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Why Model Of Olympic Athletes Is Bad For Your Small Business

Olympic training negative for small business ownersAfter watching the Summer Olympics, it’s tempting to model the single-minded dedication and pursuit of being the best. Let me say this first, I love the Olympics! It’s extraordinary to see people who have dedicated themselves for a sporting event that only happens every 4 years. Their whole lives -diet, exercise, psychological training, competitions, downtime – are dedicated to improving their performance. Witnessing this performance is awe inspiring! And yet…this is a bad model for small business owners. Click here to read more »


Role Models: Relevant to Everyday Performance?

Role models: relevant to everyday performanceI’m coaching a client who is transitioning from senior technical expert to CEO of his small business. We’ve discussed his leadership style before. The catch here for him is that his understanding is evolving and he was at a loss for words to describe his current style. He has always been clear that he is a visionary but what about using high touch, collaboration, inviting truth telling and clear communication? So, we started to talk about the CEO’s and business people that he admires and wishes to emulate.

And that’s when I got to wondering…are roles models really useful on a daily basis?

Don’t get  me wrong. Role models serve an important purpose. They provide us with both inspiration and a roadmap. Basically everyone has a biography of some sort. You can read a published account of someone’s life, Google the person and/or ask questions directly. But how do they really do that thing you are aspiring to?

People aren’t perfect

It’s so easy to put someone on a pedestal. Think about the people you admire. We don’t really know that person. Take someone like Donald Trump. Sure, he’s on television and is well known for his real estate acumen. You might read about him, listen to what he says and take a class from Trump University. People tell me that they admire how he acts so confidently even when he is so close to bankruptcy. But what do you really know about him? Would it matter if he were rude or cruel?

What happens when you learn something unpleasant or ugly about your role model? There is that moment when one is faced with the idea of the person and the real life person. Can you overlook the fact he or she is human and not perfect? It may be possible to extract what is meaningful to you and suggest that your role model works very hard to behave in a certain way. Then again, the transgression may be too abhorrent to you.

Looking for a role model

So what makes us identify certain people as inspiring to us? Certainly, their story can be one possible starting point. We’ve heard so many rags to riches stories and each person who has accomplished this has qualities worth of emulation. Could it be that we see role models to get us through certain stages of development? If you founded a business and emphasized innovation, you might want to learn about Bill Gore, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Maybe you are a woman in business and aspire to rise to the top of the business world or politics so you might read lists like Forbes Power Women. Perhaps there is a boss who is so adept at his/her profession that you felt as if you are apprenticing to him/her.

Throughout our lives, we find people who are extraordinary and study them so we can be like them. This is part of how we form our identities. Over the years, we have different experiences and different choices and seek to navigate them successfully. It makes sense to add and subtract to our list of role models. They may be fictional characters, celebrities, known industry experts or people within our sphere who embody greatness.

But I’m back to my original question…how are they relevant to our everyday performance?

We know the big stuff they have accomplished. What did they do on Tuesday morning at 9:08am? When we are working on an audacious goal, there are moments when we are discouraged. We may lose faith (even for a moment). We may even encounter obstacles we didn’t anticipate and this throws us off track. And it could be that we just don’t know how to act or execute a particular skill and this slows us down. Do our role models give us the big picture or a how-to manual?

So, I’m opening up these questions to you. We’ll be discussing this topic on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, September 16th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT so I hope you can join us. If not, please add your thoughts below.

1. How do you identify someone as a role model? What qualities do you look for?

2. What is the difference between idolizing someone and using them as a model?

3. What role does gender play in your choices of role models?

4. Are we more likely to seek role models in good times or bad? Why?

5. How do you use a role model when for everyday performance?


Managing the Business Owner: Productivity Is About Alignment?

Productivity seems to be a hot topic lately. And yes, I’m adding to it too. But…why is it so stinking hard to stay productive?!

Productivity depends on habits, attitudes and reinforcement. Alignment of habits, attitudes and reinforcement


Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But then, we work on new habits fairly often. How many of us are working on a new exercise program? Getting up in the morning and getting out for a walk or a run? That’s a new habit, well, actually a few new habits. Actually, it’s kind of cool how we develop new habits!

Let’s take a  little jaunt into neuroscience first. Our brains have the capacity to build new networks all the time. A habit is simply a learned behavior. So, as you do the new thing, you learn the behavior. Now, as you repeat the behavior, you make the neural pathway stronger. The other cool part of this is that when you are doing the new behavior, you reduce the frequency of the old habit and weaken that neural pathway.

Tony Schwartz has a good point. Rituals are  a good way to make learning new habits easier. They  have the benefit of combining rules and behavior in a prescribed manner. By following the same routine on a regular basis, say you choose to set an alarm for 2o minutes for uninterrupted work. This is a ritual. What routine could you turn into a ritual that would support your productivity?


This is stating the obvious but how we think and feel does have a huge impact on our motivation. According to Deborah Rinner, one act of incivility can have harmful effects on productivity. It doesn’t even have to be about the actual task you’re trying to complete.

And it’s not just incivility. It can also be exposed to negativity. It’s a tough time to be leading and managing a small business. If you focus on the bad news or spend time with the Doom and Gloom crowd, it’s easier to start telling yourself stories of how tough it is. It can creep up when you’re tired or under additional stress. It’s easy to start using coping strategies such as defense mechanisms like “all or nothing thinking” or projection or many of the other common ones.

So, the negative stories you tell yourself or just the unpleasantness of someone acting rudely towards you affects your attitudes. It becomes a loop which takes you away from your productivity.


Who cares if you get your work done? Seriously. Is it your customers? Your employees? Your peers?

Even the most internally driven person needs a little sugar. Some kind of recognition that you truly are talented and valuable. It can be lonely running your small buisness. Carrying the weight around without comrades is wearying. That’s why mastermind groups, mentors, coaches, friends, family and/or a trusted peer is essential to your productivity. When you’re with people who know what you’re experiencing, it reduces feelings of isolation, anxiety and frustration. These are the feelings that eat away at your energy that could be spent on your work.

It also helps when you can see that what you’re doing is creating results. I recently was advised to write down everything I had been doing with my marketing and the results. I was totally amazed at how much I had done in just a few weeks. What would you see? How might that reinforce your actions?

Alignment of habits, attitudes and reinforcement is key to your productivity.

So much can happen in a day, a week or a month to get us on or off track. You hold so much responsibility in leading, managing and implementing the mission and work of your small business. When you are fully aligned, your performance is improved.  Building a system that makes sense to you is an important way to create alignment.

What surprises you about productivity?

What do you believe a small business owner needs the most to be productive?



Could Kaizen Improve You And Your Business?

Ever heard a term used in a discussion and thought, “just what does that mean? Am I supposed to know that already? Everyone around me is nodding their heads like they know. If I ask, they’ll know I don’t have a clue…” This internal conversation can go and on until you feel completely inept and miserable.

Of course, you could ask someone for the definition. But maybe you’re the sort who does a quick search on your smartphone right in the moment. Or maybe you’re the sort who goes back to the office and looks it up in private. Or maybe you’re the sort who vents to a friend and then finds out what it means.

No matter which method is your preferred one, you’ve engaged with the process known as kaizen. You’ve used the moment to learn something new and enhance your knowledge. It’s a small thing but it’s added to your skill set. When you do this all the time, it is considered “continuous improvement.”

A little history….Kaizen is the Japanese concept that means continuous and incremental improvement. There’s an explanation on Wikipedia that details the development of the concept. “The more interesting part is that “kaizen” is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly humanizes the workplace. eliminates hard work (“muri”), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and learn how to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, it suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity. The idea is to nurture the company’s human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.”

Sounds good but what does it mean in real life? During a conversation with my friend, Ken, he referred me to a post he had written about continuous improvement. One of his key points was the emphasis on how continuous goes far beyond short-term or mid-term goals. Basically, your strategic plan has to account for various time frames such as quarterly, 6 month, 1 year, 3 year or 5 year.

But to incorporate kaizen, take a look at your operational plan. Think about your goals and objectives. What makes your company money? What are you doing to make that happen? How do you measure your results? Kaizen is usable by everyone from a sole proprietorship up to a larger corporation.

There is a catch though. You have to be willing to be curious and disatisfied with your status quo. So Product A is your primary revenue stream. What would an examination reveal? Now instead of doing a major overhaul (unless it’s necessary, of course) on Product A, what smaller steps can be followed to improve it? Or would it be another system, say the marketing of Product A, that could be enhanced?  Ken put it best, “Organizations that matter understand that continuous improvement is just that: continuous. You don’t boil the ocean, but you do figure out which processes help you excel and shine a bright analytical light on those processes to make them more effective and more efficient. You accept that some of the ways to improve don’t exist yet. You may need to gain more experience first or you might even need someone else to invent a better toolset.”

What could you do to add kaizen to your business?

What does it mean to humanize your workplace?

How would it affect your performance if you were in a learner/experimenter mindset continuously?


Year in Review (So Far)-#kaizenblog recap

Business ReviewsSeptember brings a sense of newness and fresh starts. You can feel the summer wane and the first hints of autumn become present. With the last quarter of the year coming up, it is a good time to wonder if we are meeting our own expectations for the year. Since continual improvement, kaizen, is the foundation for the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) and I invited everyone to examine their review process and their progress for 2010. If you missed the conversation and want to see the transcript, you can read it in full here Transcript for #kaizenblog – YrInReviewSoFar
Since the idea of a review can create anxiety in some while others feel eager to see their progress, we asked, what goes through your mind when someone suggests a review?  Without prompting, people shared that they were already taking a look at their performance and setting up plans and that having a regular schedule is crucial to performance.
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Q1 which items are most valuable to review is what goes through my mind first.”
  • Jeannie Walters (@jeanniecw) “Review reality v. plan – even if the plan is in your head!”
  • Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) “Q1. Fear. LOL”
  • Meg Fowler (@megfowler) “Q1: Reviews are opportunitites to get it “righter” by looking backwards and applying lessons forward.”
  • Rob Petersen (@robpetersen) “Q1. Review = What worked + What didn’t work = What to do going forward”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “Review is good to see where you are in implementing your plan  ~ are U right on or do U need to flex”

While there some discussion about how reviews can be given lip service, most people made references to how consistent reviews reduce surprises and allow true picture of progress to be accessible. Meg Fowler reminded us to” use reviews to celebrate what you did right, too–even in tough space, there are little victories to celebrate.”

What tips or strategies make reviews less cumbersome or threatening? Maltoni shared this link as an example of how to do an annual review. With the mindset that we gain something from continual learning and improvement, it is important to find ways that fit your style and enhance the practical application of a review. One of the most common tips was to schedule the reviews to be more frequent than once a year. Ideally, the reviews are most useful if done quarterly. Also, consider what objective measurements you can use to avoid coloring your judgement about your progress with emotion.

  • Jerry Evans (@inspiredtrain) “Tracking everything during the year will show you the hidden/seasonal patterns that you would miss if it’s an annual review”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “re q2 breaking review into actionable items; tackle items that move your forward; focus on what’s working too”
  • Jeannie Walters “If your review isnt measuring AGAINST anything it’s not doing much, either”
  • Jeff Cutler (@JeffCutler) “A2-Performing them objectively and not turning them into to-do lists or blame reports.”
  • Nick Kinports (@ADMAVEN) “Instead of stating, “Here’s what we should do” ask, “what could we…?” “
  • Diane Court (@dc2fla) “Q2 develop the metrics together so those in review help determine the who & the what”

Tom Asacker (@tomasacker)  added an interesting observation and question, “Jumped in, noticed me/it” focus on business review. If business is about creating value, shouldn’t review be about/with customers?” Most people agreed with him and certainly, any review has to take a look at customers. It seems that how the data is collected is very important as it is easy to assume what customer’s behavior or comments mean. Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) tweeted, “Good reviews will incorporate data (ideally objective), info (subjective & objective) from multiple sources, & analytics.”

To keep with the idea of examining progress, we asked, What goals have you met so far?

  • Jeannie Walters, “A3-I have topped the number of clients goal I set for myself. Now new goal=scalability”
  • Caroline Di Diego “A3 Goal was to launch NU company in September ~ launching next week” (You can find more information here)
  • Amber Cleveland “launched www.SterlingHope, start blogging, ePublished biz partner’s book, started onT”

Our final question sparked something interesting! What could #kaizenblog community help you accomplish?”

  • Jerry Evans “Q4 Not could, already HAS. A collection of vibrant, clever and Pay It Forwards tweeters have opened my mind.”
  • Patrick Prothe “Re Q4  ~ #kaizenblog hold me accountable, focused and inspired to grow and connect. To raise the bar.”
  • Diane Court “#kaizenblog helps me focus on the small steps that catalyze big change & weave it all together. Unbelievable sense of community”

Mary Ann Halford (@MaryAnnHalford) made a suggestion that brings the #kaizenblog community into a new arena. She  offered, “Perhaps we can do a chat where we all share our goals and objectives for Q4” With some support from other participants, we started brainstorming what format this could take. Stay tuned to the #kaizenblog chat and this space to learn the details. Current suggestions include some kind of online forum or a teleconference. It will be scheduled for early October with a follow up meeting in Deember or early January. With the various types of experience and knowledge, we can offer one another opportunitites to grow, expand and really use the concept of kaizen for all of our work.

Please add your thoughts, feedback and suggestions regarding how you’d like to see the #kaizenblog community help one another.