 2012

More Weight

How much can you handle? How much should you handle? If you are leading a team or organization, how do you know how much others can handle?
In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Giles Corey, at a time when he is being physically pressed to death under inquisition, remarks: “More Weight”.

I first read The Crucible in 11th grade English, with Mr. Kovalevich – who I still hold as my favorite teacher of all time. To this day, “More Weight” has stayed with me – and I’ve applied my own context to it. I encourage you to do the same.

Corey’s statement, at least, was a statement to the courts who were running the inquisition/punishment – that he would not succumb to their pressure, at any cost. For me, the application includes:

– A belief that we are limited in understanding just how much we are capable of achieving – and that opposed to limiting our possibilities, we should continuously strive to find new ways to give, create, thrive and have impact.

– A belief that we can always find the time needed. When I enrolled in the EMBA program at Loyola University, my classmates and I wondered where we would find an additional 30-35 hours per week to study, write, plan, learn, collaborate – to get what we needed from the program. We found it – and then some – because we were committed to a vision of gaining critical knowledge, experiences, and connections that would allow us to have a more significant impact in our community than we would otherwise have.

– A belief that we need to progress. In my opinion, stagnation leads to regression and atrophy. We must always be learning, achieving and progressing. Pushing past what we know and how we know it leads to progress. Whether in academia, work or play, we need to be moving forward.

So, I ask you – where are you taking on more weight?

Posted by: drewdice | February 29, 2012

Does Luck lead to high performance?

Whether you are a fan of professional football or not, you have likely heard of Peyton Manning. You may also know that he is at a crossroads in his career, due to his recent injuries – and so, his current team, the Indianapolis Colts, is also at a crossroads with regards to their future path.

Many people feel that the Colts will release Manning, who will then be free to join another team to continue his career, and will draft Andrew Luck, a highly touted quarterback from Stanford. The football pundits feel that Luck could be the next great quarterback – with comparisons to John Elway and other past (and current) greats at the position. Debates continue stirring around whether it is best for the Colts (and Manning and Luck) to draft Luck, and have him serve as an understudy to Manning for a year or two, or, to release Manning, and put Luck in the starting lineup right away (much like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton did in 2011).

On the radio this morning, I heard one NFL expert express that the notion of having a rookie quarterback learn as an understudy to a current quarterback is flawed and urealistic – that the way quarterbacks learn is by taking snaps, practicing reps, timing and game-like situations, and that holding a clipboard and trying to soak up the knowledge and expertise that is in the heads of the starter is not productive – for anyone.

This made me think of the launch of your next potential high performer in your organization. What is your best strategy to launch a highly productive member of the team – possibly in a critical role – and what culture and processes do you have in place to capture the expert knowledge, processes and approaches in your organization, and transfer that to new hires (or, people who change roles) to enable those folks to be proficient as quickly and sustainably as possible?

Is it:

– On the job training?
– Formal (classroom based, as an example) learning/training?
– Communities of Practice?
– Something(s) else?

What is your secret sauce to driving high performance?

Posted by: drewdice | February 1, 2012

Closing the gap

Driving to work today, did I really see a woman flick a cigarette butt out of her window as she was speeding down I95?

My initial reactions:

– With so much focus on the importance of a clean and sustainable environment, why are people still so frivolously still littering?
– I hope she doesn’t work in an office with other people – since she was smoking in her car with the windows up, she is going to STINK! Could she lack that much social and self awareness?
– As I saw her in the car, she also had her cell phone to her ear – are you joking? Smoking and talking on the phone – without bluetooth? Could you disregard safety on the road any more obnoxiously?

Sorry if it sounds like I am griping, but it struck me as very odd – and then I thought – GAP. There is always a gap between strategy and execution. In business, in teams, in countries and individuals. My story in this case:

– the woman did not consciously decide to jeopardize her safety and that of others when she started her drive to work
– she did not make an intentional decision to bring noxious odors to those around her, as a result of her smoking in a car with the windows closed
– she did have intentions of having a productive, safe, healthy day, in which she had positive and meaningful interactions with others

So, if what I believe to be true is the case, what happened and how do we get better at closing the gap?

Posted by: drewdice | January 24, 2012

Driving Sales Force Transformation

Manage a process.
Enable your people.

Too often, I hear sales leaders talking about managing sales representatives, how they prospect, how the present, how they overcome objections, how they spend their time. It is as if managing people is a non stop, all the time effort. I often wonder how some sales leaders actually find time for strategic thinking and action, let alone helping reps get more effective at selling.

One big gap lies in the traditional approach to sales ‘training’: while many organizations spend time on some type(s) of analysis to uncover key skills, competencies and attributes of top sales representatives (with the aim of emulating those things and hiring people who have the same traits), the key insights the organization lacked were the actual Major Accomplishments that top sales representatives actually produced.

The impacts of this lack of transparency?

– wasted time coaching without results
– wasted time pulling reps out of the field for misplaced and misdirected training interventions
– unnecessary extra processes and procedures designed to ‘manage’ reps to producing better results (without clarity of what ‘better should actually look like’

The point is this: If sales leaders desire a top performing sales force (not just the standard 20% of the sales team), leaders need to first understand what success looks like (Strategic Intent and Alignment), identify the critical Major Accomplishments that lead to the defined success, align Business Processes that provide clear and smooth pathways for the reps (and the organization) to execute the Major Accomplishments, and a People Readiness strategy that positively influences the sales reps’ ability to produce the Major Accomplishments with regularity and without unneeded friction.

Manage the Processes.
Enable the People.

Create a high performing sales team.

Posted by: drewdice | January 22, 2012

Can’t Wait to Meet You!!

Outstanding service experiences at restaurants are few and far between – so, when they occur, it really blows me away.

If you’ve not yet been to Alchemy in Hampden, Maryland, it is worth the trip, and then some.

What I love about it:

– Humble, yet enthuisastic and hospitable staff, from the host/hostess and service staff to the chefs and management
– Outstanding food!
– Cozy and hip atmosphere
– They are very clear on their purpose – why the owners opened the restaurant and what they stand for – and this is apparent everywhere – from the decor to the staff interactions with customers.

JoAnn and I had lunch there this weekend – and so here is what blew me away –

– After ordering our food, we decided that we wanted soup (by the way, their Carmelized Onion Soup, with grueyere cheese is the best I’ve ever had!). Our waitress slid back our entrees to get the soup in between the appetizers and main lunch course.

– Just as we finished the soup, she was there with our entrees (Chorizo Burgers, which were also great) and this statement……”I hope it is ok that I brought your burgers out – THEY COULDN’T WAIT TO MEET YOU!!”.

That was the most creative way I’ve ever heard a server say to a customer that your food is ready, I don’t want it to be past peak readiness, so let’s move the meal forward, people….

Such a small thing, but so welcoming, original and comfortable, all I could do was laugh out loud, compliment her and thank her….and the food was perfect.

If you haven’t been to Alchemy yet, I bet their food just can’t wait to meet you, either!

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