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GetWorkDone - Creatis

Call Me Difficult - But Why Do I Have To Pick Two?

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Over the course of my 30-year career in marketing, I've had the privilege (and pain) of managing many large marketing, CRM, customer database and web projects working with some very talented IT and Project Management professionals. One thing I often heard was, "Well, Kathy, you can have it cheap, you can have it fast, or you can have it good. Which two do you want?"

How To Be A Good Leader during the Inevitable Downpours

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When it rains - it pours. True for mother nature and true in business. As a leader, it's easy to get so focused on the 'tasks' involved in working through a packed To Do list - that we may stop making time for our people. Sound familiar? If so - here is what I've learned over the years about how to keep people first and still get work done.

Leading a smaller company like Creatis with 130 employees is much different than the executive marketing roles I had at Carlson Companies and Caribou Coffee. I work much more often 'in' the business than 'on' the business with a need to manage WAY more details. The urgent routinely pushes out the important - and my choice to prioritize my coaching and mentoring quickly falls by the wayside. And while my ability to 'get things done' during these task-laden rainstorms is admirable, it has significant impact on how others perceive what's important to our business. It needs to be People First - Tasks Second, but it's not always easy to work that way.

During my 12 years at Carlson, I had the privilege of participating in a year-long coaching program called Perception Choices with Carol Keers and Tom Mungavan from Change Masters Incorporated (www.changemasters.com). That was more than 20 years ago (hard to believe - yes I was 15 at the time), and yet I still use many of the coaching tips I learned from them. If you are struggling with how others perceive you as a leader - I highly recommend you check them out. Or - pick up a copy of their book entitled "Seeing Yourself As Other Do" as it is a great read.

 Here are some great things I learned from Carol, Tom and others over the years:

  1. Lean In - Literally and Figuratively.  Body language speaks WAY louder than words ever can, so as a leader we need to physically demonstrate our engagement during one to one conversations or during meetings. Lean toward the person, make eye contact, respond with verbal cues that show you are listening and understanding what is being shared. 

  2. Your Face Says It All.  So apparently I become very stern-looking with a closed down face and narrow lips when I am listening intently - which creates the perception that I was not open to someone else's ideas. Who knew? This was actually the oppositive of what I intend - this is when I am fully engaged and genuinely trying to understand the other person's POV. Know what your face is saying as it isn't always what you are trying to communicate.

  3. Multi-Tasking is No Go. I pride myself on my ability to get a lot done all at the same time. It's a talent, right?  Wrong! Giving someone your full attention is a must. Put down the cell phone. Turn away from the computer. Don't take any calls when one of your team is asking for your help. It's not only the respectful thing to do - it's also the productive thing to do as your full attention can solve the issue being presented so much faster.

  4. OPPOV - The tool I have pulled out most often is the OPPOV tool - looking at things from the Other Person's Point of View. This tool helps you look at the driving forces of someone else's behavior based on what he/she is rewarded for, motivated by and fearful of. Taking a quick 5 minutes to think about this first has really helped me increase my effectiveness in engaging with others. Amazing how thinking about something based on how someone else might view it can really help your own perspective.

It's National Boy Scout Day - How Prepared Are You?

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So today is National Boy Scout Day. How cool. Unfortunately, I was never a Boy Scout because in my day they didn't let girls join the troop. Which always bugged me because even back then girls could certainly hunt, camp and survive in the woods. Oh well, at least we had our cookies.

Right Person + Right Position = Best Utilization

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One, if not the first, piece of advice when starting an investment portfolio is to diversify. It's a way to help reduce the volatility of your portfolio over time, and essentially balance the risk and reward for your investments. A simple concept that puts the investor in a good position. However, many marketers aren't taking the same approach with their staffing and resourcing models causing them to deplete their budgets too fast, put their current employees at risk and simply not get as much done in their organization. Let me explain.

Spring Cleaning. How to Clear Away The Clutter so Good Ideas Rise to the Top.

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I love Spring Cleaning. For some reason as the snow melts and the temps rise, I just get a wave of new energy to clear away the clutter. Could be because at home it makes it easier to find the golf clubs that I stashed away last fall. But whatever the reason, it's healthy to clear away the clutter to find the most important things to keep and the less important stuff you can throw away.

One the of things I like most about EOS (the Entrepreneurial Operating System - www.eosworldwide.com) that we use to run our business is that EOS helps to clear away the clutter so you can focus on what's important. It let's great ideas rise to the top and provides an efficient and effective way to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of achieving your goals

I find the Five Leadership Abilities they define to be particularly compelling. When you and/or your team have hit a ceiling and are feeling stuck, overwhelmed or frustrated, it is a good time as the leader to STOP and clear away the clutter. This lies with your ability to deploy the five disciplines of good leadership which are:

  1. Your ability to simplify.The bigger you are, typically the more complex and chaotic your operation becomes. But I found that even in smaller organizations like Creatis it is easy to make things harder than needed. To clear away the clutter you should simplify messages, processes, structure and communications. Ask yourself, "Is it as simple as possible?"

  2. Your ability to delegate and elevate. I find myself way too often working "IN" our business versus working "ON" our business where I can have the most impact. EOS has a very helpful tool around delegating the clutter that is eating up your capacity so you can elevate your focus on moving the company forward. It's simply putting where you are spending your time into four quadrants: "Love/Great", "Like/Good", "Don't Like/Good" and "Don't Like/Not Good". If you are spending most of your time in the last two, you probably need to clear away some clutter.

  3. Your ability to predict.Running a small, dynamic company like Creatis has pushed my focus to be much closer into a one year and even a 90 day horizon. As leaders, our ability to see what's coming for the long-term matters but being able to do so in the short-term could matter even more. Invest time so you can see what's coming - as your ability to provide clear direction, focus and prioritization for your team is what matters most.

  4. Your ability to systemize. I was lucky enough to be trained in Six Sigma while at Carlson, but today I find all that great process mapping can actually create more clutter for my team. Systemize simply means to document, simplify and get everyone following the top core processes that make up your differentiating way of doing business. Per EOS, you have to systemize the predictable so that you can humanize the exceptional.

  5. Your ability to structure. Both inside and outside of EOS, I have found that really nothing else matters until you have the Right People in the Right Seats.  EOS has a great toolkit around developing a clear Accountabilty Chart to determine the right structure for your organization. Start with the seats - then add great people. Because really talented and exceptional people in a seat that allows them to do what they do best means they are constantly clearing away their own clutter which enables them to be excellent.

Why "Just Do As I Say" Doesn't Seem To Work Anymore (and Probably Never Did)

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I never had the chance to have kids. So I never went through the stage where my two-year old son questioned everything by asking 'why' over and over (and over) - or the teenage years when my daughter did EXACTLY the opposite of what I asked her to do. I never got a chance to use the "Just do it because I say so" or "I'm the mom, that's why" lines - a skill which quite honestly may have come in handy during my business career. But employees aren't children of course, and using the "just do as I say" directive is not very effective leadership. Even if at times one gets awfully frustrated when things aren't getting done.


Whether baby boomer or millennial or gen z, it strikes me that no one likes to be told what to do. Or at least the highly productive business professionals I've worked with don't. We all want to feel empowered. We all want to control our own destiny. We all want to have expectations of us clearly stated so we can do great work. I doubt that any of us show up to work with a goal of NOT meeting our boss' expectations of what is needed from us that day.

So why is it, then, that people don't always do what they say they are going to do? 

Good question.

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I was talking recently with my friend and colleague, Kurt Theriault, who is the President of Allied Executives, about how to effectively run our business and he shared this model with me. As an aside - Allied Executives is a great resource for business leaders and sponsors the CEO Peer group that I participate in monthly. Check 'em out at www.alliedexecutives.com.

We were discussing why seemingly talented and engaged business people sometimes just aren't cutting it. Even with crystal clear direction on what is expected of them, they can not or will not do what is needed. He shared the following reasons why this might be happening:

  1. Don't Know Was Supposed To -This is the scenario where an employee has the right attitude and skills, but is working from unclear direction. He/she probably has not had great engagement from a boss who has clearly stated what is expected of them. The fix here is easy - review his/her seat, seek understanding of what they believe the deliverables of that seat are, and then clarify expectations and help prioritize actions. 
  2. Doesn't Know How - Similar to the scenario above, this situation has a fairly easy solve. Most of us aren't keen to admit we don't know how to do something, and often times this can get in our way of doing a job well. The solve here is to fully engage with your employee and be honest. Let him/her know that something isn't getting done and ask them why this is happening - ask them what is getting in their way of doing that particular task or achieving an expected outcome. If you've created a caring and trusting work environment where it is OK to admit a gap in skills or knowledge - this will come out and together you can focus on the right training or coaching needed to fill this gap.
  3. Don't Have Capacity- Gaps in capacity comes in many forms and some are solvable (and some not). Again the solve is open and honest communication with employees about where they are getting stuck or what is getting in their way. If they say they don't have 'time' - them help them re-prioritize their focus. If it is a work/life balance issue, that will require a little more conversation. Bottom line - as the leader you need to probe for understanding of what the real issue is - and coach 'em up or move 'em out depending on what you hear.
  4. Don't Want To or Don't Like To - The solve here is easy, this person has to go away. There is very little we can do as leaders to MAKE someone do something they fundamental don't wish to do. Don't waste your energy and cut your losses.

Win or Lose - I'm Thankful to Be In the Game

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I will always be a loyal Minnesotan. I complain about our long, cold winters but absolutely love crisp, cold January mornings that take my breath away. I would prefer a longer golf season, but am always a bit relieved when it is time to put the clubs away and get back into the gym. I roll my eyes at the passive/aggressive nature of Minnesota Nice, but puff my chest out a bit when colleagues from other states tout our strong work ethic and comment that we are just so darn NICE up here. And my disappointment runs deep like all hard-core Minnesotans when once again our beloved Vikings miss a chance to play in the Super Bowl, but my heart still bleeds purple.

As another year begins, I like to pause and be thankful that Creatis calls Minnesota home and for our amazing clients like UnitedHealth Group, Medtronic, Deluxe, Portico, AmeriPrise, Marketplace Events and Starkey Hearing Technologies (our newest engagement), along with others. At Creatis, we are celebrating our 20th year in business throughout 2018, and strong client relationships like these have made it possible for us to remain a thriving small business here in Minnesota and employ more than 100 marketing, creative and communciation professionals each year. 

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