Goal Setting

Don't Stop Selling the Ice Cream!

When you’re traveling, conversations with interesting people happen.  And those conversations lead to real-time issues and challenges.  For me those conversations are market research.  It gives me an inside peek at what most people wouldn’t say in their place of business; and in turn, sparks my thought process on how to help leaders work through those challenges.

However, one conversation really stumped me. I felt badly for the young manager seated next to me on the plane as he expressed his frustration.  I sat there thinking, “Why would an owner of a business do something so foolish?”  If you had been seated with us, this is what you would have heard the young man saying:  (the specifics have been slightly changed and there will be no names as a courtesy)

“The company is 8 years old and we’ve had some great success.  In fact, we outgrew our first location because the very first customers were so thrilled with our services they kept coming back and bringing their friends.  The word got out and we almost tripled our clientele and revenues in the first two years.  I was there in the beginning and he (the owner) promoted me to manager as we began to take on new staff.”  

“The momentum was really exciting and every week offered a new challenge as we kept growing.  But in the last 2 years, we started experiencing some embarrassing customer service issues because we couldn’t meet the expectations and the growth didn’t just level off, we’ve started to lose good customers.  I think that’s when I noticed two big problems.  First, the owner wouldn’t listen to some of the ideas our staff and leaders were offering to help improve our services.  Secondly, whenever any of us would ask him what vision he had for the next phase of the business - he’d just say we’d find out when we got there.”

 My seat mate shrugged his shoulders and continued.  

“My best staff members have quietly left the company over the last couple of years.  And that’s not the worst of it!  

“He finally has a plan and it’s a disaster.  He has decided that the core of our business - the very essence of what our customers need and buy - is no longer “sexy” and he’s eliminating those services one by one, replacing them with products that very few people want. What’s frustrating is that customers and staff members don't get it!  It’s not what they’ve signed up for and they have no say.  We’re just dismissed with an attitude of ‘you’ll eventually understand and agree, or you’ll leave because it’s not for you - and that’s o.k.’”

My travel companion wrapped it up with a perfect metaphor:

“It’s about as crazy as an ice-cream shop owner capturing a large market share of local business and happy customers; then deciding after 8 years of success that they want to turn it into a Spinach Salad Only Restaurant.  No more ice cream, just spinach.  And their expectation is that all the ice-cream customers are going to be happy with the changes!  It’s going to fail.  Instead of trying to convert the ice-cream shop, it would be better to sell it as is, get out of the way and spin off into a new venture.”

He stopped talking.  Looked at me and asked, “So what do you think?”

I smiled and said, “It’s impressive that you’ve stayed with it this long.  Sadly, your assessment sounds like it is right on target. I’m guessing you’ve already updated your resume’.  Without knowing all the details, it sounds like you could go open an ice cream shop and do very well.  I think I’d buy ice-cream from you any day!”


How would you have answered that young leader?

Here are a couple of questions that maybe we should be thinking about:

  1. Are we listening to our best people and giving consideration to their insights and concerns?
  2. Do you have a vision for your company and can you express it in a way that still excites your team members?


Let me know your thoughts.  Safe travels!


~ Steven Iwersen, CSP


Pace Yourself for Greater Results

Leaders Thought: Your "Place" in life is often a result of your "Pace" in life.

Race ahead too quickly and you might be walking alone. Move too slowly and you will fall behind, discovering then that the company you keep are mostly people who are resistant, afraid or complacent. Walk confidently and positively toward your goals. That's when you find you are in good company, have more resources and greater opportunities to explore.

10 Things Successful People Know About the Road to Success

Many people think that the road to success is a paved Super Highway.  In reality, it is an off road experience!  Here are the 10 Things Successful People Know About the Road To Success:


  • You won't find a well marked exit ramp.  You have to create your own.
  • You won't find signs that point the way.  Usually you discover those when you look back on your journey.
  • You won't be competing for a space in the flow of traffic, because there are no traffic jams where you are going.
  • You won’t typically run into detours predetermined by others.  Obstacles may restrict your progress, but that’s to be expected.  You will reroute and navigate through unfamiliar places.
  • There won’t be any convenient rest areas.  But, it will be important to take advantage of those great “view points” along the way and appreciate the new perspectives you’ve gained.  So make sure to take a break and recharge.
  • You won’t be restricted by a speed limit.  Go as fast as you like.  Just keep in mind that most successful people will tell you that the journey takes time.  
  • You won’t find a “carpool” lane.  However, significant success comes quicker when you include others that share the vision for a more desirable future.
  • It is acceptable to ask for directions.  But make sure you ask people who know what it’s like to have mud on their shoes.
  • You won’t find a bridge where there is deep water.  Don’t wait for the government to provide one, build your own.
  • You won’t find a well lit tunnel when you come to the mountains that stand between you and the horizon.  Just put yourself in gear and start climbing!


Now here comes the reality check: IMAG1324

If you can reach your sales goals in the next 30 days by playing it safe, you’re selling yourself short of your potential!

If your goal is to create a “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Customer Experience and to gain a long term relationship for your business, you have to do what your competition isn’t dreaming of or willing to do.

If you want to get referrals (word of mouth marketing) from super satisfied customers, you have to go the extra mile for them and then ask for the referral.

It will be uncomfortable and bumpy at times.  Do what you already know you need to do, but kept putting it off because your comfortable or concerned about what others might think.

If you want to reach your goals - you have to declare what they are, develop an adventurous spirit and break away from the crowd! 

You can make 2016 the best year ever!  Make the decisions about where you want to go and who you want to be, take ahold of the wheel and get off the highway. 

How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 4)

In this brief series on how to manage a "not my job" attitude, we've discovered that business leaders use this concept in four very practical ways in order to be sustainably successful.  (Check out the first three methods:  Think Like A CEO,  Inventory Workload & Priorities,  Dominate & Delegate.)  

The fourth method is the one practice that truly separates this leaders from all the rest.

Do What Others Are Not Willing To Do.  

I'm not referring to the tasks, duties that you've delegated.  I'm talking about a forward thinking, proactive behavior that focuses your attention on finding the extra things that create added value to your employees, customers and the company.  These are the things that are not in your job description, but will make a difference for those you serve.  When you have freed up your time by letting go of the things that you shouldn’t do, you will have discretionary time to focus on creation instead of reaction.

My friend, Stephen Shapiro is on a mission to work only one hour a day.  He wrote in his article for American Express Open Forum:

“If you spent only 20 percent of your time extracting 80 percent of the revenue from your existing business model, this gives you 80 percent of your time to do something different.”

What could you do that no one else is willing to do in that 80% of extra time?  All it takes is one meaningful action or one excellent idea to separate you from the crowd.  Your customers will be blown away by the results you provide.  Your employees will be excited to be part of a forward moving agenda.  You will have a new sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because you will no longer be working a job, you will be leading the way.

Go ahead, act like it's "not my job" by practicing these four methods for the next 30 days.  You're going to start getting better results.   

I'm looking forward to your comments about the experience.

--  Steven



How to Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 3)

Business Leaders have an attitude and a way of behaving that gets results.  Many of them are successful because they are very clear on what not to do.  They can confidently say, "That's not my job."  In previous blogs I introduced to you the first two methods that can help you do the same.  First, Think Like a CEO.  Secondly, Inventory Your Workload, Prioritize Your Worth.  Let's look briefly now at the third method that business leaders practice.

Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace

    Dominate your space!  Make a commitment to be the absolute best in your position.  Calendar your time around your highest priorities.  Don't waste your precious time and talents on things that are best managed by others.  Give your utmost efforts to those things you know will bring the greatest return on your investment.  I ask myself everyday, "Is this a $5 Million activity or a $500 distraction?"  Yes that may seem like an exaggeration, but the extremes help to keep the focus on what my work really means.

    Delegate with Grace.  Everything else that is on your list is your responsibility.  But, it could be accomplished by people who are smarter, better skilled, or more inclined to the task than you.  Let them do it and report to you the progress and outcomes.  The sooner you appreciate the value and worth that others contribute to the goals, the sooner you will generate a momentum that achieves those goals.

The most value that you gain from doing this is the time to practice the fourth method: "Doing What No One Else Will Do."   We'll cover that in the next post.

TIME FOR PERSONAL ACTION -  What distractions are keeping you from your best actions?   What should you be delegating to others?

Let me know what comes to your mind as you answer those two questions.


-- Steven


How To Manage a "Not My Job" Attitude and Be More Successful (Part 2)

Business leaders that practice a "not my job" attitude start by focusing their thoughts on the most important issues.  The best way to get that focus is to "Think Like A CEO or Busines Owner."  (Check out part one of this series right here -  GO!)  The second method is to:

Inventory Your Workload and Prioritize Your Worth

Here is a practical exercise to help you accomplish this.  Sit down and write out every task, objective, responsibility, expectations of yourself, expectations others have of you, projects, meetings, etc....  You have to have a complete inventory of what you do, should do and what you wish you could do. 

Once you have that completed, set it aside for a couple days. 

Then schedule 20 minutes with yourself (or if you have an assistant include them) and ruthlessly prioritize that list.  Don't over think this exercise.  Put a check mark next to the items that are "strictly your responsibility" or fit solidly within your strengths.  Resist the urge to check off every item.  Leave it alone if it can be done by another person or even automated.  

Create a new list of only those things you checked as priorities. 

Circle 3 to 5 items that you know are your best investment of mental and emotional energy.  These have to be proactive activities that create momentum toward the desired results.  Get focused on your most valued contribution.

Getting your list down to the absolute essentials will help you get up to speed on your greatest worth.

Consider these two questions:  What do you need to view differently if you are going to think like a CEO?  What are the essentials in your workload and expectations?  

If you're getting tired of fighting fires and always having to be in a reactionary posture - get clear on your answers to the questions above.


--  Steven

PS - Stay tuned for third method -  Dominate Your Space, Delegate with Grace.


I Want My Employees to say: "It's Not My Job"

I know, that doesn't make any sense!  

Why would a leader encourage members and employees of the organization to say "That is not my job"?

Because, it isn't their job.  Not if they work in an environment that empowers them to take responsibility for the outcomes.  People are more engaged and invested when there is an intrinsic understanding that the progress and success of the company is directly related to the individual efforts, skills, and ability to problem solve.  It is not their job, it is their mission - their cause.

People who have arrive at this understanding are deeply committed and have a greater sense of ownership.  In fact, they think and behave as if they do own the company.  For example, a young lady approached her boss with a strategy to reduce the time it takes to process a customers request for additional services.  Her plan could save employees approximately 20 minutes per transaction.  When the boss asked why she had given this so much thought and effort, she responded "I thought that the cost savings for the company would be significant and it would help employees to have time to focus more on producing results and less on process."  It was not her job to come up with those ideas.  Her "job" was to simply carry out the tasks.  And yet, her mission was to make the company stronger and her role became more valuable.

The fastest way you can begin creating this kind of energy and engagement is to:

1)  Minimize the rules, and get out of their way.

2)  Maximize the recognition and give them the credit.

(Click here for the Four Ways to Promote a Mission-Mindset)

There are two dangers to keep in mind as you move in this direction - the lines between who is responsible for what can become fuzzy and you may end up doing things that you shouldn't.

You can avoid the first problem by having regular conversations with individuals and the whole team about specific roles and responsiblities.  We need to release people to play to their strengths.  We also need to remind the whole team that we contribute to each others efforts, but not at the expense of our own duties.

The second problem of doing what you shouldn't do can be overcome by declaring "It's Not My Job".  My friend Laura Stack, the Productivity Pro, has a fantastic article that can help you stay focused on your priorities!

Share with me your thoughts about this blog or how you are empowering others to be more successful.

-- Steven


The Balancing Act of Leadership: Commitments vs Compromise

The pressure is on!  Leaders are expected to get stellar results with fewer staff members, smaller budgets, and longer hours.  If the results fall short of the expectations, customers are unhappy and employers begin to question the leaders abilities or loyalty.  The tension increases and the fine line of compromise begins to encroach upon the finer quality of thoughtful leadership.

Thoughtful leadership is like walking on a tight rope.  Every step you take must be calculated and intentional; all while you balance a long pole in your hands - at one end your people and the other end your profitability.  That pole is always in motion.  At one moment you can feel the pull toward the actions that create profit.  The next moment the balance tips toward the needs of your team.  You cannot allow one end to have more influence over the other.  You need both ends to create a lower center of gravity that allows you to focus on the next goal.  Your success is the result of keeping the pole balanced and moving forward one step at a time.  

Leaders lose their balance and influence when they compromise.  I wrote years ago from my own experience:

“My greatest success is the result of keeping my commitments.  My greatest failures are the result of compromise.”

So how can a leader get the right results while walking that tightrope?  I read a blog this morning by friend Mark Sanborn that sparked my thinking on this issue.  I want you to consider a couple of ideas that he wrote: 

The ongoing question for any leader is “How can we obtain superior results the right way?” Short cuts can derail a leader’s career; they can also bring down entire organizations. Doing the expedient instead of the prudent can put both the leader and the organization at risk.

Best practices are good, but the better strategy is when you pioneer next practices: the kind of strategies and tactics that change the game.


Mark presents 5 outstanding questions that will help you be a thoughtful leader in his blog titled: For Leaders, Result Rule but Methods Matter.  

How are you doing at keeping this balance?  Where do you see compromise jeopardizing the forward motion of your company?  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

-Steven Iwersen

The Influence of Your Presence

You have an employee that takes initiative every week to meet with you (for only 10-15 minutes) to discuss their priorities and workload.  You know that they will always follow through and never give you reason to worry about the outcomes.  Your presence in the equation is simply to give direction, validation and affirmation.  The influence of your presence is not about proximity, but about accessibility and empowerment.

You have another employee that takes advantage every week to avoid meeting with you and couldn’t define their priorities or workload if asked.  They give you plenty of cause to be concerned and you’re beginning to feel like a parent not a manager.  The influence of your presence is all about proximity, for that seems to be the only time they actually work.  Some people just operate best when they know someone is watching.  

I witnessed this during a construction project a few years ago.  We were expanding our facilities and hired a local sub-contractor for the excavation and foundation work.  His crew got started off with amazing speed and dedication.  I watched daily from my office window as they arrived early, worked steadily and efficiently.  Two weeks into the project things began to slow down.  They showed up on time, but took an hour to unload their tools and sauntered slowly around the work site.  They took more breaks, longer lunch and packed up an hour early.  Little got accomplished the next two weeks.  The weather began to turn cold.  They needed to get that foundation poured before the freezing temperatures arrived.  I couldn't understand why they were poking around, so I placed a call to the owner of the company and expressed my concern.  

"Hey Joe, I'm kind of concerned about how long it's taking to get this project ready to pour.  When can we expect this to be completed?"

The phone got quiet.  

"I'm sorry Steven, but I've been out of state for a couple weeks and don't know what to tell you.  I'll be back tonight and we'll see what's going on in the morning."

I watched from the warmth of my office as the crew puttered around the next morning getting ready to work.   Amazingly, when the big red pickup pulled in and the owner stepped out, the tempo on the job site kicked into high gear!  I couldn't hear the conversation, but I could tell from the body language that he wasn’t happy and things were going to get done now.

You don’t want to have to hover over or hound people to get their work done.  You want to empower people.  So how can you leverage the influence of presence?  Here are four ideas to improve your influence:

  1. Clearly communicate expectations in a weekly meeting and invite the employee to determine their own measurable outcomes.
  2. Build in a follow up meeting to discuss progress.  It’s the proverbial “inspect what we expect” approach.  Agreeing in advance to meet later helps to overcome the feelings of micro-management.
  3. In the follow up meeting remember you are the receiver and the employee is the presenter.  Picture yourself as an audience member.  Cheer for them.  Give your full attention. Listen to them.  Let them have center stage.  This builds responsibility and accountability.  (Get your FREE COPY of the "Leaders Listen" article - 5 Key Tips to help improve your listening skills.)
  4. And in the future, hire people who will treat the job as if they owned the company.  

-- Steven Iwersen

STAY TUNED -  The next blog in this series explores "The Influence of Your Ignorance"


No Manager Skills Required - Really?

“Help!  I’ve done such a good job fulfilling the expectations, management now wants to promote me.”

It feels good to be recognized for our efforts and it is a nice boost to the ego to be given some authority.  However, the transition into management is not always the best path to take.  Some people discover that the duties of a manager are not a good fit for their specific strengths and interests.  

How do you tell your boss that this management role isn’t working for you?  We start worrying about perceptions and wonder what this says about our abilities.  If we bring it up in a conversation will it jeopardize our employment?

A manager recently stepped down from her role and returned to her original position, passion and strengths.  The role was not a good fit.  She is excellent in the areas of her specific job duties, but very timid and out of her element in the area of management skills - specifically giving direction and redirection to those not performing well.  She is a confident individual, but found herself second guessing almost every decision. The choice to step down wasn't easy, but it was right for her. 

Now they have to deal with the challenge of perception. Some people in the organization think that she was demoted.  Far from the truth.  I know she is content and not concerned about the perception.  And yet, I think it is too bad that an open discussion about personal choices and following passion can not be a part of the corporate culture. 

The best thing you can do is to have a conversation with your boss and revisit the expectations of the role. Here a three possible things to discuss:

If you need some training or mentoring, ask for it.  I was once offered a job that was truly out of my expertise.  I agreed to take the position on one condition - before I started taking the lead for that department the company allow me to spend two weeks interviewing and shadowing the top three leaders in the industry.  They agreed and I got a crash course from the best examples.

Go with your strengths.  Determine if you need to redefine the expectations or delegate some responsibilities.  Your perspective and suggestions should align with the company goals and offer improvements to productivity/profitiability.

Acknowledge your desire to be of benefit to the company and request reassigment.  This is the hard one, but if all else fails could be the smartest direction to take.  Especially before it becomes a discussion of poor performance.

There are three things I believe managers/bosses need to consider on this issue:

  1. Before we reward an employee with a promotion, we should make sure that their strengths, talents and interests are a good fit for the role - now and in the future.
  2. If promotion to a management role is the right step to take, make sure that you provide the training (now, not later) for that person to become a high-caliber leader.
  3. If someone discovers that the role is not a good fit, create graceful exits and make it acceptable to shift away from management to other fulfilling work. 

What do you think?

~  Steven

IF YOU ARE A MANAGER, STRUGGLING WITH YOUR ROLE AND CAN'T MAKE A CHANGE -  then you might consider getting focused on what you can do to improve your leadership skills.  I have written an ebook that I believe will help you.  It's called: "The Checklist for Developing a High Impact Team"

Helping others to reach their potential is your greatest contribution as a leader. This checklist of 15 critical factors and the insights on how to implement them will help you develop highly focused employees and multiply your own influence.

This is a simple tool that can help you juggle the increasing demands of business, the expectations of employers and customers, all while keeping your leadership edge! CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION