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Why Competition is Over Rated

Competition

You don’t have to beat other people to dominate in business. 

There doesn’t have to be a loser in order for you to be a winner. 

And the business world today, seems to be rewarding those who have more of a selfless focus on serving than those who have a relentless focus on competing. 

Those getting ahead seem to have more of an intrinsic drive to improve than an extrinsic drive to defeat. 

Success in business today doesn’t really allow time to be concerned about how you rank compared to other people. 

Because in order to survive and compete in this fast moving generation, you need every extra ounce of that energy focused on how to improve your customer experience. 

You have to have more of your creative capacities going into innovating and less going into comparing. 

It’s not about finding ways to defeat your competition; it’s about finding ways to serve your customers. 

The speed of communication, the speed of technology and a growing overall climate of customers becoming accustomed to having their needs and preferences hyper-tailored to, means that we need every resource possible focused on keeping up with and surpassing their expectations. 

If we do that we’re more likely to win. If we don’t we might be in trouble. 

Many of the industries that have experienced disruption have resulted from the traditionally stable providers benchmarking against their competitors more so than thinking about how to better solve the customers problem. 

That line of thinking encourages the status quo inside an industry and opens the door for those outside the industry to come in and find a better way. 

It’s as if innovation is sometimes forced to come in from outside an industry when the age old players inside the industry are squabbling for market share instead of obsessing over customer needs. 

AirBNB, Uber, digital cameras and Netflix were all created from players outside an industry. 

When it could’ve been hotels, taxi companies, Kodak and Blockbuster that figured out a smarter way to serve customer interests. 

The point is that when we focus on beating other people, we might risk missing out on something more valuable. 

When we focus on serving other people we activate our senses. We come alive. We invent. We innovate. And we combine time tested principles with modern tools to find a smarter and better way to solve customers problems. 

The same is true of personal success. 

Our success is irrespective of what is being accomplished or not accomplished by those around us. 

Our success is measured by how we perform compared to ourselves. How we perform compared to our potential. And most importantly how we perform compared to our capacity to best serve those around us. 

We are only trying to beat who we were yesterday. 

We are only trying to crush the way we’ve always done it. 

We are only trying to compete with the best possible ways to get ourselves and our clients to the next level.

5 Steps to Create Transformational Team Unity

Unity

A team is a group of people held together by a unifying set of beliefs.  

But what those beliefs are, unfortunately all too often are unspoken.

Typically, people gather with people who they are like or who believe what they believe.

Yet there is some nearly mystical power that comes about as the inspiring byproduct of when a team takes the time the codify their beliefs.

At Southwestern Consulting, we’ve walked many of our clients through this and we call this “The Creed Conversation”.

We first discovered the power of this activity by realizing the need to apply an age-old part of Southwestern’s culture around positive self-talk to our Southwestern Consulting team as a whole. We realized we had not yet taken the time to write out our shared philosophies at Southwestern Consulting. It ended up being one of the most transformational pivot points in the history of our own company.

It’s so simple to do, that virtually any team at anytime can have a “Creed Conversation.” Many companies have a formal “mission statement” or “values” but this process takes it a step further by empowering collaboration and most importantly assimilating it into the regular course of our workflow.

All you need is an audio recorder, someone who can type, a group of some of your key leaders and a facilitator. Then follow a few steps:

1.Set the Stage – Explain to everyone that despite being a team for x amount of time, it dawned on you that you have never created, as a team, a list of the principles that you all believe in. While you may have a company mission statement or something, it’s not nearly as powerful as something created by the team of people who do the work every day. Tell them the goal is simply to document a list of shared philosophies of the team. It can also be a good idea to play for the Simon Sinek’s famous Ted talk “Start With Why.” 

2.Ask the Questions – Start the audio recording (so you have it for future reference) and then simply ask the group (best if done in person with less than 20 people) a series of open-ended questions just to get them thinking in the right direction. Write down EVERYthing everyone says in the random order that it comes out. If possible it’s best to do it on a word document on an overhead projector so everyone can see it start to take shape and come alive. Here’s some sample questions you can ask: 

  • What do we know to be true about the way we do business?
  • Why do we work so hard at this business?
  • What philosophies do we have that are un-compromisable?
  • How do we want to treat our clients and each other?
  • How do we want to be remembered as a team?
  • What do we want to be known for?
  • What do we want people to think when they think of us?
  • What are we most proud of in the way we do business?

You can ask any question in this vein and you can’t really go wrong. The only way you can mess this up is by taking too much control of the conversation and providing all the answers yourself. This is for the team to come up with, and you are a team member so you can contribute, but let them speak and create it.

3.Organize and Edit – Once all has been captured now it’s time to assimilate and edit. It helps to have someone with some decent writing skills here to guide this step. What the writer will want to do is first copy and paste similar statements or philosophies together into paragraphs without altering any of the statements as they were initially said. You’ll notice that many themes probably kept getting repeated during the exercise and that’s a good thing but here’s where we’re going to manage that.

After that, the writer is going to have the challenging role of reducing many of the paragraphs down to one sentence each based on the recurring themes so there is 1 sentence per theme. The key here though is to try and preserve the actual semantics used by the people in the group as much as possible. Try to grab key phrases, repeatable mantras, or colorful language from the group but without being too repetitious.

 Then the last and hardest part will be to edit and massage all of these ideas into simple, concise, powerful, active sentences. Don’t say “we strive to do the best we can for our customers whenever possible.” Instead say, “we always do the right thing.”

Once you have all of the statements complete, next you will want to write an opening paragraph that pulls in some of the corporate vision, values, and mission statement. And then write a short closing paragraph that is a unifying and rallying call to action to live out and execute all of the philosophies that were just listed. Oh…and all of this at most has to fit onto one page.

4.Represent for Approval – Now that it’s all been synthesized by the writer/editor, the next step is to send it back out to the team for final suggestions and feedback. At this stage it’s a good idea to even send it out to the team at large (who wasn’t included in the initial meeting).

Invite the team to discuss this in their smaller teams and within their departments to get reactions from people all throughout the organization. Give everyone an opportunity to suggest additions or changes.

It’s a chance to get everyone’s feedback and input. Work on the edits until everyone agrees and you can formally vote on it and ratify it as a part of your continuing corporate culture. (It should be a living document that can be edited later as necessary with unanimous vote.)

5. Put it in Use – The key to making a creed work is making sure it doesn’t just end up in a drawer somewhere with other corporate jargon that never gets looked at. It needs to come alive and be referred to early and often. Here are some of the best ways to get it in use:

  • Read it out loud at the start of every meeting (there are many fun ways you can vary this up.)
  • Refer to it whenever you have a difficult decision to make.
  • Make it be the first thing you show to recruits and new hires and explain that it is the predominant criteria for being hired or getting promoted.
  • Cite elements of it whenever you roll out a new change for the company.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something that is a real-life illustration of a principle that is documented in the creed.
  • Ask people to cite it whenever they see something in the company that needs to be improved or challenged.
  • Include elements of the Creed on walls, trophies, certificates, and anywhere else it makes sense.
  • Consider creating awards in your company for people who exemplify specific lines of the Creed.i)“Initiate” new people by inviting them to read it out loud (or part of it) their first day on the job.
  • Make it a part of your personal affirmations that you read every morning.

A Creed can be a synthesizing and rallying time for your entire team.

There is something tremendously powerful about having a documented, agreed upon, and declared set of values that govern the behaviors of members.

It can turn losers into winners.

It can turn doubters into believers.

It can turn pacifists into activists

If you create a Creed, you will create a culture. 

Why Workplace Culture Matters

Workplace Culture

If you plant a perfect palm (tree) seed in North Dakota, the seed will not grow.

Why?

Is it because the seed is bad?

No.

It’s because palm (tree) seeds need to be in very warm places with high humidity in order to sprout and grow.

It’s not just the seed that matters.

But also putting it into the right soil.

Typically when we think of improving performance, we think of improving ourselves – and that’s a good thing.

But leaders can never forget that it’s a two part equation: “right seed right soil.”

As performers, we’re like the seeds. And our job is to always prepare ourselves to be the best.

But as a leader our job is to also prepare the right soil for our seedlings to sprout.

Too often leaders blame a person’s poor performance on their lack of commitment, their lack of skill, or their lack of discipline.

But the reality is that many times the seed is fine, they just aren’t in “the right soil.”

They haven’t been given the right tools.

They haven’t been given the proper training.

They haven’t been given ample attention.

And just like a seed won’t sprout if we don’t provide the proper care, neither will a good team member ever perform if they are in the wrong environment.

It’s always about the right seed and the right soil.

So if you’re a leader make sure you’re not only trying to find the best seeds, but that you’re also doing the work to prepare the proper soil.

You’re Gossiping and You Don’t Even Know It

GOSSIPING

People say all the time “I never gossip” but unfortunately many of them are mistaken. 

They do participate in gossip, they just don’t realize it. 

Because we think of gossiping as “telling” secrets we’ve heard; but there’s more to it than that. 

To listen to gossip is to participate in gossip. 

Why?

Because when you listen to gossip you create a clearing and an environment for an emotional person to propagate their story. 

In other words you give a gossiper an audience. And that invites and encourages them to continue talking about whatever it is that they are talking about. 

Listening to gossip will at minimum make the person feel more validated and at most fan their flame to share even more. 

Because it’s hard to listen to gossip and not be agreeable and supportive of the person you’re listening to. It’s human nature to want to empathize with another person- especially when they’re frustrated or complaining. 

But by doing that you become an active member of the gossip crowd. You are advancing what is being said. 

So how do you know if what you are listening to is gossip?

Simple: Gossip is anything even remotely negative being said about a person who isn’t there. 

The moment someone you are talking to starts talking negative about another person you have immediately crossed into the gossip zone. 

And remember if you’re listening to gossip then you are participating in gossip. 

So how should you respond?

Also simple: You interrupt the person as quickly and politely yet firmly as possible and say “Hey, hopefully you don’t mind but I actually made a resolution this year that I would not talk negatively about or listen to negative talk about someone who isn’t in the room with me. I do want to support you and be a good friend though and the biggest thing I’ve learned that helps is to go talk directly with ________. I think that would probably help.”

This of course is simple but not easy. 

And yes you may lose some friends over this. And the ones you lose will probably be vocal about you being on your high horse because misery loves company and misery often gets angry when their company moves on and leaves them alone. 

But it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, the person who isn’t there, and the person who is frustrated. 

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with saying: Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Creating a Workplace Culture that Rocks with Arnie Malham – Episode 172 of The Action Catalyst Podcast

workplace culture

Arnie Malham created a small side venture to help a few clients market beyond just the TV station. That venture ultimately got him fired and quickly became his best and only career option.Without a clue as to how to run a company, Arnie repeatedly “got it wrong” when it came to hiring, firing, and everything else related to building a business. Armed with his belief that different is better than good, outliers are fascinating, and mind-set is everything, Malham persevered.

Thanks to hundreds of business books, dozens of patient mentors, and a universe conspiring to help him, Malham stumbled upon a bold, culture-first approach that gave his fledgling company the momentum it needed. cj Advertising grew to become the largest full-service brand-building agency in the country… exclusively for law firms. Malham has since leveraged his cutting-edge culture to launch two other businesses, Legal Intake Professionals and BetterBookClub.com.

Malham lives in Nashville with his wife of more than 20 years, two stubborn but awesome teenagers, and his trusted dog Katy. When he’s not working to improve the cultures of his three companies, Arnie can be found on his side porch enjoying a decent cigar, an affordable scotch, and an inspiring book (usually all at the same time).

Show Highlights:

  • Culture follows leadership.  @amalham
  • Believe that everyone else is coming to work for you to be successful. @amalham
  • Unless you start building culture from day one, you will never be able to execute on the opportunity. @amalham
  • Culture has allowed our company to withstand the hard times. @amalham
  • You must be able to tell your employees what success looks like. @amalham
  • Your team come in every day and impress your clients. All they want is a workplace that gives them all the tools they need. @amalham
  • If you have happy team members, it’s impossible not to have happy clients. @amalham
  • If you don’t tell your team what success looks like, it’s almost impossible for them to achieve it. @rory_vaden
  • We believe if someone is going to be successful, they should be immediately taking action. @rory_vaden
  • We want employees that are here because they want to be not because they have to be. @rory_vaden
  • The moment you extend an invitation to join your team, it is a bond and commitment to each other. @rory_vaden
  • If you serve your team well, they will serve your clients well. @rory_vaden
  • As leaders, we want to be looking out for, supporting and caring for people. @rory_vaden

Visit Arniemalham.com for more on Arnie, workplace culture, and his book Worth Doing Wrong.

The Action Catalyst is a weekly podcast hosted by Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting every Wednesday. The show is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts, has listeners from all around the world and shares “insights and inspiration to help you take action.” Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews special expert guests and thought leaders. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

10 Breakdowns That Erode Team Trust

trustTrust is the secret sauce of great teams.

When you have trust in each other, you play together and win together.

When you don’t have trust in each other, you play independently and who knows what happens.

In our work with over 8000 teams at Southwestern Consulting, we’ve noticed that there are 10 basic beliefs that all the team members must have about one another for trust to be fully intact.

If any of these 10 beliefs are not in place, it results in a breakdown of team trust.

  1. We all work hard. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are working hard, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all smart. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are legitimately intelligent, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all positive. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are optimistic and hopeful about the future, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all have integrity. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team both genuinely believe in the importance of and personally practice doing what they say they will do, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all have a voice. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team have an opinion that is valued by the rest of the team when it is shared, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all committed. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are committed to the long term success of the team and to doing everything they can to stay on the team, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all grateful. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are genuinely thankful and appreciative for a chance to be on the team and for the value of what the team provides, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all service-minded. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are working for the benefit of the team rather than the primary benefit of themselves as an individual, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We all do what’s right. If any member of the team doesn’t believe that any or all of the other members of the team are committed to operating by what is right rather than who is right, it eventually fractures trust.
  1. We are all valued. If any member of the team doesn’t feel valued then their insecurity will eventually manifest as an erosion of trust.

Show us a team that is having problems and we will show you at least one – and usually multiple – dynamic(s) that are on this list.

Before a team can truly do great work, it must first establish great trust.

So how is your team doing?