Never Let Them See You Sweat!

5 11 2013

I had ridden Rhythm, a 14 year old majestic Morgan horse, a few times before this recent visit to the barn.  Though today was going to be different. I was on my own.  For the first time, my riding instructor was not by my side.  I was confident.  As I lead Rhythm from the barn and to the riding arena I believed Rhythm and I were in sync.  It was going to be a great ride.

Sessel and Rhythm

 As I entered the ring, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed the only noise was of the wind rustling the colorful Fall leaves.  I prepared to step into the stirrups and sit in the saddle.  I took one more look around.  I was truly on my own.  Thoughts flashed through my head.  Is it smart to be riding alone?  Can I really handle this horse?  I mounted the saddle and settled in.  Now, I was nervous.  As I moved the reins into position, I thought this may not be such a great idea.  Just one guy sitting on top of a thousand pound horse ready to run!  I felt a bead of perspiration role down my brow. My hands shook.  As I eased Rhythm into a walk, his head shot up with excitement.  Was he nervous too?  Clearly this wasn’t going to be a nice walk around the ring that I had envisioned.

Rhythm sensed I was nervous, and he became jittery too.  We were heading towards the fence.  I had to pull him into a quick turn to keep us from hitting the fence.  I was breathing faster, and we tried again.  I knew I needed to calm down, however I couldn’t summon the “calm” I needed.  Once more Rhythm fought to run, then side to side he strained against my lead.  Rhythm stopped and I dismounted.  No way was this safe.  Defeated I took Rhythm back to the barn.

During my drive home, I reflected on my failed ride.   When I was calm, Rhythm was calm.  When I got nervous,  Rhythm got nervous.  Clearly I needed to pull my nerves under control.   Rhythm was sure that a nervous rider was on board.  And following my lead like all great horses do, he became nervous and tense himself.  As I turned into my garage, I realized this lesson in leadership applied to all that I do.

Just like our majestic horse, Rhythm, the great people I lead respond to my every emotion.  A leader has to be cool under pressure, calm during a crises, and energized to succeed against all forces all the time.  Your team will derive it’s strength from your demeanor, energy and enthusiasm for your strategic mission. You must control your nerves and emotions.  If you portray panic and fear, then they will wither like their leader and spread the negativity throughout the team.  So, to keep your team inspired and driving towards success, never let them see you sweat!

Tips for keeping calm in the storm:

  1. Daily am exercise!  Sound body, sound mind.
  2. Leave your home life at home.
  3. Play your favorite “pump up” tune during the last 5 minutes of your commute.
  4. Before you walk in the office tell yourself, “It’s show time baby!”
  5. Greet everyone with a smile and a vibrant “Good morning!”
  6. While at work, find a quiet place to regain composure if the pressure is mounting and refer to #4.

Let me know how it goes.

This Post was written by Mark Sessel, President/CEO of PFP





How Effective Is Your Corporate Social Media Strategy?

29 10 2013

Where do you fit on the social media continuum?  Many folks have some friends on Facebook (1.1 billion users), an incomplete profile on LinkedIn (240 million users), a bunch of views on Youtube (1 billion unique users/month) and that is about it.  While many folks don’t tweet (555 million users) regularly, ALL of us have purchased a ton of things online.  Fewer of us write checks than ever before and many use our “phone” to transact financial business and get answers to a myriad of questions.  Regardless of where you are personally on social media and how you measure your activity today compared to five years ago, your findings will be not be shocking.  We have all made individual moves forward.  So what about your corporate plan?  What moves has your Eye Cubed organization made or is preparing to make?

social-media-seo-logos

My company, PFP, started our LinkedIn Group “Where Your Credit Union Goes To Grow” in March, 2013 and the group consistently grows each month.  When you search Groups in LinkedIn under “Credit Union”, we are currently ranked #28!  That is a good start to a very robust plan.   Our purpose is to become national thought leaders and value generators for the credit union industry.  We are definitely on the best platform.  Nothing compares to LinkedIn to achieve the goal of B to B networking.

You cannot prove you can swim when you only have your foot in the water!

We have only just begun.  It is fair to say that our initial foray into social media has merely taken us out of the gate and represents a small fraction of our overall strategy.  When you combine our B to B and B to C strategies, we will be managing ten social media pages via five platforms in 2014.  We have a ton of work to do to build our community and provide meaningful value.

This aint no “Field Of Dreams”…. For everyone to come, we have to do more than just “Build it”!

There are three core competencies needed to have a successful social media game plan:

  • Content Acquisition
  • Marketing/ Dissemination
  • Community Acquisition

Most organizations are unwilling to excel at all three consistently over a long period of time.  If one of the above is ignored, the overall initiative will be off balance and will miss the mark.

  • It takes time to provide meaningful content.
  • It requires work to develop original thought.
  • It takes diligence to demonstrate effective distribution.
  • It takes effort to build a growing network.

You need “numbers” to play the numbers game!        

We need to get comfortable with the fact that “small” percentages of our network will see our efforts and a “smaller” percentage will act on it.  The good news is that those numbers are relative and become “big” when our social media community is “big”.  Like any marketing and sales strategy, metrics drive our activity.  As we develop a track record of actions and measurable results, we will improve the top line and bottom line by focusing on the activities that drive our metrics beyond our targets.

We are building an asset, not buying a lottery ticket.  Eye Cubed companies invest the time necessary to build by executing a sound strategy.  While social media is not a new concept to anyone, for most companies, infusing an effective plan into the culture is pure innovation and fits neatly into the Eye Cubed philosophies presented in the prior posts.

Eye-Cubed leaders need:

  • Vision to feel the Inspiration
  • Vision to see the Innovation
  • Vision to execute the Implementation




When You Speak Of INSPIRATION, What Language Do You Use?

15 10 2013

In a recent post, we posed that nothing happens without the determination to TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT when implementing goals.  Prior to setting plans in motion however, the first “I” in the Eye-Cubed formula—INSPIRATION must have been felt.  Let us be sure, before we move forward, that we are speaking the same language when referring to the INSPIRATION needed to thrive in today’s corporate environment.

We do not need a “Yeah! Rah! Rah!” motivational presentation where audiences are left with a positive shot in the arm and a motivational kick in the butt.   The inspiration residing within an Eye Cubed leadership team neither leads folks to walk on fire nor climb over mountains. That is definitely not what I’m talking about.   We need the down’n dirty Eye Cubed INSPIRATION that identifies a need, recognizes a problem or uncovers an awareness of a pivotal situation that gives a person an idea about how to fill a need, solve a problem or choose the right path.

Sledgehammer-Window-300-707643

Let us look at several examples about inspirational breakthroughs that have changed the way we think, shop and ship.

Steven Jobs and Michael Wozniak.  APPLE.   Today we can’t leave home without our phone and calling folks is one of the least popular things to do with it!   Think of the impact “i” life has had on your world in general, both positively and negaitively and specifically on many industries (tv, printed communication, shopping, photography).  Apple’s inspirational revolution required companies to Inspire, Innovate and Implement—or go out of business!

Sam Walton.  WALMART.   Here is discount shopping at the ultimate.  Sam Walton identified a market that was poorly serviced by Catalogue Shopping.  On-sight customers traveled to large city department stores for their “brick and mortar” experiences.  His inspiration brought discount stores to rural America.   His underlying philosophy of honoring the customer and his employees dominated Walmart’s culture and brand.   Now WALMART dominates our cities large and small.

Fred Smith.   FED-EX.  Based on his inspirational desire to bring over-night delivery systems that took advantage of technology, Smith wrote a paper/proposal on the subject while studying at Yale University.   It was quickly disregarded as an innovation lacking viability.  His experience and insight while in the military gave him the inspiration needed to pursue his dream.  Today, “Fed-Ex” is a verb; a word that universally means “overnight delivery”.

My very own company, PFP, took a life insurance distribution method and turned it into a hugely successful marketing process which, by far, spawned the leading provider of voluntary insurance products purchased by credit union members throughout the country.   The insurance industry’s revolution required INSPIRATION at its core when PFP founders identified the problem and came up with a viable solution.  With the goal of expanding critically needed insurance protection within an underserved market, PFP created a unique distribution approach and service model.   Upon reflection, the Eye Cubed INSPIRATIONAL process was clearly exemplified as part of PFP’s history.  It took inspired leadership, innovative products and relentless implementation to ultimately give rise to a great company.

post-it-note_ideas-inspiring-innovation

Eye Cubed companies possess the inspiration needed to evolve and Eye Cubed leaders are inspired to turn challenging opportunities into market dominance.  What factors are facing your business, industry or niche that requires inspiration powerful enough to spur the innovation that must be implemented today?





Why You Should Act (in social media) Like The Top 0.5%?

9 07 2013

Since Sept 6, 2012, I have been a fully engaged power user in LinkedIn, Twitter and WordPress.  Having posted hundreds of updates on LinkedIn, tweeted 1500+ tweets and written 53 blog posts, I was asked two questions last night:

social-media-guru

  1. Why are you doing this?
  2. Are you getting anything out of your efforts?

I knew I had his attention for about 15 seconds yet my answer was much longer than that.  As a point of reference, out of the five men sitting around the small table having a discussion, three of them read my work regularly.  That’s 60%!  (including me….see how numbers can play tricks on perception?)  I started to answer him but tailed off as he drifted to another conversation.  So I challenged myself to introduce the question and answer it over the next 325 words. (I try to keep my posts below 500 words…now I only have 297 words left). 

Why am I doing this? (And why you should be inspired to do it as well)

  • Thought Leader:

I want to be more than a legend in my own mind!  I need credibility.  My consistent presence and quality content will do just that.  If it is truly “good stuff” (you will be the judge of that), I will be looked at as the thought leader I wish to become.

  •  Value Generator to enhance my company’s image to clients and prospects:

We are reminded constantly that without value, we have no chance for business continuity.  CEOs and “C” level executives want to be engaged and I refuse to be considered a “vendor” to our client-partners.  Intellectual discussions about business challenges (coupled with solutions) bring the value for which I envision.  My presence on the web addressing critical Eye-Cubed issues reinforces the value added.

  • I’m more than an “owner”or SVP of PFP:

I have had a plethora of experiences since 1996.  However, keeping the lessons within my company limits the audience.  Others can gain perspective from my path.   Through speaking, writing and consulting, I can build my impact and influence. 

Am I getting results? (What is in it for you too?)

  • Thought Leader:

New opportunities have been uncovered as my reputation builds. 

  1. Radio Interview on implementing change. 
  2. Corporate Briefing interview on Collaboration with a strategic partner. 
  3. Speaking engagements to industry leaders on succession, growth and innovation
  • Value Generator:

At a high level meeting with one of our top three clients, a senior executive introduced herself to me and said: “Yes, we have connected on LinkedIn.  I read your blog.  It is good.  I get a lot of stuff thrown my way but I like your work.  I read it.”  We then talked about strategy and the future.  They wanted to know how PFP can help them reach their goals as an organization.

I went into this project with a long-term view and did not expect to have such measurable results so soon.  Businesses are evolving and the Eye-Cubed leadership needed to excel could not be more pronounced.  With the goal of continuing to add value every day, Eye push forward!  The results speak for themselves.





The Ultimate Buy-In Statement

23 04 2013

The Eye-Cubed process of Inspiration that leads to Innovation and the ultimate Implementation of your idea is filled with challenges, no one challenge greater than “buy-in”.  Gaining “buy-in” along the way is critical as part of each step.  And communication is key.

very-important-sign

Here are the steps.  Eliminating any one can be fatal!

  1. Plant the seeds of your innovation.  In other words, communicate
  2. Find your allies
  3. Take on a small battle to win and prove your case as part of a pilot project
  4. Execute the plan to test your idea
  5. Keep the decision-making team up to date on your progress.  In other words, communicate.
  6. Repeat success with another win
  7. Get commitment to bring the innovation throughout the organization
  8. Develop your plan to execute implementation of innovation
  9. Identify the best people with the necessary skills to succeed with the implementation and bring them in the loop.  In other words, communicate.
  10. Execute your plan

Unfortunately, implementing innovations do not always fit neatly into a 10-step plan.  Sometimes we fumble along the way.  Sometimes, we are still in the learning stage with regard to a key piece of the puzzle.  Sometimes we are faced with challenges that transcend theory.  Sometimes the “greatest” ideas just seem to get stuck along the way.

That very scenario played out with me recently.  I had been spearheading a tremendous innovation project at my company, PFP.   The seeds of the idea had originally germinated about five years ago and it took three years to set the stage for an official “test”.  Two years later and after many successes along the way, the project hit a major crossroad.  In spite of the progress, the innate challenges had become too complex to resolve with the centralized implementation structure that was in place.  I had run out of time and ideas to execute the plan as originally drafted.  We needed a change.  And I could not bring that about on my own.

In a key strategic meeting on the project, I heard sweet music!  I was elated, energized and inspired. The overwhelming message from the team was as follows:

“This project is too important for our future to fail.  We have to find a way to make it work!”

I then saw a tremendous push from our top leaders to engage deeply into the initiative and immediately revive it, develop a renewed plan and begin executing that plan.  This was all the proof I needed to know that the company had 100% buy-in.  The most difficult battle had been won.

There is no doubt that while implementing a great idea, the road to victory and realized potential is riddled with potholes and other hazards that face us during our travels.  Those bumps seem a bit smaller when we traverse them with colleagues willing to work together towards incredible goals.

I am proud of the collaboration.  Put down the visor and put on the sunglasses!  Our future looks bright.





Strategic Planning II: Not a 12 month process!

29 01 2013

StrategicPlan

For the past 5-6 years, my company, PFP, has simplified its strategic plan to the point where it can be and is printed on a business card.  It is one of the most popular items to hand out and discuss with clients and partners.  On one side of the card is our mission statement and brand promise.  On the other side of the card is a list of our strategies for the year.  These strategies are the result of strategic planning sessions and agreed upon by all of PFP’s top executives.  The end result is available to be presented publicly and is presented to every employee of the company along with a personal letter from our President, Mark Sessel.

Our strategic plan this year was unusual since it did not contain a single initiative that was new to our organization.  At our strategic planning session, we determined it was necessary to dig deeper to achieve the desired results of our current innovations and bring them to successful fruition.

This is a good thing.  And if it happens to your team and organization, embrace it.  It does not mean that your team has lost its innovative edge.  It is not a sign of “lazy” strategic planning.  To the contrary, it is recognition that the arbitrary twelve-month timeframe in between your annual Strategic Planning Sessions does not coincide with the time needed to effectively implement the desired initiatives each year.

Timelines to gain buy-in to get onto the plan are lengthy.

Gaining consensus on the pain the organization is feeling without the innovation, and using the meetings and planning sessions to get the innovation on the list for the year is more complex than originally thought.  In order to gain buy-in, one must follow a process (see POST).

Timelines to build the foundation of Innovation are lengthy.

We start with an image and vision of what the innovation looks like and how it will perform when fully implemented.  Then reality begins to weave its way into the innovation.  There are technical, financial, resource and skill-set realities.    The goal is to engage the necessary resources to build the foundation for the implementation of the innovation.  The foundation allows the team to develop an efficient process and effective method of operating that can grow with the needs of your company.  Building this foundation takes significant time.

Duplication of the innovation and proving success is time consuming.

Just because you launched the innovative idea doesn’t mean it is going to ultimately revolutionize your company.  You need to prove your concept and this takes time.  Get some results, turn your projections into realities and share the facts.  These become the “assumptions” for the future as you attempt to replicate your results while using different variables.  As you change the picture and continue to show results, your expectations will change appropriately.  While this process keeps the innovation on target to realize its potential, the timeframe to navigate through this step is lengthy.

Bringing the revolution throughout your company is not a quick process.

Until it consistently becomes part of the budgeted operation of your firm, the initiative is in its innovative and strategic stage.  Once you have hired people, built an operation, developed efficient processes and created significant momentum you are on your way.  Your expenses and revenues can and should be projected.  When this happens, the innovation has officially moved from strategic thought to strategic action and lastly to operational day-to-day management.

timeframes

There is no rule that sets the innovation and implementation process as a 12 month process.  As a result, Eye-Cubed organizations must have the intestinal fortitude to keep initiatives on the strategic list for more than one year.  Pull the innovation off the list too soon and risk losing momentum and destroying your vision.  Get it right and reap the massive rewards.





Invaluable Perspectives from Keynote Interview of David J. Sussman, Esq. CLU

22 01 2013

Do not miss Ronald Allen’s live keynote interview of David Susman, Esq. CLU, SVP of PFP and President of Eye-Cubed-U, LLC

Gain perspectives on:  Succession, Corporate Value, Leadership, Partnership, Change, Inspiration, Innovation, Family Businesses and more.  The President and innovator of Eye-Cubed-U, LLC shares his experiences and philosophies that spurred the formation of a new wave of corporate language and culture.

Click Here and listen live!  It really is a fantastic interview.  Thank you.

Tune In

Hear about these wonderful people:

Understand:

  • The culture of the credit union industry
  • Selling to the credit union industry
  • Adding value to B to B clients
  • Innovating the Insurance Industry

Perspectives on how to become a:

  • Consultant
  • Speaker
  • Keynote Speaker
  • Presenter
  • Thought Leader

Hear advice on:

Books mentioned in the interview:

Companies mentioned by David Sussman and Ronald Allen: