A proven, exciting Retirement planning process for individuals and couples, The Best-Half is a combination of workshops, coaching and personal reflection. It was developed by experienced coaches and educators. For organizations, The Best-Half is a process to be used in succession management especially for transitions and to establish common goals and objectives in the senior phases of a career.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Un-earth the possibilities

We just got back from Edmonton. On Saturday we didn’t have any plans and so I asked to be dropped off at West Edmonton Mall. We have history together; the ‘mall’ and I. When we lived in Edmonton in the early 1980’s West Edmonton Mall (WEM) was shiny and new. There was only one Phase – now there are five. We lived close enough that it became a place to hang out on the weekend with our daughter Kate who was just walking and starting to explore the world. The Amusement Park was always a ‘must’ and a trip to see the aquariums. It was a total experience of shopping/amusement/food court.
I had an objective for my visit last week. I wanted to see if the experience factor was still present. I wanted to see something that would startle, amaze, make me laugh, make me think and make my heart beat faster.
In short and infrequent visits over the past 20 years I had experienced the size increase, the submarines (once touted as more than the Canadian Navy) and the fake beach with the wave pool.
And so I set off. While I was looking for the experience factor I discovered that walking through both levels of the mall would take almost three hours with only a short break for the food court experience.
To my surprise the biggest emotion I felt was not joy or excitement of amazement. It was sadness and frustration. I was sad because I cannot say I saw anything that took the experience of the past to new heights. No new areas, displays, outrageous store ideas or innovative restaurant experiences. It was a large mall that behaved like almost every mall we have ever been in. The subs were docked and looked like they had been there for many years. The water park looked about a quarter full on the middle of a Saturday and the food court with the same outlets was just – the same.
But, the parking lots were full. There were a lot of people at the WEM.
To build a successful experience we have to tap in to the emotional needs of our customers. I expect that WEM has done this by tapping in to the middle of the road. Their customers are looking for a unremarkable shopping experience that satisfies their need for the expected. Another group is looking for an outlet for birthday parties or weekend get-a ways where there is no surprises and everything is as expected.
I predict a long and busy future for WEM. I think they have found their niche and it is NO SURPRISES.
The good news is that this really opens up the market for the consumers who are looking for the unique, the different and the WOW. Edmonton is also able to supply this experience in both small independent retailers and in a new and very exciting facility called the Enjoy Centre.
The Enjoy Centre is a garden centre on steroids! Part restaurant, lounge, florist shop, complete spa, bakery, accessories, furniture and garden centre it is an extravaganza of unique and different as well as comfortable and familiar. Their mission is to “Create a unique, efficient, innovative and sustainable environment that encourages helpful and meaningful experiences for everyone.” Their website address is www.unearththepossibilities.com. Un earth the possibilities. Now that is exciting.
 “From basic hand tools to the finest you can buy, this is a store that has unabashedly put a stake in the ground and declared “we are going to do it differently.” How about a glass of wine after rooting around for perennials? You might want a second after pricing some of the garden furniture. A great experience.
Identifying the emotional needs of our customers gives us an opportunity to stand out whether you are the world’s biggest or the smallest operator selling on-online. Tapping into those emotions and creating the perfect experience for your customers is as different as food court and fine dining. An emotional connection is what separates the exceptional from the good. And, remember, the enemy is ‘the bland’.

Hijacked by the urgent

Over the last couple of days two clients have expressed concerns about getting hijacked by the urgent. In other words, they know their mandate includes forward thinking long term strategy and planning for the future. But they come into work, expecting normal and end up with urgent. Urgent is the client who needs a call right away, the employee you didn’t show for work and has a presentation scheduled and the steam rolling effect of details that need to be checked, verified and approved.
Are you operating under a culture of urgent? There is nothing more thrill inducing than managing a panic crisis. The adrenalin junkies out there know what I am talking about. A former boss prided herself on being able to create “heart attacks” for the young staff. From her perspective it was good to get the blood flowing around the office. Is it any wonder that retention was a challenge in that environment?
From the perspective of looking at being hijacked by the urgent, Preventive Follow Thru’s while highly adaptive seek out the variety that managing from one urgent request to another gives them. They are the ones who are at the ready to jump in and lend a hand - especially if it takes them away from a “boring” task. For the Initiating Follow Thru’s this just totally messes up their organized day. Follow thru energy for these folks involves getting organized, starting a project, working on it and then finishing it.
The task of looking forward is hard to measure if you are hijacked by the urgent. “I’m sorry I can’t solve this crisis, I have a meeting scheduled with a thought leader.” The solution is three fold: reward for ideas, reward for innovation and make it easy for people to talk about innovation. The difference between ideas and innovation is the difference between a suggestion box and a new feature, service or product. An idea is a light bulb going on while innovation involves action. Both should be rewarded. Some people will be better at coming up with ideas and others will succeed in taking those ideas and creating innovative solutions. A room full of innovators can come up with lots of brain storming ideas. However without other instincts being involved action may not occur.
Organizations are now talking about innovation. Speaking to many clients and individuals over the past 20 years, creating a culture of innovation is fundamental to promoting an innovation dialogue. It starts at the front door. Is the reading material in the reception areas challenging, interesting, unique, and capable of starting a dialogue with your customers? Is team building and professional development designed around learning and innovation? Does a Balanced Score card include innovation and ideas?
Is there an opportunity to create a mini TED (the innovation series) for your industry? Maybe it’s a lunch and learn opportunity or breakfast with a thought leader or maybe stocking the cafeteria with new books, art work and even innovative music. Have you talked to the university about coming out and presenting their ideas of what’s new and innovative?
The burning platform is not about what is happening now. Being hijacked by the urgent takes on a whole new meaning when three years from today we look back and say……

Waiting for a Miracle

Sometimes I feel like I am spending all my time waiting for something to happen. Maybe it’s a phone call about a proposal or an email giving the answer to a question that has been asked. Doing a lot of Kolbe A assessments means that I am sometimes waiting for a last team member to go on the ‘net’ and finish. As a 9 in Quick Start this can feel instinctively torturous!
Lately I feel like we are all waiting for something to happen. We’re waiting to see if the economy is going to get better. We’re waiting to see if the weather will get better. We’re waiting to see if…You can fill in the blank.
Why are we waiting? What kind of action are we planning to take if the media says or a politician says the economy has turned the corner? Will it somehow increase consumer confidence? Will banks and financial institutions start lending money and will businesses start spending?
Taking action is scary. There is danger involved. However we look at it, not taking action can be more dangerous especially when the outcome may be uncertain. About a year ago I was asked to sit on a committee at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The purpose of the committee was to think outside the box and help the gallery expand revenue, audiences and programming. I admit to being somewhat skeptical about this committee. What could we do that had not been thought of before by the excellent leadership team at the AGH.
Last week along with 200 other people I attended the outcome of our work as a committee. The AGH will by next spring have a brand new retail space front and centre in Hamilton’s revitalized James St. North arts district. This stand alone space will sell contemporary home furnishings and art and have a wonderful meeting space for events. When we started to discuss this idea as a committee I said “we must do this. The risk to the organization of not doing it will be greater than doing it.” This will be an absolute ‘game changer’ for the AGH. We did our due diligence, crunched the numbers and got a lot of opinions and ideas. Now we are going for it.
Waiting for others to say yes, waiting for the weather to change or the economy to get better doesn’t feel as good as taking action, making things happen or planning your own game changing event. We all need to change that habit. I am going to go and make some calls. What about you?

Why Planning for the future using Magical Thinking isn’t going to work

In Joan Didion’s 2005 book, The Year of Magical Thinking, she recounts the year after her husband John Gregory Dunne died suddenly from cardiac arrest. Magical thinking is when a person hopes for something enough or performs the right actions that an unavoidable event can be averted. In Dideon’s case this included not giving away a pair of her husband’s shoes – insisting he will need them when he comes back.
The term Magical Thinking came up in a recent article by Gordon Powers titled; The new reality in retirementMSN Money.ca June 7, 2011. The article outlines the current crisis baby boomers are having with their inability to project both the financial resources they have and the costs they will need for the future. Unlike the retirement of our grandparents, today’s boomers will live longer, have less access to pensions and be healthier. They find themselves over stressed, depressed and obsessed with the need for answers. A recent Best-Half client expressed it this way:  “finally we have reached a stage in our life where no one is telling us what to do and it’s just when we need help figuring out what to do.” This is where the Magical Thinking comes in, says David Ramirez co-author of the report Powers references.
"Many [who participated in the survey] resorted to magical thinking, believing that everything would work out in the end, or that they could continue working indefinitely without having to adjust their standard of living."
When in doubt, doing nothing isn’t going to work.
The very first step in participating in our Best-Half process involves taking the Kolbe A Assessment. As the coach, this gives us a foundation to assist our clients in discovering their perfect future. For the client, understanding how they take action and how their partner takes action, helps them understand how to communicate, set goals and develop respect for differing modes of operation/perspective.
Having the knowledge of a client’s Kolbe instincts provides key information how the client will create a vision and a plan for the future. An initiating Fact Finder who prevents in Quick Start (maintains stability)will be doing their research and taking calculated risks. An initiating Follow-thru will put a detailed plan together and want concrete goals and time lines. Initiating Quickstarts will need to explore their options in ways that work for them. Initiating Implementors will work in the “here and now” resisting the suggestion to look way out in the future.
The privilege as a coach, of assisting in developing a road map for the future rarely involves discussions of a financial nature. Often clients will seek out the financial answers they need as a result of a clearer picture unfolding regarding the future. In our experience it has never been the other way around by making their money help to achieve their dreams.

The outcomes that occur when an individual or a couple realize their perfect future comes from thought, discussion, conversation reflection and action - and that’s the magical part. 

It’s “more the merrier” when it comes to getting things done

Last week I was in Calgary presenting a Best-Half Discovery Forum workshop to a group of senior leaders and their spouses. Earlier in the week there was a Kolbe team synergy workshop in Toronto. This resulted in a lot of material to prepare including 20 binders for Best-Half. This type of work is not my forte. I prevent in follow thru and insist in Quick Start. Assembling binders is probably the worst job ever for me. One call to our new bookkeeper and the job was taken care of and my stress was greatly reduced.
We have worked successfully with several assistants over the years each of whom brought to the business their unique instincts. Our strategy now is to use multiple people for tasks that require different instincts. Our son Charlie (2297) is working with Marilyn to post her popular weekly blog entries. Our travel is handled by our daughter Kate (7724), workshop preparation as discussed above will be the prevue of Sue, Shawn manages our computers and we even have delegated office cleaning to the remarkable Margaret. Lola our English Springer  Spaniel has duties ‘as assigned.’
A May 2011 Harvard Business Review an article titled: The case for executive assistants, by Melba J. Duncan, raised some interesting points. The thesis of the article is that we have reduced the ranks of Executive Assistants with a corresponding loss of productivity for senior managers. With a relatively small investment there can be a high return in productivity, not only for the senior leader but for their team. We recently worked with just such a situation. A VP with a virtual team was without support. Over a period of several weeks we helped determine through the Kolbe RightFit© process the instincts required for the position and selected a suitable candidate. This new person will become the hub for information for the team and result in increased productivity for all team members.
 Many of us remember the television show Murphy Brown, starring Candice Bergen and her perpetual difficulties in finding a suitable assistant. In fact one of our SVP clients earned the Murphy Brown moniker for her challenging searches. Ms. Duncan discusses the challenges of finding the Right Fit (her words). She relates the experience of one executive who was disappointed because he expected that the EA “read through memos and get them out quickly.” The EA responded by saying she didn’t have the ability to “read someone’s mind.” I suspect that it was not mind reading required but a more in tune understanding of the instincts of both the executive and the assistant. Someone who prevents in Quick Start (possibly the EA) would see this situation differently from someone who initiated in Quick Start and prevents in Fact Finder (quite possibly the Executive.) By using the Kolbe RightFit© to determine the appropriate instincts and the actual instincts of the EA “mind reading” may actually occur more frequently under the guise of two people working in sync, understanding each other’s unique instincts and celebrating the talents both bring to their roles.  Delegating your weaknesses and concentrating on strengths is not only a model for greater efficiencies but also for that elusive of all emotions – happiness.