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When magic happens – What are you waiting for?

Posted by Joanne on March 25, 2013 Comments (2)

Sometimes you hear a presentation and it stays with you. That happened to me when I heard Bruce Kirkby (that is KirKby, with two K’s) talk about “When Magic Happens” during the early bird session on the last day of the HRPA conference (January 25, 2013). Bruce started by telling us he graduated years ago with an engineering degree from Queen’s University, but he fell into an unconventional path where magic happens. And this guy has had some big adventures. His presentation made an impression on me, and I choked up a bit when listening to him that morning (and now as I write this post).

Bruce told us a story about a sixteen year old girl and an incident when her boyfriend tried to teach her how to drive a car. We can imagine how that ended. The experience was such that she was seriously afraid of driving and had not driven a car since. This young girl was now a married woman (no, she did not marry that boyfriend), and she was a mom with children. She felt very dependent on others to get from place to place and she really wanted to overcome her fear so she could drive her kids to their activities. As part of the TV series he was hosting Bruce Kirkby set her up to conquer her fear of driving. Guess what – after three days of intense driving lessons, she was driving. You might think – big deal. But she was driving a real race car in a real live race. She immediately went home and acquired her beginner’s driver license and finally her driver’s license.

During very real intense real human moments, when you conquer your fear, magic happens. ~ Bruce Kirkby

Overcoming her fear and learning how to drive opened this women up to new experiences like trying skiing, and asking for (and getting) a promotion at work. And it went on from there. This is the magic of overcoming your fear. It has a ripple effect.

We use the word adventure as a metaphor for attaining our dreams. ~ Bruce Kirkby

Where-Magic-Happens_From_Bruce-Kirkby_PPT_2013_01

This is the visual that Bruce used to describe adventure. He said that most of us live in the “small circle” where we are comfortable. But “We deserve to live in the big circle. That is where magic happens.” The big circle is the visual to describe adventure (and personal growth).

And Bruce went on to describe adventure this way “Adventure – how do I put it into words. It isn’t just climbing a mountain. It’s crossing a threshold. Getting out of our comfort zone.” But where does your comfort zone end? What is your fundamental fear?

Fear is a compass.

We think happiness is comfort. We search for comfort, the routine, habit and resist change. ~ Bruce Kirkby

Think about this for a moment, if we are chasing comfort in our lives, what are we missing? Are we pushing away growth? Do we know where the threshold is where fear turns from being a motivating factor to paralyzing us so much that we can’t move forward?

Bruce describe the comfort zone as “Hey diddle diddle. Going down the middle.” We need to be aware that when we experience fear, that is our compass guiding us towards growth. We need to know our threshold of fear. We need enough fear that it moves us forward out of our comfort zone (green) and stretches us towards growth (yellow), and not so much that fear becomes paralyzing (orange) so that we are stuck where we are, never changing, and never growing.

I know how fear can paralyze you. I am deathly afraid of heights, so much so that when I climbed the fire tower in Parry Sound, Ontario with my husband, then boyfriend, I could not look down when climbing up to the top. When I had to go back down down the mesh steps I could not do it. I was literally paralyzed. I had to crawl down the stairway with my eyes closed, with my husband placing each foot one-by-one on the descending steps until we reached a height I could manage. So knowing your fear threshold is important.

Touch the rock.

I was surprized to hear that Bruce Kirkby has (had) a fear of heights as well. And he climbed a mountain. He asked us: Does fear stop you from trying new things? He told us that one time when he was climbing a mountain they arrived at a section where fear nearly paralyzed him so much so that he almost didn’t make it to the top.

Touch the rock. Don’t let your imagination of fear turn you back from experiencing awesome experiences and personal growth. ~ Bruce Kirkby

When my children were young, my husband and I went back to the fire tower in Parry Sound, and I got half way up and I panicked. I went back down because I didn’t want my kids to see me that frightened. But as I reached the bottom of the tower, I knew I would miss their accomplishment of climbing that great big tower and to see their reactions to the magnificent view. I basically sprinted up the tower and got there just in time as they reached the top. Did I have trouble going down? Of course I did, but I walked down keeping my eyes to the horizon, not to the bottom, and I didn’t need help, except for the wee hand that was grasping mine, and a little voice saying “You can do it mommy.” My husband and kids were so cute when they cheered and clapped when I reached the ground. I sure felt like kissing the ground, but I had touched the rock and it felt great.

Start now.

Life is too short, too precious. Just get up and do the things that you yearn to do. ~ Bruce Kirkby

When Bruce was on his first book tour he said people often asked him how he managed to write a book. He told them all, and there were many who asked him the same question, if you want to write a book, “go home and write it.”  Out of all the people that he spoke to, one woman went home that very day and started to write her book. And during his next book tour, there it was sitting right next to his on the book store shelf.

Why do we make things so hard? When we say – Pick up a pen and paper and start writing – it doesn’t sound so hard. But why do so many not do the things they yearn to do? (Hint: it might have something to do with an abundance of “bozosity,” so read on if you are curious).

Second day sucks.

Bruce said that in any adventure, you will come across the little bump that can stop you. But if you can get over it, it gets better. Life certainly throws us curve balls. But if we can get over the hurdles and obstacles, it makes us stronger and we LEARN from that experience. I think that gives us more POWER in our own self, then we had before.

Ignore the bozos.

Sometime when you start out on a new adventure, or new journey to personal growth, people will attempt to prevent you from trying.

Ignore the bozos. Don’t listen to them. There is a preponderance of bozosity in the world. ~ Bruce Kirkby

(Don’t you just love that term, “bozosity”). He also noted that he is often his own bozo and that we all are often our own bozo. And we have to stop the negative dialogue going on in our own head trying to prevent us from leaving our comfort zone. Sure, we should listen enough to weigh all the pros and cons, but finally at this point, it is like Robert Frost and his two paths as a metaphor: Do we want to stay in our place of comfort or travel the path where magic will happen?

~~~

I loved the touch points in Bruce Kirkby’s presentation, “When Magic Happens.”

  • Fear is a compass.
  • Touch the rock.
  • Start now.
  • Second day sucks.
  • Ignore the bozos.

Not only can these concepts be applied to our life but also to our careers and in the workplace. Imagine using these concepts when it comes to creating a new product or service, or heading out in a new career direction.

After this session, I tried my first Google+ Hangout Live Broadcast, and I finally posted my first vlog. Was I scared? Yes. I had major “bozosity” going on – what if I make a mistake, what if this and what if that?Just stop already. Are the videos perfect? Far from it. Did I grow and learn from doing them? Absolutely. And that is what life is all about, isn’t it?

Which path are you travelling? Which path are you going to take? What are you scared of the most? It is never too late.

Please share your comments. And if the comments section is closed, please contact me to share your comments and refer to this post “When magic happens.”

 

Joanne Royce creates happy, healthy, and productive workplaces through HR, recruiting, and training initiatives for organizations that invest in people to invest in success.

Photo credits: Joanne Royce (photos of slides from Bruce Kirkby’s presentation, “When magic happens.” February 2013, HRPA 2013)





What does Business Growth and Mother Nature have in common?

Posted by Joanne on February 13, 2013 Comments Off

I am taking a course called Grow to Greatness through Coursera, an online platform for open-access, non-credit classes, available at no cost to audiences around the world. Along with 67,000 students from the across the globe, I am learning from Edward D. Hess, Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and author of Grow to Greatness. Professor Hess is so good that I actually forget that his lectures are recorded and not real time. He a great story teller which is one of the signs of a very good lecturer.

The focus of the course is on how to successfully grow an existing private business. It is based on the Hess’s research and thirty years of real-world experience advising private growth companies. I am taking it because many of my clients are small business owners and I have seen first-hand how accelerated growth (or no growth at all) can diminish the success of an organization. I also run my own business providing HR, recruiting and training solutions to organizations wanting to create happy, healthy, and productive workplaces, so the key learning applies to my business as well.

The first week was awesome and we were asked to highlight three key moments that stood out. Only three?

Growth is like Mother Nature. Growth can be good and it can be bad.

Mother Nature gives us sunny days (good) and it also gives us tornadoes (bad). Just like Mother Nature, growth can be good or it can be bad. Growth is good when everything is in place to support it, but it is bad when it happens when people, processes, and controls are not in place or ready to support that growth. Businesses need better and more people, processes, and controls in place for successful growth. Many businesses have imploded when growth happened to quickly without people, processes, and controls in place. Growth can stress quality controls, financial controls, diminish your customer’s value proposition, dilute your organizational culture, and put you in a different competitive space. For example, perhaps your size of organization put you in competition with other small businesses, but once you grew, you found yourself competing with larger organizations that you just could not compete against. I worked for a privately owned real estate company back in the day when it was a small company. The company merged with a larger company. I happened to be interviewed for the company newsletter, along with other employees and managers, about the change. I remember saying something like, “It’s an exciting opportunity, but I hope it does not change the small family-like culture we have right now.” I was an administrator at the time and I remember managers telling me how brave I was to say what I said, because everyone was thinking the same thing. Of course, the culture of the organization changed. There was no way it could not change. The organizational culture was certainly “diluted” and the merger put the company in competition with other big players in the field.

Businesses must “improve or die” NOT “grow or die.”

In week one, we learned the truth about growth. One of the myths perpetrated in the business world is “Businesses must grow or die.” This is a business axiom that has no validity or research to back it up. In fact the adage, “Businesses must grow or die” is a myth that is much better replaced by, “Businesses must improve or die.” Was that what happened to RIM, now called BLACKBERRY? Growth (and innovation) in the earlier days put them on top and allowed for the financial funds to build a stunningly beautiful building, but not enough was channelled to improving the product and keeping up with the competition. It’s focus should have been on improving.

Always carry something on your worry plate

Good entrepreneur always have something to worry about. There is always something on the entrepreneur’s worry plate, and the minute that worry disappears that is the start of problems and business decline. I know that one of my favourite clients had a lot of worry during the recession. He told me he stayed awake at night worrying about whether he had the sales to keep all forty of his employees and their families safe from the impact of lay-offs. (How can you not love a client who thinks like that?) I think always having something on your worry plate, also has something to do with ego. If you have a successful entrepreneur thinking he’s got it made and focusing on ego with no worries about the business, customers, and employees, that is the moment the business is in trouble.

Growth is not linear.

Growth is not linear and businesses need to expect the ups and downs that come with evolving a business. At times the business might even move backwards, and then forward. It is unwise to expect year after year of consistent growth in a linear fashion. That very rarely ever happens.

Successful growth depends on more and better people, processes, and controls.

If growth is on the table, make sure that your people, processes, and controls are ready.

People: Do you have the right people in place? Hire slowly and fire quickly. Hess states that research shows that most business owners do the exact opposite. They hire too late and too quickly when there is chaos, and they put up with poor performance or poor fit for way too long. Based on my HR practice, in most cases with my clients, I found the same to be true. Take the time to understand the competencies (skills, knowledge, and attributes) necessary to help the company succeed. Don’t hire a clone of yourself; rather hire someone who has complementary skills. If you like sales, but hate execution, hire someone with great organizational and tactical skills. Listen to your employees and observe the workplace. Is there high stress and tension that does not seem to abate? Are there increased conflict and sickness? These may be signs that your people are not keeping up with growth. Trust and engage your employees, and indeed, love them like you love your customers.

Processes: Design, manufacturing, sales, and distribution processes need to be researched and in place. Face to face contact with suppliers and manufacturer, if you decide not to do this in-house, is key to developing trusting relationships. Research the best processes. Are your suppliers slipping? Are deadlines being missed? Is your database and invoicing experiencing glitches? These may be signs that your processes are not keeping up with growth. There are so many variables with growth. If your invoicing system won’t handle the volume and keeps crashing, that is not good for business.

Controls: Don’t abdicate check signing to someone else and keep a very close eye on cash flow. We read a case study where one business owner found out that her bookkeeper was defrauding the company with the help of the shipping personnel whom the bookkeeper had recommended for hire. The owner ended up having to fire all of them. Is quality slipping? Is cash flow becoming an issue? These may be signs that your controls are not keeping pace with growth. Make sure you have controls in place that give you the information you need to make good decisions.

Be careful about customer concentration – don’t bag the elephant

Many small businesses might think that concentrating on one large customer (bagging the elephant) is the best growth scenario, but it can actually put them at risk. I know from my own experience that large corporations often have 60 to 90 day payments terms, and as a small business entrepreneur, those terms are not the best for me. I worked with the client who found out that hard way that bagging the elephant was not good for business. When that large client decided to bring the work in-house, the client went bankrupt. To reduce risk, it is better to have a diverse set of smaller clients, then bagging the elephant.

Love your customers, not your product

Research shows that high performance companies have: Strategic FOCUS, operational excellence, constant improvement, customer centricity, and high employee engagement. Hess used the analogy of 2 inches wide by 2 miles deep – now that’s laser focus. The emphasis should be on taking care of your customer and not about your love of your product or service. Entrepreneurs who spend time defending the product and service and not actively listening to customers will not succeed in the long run. Have you run into a customer with a specific need and budget? Of course you have. Did you try to promote a BMW version of your product or service, but they only wanted (and could afford) the KIA version? Less time should be spent “defending” a specific product or service and more time on listening to what the client wants.  Of course, if you want to promote your high-end product or service, you can also find the ones that value it and have the budget for it, but that still takes listening to your customer and having laser focus. That also means saying “NO” to opportunities that don’t hit the company’s sweet spot.

The “gas pedal” approach to business growth

Businesses should use the “gas pedal” approach to growth. This approach allows for spurts of growth, and letting up on the gas pedal to let people, processes, and controls catch up. Doing so helps ensure there are no negative impacts on quality, production, distribution, customers, employees, culture, and cash flow.


Biological growth

Hess shared with us the biological certainty that many species limit their growth to increase chances of survival. He applied this to business growth calling it biological growth. At some point in the growth of a business, a once agile company can become bogged down by bureaucratic processes and controls. Growth increases complexity and the need for additional management and skills. And as a company evolves and grows it might find that the people who helped get them to that point, won’t get them to where they want to go. Employees need to be educated and trained and in some causes the solution will be to move them into another role or to part ways if the skills needed are not there. It is ironic that my logo symbolizes the biological growth concept and the key learning from the first week. If you look at my logo you will see the “roots and the leaves” of a plant. If we want the plant to grow, we need to water it, fertilize it, and make sure it gets sunlight. If we want the plant to grow faster, we might think that if we provide it with more water, fertilizer, and sunlight it might grow faster, but in fact, we can kill the plant.

Growing too fast can kill a business.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced good and bad growth with your own company?

 

Royce & Associates provides outsourced HR support to organizations. We can help with hiring and developing the right people and making sure HR processes and controls are in place to help support “good” growth. Contact us.

Photo credits: Purchased for use on this site only.






 Joanne Royce



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