The Conundrum of Paralysis by Analysis

27 Apr

Many years ago in a land far, far away I worked for a boss that suffered from “paralysis by analysis” in her search for “riskless risk.” As the proverbial Knights of the Roundtable, otherwise known as her Executive Team, each week we thrashed our way through the jungle of data, risk assessments, and possible alternative outcomes. Unfortunately, our quests often resulted in a dead-end. Why? Well, no decisions were ever made until the decisions made themselves. In other words, her indecision resulted in the least innovative and risk-free decisions. Additionally, no new results were generated since the “decisions” kept the business static. Her fear of making the wrong decision resulted in a stagnate company allowing others soar passed us.

How does this happen?
Every year or so, the business world identifies buzzwords/phrases that become common colloquialisms in boardrooms and executive offices around the world.

  • This could be a “game changer.”
  • We need to go after the “low hanging fruit.”
  • He’s a real “thought leader.”
  • We want to be “industry leaders.”
  • We need to be “innovative.”
  • We need to “get ahead of the curve.”

While these are great phrases to add into sales and marketing proposals, as well as year-end reports to corporate offices, they all have a couple of things in common. First, they need to be effectively sandwiched between a strategic plan on the front end and measurable goals/metrics on the back-end. Second, everyone around the table needs to accept that there is a certain level of risk and potential failure on the road to success. Identifying and evaluating that risk is the responsibility of managers. Being willing to shoulder an acceptable threshold for risk is the responsibility of a leader. And therein lies the rub.

Paralysis by Analysis
If this term doesn’t sound familiar, then let me explain the symptoms of the disease. The overall company or work group goals have been agreed upon. Then, each member of the team is tasked to research options, alternatives, and projected outcomes. Lastly, the team reassembles for a two-hour meeting and everyone throws his work on the table. The group goes through each scenario upon which discussion and brainstorming ensues for the greater portion of the two hours. With minutes left on the clock, the boss asks for the recommended plan of action. In other words, what decisions should be made based on the previous week’s work and this one hour and forty-five minute meeting?

Have you guessed the punch line? That’s right, no decisions were made. Instead, the topics were sent back to “committees” to explore further options and come back to the group with recommendations. So, the next question is why? Weren’t the options presented viable ones? Didn’t anyone agree with anything that was recommended? In fact, there were several options that could have been approved. Actually, there were an over-abundance of suggestions that could have yielded decisions. So what happened? Quite simply, the fear of making the wrong decision or alienating those on the opposing side of the decision now paralyzed everyone from making any decision.

Riskless Risk
If 2+2 equals 4, then you don’t run a risk of waking up one day to find that 2+2 equals 5. That’s riskless risk. In other words, riskless risk does not exist. Moreover, the best decisions are only deemed successful after they’re made. If you have the ability to look into the future and know that your risky decisions are going to all pay off, then head to Las Vegas and win big! After all, when a smart risk is taken, the joy of success is that much more rewarding. And, if you’re fearful that one wrong decision, no matter how small, will bring down your company/organization, then you’ve built your company/organization on a house of cards.

When you make educated decisions in a timely manner you move your organization along the path to success. Evaluate your threshold for risk and move forward with confidence.

Managing Your Non-Profit Like Your For-Profit

21 Feb

Business is business. Whether you’re managing a for-profit company or a non-profit association, there are common denominators that demonstrate few differences between the two business models.

As with any business, your goals guide the path you set to achieve your desired outcomes. By simply breaking this down into five common goals, it’s easy to see the similarities. Regardless of your business model, these five desired outcomes are essential to achieve a healthy organization that remains relevant, fiscally strong, and ensures loyalty among members/clients:

Goals of Your For-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure customer satisfaction
  4. Increase customer base and market share
  5. Achieve profit for owners and/or shareholders

Goals of Your Non-Profit Organization

  1. Generate income
  2. Minimize expenses
  3. Ensure member satisfaction
  4. Increase membership and community awareness
  5. Accrue financial reserve for long-term financial viability

To remain focused on the main goals/objectives of your organization, I compare planning and decision-making to a bicycle tire. Often referred to a “hub and spoke” model, it clearly demonstrates that your core goal (represented by the hub of the wheel) remains strong and supported by the actions and strategic plans that lead to the hub (represented by the spokes of the wheel). 

Bike Tire1So how does this analogy prove useful as you manage your organization? It provides a touchstone for each decision you make and each work group or committee you establish. All strategies and tactics should lead back to supporting the hub.

As such, continually ask these questions of yourself and your colleagues: Does my plan or decision support the hub (goal) of my organization’s overall desired outcomes? Are my decisions, project work group, or committee contributing to the overall goal? If so, how do I demonstrate that connection? If not, do I need to reevaluate the relevance or strategic plan of my work group or committee?

That said, how does this apply to the adage, “business is business?” It simply means putting aside your own personal feelings, personal agenda, or decisions in the best interest of the business. This is easier said than done. However, an inability to do so results in failure if not today then tomorrow. Your first obligation is to the business and the health of that business and its employees, shareholders, members, and stakeholders. Keep in mind that the leadership and management you provide today determine the legacy you leave tomorrow.

Is Your Hotel Really Committed to Social Media Marketing?

3 Feb

Let’s be honest, few hotels have the human resources to commit to a full-time manager for their social media marketing effort. So, in order to still participate in the social networks, hotel brands and franchises take a cluster approach to their social media program. They group their hotels by brand, geographic territory, or destination and centrally post to all hotels in that grouping. While this may be cost-effective, are they achieving the results they expect? Are they generating sales leads, increasing restaurant patrons, and enhancing their customer experience?

Providing engaging and property-specific content on a regular basis takes time. It also requires a strategic plan and the ability to manage and adjust that plan as needed. If you can’t afford to hire a full-time employee on-site, then look to outsourcing your content or social media services. However, you will definitely want someone who understands both your hotel, the industry in general, and social media marketing. Social media marketing is now a professional discipline not a trend. Just because a college student can use Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and take a “selfie” doesn’t mean they understand the business of hotels or more importantly, the sales and marketing process. In other words, just because I know how to drive a car doesn’t mean you want me to rebuild your car’s engine.

Effectively participating in Twitter and Facebook encourages your sales prospects to become more engaged in what you have to offer and more inclined to make a booking or contact you directly. If your Twitter or Facebook strategies aren’t providing measurable or at least trackable results, determine why and adjust accordingly.

Daily monitoring of Google Analytics allows hotels to track visitors to each landing page, determine where in the sales process potential page visitors are likely to be, and then deliver a clear and effective call-to-action that will drive them to make hotel reservations, restaurant reservations or book a catering event.

Remember, one of the best features of social media is the relative low-cost or no cost associated with this marketing vehicle. Photos can be candid shots or pictures taken by guests. Sales departments can create videos in-house without fancy equipment. Photos and videos are great and should be strategic in their frequency and audience. One of the best byproducts of videos is that it increases your hotel’s search engine optimization organically. A couple of hotels that have done a nice job are The Westin Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, and Boca Raton Resort, Boca Raton, Florida.

Having spent over twenty years in hotel sales and marketing, the best part of my job was the personal interaction with guests, clients, and colleagues. Making a personal and human connection with people is one of the key touchstones of a successful hotel. Why not use your social media marketing plan to further that engagement before, during, and after your clients come to your hotel? Make your hotel more than just a destination…make it a community.

Not All Managers are Leaders

31 Jan

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – – John Quincy Adams

I’ve always been fascinated by the difference between a manager and a leader. Actually, fascinated may not be the right word; let’s say that I’ve been perplexed and often frustrated. I think the genesis of my frustration is a potential fallacy that a manager should be a leader. However, anecdotal evidence has proven that just because someone manages people or departments does not mean they are leaders. Many managers are not effective leaders.

So let’s put aside all of the fancy research and management/leadership style models and simplify the concept. What differentiates a manager from a leader?

What is a Manager?
Managers have subordinates. A manager executes the plans, decisions, and goals driven from upper management. A person becomes a manager by virtue of his position. The followers are generally the manager’s employees. Followers follow the manager by default of management and supervisory hierarchy.

What is a Leader?
Leaders have followers. A leader is someone who influences the behavior and work of others in the group’s efforts towards achievement of specified goals in a given situation. A person becomes a leader on basis of his personal qualities. The followers of the most effective leaders tend to follow by choice. Followers have bought into the leader’s vision, personality, and most importantly, feel a respect for the leader’s knowledge and abilities.

What is the Nexus?
In my opinion, the ideal situation is when a manager is also a leader. Reality, it doesn’t always work out that way. Often, managers move through the “system” by navigating the designated ladders of professional ascension within a company or organization. Sometimes it is merely the result of seniority and company tenure.  And, their ascension may not be a reflection of their leadership ability, but a reflection of their management ability. Whether that’s a bad thing I’ll leave to your discretion.

In contrast, a leader is often chosen for his/her ability to move people, to move platforms, to facilitate change. As such, a leader provides direction, vision, and motivation. A leader is less concerned with ruffling the feathers of others since his followers tend to be believers. They trust that the leader is driven by a shared success and they want to be a part of that success. In contrast to a manager’s ascension, a leader’s ascension from within an organization is often a result of their successes, both measurable and intangible. The confidence others demonstrate for the leader elevates their corporate capital. Do all leaders make good managers?

Dilemma
When a manager is not an effective leader it often creates a barrier to decision-making thus hindering forward movement. Over the years, I’ve learned that more is often lost to indecision than the wrong decision. A manager lacking leadership skills frequently suffers paralysis by analysis. They spend so much time considering alternate options (fearful of making the wrong decision) they relent to inaction. Subsequently, their inaction and/or hesitancy result in a loss of confidence by subordinates creating future barriers to success.

Are you a leader, a manager, or both?

Winter Reading List

20 Dec

Does this holiday season provide you with an opportunity to catch up on some reading? Below are some of my favorites that do more than just provide philosophical, theoretical, and anecdotal platitudes. These books provide case studies, well-documented research, and usable information to effect change in yourself and/or your business. Some are newer than others, but regardless of their publication date, they remain timeless.

Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor
With the highest number of startups per capita of any nation in the world and massive venture capital investment, Israel is one of the world’s hubs of entrepreneurship. This book offers case studies and interviews with some of Israel’s most brilliant innovators. It explores the circumstances and policies that yield a country that fosters a business climate in which risk is embraced and good ideas are given a chance to grow.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott
The book offers a step-by-step action plan for harnessing the power of modern marketing and PR to communicate with buyers directly, raise visibility, and increase sales. It shows how large and small companies, nonprofits, and other organizations can leverage Web-based content to get the right information to the right people at the right time for a fraction of the cost of big-budget campaigns.

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith
Today it’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of Americans work in the service sector. Instead of producing tangibles–automobiles, clothes, and tools–more of us are in the business of providing intangibles–health care, entertainment, tourism, legal services, and so on. However, according to Harry Beckwith, most of these intangibles are still being marketed like products were 20 years ago.

Beckwith argues that what consumers are primarily interested in today are not features, but relationships. Even companies who think that they sell only tangible products should rethink their approach to product development and marketing and sales. Beckwith provides an excellent forum for thinking differently about the nature of services and how they can be effectively marketed.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
An easy-to-use guide complete with valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment.  It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for.  You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees.  All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell explains that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Call Me Ted by Ted Turner
An innovative entrepreneur, outspoken nonconformist, and groundbreaking philanthropist, Ted Turner is truly a living legend. This book explores journey that begins with his difficult childhood to the successful launch of his media empire to the catastrophic AOL/Time Warner deal. Ted became one of the richest men in the world, the largest land owner in the United States, revolutionized the television business with the creation of TBS and CNN, became a champion sailor and winner of the America’s Cup, and took home a World Series championship trophy in 1995 as owner of the Atlanta Braves.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books or others. Enjoy!

Knowing Amazing People

28 Aug

Amazing people never stop amazing us. Some of us are inspired and motivated by their amazingness. And, some of us use their amazingness as a benchmark by which we measure our own accomplishments, goals, dreams, and ambitions.

Who Is Amazing?
Amazing people are those who defy all naysayers. They press forward against the winds of negativity and ignore the voices of doubters. In fact, amazing people thrive on proving doubters wrong. They’re competitive. They do not benchmark themselves against others, but against their own previous personal best. They exceed the expectations of others and with each success they set the bar higher for themselves and others. Amazing people overcome obstacles becoming stronger with each hurdle they jump.

Why Are They Amazing?
Is it nature or nurture? Do amazing people set out to be amazing? It’s my opinion that part of their amazingness is that they’re unaware of it. They’re too busy being amazing to really give it any thought. In fact, if we ask them, they probably are genuinely unaware of the influence they wield. They defy convention and gain momentum through their accomplishments. Subsequently, their amazingness grows organically.

What Can We Gain from Amazing People?
Amazing people help us realize what is possible. They remind us that our dreams, goals, and ambitions are limitless. They teach us that being unconventional yields great rewards. They teach us the importance of fearlessness and pressing through our fears in order to grow. They give us optimism and share their enthusiasm to push beyond our own conventions and boundaries so we too can become amazing.

Do you know any amazing people who have shared their amazingness with you?

Are You Invested?

1 Jul

I’m a voracious reader. I’m always in the middle of at least 2-3 books of which, at least one is a novel. I recently finished Inferno by Dan Brown. Without coming across like a book critic, let’s just say that it wasn’t worth the time it took me to drudge through to the end. Quite simply, the plot was thin, disjointed, and read like a travel log through Italy, I realized one of my greatest disappointments was my lack of investment in the characters. I didn’t care enough about the protagonists even though I read Brown’s other books.

Eager to cleanse my disappointment, I browsed through every bestseller list reading reviews, editorials, and sample chapters. Once again I realized I was looking for a novel with characters worthy of my investment. The story’s important, but a really great protagonist can make just about any story more interesting. The best fiction writers create characters that are multi-dimensional, relatable, and charismatic. The reader wants to spend time, invest time with him/her. They want to be an existential part of the story.

This investment in the main characters holds true in all aspects of life. Think about your best friends – – Your favorite bosses – – Your mentors and colleagues – – Your favorite sales people. We have choices. I go out of my way to purchase and service my car tires from a certain shop because the guys are honest, genuine, and always pleasant. I can probably buy the same tires and other car services elsewhere for even a few bucks less. But I like these guys and I’m invested in them as people.

Ultimately, whether we’re talking about characters in a book or the people with whom we do business, it’s the connection we have with the individual that makes the difference. Like the books we read, we want to work with people who are invested in us and with whom we are invested. Who is worth your investment?

You’re Branded!

25 Jun

Whether you’re starting a new career, advancing your current career, building a new business, or just graduating from college, you need to build your brand. Years ago, we used the buzzwords “image” and “identity” to define our public selves. However, with social media and Internet speed and access, we are now “brands.” Let’s face it. If we don’t proactively nurture and grow our brand, it will be identified by our tacit acceptance of the comments of others. In other words, we’ll be conspicuous by our absence and lack of attention. And rarely can a company or individual be professionally successful when they’re invisible.

Define Yourself/Company
Create a list of how you identify yourself, your skills, and your company. Who are you and what do you bring to the table that is unique? The great news is that everyone is a unique individual. But, in the business world, not every businessperson stands out in the crowd. Often, we are labeled by the brand of our job title. Don’t be “the sales guy that sold me my car.” Instead, give your customer a reason to identify you by name and a problem you solved for them. Something special. This is the type of individuality that causes others to refer new business or opportunities to you.

Identify the Problem You Solve
People don’t hire other people or companies simply because they have a need to be filled.  They hire you because they have a problem and are looking for a solution. Define how you are the solution. The marketplace is crowded for just about everything. You, your product, or services need to offer something that others don’t. As a person, you should possess a special skills or distinctive experiences that enhance your ability to solve a customer’s problem.

Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader
Be more that a resume. Demonstrate your knowledge, experience, and passion for your field through a blog, video, how-to guide, volunteer work, or speaking engagements. Thought leaders take all shapes and sizes. What’s important is that you’re passionate about your subject matter and able to demonstrate the value of your knowledge.

Create a Network of Opportunity
Use social media tools, local area events, and conventions/trade shows to connect with others in your field. This takes some homework. You’ll need to research where your peers, colleagues, and target audience “live.” Spend time in the “neighborhood” to listen to their concerns, best practices, and gaps in knowledge. Most importantly, take good notes and follow-up on any potential action items.

At the end of the day, building your brand takes time, patience, and an ongoing commitment.

The Most Important Interview Question

23 May

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – – Eleanor Roosevelt

Who are the successful people in your life? Why are they successful? What do they know that others don’t? How did they learn to be successful? If you can answer these questions, then determining the most important interview question should be easy. We all want use the interview process to hire the right people for the right job. Therefore, let’s take a leap of faith and agree that asking the right questions will yield the right employee for the job.

The Question
We’ve all been through manager training courses that gave us a list of questions to ask; behaviors we should notice; and techniques for determining aptitudes. However, the most important question in an interview:  “What obstacle or challenge in your personal or professional life have you overcome or resolved and how?”

I have been fortunate to know many successful people over the years. Some success is measured by money. Some is measured by independence. Some is measured by the ability to live out a dream. No matter the yardstick of measurement, each person achieved his/her success by overcoming a significant obstacle or challenge. Then, they used that experience as a springboard for their future ambitions.

The Answer
That said, it’s not just the answer a job applicant provides, but the way in which he/she expresses himself/herself. I like problem solvers and individuals who think outside the box…creative thinkers unafraid to step out on the ledge. I want him/her to be able to clearly define their challenge, explain the process of resolution, and identify a usable outcome. As the adage goes, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ultimately, the obstacle or challenge is far less important than how they tackled it and how they determined a process of resolution.

What is your most important question?

Making Time for Retrospection

5 May

I haven’t written an article for my blog in a while. It’s certainly not for lack of something to say, in fact quite the contrary. There are so many topics worth discussing lately that it can be overwhelming. With information flying at me from so many sources and at lightning speed, I often find myself on the verge of information overload. Sound familiar to anyone else? So with all of this two-way information at hand, why have I not contributed to my own blog? Well, I’ve been taking time for some retrospection.

Retrospection: Proactive vs. Reactive
“The act or process or an instance of surveying the past.” – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Quite often we find ourselves in a perpetual forward motion. Have you ever felt that the tools we’re using to better manage our time, clients, businesses, and family have now turn the tables on us and taken control of our lives? Between our Outlook calendars alerts, Google alerts, Task List alerts, Reminder pop-ups, and smartphones buzzing, beeping and singing at us, it occurred to me that I forgot to schedule time to breath!

So, it’s not that we never stop to reevaluate our lives, priorities, clients, businesses, and family. However, we usually do so when we encounter some convergence of due dates or inciting event that causes us to take pause, reboot, and adjust accordingly. In other words, our time for retrospection and reprioritizing are reactive. I think we can all agree that we could reduce our stress, increase our productivity, and enjoy our personal/family time if we took a proactive approach to the act of retrospection. But then retrospection is just the first step.

Introspection: Part of the Process
“A reflective looking inward. – – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In the context of this discussion, the inward reflection is part of evaluating and reevaluating our business goals and their alignment with our personal goals. I think we all feel better when we’re enjoying our work life and personal life. We find greater balance, satisfaction, and peace when our clients, colleagues, family, and friends are happy and satisfied. We feel a greater sense of accomplishment when we’ve met all reasonable expectations of those in our two worlds.

Now, how do we begin? Well, each of us needs to find our individual path. For some, talking with colleagues, friends, and family, provides insight into our priorities. Others may seek spiritual guidance, guidance from a personal or professional mentor, or simply a quiet escape to the beach or mountains away from the noise of our busy world.

Some Tips to Consider

  1. Old School (but it works for me): Use a yellow legal pad and draw a line down the middle of the page. In the left hand column, write down the results of your retrospective process. (a) What have you been doing that you know you want to improve upon or simply do differently. (b) Where has your energy been focused? (c) How has your time been allocated?  In the right hand column, write down how you’re going to make the adjustments. Feel free to brainstorm with others involved so you get perspectives other than your own. Moreover, involving others in reassessing business priorities and goals increases the chance that you’ll gain support and buy-in for these changes.
  2. Overcoming Fear: Let’s face it, the greatest barrier to any change (personal or professional) is the fear associated with that change. Will we make the “right” decisions? What if we fail? What if others don’t like our retrospection and their corresponding future changes? At the end of the day, we need to remind ourselves that we will never make everyone happy 100% of the time. Change is scary whether you’re the one initiating the change or the one experiencing the change. However, as I continue to be reminded, change is always easier when you are proactively changing versus reactively changing.
  3. Looking Back to the Future: Retrospection allows us the time to analyze our past, and redesign our future. It’s the time to hit the Control+ALT+Delete and “reboot” our systems.  We need to embrace our successes, learn from our failures, and be excited and invigorated about our future.

I look forward to receiving your tips, feedback and suggestions!

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