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    Blog Index
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    What Does Excellence Mean TODAY?

    We all have a choice in how we look at our work strategically, and how we follow through. We have the freedom, typically, to approach our work, any way that we like.

    We can be pragmatic, tackling task after task, without focusing on a larger strategic vision. We can gravitate to a broad, or even philosophical view of what excellence means in our businesses.  Or, we can decide what the word excellence would mean in terms of results, this very day.

    I recommend the latter.

    Excellence, TODAY is the choice I’ve reminded myself of as an entrepreneur, for decades now, and I think it’s an important mindset for you to cultivate. This comes, perhaps, from my need as an entrepreneur to consistently be sure something meaningful is happening to keep up the momentum in the business.

    If you’re like me, you have plenty on your list to work on. But there’s nothing that clarifies the mind like aiming your thinking and effort at the one, two, or three things that could make the most difference in your business TODAY. Your focus might not always be on the biggest of ideas. In fact, it’s more likely to be small ideas, but it’s the cumulative effect of focusing on what would demonstrate excellence, TODAY, that truly makes excellent companies.

    If you’re running the company, creating excellence TODAY might mean giving your team an uplifting word. Or it might mean, a quick conversation asking your top people to define new ideas in market leadership. If you’re in marketing, you might spend a large part of the day, defining the five reasons clients should engage with your company, and buy your product – so that these are crisp and clear. If you’re in sales, you might define and assemble your A-list contacts and relationships, making sure you have compelling and engaging dialogue with them. In HR? You might casually reach out to company staff members, to see how they’re doing, shifting what is typically a reactive role, to a proactive role that strengthens company culture.

    I’ve found when you take a step back and ask yourself: “What would make us excellent?” And you apply that question to this very moment, it leads you to decisions and actions that cut through.

    The key point; Wherever you sit in a company, you have an opportunity, TODAY, to redefine excellence and make it something that happens, right here, right now. Excellence is not a lofty management concept, it’s a down-to-earth, daily effort.


    What Every Manager Should Do Daily

    I began practicing something early in my career, that I didn’t know I was doing. It happened when I began reading a series of inspirational biographies. I’d often be so moved by stories of resilience and success in these books, the sentiment would carry over into my conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. I’d find myself complimenting others, praising their work, highlighting their potential, and casting just about any situation in the most positive terms. I didn’t intend to do that; there was no underlying motive. I had just trained myself to spot good things and emphasize them.

    It was a shock to me when some people, would think my comments were disingenuous and respond with cynicism. I soon realized most people were not taking in the positive input I was, and thus were allowing conflicting emotions to dominate and grow, about their life, their work, and their future.

    As a young professional in corporate America, my managers noticed my tendency to look for solutions rather than problems, to empower others with my words, and how I was guided by a different set of priorities. That led to being promoted to management. I soon began to deliberately use my observations and conversational habits as a leader.

    While on Wall Street, I began the practice of power meetings. These were frequent, short meetings with staff and colleagues, designed to get a read on where things were on a project. Five to seven minutes, sometimes in my office, or sometimes casually on the go, I would ask a few questions, gauge our momentum, and impact the climate of the team. I could quickly sense the attitude of a staff member and contribute to the overall atmosphere with my comments, my energy, and how I perceived our progress. I always made sure these power meetings ended with clarity about the task to be achieved, and optimism about our ability to get there.

    By the time I was running my own company, I had perfected the power meeting. Every morning, we’d gather for seven minutes, go around the team, and all would give a quick update on projects, and sales prospects. We’d end with a crispness of purpose I don’t see in most companies. Granted we had a small team, but it was highly effective. Based on my experience, I believe every leader can use this concept to stay connected and inject a little energy and power into the air.

    In the decades I’ve grown and advised companies, I’ve seen remarkable results with this power meeting concept. In my sports media company we accomplished things, companies one hundred times our size couldn’t. For example, when we launched our news service for mobile devices (back then pagers, primarily) we beat every other provider: ESPN, Fox Sports, etc., in growth, subscriber count, and usage. That’s because we so tightly managed the process, on top of every metric, that no problem or opportunity went unnoticed. Our power meetings was one of the reasons.

    Here’s the bottom line. The people you work with, bring to their jobs so many competing emotions, with professionalism and enthusiasm for the most part, but frustrations and disappointments below the surface. Most people need frequent uplifting and re-focusing because we’re surrounded by negative input, daily. They need leadership daily, whether they’re asking for it or not.

    You must make sure the right focus and energy prevails amongst your team. A great tool is the power meeting. You should try it. It will give you and everyone else, the power you need, to get extraordinary results.


    What Really Happened at Starbucks

    By now you’ve heard about the recent incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, involving two African-American men. They were arrested for suspicion of trespassing, after the manager called the police. Why? They sat down after being refused use of the restroom and they didn’t make a purchase. They were waiting at a table for a colleague, with whom they intended to discuss business investment opportunities, but when he arrived they were being led out by police.

    I was struck by how this matter conflicted with the values of Starbucks. There’s the obvious racial component – and whether all guests are treated equally. But as a management consultant focused on helping companies rise to excellence, I immediately realized the Starbucks manager was driven more by her own assumptions and worldview, rather than the values of the organization. Howard Schultz, executive chairman, and the business genius who has made Starbucks a household name has longed described the coffee chain as “the third place.” It’s not home, it’s not work, but it’s a place for people to gather, socialize, plan, and meet. Did the manager of this Starbucks know that?

    Businesses struggle with many things: gaining market acceptance for their products, industry and competitive pressures, growing sales, managing costs, and finding talent – but among the biggest challenges is defining, demonstrating, and living clear, crisp, corporate values. Encouraging people to come in and sit down, take their time ordering, crack open a book or laptop, order more, and the comfort of the environment inspiring them to call a friend to join them, is all part of the Starbucks strategy. While Starbucks managers and employees might need “racial sensitivity” training, they may also need training on the company’s most basic values.

    Starbucks is unique in that it has painstakingly focused on defining its values and goals, but most businesses have not. It is why so many companies struggle to address challenges, incident-by-incident, thrashing out how an employee should have handled a situation, or continually trying to improve a person’s attitude and work ethic. When these values are clear, discussed upfront, and embedded in the way the organization operates it is easier to bounce back from an unfortunate incident like the one that took place in Philadelphia. When managers are not clear on the company values, they "train" their staff to use their own judgement which can result in good or bad habits, and a good or bad outcome, depending on the background, experience, perceptions, and attitudes of the staff.

    Work on your values and goals, and how you approach your work as an organization and make sure everyone who works for your brand knows what those values and goals are --particularly your managers. It's the best way to define and anticipate what happens day-to-day in your organization.


    More About Starbucks

    A few years ago, Howard Schultz did what he called, a Strategy Reset, defining new values and goals. It’s worth noting that he did not mention becoming “the third place,” in his list of seven values – presumably because he felt Starbucks had achieved this. The seven Starbucks values are:

    1.Become the undisputed coffee authority;

    2.Engage and inspire our partners;

    3.Ignite the emotional attachment with our customers;

    4.Expand our global presence – while making each store the heart of the local   neighborhood;

    5.Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact;

    6.Create innovation growth platforms worthy of our coffee;

    7. Deliver a sustainable economic model.

    Related Video

    “Great Leaders Define Values and Goals”


    Are You Ready to Play in A New League?

    We often hear the cliché of moving ourselves, or our businesses “to the next level.” Those words are uttered so many times a day in conversation and marketing messages that we don’t think much about what they mean. I doubt anyone has a clear notion of what’s meant by this phrase, other than some vague sense of advancement.

    We can certainly all be enthusiastic and applaud the idea of moving to the “next level.” But I often tell my audiences: “The next level is not enough.” When you really consider the essence of what this means, most people, when saying this, are talking about moving a few steps forward, but remaining within the same league. It might be meaningful and even exciting, but it’s marginal progress, incremental progress, and just a few rungs up the ladder. There have been times where slight advancement might have been appealing to me, but I must be frank. It’s been rare. I’ve always been interested in breaking into a new league with my understanding, my work, my performance, and in every area of my life.

    Moving to a whole new league is not something we typically challenge ourselves to do. For example, if you’re a freelance consultant, say making $75,000 a year, moving to the next level might mean, making $100,000 a year. That’s a very significant step indeed, but what would it take to move from $75,000 in income and projects to say, $250,000? I’d say that would definitively be another league – and what most people would want. How about you?

    Let’s say you’ve been hired by a growing company in a sales capacity and the company is at $3 million in revenues. Would the leadership of the company want to see you accomplish $3.5 million in revenues, or lift the company to the $5 million level? I think the latter would be preferable. My point is that no one wants only what we call “the next level,” at least for long. We all want to know how to break into a new league. That’s what fascinates us, that’s where the big rewards are, and that’s also what may allude us most because it requires a completely different way of thinking, a different frame of mind, and certainly, different behavior.

    Being in the business of helping people become more successful and rise to excellence in their businesses, I find few people are able to get out of the nice, neat box they’ve put themselves in. Without knowing it, they’ve carried around for many years (sometimes a lifetime) limiting beliefs that prevent them from believing in their ability to break into a new league, reach for it, and live and work in it. When matters are discussed and issues are weighed, they’re done in the context of the lower level – not another league. Opportunities are not seen, action is not taken, and things inevitably stay the same. Even traveling a step or two up, which is what most people do, means you’re still on the same staircase – and not a floor up.

    The life-changing and business-changing outcomes do not result from “next-level” thinking. They come from expanding our vision well beyond what’s routine and having enough confidence in our vision to feel our way to the steps, the people, and the processes that ultimately enable us to rise to a new league. Along the way, we do move to another level, but that’s hardly enough for the truly ambitious. Getting past the complacency of “the next level” is one of the things you’ll need to train yourself to do to break into a new league. And recognizing that you’re complacent might be half the battle.

    Seeing the world and our work from a different angle is often the most challenging. Taking steps in a new direction is usually scary as we deal with unfamiliar territory and the unknown. That’s why so many companies seek fresh blood when they have major growth challenges.  The difference between the way a company founder and her early team might approach growing a business, and the point of view of a new CEO can be as different as night and day.

    I say you should challenge yourself to get into a new league – and not just to reach, “the next level.” How about imagining yourself not just in a new seat, but a new building and neighborhood with new opportunities, options, and rewards? How about looking beyond the current staircase you’re on, and imagining what the penthouse feels like, and working to get up there?

    In the hospitality industry where I have many clients, there are some people who stay in hotels all of their lives but never consider booking one of the larger, more elegant rooms with its many amenities. The don’t think they can afford it, and many not even think they deserve it. Well, like the many extraordinary hotels out there, there’s another league for you to enjoy in your career and business that is many levels beyond what you’ve ever considered before. And guess what? It’s time.


    To Manage Effectively Today, Start from The Beginning

    Many business leaders have confessed to having considerable challenges managing the complexity of today’s business environment. Managing has always been a major task – dealing with the big picture, handling the demands of meeting deadlines, keeping costs under control, working through the emotions and performance issues of those on your team – but somehow, today’s workplace has added more stress factors for the average manager to consider. That’s why I believe you must think through the needs of the business from ground zero today, considering all aspects of managing the business.

    One factor I’ve noticed in my own business is the 24/7 nature of it all. I’ve always been willing to work a little later, catch up on the weekend, and call clients and colleagues during “off hours,” (much to their dismay) but today, this has become the norm. Smartphones make it so easy to follow up at any time, our level of expectation has risen to want to see the document now, hear what happened at the meeting now, and see the latest version of the presentation, now. If you’re in client services you must discipline yourself to not immediately show the client the latest progress, just because you can. If you take advantage of every capability today, you run the risk of conditioning your client to expect immediate and ongoing updates – and experiencing personal burnout.

    Then, there’s people management. Today there’s a workforce with different habits, outlook and experience than their management might have. This is particularly the case with digital natives – those who have only known a world of digital technology. What is voicemail? Do I use full sentences when I send a client or staff member a text message? What do I wear to the presentation? These are all questions that many managers are confronted with today as lifestyles and habits are weighted toward the casual. When it comes to these matters, you might have to spell things out more than you might otherwise think.

    I often ask my consulting clients to make no assumptions when it comes to their management staff and their direct reports and thoroughly train their team on 14 key focus areas. These are:

    1-Managing (An Overview)


    3-Goal Setting




    7-People Skills





    12-Creating Harmony


    14-Getting Results

    Take my word for it. When it come to managing, take no shortcuts today. Start from the beginning if you truly want to develop a premier business.

    (My Effective Management Series is a great tool to build your management team. Find out more here: