Self Coaching Journey to Leadership Maturity - Business Acumen
Business Acumen – The words reverberate with the precise confidence of success. This manager seems to have a business compass to hone in on the directional decisions that are right for the organization.
Acumen, conveys a confidence and knowledge for efficient and effective business. Although these words convey a natural ability, the truth is that business acumen is more a verb in practice than a noun. You need to develop acumen as an active search for business skills and to applying that knowledge over time. Great concept…but now you’re thinking what does that mean to me in my career?
Business acumen is about focus so let’s think about a Ready – Aim – Fire approach for your success.
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Several years ago, as part of a large organization, I was challenged along with a peer to create a leadership program for a particular group of upper-level executives. Exciting as the opportunity was we were overwhelmed because we had little direction or suggestions from our sponsoring senior executive. After much brainstorming (and complaining to each other), we decided that we needed to pursue some expert advice. One of those experts was a speaker/author who had been part of another event that we had supported. John was a favorite throughout the organization because he was a passionate speaker, could deeply connect with his audience, and was a “wealth of information”. John is/was not a “hoarder” of his expertise. By that I mean, while he was paid for his expertise, you felt like he was consistently going beyond the expected agreement. And for John, the contract never ended. You could email or call him long after any contracted event and he would respond promptly with as much information he had on any topic. He shared all his expertise and would point you to other experts.
Recently, I was coaching an entrepreneur who was struggling with getting and keeping customers. The entrepreneur asked me this question, “How can I get people to automatically think of me when they are seeking my kind of expertise?” The million dollar question, right? I sent the entrepreneur off to think about that question and added this question, “Why should anyone think of you first?” Of course, I was thinking about those two questions as well. That’s how John popped into my head. When I needed an expert, he was the first one to come to mind. So why was he “top of mind” and how did he get there? Here is how I answered the two questions with John as my model.
Why should someone think of you?
How can you get to “top of mind”?
I am sure that John “gave away” a lot of his expertise. I know he did for me. I also know that John’s company has grown from a man of one to many. And he is still one of the most sought after experts in his field. I challenge you to work on becoming “top of mind” in your area of expertise. And if you need help, use me, I am good resource!
When I first started working in strategic planning, this became my favorite quote. Meetings were a sea of vague but lofty strategic terms. Discussions focused on visionaries who could see and define a future the rest of us could not. I cringed at critical assessments such as “she can’t think strategically” or “he doesn’t have vision”. I was frustrated by the conflict between this elite view of strategy and my values that each individual has insights to contribute to future planning. I see this collaboration as the very essence of a leadership planning model.
My work is energized by a much simpler and more basic view of what is important for effective strategy…an engaged team that understands and contributes to a common future vision. In one of my favorite books, Being Strategic, Erica Anderson has a quote “Being strategic means consistently making those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future”. This simple definition in a complex world of business, knits operations and strategy into cohesive future direction. If you can create actionable strategy that your whole team understands, you create communication to power your organization.
So how do you actually build effective strategy? Like any team effort, diverse thinking builds a better product. Committing the time and effort for the process is critical and well worth the investment. Invest your time for strategy in the following ways
The business world of today is powered by diverse teams. Success is driven by passion, commitment, and a plan. Strategy is the plan to energize and empower the people in your organization “in any direction you choose”. Hats off to Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel for saying it best. Use your strategy to “steer you in any direction you choose”.
There are those of us that are really good at estimating how long a particular project will take, or how much effort can be reasonably expended in a period of time. And then there’s the rest of us.
Whether it is through sheer hope or lack of experience, we often underestimate the amount of time and energy it ALWAYS takes to complete a project and overestimate the number of things we can add to our plates.
While this can be painful at best if the project only affects you, when it affects your team, or the organization as a whole, estimation of time and effort really become critical to the success of the project, team morale and completion of strategic objectives.
Here are six strategies to consider for those of you that may share frustrations in estimating:
Once you are relatively certain of a good estimation, a project leader needs to be a champion, cheerleader and barrier remover once the work is underway. Delivering a project on time and on target is a very gratifying feeling – and working toward that is important for your team and the organization as a whole. However, if the path and the itinerary are not clear from the get go- or the expected arrival date is unreasonable or just plain wrong– no one will enjoy the trip! Frustrations will mount both on your part and that of your team and targets will be missed. Developing your skill in estimating a project scope and schedule to enable your team’s success will result in far more satisfaction on everyone’s part!
A leader without a plan or a plan without a leader simply won’t succeed. Great leaders match their passion for a future vision with the confidence and credibility that comes from strategic planning, in order to achieve that vision. To be successful in the long-term, your organization must have quality leadership and actionable strategy. So how do you help your organization define and manage an effective strategy? In this whitepaper, Barbara Higgins will provide you with practical ways to assess your organization, enhance your approach, and energize your role.
August is the summer tradition for road trip vacations in my family…a tribute to the final days of summer before back-to-school and changing to the more structured tempo of fall. As we pile into the car with more duffle bags, suitcases, and boogie boards than clowns in a Volkswagen Bug, the circus begins. As with most family adventures, you learn over time the different preparation styles that each person has to be ready to leave. The “late packer,” the “early packer,” the “everything has to be done before we leave,” the “GPS” versus the “map reader,” each has a different checklist.
Leadership and planning with a group takes similar styles and can benefit from similar preparations to bring the group together in a happy travel plan. Consider the following five approaches to start on a planning journey that can be fun.
As you consider your transition to the fall, the timing is great for revisiting your strategic road trip. Take the time for a fall planning retreat. Thinking about your goals as a team and refresh your plan. This can make a big difference for your leadership travels.
Consider the experienced resources of MSBCoach to help facilitate your fall planning with the content, coaching, and dynamic tools to generate a great discussion.
It’s hard believe we are past the half-year mark for 2014. Have you pulled out your goals and reviewed your progress? How are you doing? If you are in the majority, you probably are not doing so well. Why? There may be a few reasons:
As leaders, if we do not make reaching goals a priority, no one will. Setting and achieving goals needs to be part of regular conversations and expectations. Want some help to get things moving again? Let’s start by analyzing the goals that were set many months ago. 1. Are these real goals? Apply the SMART formula to them:
2. Once you have completed the SMART formula, consider these questions:
3. Pick the top 3-4 “must reach” goals. Schedule time with your team and stress the importance of this “2014 Goals Check-In” meeting. Send out an agenda days in advance. The agenda should include:
You still have time to achieve the “must-have” goals. Stick to your plan. Hold yourself and others accountable. Be sure to celebrate along the way. The reward of hitting your target will be long lasting and gratifying! Also, as you look to 2015 in your Fall Planning activities, MSBCoach would be happy to help facilitate meaningful and productive planning and team building sessions. Contact us at to discuss a customized approach for your organization.
Have you ever listened to a true storyteller? My dad was a gifted storyteller. Each night, he would weave a story for my sister and I, and we were transported to a world of the imagination. Vibrant characters would embark on all sorts of exciting challenges and adventures. These stories created a wonderful fabric of memories for my childhood.
I think of strategy as an engaging story about an organization. A strategy story can draw you into the passion and purpose of why that organization exists and what they hope to accomplish. Like a gifted storyteller, a strategic leader can bring you quickly to care about the mission and interest you in the pathway to the future. Navigating interesting business challenges and opportunities can craft an interesting plot that has you rooting for mission success. Like a gifted storyteller, leaders in great organizations can consistently recount their strategy story about who they are, how they serve their customers, and where the organization is headed in the future.
Shouldn’t you be able to tell your organization’s strategic story? To do it well, you need to develop an attention-grabbing script. Whether it is an employee, vendor, client or even a neighbor, the story you tell can engage the listener and generate interest in supporting future success.
So how do you weave your story of strategy? It takes effort to internalize the important messages of strategy. You need to own the story. Consider the following three parts to compose your strategy story:
Like a great story, strategy is about the journey to succeed and you get out of it what you put in. You can be a part of creating a wonderful journey of opportunity and success for your organization. I will never forget the amazing characters in my dad’s stories. My wish for you is to invest your career in organizations where you are truly a part of the strategy story.
For further information about connecting strategy and leadership, consider watching the MSBCoach Webinar: Connecting Leadership and Strategy: Sparking Energy for Success
Thanks for joining us again for the third post for the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first two entries we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection & To Plan or To Transform? We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.
True transformation comes down to Intent. If our intention is to truly transform our organization through strategic planning, then that significant intention will require significant action.
Create a Strong Foundation If your last strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, let me ask you a few questions:
By answering YES to these questions, we show our intent to create strong foundation for success by HOW we prepare. Important work and we haven’t even started the planning! This important phase of creating cultural preparedness for your organization will help you create that all important buy-in from your teams that you need to have the transformation you desire.
Once you’ve created the foundation, it’s time to get to the business of planning. Here are some things to consider as you create the high level strategy that we are all familiar with.
Strategy, at its heart, is about great communication. Remember – this intent is that this strategy be something everyone in your organization understands and lives by. Be mindful of the strong foundation and work to develop the goals and objectives collaboratively and interactively through a series of facilitated sessions that draw upon all stakeholders’ input and perspectives.
As you write the plan, keep the messaging clear, concise and actionable. Less is more. Consider a strategy map to help as a communication tool that can help to internalize this strategy in your culture.
The typical next step is to issue the plan to the entire organization and instruct that they cascade the high-level goals and objectives into their operational divisions. We might even instruct that performance goals be tied to this strategy.
This all sounds good, in theory. However, Implementation Planning is often missing key results such as:
HOW you plan to implement the strategy is key to its success. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste; be sure to create a consistent process by which divisions are creating work plans that contribute to an overarching organizational work plan. Then work collaboratively to ensure the proper priorities and resources are allocated to TRANSFORM your organization!
MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at .
Thanks for joining us again for the second entry in the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first entry we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection. We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.
Let me ask you a question. When is the last time you read your strategic plan? If you are like most leaders, you read it when it was published (if you even read the entire plan then…). If you didn’t have anything to do with creating it, you most likely felt one or more of the responses below:
Now some of you may have answered the first question with “I read it last year at performance time; our goals and objectives were tied to the plan.” But I’m willing to bet that that hasn't gone so well for you or your team members either. What we often see is that the new goals and objectives aren't clear, or it’s not obvious how your current job objectives should be aligned to the goals/objectives. It’s also very possible that you aren't in agreement with the priorities or approach to the objectives.
Most of us will go about doing our job anyway, even when we do not understand or agree with the strategic plan. However, I encourage you to ask yourself this question, “Are you really making a difference toward executing the plan?... Do you care?... Do you feel that sense of contribution and purpose that you want in your job?”
Most leaders agree that a strategic plan is necessary. You invest your time, money, and resources to develop the plan, so why are so many strategic planning binders sitting on the shelf collecting dust?
One would think that an organization that has invested time, financial resources, and mental effort into strategic planning surely intends for it to launch a transformation of the organization. As engaged and effective leaders, we want to do better than the typical stagnant and abandoned strategic plan documents that do little to align, engage or create change in an organization.
You may now be asking, “How can I create this transformation?”
At MSBC we believe that HOW we lead and execute the planning process is just as important as what comes out of it.
Simply put, strategic planning, when done well, is an opportunity to engage in creative thinking about the possibilities of the organization, and develop stronger leaders and teams while defining the future and how to get there. Lastly, it must also include integrated implementation throughout the operational divisions to drive buy-in and commitment to the goals of the organization so that it doesn't just collect dust.
As an engaged leader, would you like to see this kind of transformation and alignment in your organization?
We will continue our dive into “Strategic Transformation” next week as we explore the “HOW” and discuss important components of what will help your organization transform itself with the help of your powerful and engaged workforce. I hope you’ll join us and give us your thoughts and feedback.
MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at .
As a first time supervisor, I was given lots of advice. Much of the advice was helpful and some of it – not so much. One thing that I was told by my new boss on my first day as a supervisor was, “never blindside your boss”. I was not quite sure what he meant but I promised that I would never blindside him. I was reminded of that advice recently when I was “blindsided” by some news. My first thought was how did I not see this coming? You set the path, you’re working hard, pushing for that goal. Then – the report drops on your desk, a member of your team drops in, you get a phone call from your boss/stakeholder. You’re blindsided! Why didn’t someone sound the alarm? Where was your team?
No one likes being blindsided. Here are some strategies that will keep you protected:
We all have been blindsided at some time and have questioned why others let us down. In reality it is often that we let them down. I am confident if you work toward these strategies, your team will watch and protect your blindside!
MSBCoach provides leadership, team and organizational coaching, consulting and training. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your leadership and team development strategies with you. Please contact us today at .
Ask MSBCoach is your opportunity to ask our professional coaches, trainers and consultants about your specific concerns in your career or organization. The truth is, many others out there are probably having the same struggles. We’re looking forward to hearing what is on your mind and offering our advice or suggestions and sharing them for all to benefit.
Dear MSBCoach, Is a niche market a good thing? Why is it difficult for me to develop it? – New Entrepreneur, Staunton, VA.
Dear New Entrepreneur,
Fear is often the root cause for an entrepreneur to not develop a niche market, the other is lack of understanding of it's importance. Most new entrepreneurs want business so bad that they are afraid a niche will exclude them from potential customers. The truth is just the opposite.
A niche allows the consumers to know exactly what you do. It sets you apart from anyone else and makes you the specialist. Often I will hear entrepreneurs describe their business something like this, "We are a graphic design company that will help brand your organization, we also can create mailing lists for you, print your products and develop your web site... oh yes, we also have several years experience in landscaping too."
I know this sounds crazy but it happens. This message confuses the consumer. It is too much information so instead of choosing which one to talk to you about, they do not talk to you about any of them. The last comment about landscaping tells the consumer in case you don't make it in your graphic design business you have a back up plan. You may have a back up plan; however, your customer does not need to know about it. Once you have built a relationship with a client within your niche, it is then OK to offer more services to them.
Let me leave you with this thought - could you imagine if Coke's tag line was, "Have a Coke and a Smile and by the way, we now sell tires...." The goal is KISS - Keep it simple sweetie - LESS is MORE!
If you have more questions, contact me at