8 Ideas to Sustain Innovation

Marketing PlansIf you own a business today and you want it to be around for a long time, you need to spend at least 33% of your time (my number) innovating. In our hyper-connected, fast-moving world, where people expect things to get better, cheaper and more environmental friendly, sustaining innovation is your route to getting ahead of your competition.

Here are 8 suggestions that can put new vitality into your company through innovation.

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Understanding Relationship Capital Better for Your Business

I define relationship capital as “the relational reserve of credibility (Intangible Asset) measured by completed commitments that allow leaders, employees, peers, clients, vendors and regulators to talk about anything.” A “Reserve” must be built up over time so it is there when needed.  “Credibility” captures the richness, complexity, and influence that is required to create an open dialogue and that sets the stage for success. Neither RC or credibility are singular quick fixes, just additional tools that can be used to improve relationships that affect your business in a tangible way.

My definition of credibility: the quality of being believable or worthy of trust, a valued intangible asset arising from the interaction reputation of a business and its relations with its leaders, employees, customers, and vendors, distinct from the value of its stock and other tangible assets.

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Building Trust is a Skill and Here’s How to Learn It

Trust Wooden Letterpress ConceptMost people assume trust “just happens,” like some sort of relationship osmosis. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Like any leadership skill, the ability to build trust can be learned and developed. It’s arguably the most important skill required for leadership effectiveness and it’s needed now more than ever.

According to Tolero Solutions, 45% of employees say lack of trust is the biggest issue impacting work performance. Research by Kenexa High Performance Institute shows 50% of employees who distrust their senior leaders are seriously considering leaving their organization and 62% report unreasonable levels of stress. Leaders need to take the initiative to bridge the trust divide with employees and the place to start is in developing the skill of building trust.

This week The Ken Blanchard Companies released a newly redesigned version of its Building Trust training program. The new program combines the latest research findings on trust with our 35 years of expertise in leadership development. Leveraging the easy to learn, easy to remember, and easy to implement Elements of Trust model, the updated Building Trust course is a dynamic and interactive learning experience that includes a mix of video, group exercises, and electronic support tools. It teaches participants how to increase their own trustworthiness, rebuild trust that has been damaged, and how to have conversations with others about low-trust situations.

Most people are afraid to talk about issues of trust in the workplace, and for good reason. Confronting an issue of low trust can be an emotional firestorm that causes fear, anger, and defensiveness. After all, most people don’t think of themselves as being untrustworthy. The value of having a common definition of trust, which the Elements of Trust Model provides, allows people to have an objective view of what trust is and isn’t, and talk about trust in a neutral and non-defensive way.

Click here to learn more about our new program. I give some highlights about it in the video below.

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Trust Drives Collaboration

I have been advocating the move to a collaborative economy for the last 3 years and while many seem to like the idea, the move to it seems to have stalled a bit. However, our rapidly changing world continues to be forcing businesses and organizations to take a new approach to what they do, i.e., collaborate.

This change is not just smart but necessary for sustainable growth.  It has been shown many times in recent history that value is being created daily through complex, technology-enabled architectures of interconnection that link people and ideas across all types of interfaces.

Leaders everywhere are asking what will it take to be part of a Collaboration Economy?

Let’s look at a few:

Hopping on Board the Collaborative Economy! 

The first step of the collaborative approach: “Recognize” – Authentic leaders need to recognize that everyone on your team should be able to step up and lead. When engaged, every person in your organization can be a source of vital ideas, observations and risk watchdogs when trusted.

There is an information processing term in psychology called “bounded rationality” that comes to play here. At its core is that we all have serious limits in our ability to process information.  None of us know everything that we want to know.  However, we don’t need to know everything if we know people who know what we don’t know. This allows us to collaborate with others by connecting with them to help us find better solutions.

Organizations can be wildly effective when they are open to using the expanded information sets that their collective membership commands – especially if they can tap and use that information when it is critical.  When this light bulb turns on the organization can be bathed in a great light of encouragement and empowerment.

The second step of the collaborative approach: “Know your People” – Each person in the organization must know as much as they can about each other’s skills and limitations, without being judgmental.  This is also where great leaders come into play because it’s most important for them to have this kind of knowledge.

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Can Your Company be Counted On for Delivery?

How often do you think, before you make a promise or commitment to someone? Do you even think about what will happen if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? Many would say that most promises are not tied to life and death situations so you can be flexible but in my opinion, YES, they really do matter.

Today, many are very casual about making promises and commitments. I find many times, that promises and commitments are made in a knee-jerk reaction with little or no real intention of keeping them. For example, how often have you uttered these words, “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” or “I’ll be there in a sec”. Do you realize that these are really examples of disposable promises or commitments?  They are often made but seldom kept in real life, whether personal or in business.

Typically, when you break a promise, small or large, sirens aren’t going to go off, however, it can subtly or not so subtly damage a relationship or your reputation.  To better frame the potential, I always recommend that people think about how they feel when someone else breaks a promise to them or gets caught in a lie. Doesn’t it make you feel violated or cheated?  Often you begin to question the trust that you may have given to this person in the past.

Lies, which can often be part of a promise or commitment challenge, can be equally dangerous because getting away with a lie often traps a person into believing they’re invincible and that there is little chance of getting caught. The problem with this, like breaking promises or commitments, it can become a habit, forcing people to spend precious time and energy keeping their stories straight.

As Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

The trap: “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

So how do you avoid the casual treatment trap of promises or commitments and avoid building bad habits that bring about lies and manipulation?  Here are some ideas to help you navigate this very critical part of being authentic and transparent.

Understand that Keeping a Promise and Telling the Truth Are Liberating:

I have always held that a promise given is a commitment that must be kept. In our relativistic world, we often apply an arbitrary rating scale. In this system, we believe that breaking a big promise is inexcusable while a small one (disposable one) is acceptable.

Personally, I think that’s simply false. While breaking a big promise, such as failing to meet a project deliverable or completing an important task, can destroy a peer or customer relationship, reneging on simple promises, such as being on time, sets an atmosphere of doubt on future behavior.

Simply put, trust is built through a series of communication experiences and successful commitment deliveries shared with others. When this behavior is consistent, faith in the relationship continues to develop and strengthens. Now this is very liberating and frees you to expand and grow.

On the other hand, when promises are broken or people are misled, the bonds of trust are breached.

Broken promises or commitments often send a subtle message that the individual either didn’t think before making the promises or didn’t care if they let you down. It also sends a perception that their needs are more important than yours.

When done consistently this puts you in a negative spiral that can challenge any growth you or your company are striving to accomplish. I look at it as putting you into bondage as opposed to the liberation that comes with being authentic and transparent. So, be careful about the promises and that you make and with whom you make them.

Always Under Promise and Over Deliver

Too many times today products and services are promising astronomical results. Personally, I believe, if you can’t keep a promise, don’t make it. The same holds true for commitments of time and effort.

I highly suggest NOT using the word guarantee in any business or personal situation. For example, as a programmer, you can’t guarantee someone a program will work perfectly the first time the client uses it. However, you can show them your track record and promise them that you’ll work hard on their behalf, that provides value.

When it comes to time, you can’t guarantee that you’ll arrive in two hours, particularly if you live in an urban area, but you can promise that you’re going to leave at 10am.

Anticipate the Uncontrollable Influences

There are things that occur that are uncontrollable by us that can lead to broken promises, and generally, these are excusable. For example, when you can’t deliver something on time because of an uncontrollable event, such as a family illness, most people will understand that the lapse was unintentional and unavoidable.

On the other hand, breaking a promise or commitment by oversleeping or forgetting, will be viewed by many as intentionally missing the deadline or appointment and you’ll have to face the consequences. After all, you should be able to control your calendar & time.

Stop the Spin, Perceptions Can Be Damaging

When we distort the truth by exaggerating, spinning the truth, or withholding key facts, we definitely weaken our credibility for the future. This is often the result of short-term thinking and poor planning, both of which are, in reality, under our control.

Vin Scully once said: “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination.”

Most the time, I believe that spin is really nothing more than lying and it comes in many forms. Some people exaggerate or stretch the truth to make something look more attractive. Others “spin the truth” by presenting “selected” facts that support their position. Withholding key facts is also lying. it’s clearly meant to deceive or manipulate and influence. Now, when you tell a lie, everything that you say in the future may be treated as suspect.

Today, as in the past, You’re often judged by the company you keep. When people cover for the spin or misinformation of others, they’re as guilty as those who created the “spin.” Remember, you are putting your own reputation and good name on the line if you cover for someone else.  Is it worth it?

Keeping Your Promises or Commitments is an Action, People Always Look Most at Actions:

Always remember that actions speak louder than words. Historically, there was a time when keeping your word held special significance.  Your word was your bond. But with the rise of self-exultation and excuses, there has been a diminishing of the popularity and reliability of this action in almost every human relationship and endeavor.

Being of good character was a thing to be proud of in the past and it needs to be revived today. Previously, personal integrity was trusted, expected and valued. During this time family was important, everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. Today this has disappeared in many families.

It was also a time when integrity was instilled in kids at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. Schools could actually make a difference, kids would listen and respect teachers and teachers strove to inspire and excite kids. Actions & massive inaction speaks volumes in this arena today.

The real truth is, the world has changed, but the importance of integrity has not. Unfortunately, too many have expectations for everyone else demonstrate integrity but like to hide behind a shield of privacy so their integrity cannot be challenged. Politicians provide a perfect example of this behavior.


Every time you make a promise or commitment, you’re putting your integrity and honor on the line, whether you like it or not. In business, you are requesting that others place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down.

It should go without saying that if you don’t live up to your promise or commitment you will wind up destroying your credibility, damaging your relationships, and tarnishing your reputation. The unseen damage is equally important, you let yourself down.

This summer we will be introducing a SaaS tool called PE-ER Solution that will allow you to ask for and give commitment requests and track the outcome for validation of performance. If you desire to really make a difference this tool will be helpful for those high visibility commitments and promises.

I would love to help you instill this in your company and make a cultural impact that demonstrates to all stakeholder that you are serious about keeping your promises and commitments. For more info, please visit my website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me to discuss at 630-454-4821.

25 Whys for Tracking Commitments

Simon Sinek makes some major statements in his 2011 book, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, but he emphasizes the fundamental need of every human, who is striving to succeed, to know the “WHY” of what they are doing. He discusses the idea of inspiring others to do well and provide great service. This is true of everyone; leaders, employees, or contractors within your company.

It should be no surprise that this is also the basis of PE-ER, the tool that helps you unlock the “real” potential of relationship capital. The currency of the 21st century. It tracks how well you keep your commitments or promises.

No, this is not a magic pill nor is it a silver bullet that will make everyone a super commitment maker.  It is a tool that will help you see how well you and others do and provide a process that can help build the disciplines necessary to encourage success.

Will some people game the system? Of course, I am sure we will have some, but the goal is to create an environment that is built on authenticity, integrity, transparency, and trust. My belief is that those who do game it will be exposed readily.

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Understanding Expectation Alignment

The more I have been working with the development of the PE-ER platform and the idea of commitment management, I have come to the realization that the core of making this happen resides in expectation alignment.

We understand that trust is built when people make and keep commitments with each other but the process of getting to agreement on these commitments, hence adding value to them, requires that we have transparent, honest communications and the minimization of misaligned expectations.

Expectation Gaps

There are so many areas where we can get hung up on hidden or misaligned expectations.  The diagram above is just a starting point.  Note, in each quadrant there are internal expectations as well as the external expectations.

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Building Engagement is About Balance

Puzzle PiecesA large number of surveys have been completed over the years, asking what employees are really looking for from their employers. Some say money doesn’t count, it’s more about the perks.  Others say the perks don’t count and it is all about opportunity.

In my experience is there is no single answer to this question. As humans, we are a paradox; in some ways, we are very simplistic and in some ways, we are very complex but the key is in the balance between the two. In our perceived complex work environments today we continue to look for simple solutions which may or may not help with arriving at effective engagement.

I have seen a number of lists that proclaim they can solve the engagement problem in anywhere from 3 to 5 steps and while these steps are all good influences, they don’t have the impact that is promised.

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Personal Habits to Improve Your Career! (1)

Man in Suit (2015_07_30 18_46_37 UTC)Much has been written by many writers about how one can mimic the success plan of others in hopes of replication.  This is great except for three specific reasons:

  • Others habits can only be observed and adapted but they cannot be duplicated.  Each of us is unique with different desires and passions.
  • Others environments are different, making duplication impossible.
  • Individual motivations are distinctly personal, making interpretation significantly different.

With these in mind are there lessons we can learn from various successful individuals?  Absolutely, but you need to make them totally yours, working within your own environment and interacting with your own internal clock.  So over the next few weeks, we will look as some of the areas that we can look at and adapt;

1. Get Sufficient Sleep

So often you will hear of people getting up insanely early so they can be more productive however it is more important that this revolve around your own sleep requirements.  It’s not going to do you a bit of good to get up at 4:00 am if you’re a night person and you got to bed at Midnight.  Scientists tell us that we should have between 6 & 8 hours of good sleep patterns.  If you had a good night’s sleep and get up at 4:00 am you could pick up 2 – 4 hours of super productive time, if you utilize it well.

Self-Tasks: Experiment with various time frames for getting to bed and waking up.  Track your productivity in your journal, if you have one, then find the best mix.  For me, I have found that 11 pm – 5 am is a good cycle that allows me 2 hours of quiet productive time.

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