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3 Leaders Reveal Their Hardest Conversations

Not all decisions are easy to make. How do you give a difficult talk to your teammate, boss, or even yourself? Andrea Williams covers this in her article for Michael Hyatt, on Nov. 27, 2018.

Building a successful organization requires interpersonal skills as much as knowledge of finance or marketing strategies. Perhaps the most important tool in the relational toolbox is the tenacity to have tough talks that lead to the sort of necessary change that makes growth possible.

Here, three individuals relate their most difficult conversations, revealing insights and advice applicable on a fairly wide scale. Their problems are likely to be yours at some point, if you are leading people.

Calling out a trusted team member

Addressing an individual’s poor decision making is never easy, especially if that person is a valuable part of the team and someone you want to continue working with long-term. The solution, says Shyam Krishna, founder of SKI Charities, is to empower that individual with more ownership over their role and the future of the organization as a whole.

SKI Charities supports local entrepreneurs in developing countries by providing microloans to women, giving them the necessary resources to lift their families out of poverty. In order the execute this mission, Krishna depends on project managers who are based in each country and are directly responsible for recruiting and developing entrepreneurs for SKI’s microfinance program.

During the organization’s growth in eastern Zimbabwe, Krishna discovered that one project manager was “overly-aggressive” in decision-making and enrolling beneficiaries who were not ideal for the program.

“She had been a stalwart member of our team and played a vital role in our early growth,” Krishna says, “so when I noticed this movement away from our core mission, I knew I had to speak with her about changing her mindset while balancing her continued engagement.”

Ultimately, Krishna reminded the project manager of SKI’s core mission, while also encouraging her to take an active role in creating and enhancing the company’s future vision. “With her involvement and ownership, she began to make decisions less as an employee and more as a leader herself,” Krishna says.

Giving the boss an ultimatum

While the onus for effectively tackling difficult conversation typically falls on leaders who need to address their subordinates, there are times when the need to initiate an important discussion starts at the bottom.

Before becoming the founder and CEO of business consulting firm Trebuchet Group, Chris Hutchinson was working under a leader who stifled his growth, taking over a number of his responsibilities once he had achieved success in those areas.

Hutchinson’s frustration was mounting.“I needed to help my boss do the role the business needed of him and let me do mine, or help transfer my responsibilities to him and leave the business,” he says.

Hutchinson presented his boss with two solutions: Either his boss would need to step back and focus on being the president of the organization, while Hutchinson exercised full autonomy as general manager, or Hutchinson would depart, transferring his responsibilities back to his boss.

“He chose the latter,” Hutchinson says. “Over the next few weeks, I coached him on how we would announce my transition…It was very difficult to leave my colleagues when I believed they would not be successful, yet I also felt I was in a no-win situation. The harder I tried to help, the less authority I had to be able to help.”

Hutchinson’s experience shows that not all difficult conversations will achieve an ideal result for both parties, but it’s important to have them nonetheless. His advice? Prepare in advance to ensure that your message is delivered with clarity and focus.

“A good friend gave me The Four Agreements book as I worked up the courage to present my boss with a clear choice and then follow through on that choice,” he says. “The book helped me make commitments to myself to do my best to be impeccable with my word, not make assumptions, and not take things personally. These lessons made a tremendous difference in that situation and have served me in other, difficult conversations with people at work.”

Owning up to your own mistakes

It’s estimated that one-in-five American jobs are held by contractors, and that, within ten years, half of the workforce will be comprised of contractors and freelancers.

For contract workers, the beauty of free-agent employment is the ability to assume full control over their schedule and work-life balance. But, in the face of poor time management and everyday life challenges, your schedule can quickly become an unwieldy monster.

As a self-employed attorney and mediator, Nance Schick has found that her most difficult conversations were the result of having to disclose her professional errors. This was certainly the case after a recent health crisis.

“I kept trying to work and thought I could get more done each day than I did, and this only made the work backlog pile up more,” Schick says. “This client’s project went further down my priority list each day, in part because I overestimated myself and made promises I couldn’t keep. Worse yet, I stopped communicating with her about my delays, thinking the project would be done before she even realized I was late completing it. I told myself this was okay because a lot of businesses operate this way, even if that is not how I run mine. But it was not okay.”

After recovering from laryngitis, pink eye, and a sinus infection, Schick was able to complete the project and submit it to her client for review. She also included and explanation, an apology, and a discount on her fees.

Since then, Schick has realized that it’s her responsibility to fully regain the trust of her client, but she’s also realistic in understanding that unforeseen circumstances may once again delay her productivity. Going forward, she plans to handle those situations with a different approach.

“First, I will be more realistic and honest about my schedule, even if it means I have to refer a project out to a trusted colleague,” she explains. “Second, I will notify the client immediately if I suspect a deadline won’t be met, and I will give the client a true opportunity to adapt, including by reassigning the project. Third, I will apologize by phone and allow the client to express her anger, disappointment, or whatever she feels.”

That may be a tough conversation to have but if she wants to grow, Schick believes it is a necessary one. “I must be the change I wish to see in others,” she says.

This article is written by Andrea Williams, digital content strategist, author, and journalist. You can find this post here.

The opinions expressed here by Andrea Williams are their own, not those of MichaelHyatt.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

ABOUT GREG LEE


The 5 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Going From Employee to Self-Employed

Focusing on entrepreneurship, I’d like to share an article published in Inc.com on February 16, 2017, written by Beth Doane, managing partner of Main & Rose, discussing what you should know what you are getting into before making the leap:

Thinking about leaving your cubicle for the thrills of the startup world? So have 27 million other people like you. The good news is that there are more resources now than ever to help you find success when making this leap. The bad news is that just one small misstep and you can end up right back in your 9-to-5 gig.

I never worked in a corporate environment, started my first company when I was 22, and made a slew of expensive mistakes in those first few years. I attribute being able to survive to the fact that I had great mentors along the way and met fellow entrepreneurs who I could lean on for guidance and support.

I recently caught up with one of these fellow entrepreneurs, Darren Humphreys, who now spends his time tracking lions across the Serengeti or lounging on a remote beach on a hidden corner of Madagascar, but his original career was the farthest thing from this lifestyle. Darren hails from the top ranks of Wall Street and walked away from it to start a travel company. Like me, Darren learned how to scale and be his own CEO through making mistakes.

Below, we compiled the top mistakes founders make and what you really need to know to make it as a true entrepreneur.

Not Finding the Real Niche

Knowing what you want to do — and are passionate about — is not enough to make it a business. Even having a business plan, a marketing plan and a whole lot of venture capital won’t cut it these days. You must dive far enough into your concept to find the niche within it. If you can identify this niche within your “passion” industry, you will be truly distinctive and it will set you up for success.

Budgeting Incorrectly

Don’t leave your career without a plan and enough money to get you through the first six months. A new venture always costs more than you think, and that includes “opportunity cost.” When Darren first started his company, he knew if he had to budget and without a plan, he wouldn’t get very far. It’s worth hiring an expert for your budgeting (and making sure to budget for that expert!).

Underestimating Timeframes

New ventures always take longer than you anticipate. Darren advises that you should aim for validation within the first 12 months, and profitability within the first three years. I found this to be true: The companies I see succeeding wildly are able to bring a simple product to market and test it quickly, so they can make adjustments and improvements on the fly.

Not Being Selective Enough

You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Finding a co-founder who complements you is crucial, and if you make the wrong choices, it can tank you before you even start. We always eventually become what we are surrounded by, so choose your staff and partners very carefully. Both Darren and I learned to hire slowly (and fire swiftly) in our ventures.

Having Incorrect Definitions of Success

Not all success is measured in dollars and cents: Darren knows this to be true, because he sacrificed things to be able to call the ocean his office. It’s easy to forget that success is what you make of it when you are trying to survive and build a business. Quality of life and crafting your own path hold a great deal of value, so before you start on your journey, make sure to write out what is truly most important to you — like family, your hobbies, giving back and learning new skills.

If fulfillment came from cash, America would be the happiest place on earth. Instead, pay attention to what really inspires you — and make sure you include that in your daily life.

Beth Doane is an award-winning writer, speaker and social entrepreneur. She is the managing partner of Main & Rose.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.

ABOUT GREG LEE


running out of cash flow

Running Out of Cash Flow

The last two posts covered the first four of the killer mistakes you can make that will not only make you lose your fish, but possibly your entire company. Today we’re going to talk about the fifth killer mistake: Up Cash Creek Without a Paddle, or when you’re running out of cash flow.

Help Avoid Running Out of Cash Flow

Even when business is good there’s still a chance of running out of cash flow. You have to always be prepared for a slow in sales or a surge in expenses. One of the keys to balancing your cash flow is to get your clients to pay on time. This can seem like a nightmare, but is absolutely essential to a successful business.

Here are some tips to speed up the payment process:

  • Always send invoices on time and adjust your records for potential audits.
  • Learn how the client processes payments on their side and find out precisely where to send invoices.
  • Find out who’s in charge of processing orders and payment, so you know who to contact if needed.
  • Have a follow-up procedure in place, just in case.
  • As a last resort, call your contact to ask questions.
  • Always make sure your invoices are correct before sending them out.

You also need to make sure your cash flow is protected. You can do this by:

  • Always know which accounts need paid and when.
  • Negotiate with your suppliers for the lowest cost possible.
  • Have a bank contingency plan in place.
  • Build your own inventor network.

These are all great ways to protect the cash flow of your business and prepare for fish transitions and slow sales. These last few lessons are all about finding and catching your big fish clients. These clients are essential to your success and your need to take the time to work through each of these steps carefully and correctly for the best success.

If you find yourself having issues with running out of cash flow, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


taking on more than you can handle

Taking on More Than You Can Handle

In the last post we covered the first two of the 5 biggest mistakes you can make in dealing with big fish clients. Today we’ll cover the third and fourth ones, taking on more than you can handle and putting all of your eggs in one basket:

Taking on More Than You Can Handle

When you take on too much, your business can’t keep up and therefore you can easily lose control of everything and find yourself barely functioning. You want your business to be successful, no doubt, but you need to have a plan for how you will handle the growth. Your clients expect great customer service and highly quality products/services, they don’t know or care about your behind the scenes operations to get those things done.

  • Look for these signs that you are taking on more than you can handle:
  • Clients’ needs aren’t being met.
  • Employee morale is low, clients are upset and you’re in a panic.
  • You have to react in emergency mode to save accounts.
  • Your current clients are suffering from trying to keep up with new business.
  • Profits are going down.
  • You are just trying to pick up the pieces of your business.
  • Your clients/customers leave.
  • Resources are being reallocated.

There a trick called the Mock Fish Plan. This plan can help you react positively when you are facing some or all of these things and help you get your business back on track. This plan will:

  • Help increase sales in a short period of time.
  • Alter your products/services for the better.
  • Fulfill promises you made to your clients.

There are six steps to this plan:

  1. Bring in your best team and have them all help to meet the fish needs.
  2. Review your operational system.
  3. Anticipate future problems better.
  4. Communicate better.
  5. Include costs in your quotes.
  6. Always have a back-up plan.

All Your Eggs in One Basket

You can allow your company to become dependent on any one fish. Eventually or for certain periods there is going to be a slowing down period with your fish. In order to stay in the game you need to diversify.

If you’ve ever mishandled a fish, you could drive away potential fish as well. In order to keep balance and prepare for a strong future, there are a few things you can do.

  • These things include:
  • Stay in the loop and try to know what’s going on inside your fish company.
  • Constantly reinvent yourself and stay at the top of your industry.
  • Stay exclusive.
  • Try to secure multi-year commitments and contracts.
  • Spread your contracts out.
  • Price your products/services correctly.

You also need to work to reduce your dependency on your fish. This can generally be measures in sales or profits. Take a look back at the process we’ve used thus far to snag more fish to keep this all in balance.

These are the ways you can help avoid taking on more than you can handle and putting all of your eggs in one basket. If you want to learn more about avoiding these mistakes, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


maintaining client relationships

Maintaining Client Relationships

Avoiding Mistakes and Maintaining Client Relationships

You want to make sure that you are maintaining client relationships and avoiding big mistakes that could end your partnership. There are 5 big mistakes you can make that will kill a deal with a big fish.

  1. Not meeting the client’s expectations
  2. Mishandling a client crisis
  3. Taking on more than you can handle
  4. Putting all your eggs in one basket
  5. Up cash creek without a paddle

Any one or combination of these can not only kill the partnership, but have the ability to take down your company as well. We’re going to take a bit of time to talk about each one of these, in this lesson we’ll cover the first two.

Not Meeting Client’s Expectations

It’s essential you give your client’s exactly what you promised during the negotiation portion of your relationship. If an event does happen where there is no way to meet the client’s expectations, not only do you have to find a way to fix the situation, but you also have to find out where it all went wrong.

A couple of things could have contributed to this problem:

  1. Bad salesmanship. This could mean the salesperson was trying too hard to seal the deal and didn’t listen to the client’s needs.
  2. Lack of communication. This breakdown occurs between the salesperson and your operations department.

In order to avoid these mistakes, you need to put a clear plan of action into place that all of your sales staff needs to follow:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Give yourself a break.
  • Perfect your process.
  • Pre-format over-deliverables.
  • Stay hands-on throughout the entire process.
  • Define success.

Mishandling a Client Crisis

Crisis’ will happen, but how you respond and fix them will define your company and interaction with your clients’. You need to respond quickly and effectively. This will help you gain even more trust and confidence from your client.

Some simple tips can help you deal with any client crisis:

  • Take responsibility and apologize no matter who is at fault.
  • Act swiftly and effectively.
  • Step in and take control of the situation.
  • Never point fingers or place blame.
  • Stay in constant communication with your client.
  • Stay calm throughout the situation.
  • Keep your eye on the ball.

Now, that you know the top two mistakes you can make to kill a big fish deal, you’ll know better how to avoid making these mistakes in the first place and know how to put a plan of action into place in case of a crisis so that you can keep maintaining client relationships.

If you need help with any of this, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.


The Number One Reason A Business Fails In It’s First Year: Cash Flow

One of the largest and most important challenges in Small Business is Cash Flow. Greg explains their coaching approach on overcoming this obstacle.

Greg A. Lee & Associates focuses on coaching business leaders by improving their performance and boosting effectiveness.


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