Want Real Change? Don’t Take the Scenic Route

avoid the scenic route

If you are thinking about making a change at work, at home or for yourself, don’t take the scenic route.

We’ve all done it. You went on a trip. Somewhere along the way you see signs for the scenic route. So you take a detour.

You begin traveling down smaller, winding roads. You see fewer cars, trucks and congestion. While the views are truly magnificent, you run into road blocks.

Maybe the blockage is road repair where the lane is closed and you have to wait for oncoming traffic to drive by while you wait your turn to go.

flagman ahead, road sign

Or where I live, in Texas, side roads will always have slow moving farm equipment; tractors or trailers hauling something. They move at 20 miles an hour if I’m lucky.

What could have been a beautiful drive in the country turns into frustration and delay.

Looking for a Change

I met a new coaching prospect this past week. She owned a nice sized business that had been operating 12 years. She was well past the start-up phase.

What she told me about was her frustration with the way her people operated. She felt she couldn’t rely on anything without close supervision. She wanted a change without firing everyone and starting over.

After learning a good deal about her situation, I explained my team coaching model to her. That is what she had called for in the first place.

woman leader at peace

When she finally asked how long would this take, I shared the time frame; six months. It would be a direct and intentional process of implementing new standards, methods, accountability, and measurements.

Six months may seem long, but for her it would be the super-highway version of the change she’d need to turn her business around. After all, it would have required engaging all of her employees, changing their behaviors and expectations.

Compared to the 12 years she had been building the simmering mess she had, my recommendation was super-sonic.

Despite my best effort to explain how this process can help and has helped many other small businesses like hers, she decided she needed something else. She could not name what that was, but, in her mind, my approach would not fit.

She sent herself on the scenic route.

Common Mistake

Change of any kind can be hard. We hear that. We believe that. And it is if you take the scenic road.

Identifying the change that should be made can be easy. “I need to lose 20 pounds.”

But making it happen takes all kinds of detours, redirects, pauses, stops and starts. It is the scenic route.

Taking the scenic route creates distractions. Some may be welcomed distractions to take our mind off of how hard the change seems to be.

But if you keep allowing the detours, pauses and distractions, you arrive at some point down the road with no change at all.

Getting It Done

I’ve had the privilege to work with larger, more global companies where implementing change can be very hard. “It’s hard to turn a battleship” they say.

Yet for leaders who get laser focused on the change they want and the ‘case for change’, they make every subsequent move very intentionally.

Here is a list of the practices great leaders follow to avoid the scenic routes and get things done.

First, create a crystal clear vision of what is to come. Be able to explain the “future state” in clear detail.

Next, rally the team. Your team may have been operating well with former standards and processes, but change may require them to step out of that comfort. As their leader, you must reinforce the case for change and help them rise to the change.

Then, monitor your progress, keeping in mind all change has an “S” curve element to it. The S curve of change describes leaving the status quo, dipping into a bit of chaos, then slowly rising above and beyond to former state to achieve new things.

S-curve

Parts of your staff may be falling behind further than others as the “S” unfolds. Keep an eye on that. Coach and mentor individuals to help them make the change.

Also, you will need to make adjustments. In the team change model “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing”, the ‘norming’ part is about settling into the change. But it takes adjustment to be sure the right pieces are fitting into place.

Lastly, and this is one far too many managers forget, celebrate the WIN. When the change is up and running, have a victory dance. Celebrate with the team. Acknowledge the contributions.

Use these steps wisely to effect change when you need it. You’ll be glad you stayed off the scenic route.

PS – I love taking the scenic routes when I have absolutely nowhere to be and plenty of time to get there. I’ve seen some amazing sights.

executive coaching by Doug Thorpe

Leaders: Are You a Pretender or a Contender?

If your desire is to be a better manager at work, at home, or in the community, you may want to develop some actual leadership skills.

However, if you are already following certain leadership principles, there is always room for lifting the lid to expand your reach and influence.

After many years working with clients of all kinds, I see one recurring theme, time and again. The biggest difference between managers and leaders who are pretenders versus contenders is a small six-inch piece of real estate; the distance between your ears.

Yes, I am talking about the space inside your head. The things you allow to happen in your thought life will drive the rate of success. You can be a pretender or you can be a contender. The difference is isolated in this really small space.

In the following diagram, you can see the natural progression of thought, action, reaction and behavior that is derived from our beliefs, expectations, and experiences. It’s all centered in the mind.

BELIEFS

Beliefs are your values, judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and attitudes. When you wake up each day, you have a whole set of these beliefs waiting ready in your head. The sum total of all these makes up your outlook for the day, often before you even begin. The collection of these beliefs set the stage for the way each day might unfold.

If a string of circumstance has tainted your set of beliefs, you will look at new opportunity through a jaded lens. On the other hand, if you have achieved a certain success, you may be more inclined to view new opportunity with a more optimistic mindset.

BEHAVIORS

Your beliefs drive your behaviors. Your “style” openness (or not), your habits, skills, practices, and actions stem from the beliefs you carry.

If you prefer mustard over mayonnaise, you are expressing an eating behavior based on some belief you established a long time ago. And so it goes with many of your daily choices, clothes, cars, hobbies, reading, entertainment, music, etc.

RELATIONSHIPS

Even the people you may choose to call friends will be governed by your beliefs turned into behavior. The kind of tribe you may join at work or in the community will be influenced by your behaviors.

If you align with a certain religious belief system, that will dictate the house of worship you choose to attend. Political affiliations, other social settings, and even workplace choices will be heavily swayed by the relationships you think you want to make; all having root in your mind’s eye.

RESULTS

Finally, the results will reflect the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. The direct circles of activity you choose will have a specific set of outcomes. These results (outcomes, impact, improvements, and “performance”) will all serve to reinforce your belief system.

When the results align with your original beliefs you say “see, I told you so.” You feel you knew it all along.

On the other hand, if an outcome somehow runs counter to what you expected (as many things will do), you may be inclined to fall deeper into your beliefs saying things like “I will never do THAT again”, or “I wish I had followed my gut.”

The Remedy

The successful leader will learn how to control that delicate real estate between the ears. Negative thoughts will be replaced by ones that provide a more meaningful value. The cycle of belief, behavior, relationship, and result will become a momentum-generating machine for positive action and success.

Whenever limiting thoughts creep in or pop up, the prudent, experienced leader will properly address the thought and prevent it from taking root to undermine the rest of the experience.

Whenever in doubt, the seasoned, learning leader will seek advice from trusted counselors and coaches or mentors and friends, to better evaluate the thought. If the thought has merit, then it can be addressed with a balanced, healthy view, never interrupting forward progress.

When you handle the root belief system, you set the stage for a more positive outcome. More importantly, you set the process by which you can grow, profit, and prosper in all areas of your life.

team building via trust

I’ve coached hundreds of business people helping them develop more effective leadership skills. Whether you own the business or you’re climbing the ladder in a larger corporate setting, you can benefit from finding a close, confidential advisor to help you develop the extra skills that make a difference. Use the contact forms here to reach out. Let me introduce you to my proven programs for leadership growth.

Leaders: What Holds You Back?

It’s the Leader’s responsibility to make the big decisions. Yet there are times when leaders freeze. They can’t make the call. They can’t pull the trigger. What holds them back?

In my early career I was a banker. We had a saying. “There are old bankers and there are bold bankers, But there are no old bold bankers.”

Bankers were supposed to be the pillars of strength in the community. Seldom was the banker looked upon as the guy on the leading edge. Being bold and daring was typically something no one did.

Taking Risk

The issue at the center of the matter is risk. Take the risk or not take the risk, that is the question.

The same holds true for decision making in general. Every choice has its consequences. We teach that to our kids. You make a choice and something is going to happen; good or bad.

In business, the choices might make or break the company. Should we expand? Could we relocate? Should we sell or merge? Add staff or cut back? Hold firm or change?

The list goes on.

But what holds us back?

Here are the main reasons decision can be so darn hard.

Fear of failure or being an outlier – not everyone is a natural risk taker. The self-talk going on inside our brains keep us from being bold. The messages may even go all the way back to childhood, when you were told ‘you’re too slow, not smart enough, not good enough.’

Maybe you were brought up being told ‘you should never bring attention to yourself’.

Making the big decision may do just that; bring a lot of attention.

Fear of reputational risk, internally and externally – Businesses of all sizes have something called ‘reputational risk’. You work hard to build brand identity or at least you should be working on that. Having a solid brand identity is your reputation as a company. Taking a departure from that identity can hurt your reputation.

Think about 2010 and British Petroleum’s Texas Gulf rig fire Horizon. It brought severe reputational risk and brand damage to BP.

Lack of resources (human and capital) – This is possibly the biggest reason decisions get stalled. Whether fact or fiction, the sense that resources are lacking causes many delays and misses when it comes to key decisions.

reviewing numbers

Fixed way of thinking (mental schemas) – Companies with a tradition or legacy get lulled into one way of thinking. As an example, having a large fixed asset base does not guarantee you will make money by simply ‘not screwing it up.”

Competitive decisions must be made daily to keep your winning edge. As the times change, so must your ways of thinking and guiding the organization.

Defining “Bold” – The meaning may vary according to the individual. When a leader senses it is time for a ‘bold’ decision, the level of boldness may be limited to just his or her mindset.

Sharing the idea with your team may reveal the idea is not so bold after all. It’s just a necessary choice about next steps.

Groupthink can lead to complacency – This too is a big derailer for great decisions. If you are a leader committed to team empowerment, you want the whole team to weigh in. That is a noble idea most of the time. But habitual development of a group-think mindset can lead to a false sense of security.

The Leader is still on the hook for the final decision.

groupthink

Lastly, being bold would not be received well by the organization (or the Board). You might possibly even get penalized for stepping out there. This is a simple reality about leadership. You ARE on point. You were put there to make decisions.

Not all of your choices will be applauded. That is your risk of being the leader.

Take Inventory

I challenge my executive coaching clients to periodically re-calibrate by reviewing their decision making patterns. The question is whether the recent decisions have been consistent with the picture of the leader they want to be, not the leader they’ve been before.

Staying true to the leader you want to be should drive your decision-making process. You can still incorporate all of the team dynamics you want, but the final choice rests squarely on your shoulders.

That’s why they pay you the big bucks! (OK, that’s funny for many of us.)

Come Home Before Dark

welcome sign

Lately, I’ve been reminded of a saying I once used to guide my kids. The phrase was ‘come home before dark’.

When I was younger, we’d play outside seemingly forever. When we asked to go outside, our parents always said: “Come home before dark.”

That was a literal meaning. Once it was dark, if we weren’t home we were in big trouble.

As I grew into adulthood and began having children of my own, an old preacher taught me something new about this phrase.

The words home and dark have a deeper meaning to explore.

Come Home

Coming home is about returning to safety. It’s a center of being. As a kid, it was the place I lived. There was love and warmth at home.

I could reconnect with who I was at home. The world around me could be throwing flaming arrows, but the home was a fortress.

Home was where values were formed. At home we could have honest, loving talks about the things that I worried about.

Dark

When something gets dark, there is trouble brewing. Bad things happen in the darkness.

Dark journey

You hear people talk about others and say ‘they just went dark.” Lights out, no response.

The Instruction

I wanted my kids to know that they could always come home before dark. My wife and I would be waiting to take them in, give them security, and talk through whatever we needed to talk about.

One night our doorbell rang about 2:00 a.m. We stumbled out of bed to find our middle son (family of 5 kids). He was in his early 20’s, already graduated and living in town with a roommate.

We could tell he had been drinking, but his first words were “You said come home before dark.”

We said “Sure, glad you did. What’s going on?”

He proceeded to tell us about a party that was going on in his apartment. Suffice it to say it had gotten out of control. The roommate was a college friend. They had invited other college buddies to join.

Plenty of drinking followed. Behaviors got wilder and wilder.

My son said he had tried to calm things down. He had left his fraternity lifestyle behind the day he walked across stage to get his diploma. Clearly, these others had not.

He sensed the night was not going to end well. Even with his own influence of alcohol, he remembered the words ‘come home before dark.’ And that he did.

As it turned out, later that night, neighbors in the apartments called police. Some arrests were made, but my son was home safe, out of the darkness.

So What

Why do I share this story with you in a blog about leadership? It’s because I believe leaders guide people home before dark.

A leader establishes a home base; somewhere people want to be. Yes, they may venture out on their own to explore new opportunities, new tasks, new direction. But when they sense the darkness, home is where they should turn.

Is your team environment a safe home to shield your employees from their darkness?

Have you communicated to them your desire that they consider your place a home?

I realize some will read this and say “You have no idea what my home life was like. It was darkness all its own.” To those I say, I am sorry to hear that. Why don’t you create a new home? Surely you will have people around you who need that safety and shelter.

I’m not going to lie when I say this article was prompted by the world we’re in right now, the corona virus scare. It is scary.

We need leaders who will stand firm in their conviction for choosing the next right step toward creating calm, creating safety, and helping others through the storm.

Will you be that leader, right where you are?

Help others come home before dark.


For anyone who feels in darkness over a job loss, I’ve just released my book on job search called “STRIVE“. It’s a practical guide to effective job search, even in tough times. This program was born in the crash of 2008 when we had double-digit unemployment. STRIVE helped thousands, yes, thousands of job seekers reconnect with their sense of personal purpose so they could find the right job. Share this info with your friends.

strive job search

What Do You Do with a 3-2 Count?

baseball batter aand catcher on 3-2

In baseball, there is something known as the 3-2 count (three-two). It means three balls and two strikes. It means the person who is up to bat has only the next pitch to get something done.

Three strikes and you’re out. If the pitcher misses the strike zone and the batter waits to swing, it will be called a “ball” and the batter gets to walk to first base.

While all pitches in baseball count for something, there is nothing like the three-two moment to feel the pressure rise.

In Business

The same is true in business. Managers and leaders have to make decisions all the time, but only some of those are real “3-2 decisions”.

What do you do when you realize the situation is a 3-2 moment? Some managers freeze. They ask for more data. Or they try to stall in some other way.

Other leaders are quick and confident to jump in and make the call.

What makes it so much different?

According to John Maxwell, the 3-2 count results in something he calls “PGE results.”

Pain, gain, and experience. The outcome of the decision you make in a 2-3 moment results in PGE.

Pain – the results might be painful. The results can be painful to you, your team, the company, and even the community you serve.

During Hurricane Harvey in the Texas Gulf Coast area, a tough 3-2 decision had to be made by the Corps of Engineers. Two large dams northwest of the greater Houston area were about to burst from being overfilled by 52″ of rainwater.

A 3-2 decision was made to intentionally release water from the flood gates, pouring into thousands of homes downstream. Billions of dollars of damage happened.

Yet, had they NOT opened the gates, the entire structures could have burst, flooding out most of the entire Houston area, some 6 million inhabitants.

It was a very painful result for some, but it saved so many others.

baseball batter aand catcher on 3-2

Gain – the results will be rewarding. Good decisions can result in a miraculous gain. Once I was flying some friends in a small single-engine airplane, a Piper Arrow.

The weather had changed from good to bad as we approached our destination. Plus the winds had picked up and shifted to crosswind conditions.

Crosswinds are the worst kind of wind to land a plane. It means the wind is blowing across the runway, causing a force that pushes the plane sideways while you are trying to follow a straight line to land.

I took in all of the information I needed from the tower about landing that day. I set up my final approach and begin a severe crab angle to land. Crabbing involves turning the plane at as much as a 45-degree angle to the straight line of the runway.

With the angle, you fight the crosswind until the last possible moment when the plane has to be turned into alignment with the center stripe of the runway. I won’t go into all the details, but we experienced a textbook crosswind landing that day.

My pilot training had prepared me to do that landing in a definite 3-2 situation. My passengers appreciated the fact we got home safely without incident despite the bad weather that day.

Experience – Working through a 3-2 decision gives you added experience. Experience alone is not a good teacher. Informed experience, studied and analyzed gives you better instruction.

Whatever the outcome, the experience from making a 3-2 decision needs to be evaluated and reviewed. What you learn, once properly vetted, can be applied to future decisions.

In the baseball story, if the batter strikes out on 3-2, he will review the video replay of that at-bat. Anything he can find about his stance, his swing or his posture, will help to improve the odds of making the next 3-2 situation have a better outcome.

Managers and leaders have to stay sharp for 3-2 conditions. As I write this, I’m hearing leaders expressing concerns for their people, businesses and families. Rightfully so. There is so much uncertainty.

This is one giant 3-2 situation. Use your informed experience to muster the training and resolve you need to make good decisions for your team, your family, and your community.

Be strong, stay well.

Leadership in Times of Crisis – Finding the CALM

calm lake, leadership

It would be surprising if anyone on the planet with access to any form of communication (old or new) didn’t know about the coronavirus. We have news of it popping up every few seconds as messages unfold about closures, cancellations, and other alerts regarding the spread.

I respect the need to be cautious, proactive and vigilant. Many of the gatherings and events I was scheduled to attend have been suspended, postponed or canceled outright. There have even been moments where I was part of the decision to cancel something. I get it.

However, I am not convinced I’ve seen perfect examples of leadership demonstrated in every announcement or bulletin. I’ve seen supposed leaders take a podium and simply spread fear and concern.

In the face of a global pandemic, as it is now called, leaders in both public and private sectors need to stay calm. Calm is a tricky proposition for a leader.

On one hand, you should have your own personal concerns about what is going on. If you are high enough in an organization, you might be leading a major project team. Having a totally external force like COVID-19 interrupt your plans is frustrating at best. Again, I don’t want to sound irresponsible or insensitive but hang with me a bit.

When a leader begins to gain momentum, the last thing you want to have happen is for something to break the cycle. Especially something that comes from outside your organization.

calm business man

We Need Calm

Calm needs to be the focus. Here are four key principles to think about during a crisis.

C is for Clarity. Simplify your messages. Speak clearly and intentionally, thoughtfully. Immediately respond to those who seem unclear after you communicated.

People will need clear communication about your new expectations under new and perhaps stressful situations.

A is for Action. You still need to act. If your decision has not been formed, say so. But don’t wait too long. This virus situation is a fast-moving event. Be ready to respond as information changes.

L is for Leadership. Perhaps it should be obvious, but some may get busy and not be intentional about their leadership wheelhouse.

Dig deep in your leadership tool kit to make ready the best tools you have to guide, direct, inspire, and influence during troubling times. People need us now.

M is for mean it. Be sincere. Don’t rely on cliche and platitude. Stay connected with your people. I mean emotionally connected. Up-level your empathetic listening. Hear people out.

Be relevant and relatable so that people maintain (or increase) their trust in your leadership.

Forget About It

We also need to forget some things. A client from long ago posted these wonderful reminders. He’s a very accomplished CEO and leader in the mortgage finance industry. His name is Bill Dallas. Here are his thoughts.

1. Forget About Yourself; Focus on Others. You will become a source of confidence (and calm) for everyone else.

2. Forget About Your Commodity; Focus on Your Relationships. Every time you strengthen a relationship, the viability of you are selling will increase.

3. Forget About the Sale; Focus on Creating Value. Most people don’t like being sold at the best of times.

4. Forget About Your Losses; Focus on Your Opportunities.

5. Forget About Your Difficulties; Focus on Your Progress.

6. Forget About the “Future”; Focus on Today.

7. Forget About Who You Were; Focus on Who You Can Be.

8. Forget About Events; Focus on Your Responses.

9. Forget About What’s Missing; Focus on What’s Available.

10. Forget About Your Complaints; Focus on Your Gratitude.

The Leadership Premium

In times of crisis and concern, leadership value rises to a premium. You, as a leader, must be the one to help others survive. Encourage those around you.

staying calm in times of stress

Stay calm.

No need to argue the merits of a decision someone else has made. Yet if your people are beginning to act in extremes, encourage them to reconsider. Lead toward calm.

Introducing the Entrepreneur Scan

back hand scan

When you have a business, it is only natural that you try to examine it. We all know that the more information you have about something, the more significant your chances of making correct decisions for the business.

Entrepreneurs scan their business often, even though many already know their ventures like “the back of their hands.” When you think about it, the cliché “knowing the back of your hand” is a bit false.

back hand scan

In fact, only a few of us know how the back of our hands really looks. We just think we do because we see it every day. However, we also take that view for granted, and very few of us can honestly say that we have memorized every detail of the back of our hands.

The Business Case

How does that connect with how entrepreneurs look at their businesses? Well, most entrepreneurs nowadays want to believe that they know every detail of their ventures. But the truth is, very few do. You see, there are disadvantages to being the boss.

You have to be the Chief Everything Officer. Yet, in reality, there are plenty of details that can slip by while you handle other, more pressing matters.

Heard It Thru the Grapevine, Or NOT

For one thing, the boss always seems to be out of the grapevine. The boss hardly ever gets wind of any trouble that goes on in the workplace. It also means that there may be some problems that the boss will not be able to know unless the entrepreneur scans his environment.

So how should entrepreneurs scan their environments? Well, a good idea is not to act like a drill sergeant and start shouting down your employees to get the answers you need.

For one thing, it shows that you mistrust your employees and this would only keep you out of the loop, as it were. Another thing is that you cannot expect to get the information you want this way. With intimidation, you only get the information you want to hear, not the information you need.

You should let your employees feel that they can trust you. Be one of the team. However, be sure that you do not cross the professional boundaries that exist in every workplace. [for more on building team trust click here]

You should show your employees that you are the kind of person whom they can come to for any problem. Remember that any small issue of your employees can affect the way you do your business.

Further, you need a systematic accountability process. You must inspect what you expect.

Now, you know the proper way entrepreneurs scan their businesses through the employees. But there are, of course, other factors to consider so that your business is the best it can be.

Look Inward

You also need to assess yourself. What kind of entrepreneur are you? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How well do you handle the business and everything else that the world throws at you?

Remember that sometimes, we are not the best judge of our character. We tell ourselves a story about who and what we are. That becomes our sense of identity. But what we do and how others perceive us becomes our reputation. It is the reputation you must change, not your identity.

Most entrepreneurs scan their characteristics by getting an outside opinion. This opinion, of course, should not be biased to be helpful to you (your spouse is not a good source). You need to have someone tell you to your face all of your faults and give you credit for your abilities.

Look Outward

Entrepreneurs should also scan their environment. What are the potential markets available for their business? What threats out there can affect their business? Entrepreneurs examine the situation around them because it is one factor that they cannot control.

All you can do when something in the environment, whether opportunity or threat, takes place is to adapt to it. The change means that you have to be able to prepare for any contingency. It is necessary to plan to succeed. But you know that, right?

Entrepreneurs scan the market for any signs of behavioral changes that could mean the collapse of their business. Why do you think that chips and sodas develop different flavors all the time? People change all the time. One example is a change of preference. If a market gets tired of your product, you would be in considerable trouble.

Be Sure to Adapt

You need to adapt your product to the trends of the present. Anticipate future changes and do your best to prepare. However, you also need to remember your past. Sometimes, people dislike changes that a company or product goes through and, as a result, takes their business elsewhere. Ensure the continuing legacy of a good product if you think you have one.

Business Advisor – Business Consulting – Executive Coach

business consulting

If your business has stopped growing at the pace you want, a business advisor may be your next step. Even the best athletes rely on coaching to sharpen their skills and find that next step up to find a competitive edge.

Business owners or senior executives can get stuck in old habits and routines that stifle creativity, growth, and ability to build stronger teams.

Allowing someone to come alongside to walk with you through your effort can pay big rewards.

Business Advisor

I have served as a business advisor to hundreds of client companies. After spending 20+ years in commercial banking, my career shifted to business consulting and advising with business owners in all kinds of niches.

The benefits of having your own personal advisor are tremendous.

  • You get a private sounding board for your ideas
  • You get a personal accountability resource to keep you on course
  • You get to break through the “lonely at the top” syndrome
  • You get an experienced guide who has been there, done that

Business Consulting

business consulting

With business consulting you gain a new perspective, fresh eyes to see your business differently. A qualified outside advisor can bust through roadblocks and help you reveal blind spots in your own view of your business.

While your idea for your business may be a great one, likely you need other skills to operate the business. What would it look like if you had access to a broader skillset for running your company the right way? I can show you those things.

As a bonus, besides running my own coaching and business consulting practice, I am part of a network of senior advisors know as the Silver Fox Advisors. With this group of proven business leaders, if I can’t help you with a problem, I have others who we can call on.

Your Business

When you went into business, likely you had a vision for what it could be. If that vision has become clouded or uncertain, we can work together to redefine the possibilities and plot a course for getting to that dream result.

Your business can grow beyond your wildest dreams. Stop working in the business and work on the business with advisors or consulting services I can do for you.

You work hard with your business. Why not get the best possible return for the effort? All great heroes have guides to help them on the journey and show the way. Aren’t YOU the hero of your journey? Let me be your guide.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash