Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Replacing Myself

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Our guest this week is Lisa Taylor, President and Founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. See below…..

I am the founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. We talk about trends, demographics and experiential programs that spark innovation and competitive advantage. We work with individuals seeking meaning and satisfaction and the companies looking to employ top talent.

Recently, the business hit a milestone.  It had grown to the point that I needed a dedicated operations manager to oversee the quality of services we deliver and find ways for us to innovate as we grow.

It took several attempts to find the right person. I was, after all, replacing myself for many of the role’s responsibilities.

First, I explored using a virtual assistant and delegating tasks but quickly recognized that I wanted an employee who would be committed to the future and health of the business. Next, I hired a recent graduate thinking I would provide training and they would bring energy, new ideas and curiosity.  Six weeks in, the graduate hire asked for 8 weeks off to travel on a pre-arranged, non-refundable, non-negotiable trip.

Then I found Cayla.

Cayla had experience and came highly recommended. In our initial discussion I was explaining the administrative tasks that would be a part of this job. She responded by saying that she’d do the tasks for the first two months on the job and in the third we would automate whatever we could so that no one had to spend time on tasks that didn’t drive our goals. I swooned.

Next we discussed the more strategic elements of the job. I proudly shared the company history and plans for the next year. She started talking about plans for 2-5 years out and noticed areas where I had been very conservative. “Why don’t we charge for that service? We are the only company in the country that has that expertise. Why give it away?” I started to explain how the company had started and why we initially provided the service as a way for people to see just how different we are. And then I stopped.

I was overcome by a feeling that usually only surfaces when I am talking about my kids.

I am a mother to two boys. When I meet someone new and they ask how old the kids are, I proudly say “7 and 10.”  Most of the time, the response I get is “oh, little guys.” I am always surprised by this reaction. Little guys are the babies we held. Little guys are the toddlers we chased after. Little guys are the boys as they started school and learned to read.  My kids take the TTC, they have a cell phone, they know who Obama is. They are not little to me. Yet, in the scheme of things they are little with many more stages of growth ahead of them. That is what the stranger sees.

And the same is true of how new employees view start-up businesses.

It occurred to me that Cayla and I had radically different views of the company. To me, Challenge Factory is currently the largest and most successful it has ever been. It will continue to grow from here but I am proud of what it has already accomplished.

To Cayla, Challenge Factory is the smallest it will ever be. It is exciting enough to entice her to come and dedicate herself to the company – but not for what it is now. For what, together, we can build it into.

Replacing yourself is not easy. But as parents and business owners we know that our kids and our businesses will only rise to the level of expectation that we set for them.

More about Lisa:
Lisa worked as a strategy and technical consultant at Deloitte and Hewlett Packard. In her last role at Hewlett Packard, Lisa managed a workforce of over 12 consultants and uncovered a nascent trend linking working life expectation, longevity and employee engagement. Stepping away from corporate life, she created Challenge Factory.
Challenge Factory combines the latest demographic-based research with innovative career management practice. It provides highly experiential and practical programs for individuals and organizations. Challenge Factory and its clients have been profiled in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Brandon Sun, HR Reporter, Ottawa Sun, Herald Chronicle, 24Hrs and Canadian Press.
Lisa holds an MB in Strategic Management from the Schulich School of Business, York University. She currently sits on several not-for-profit boards and is an active community volunteer and public speaker.
Lisa has addressed over 400 organizations in Canada, the U.S. and abroad and has a regular careers column in the Toronto Star.

If you would like to contact Lisa, email her at lisa@challengefactory.ca or at 416-721-8494.

Share

When Is A Problem Really A Problem?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Sara Lear is the latest addition to our team of consultants. In the first of many blog posts, she shares a unique tip she learned while working with a client.

Determining how to prioritize business issues that must be addressed, can be very difficult.

I am currently working with a client and in an effort to help him allocate more of his time to work ON the business, I am currently working IN his business.

On a daily basis, I collect all the issues that arise from customers, vendors, etc. and at the end of each day we review them.

There is never a shortage of issues to address, but this client has an unusual approach.

The first time we sat down together I had organized the list several different ways. One showed issues by project, one by department and one was chronological. I thought that no matter how he wanted to see the information, I had all the bases covered.

Well you can imagine my surprise when we sat down at the end of the first day and the first thing he said to me was “Is it something money can’t fix?”

I did not know what to say – and for those who know me, this was a first!

The business owners I work with all face many challenges on a daily basis. As a strategy for prioritizing these issues, the ones involving money can often be set aside quickly.

Tackling the ones money can’t fix are the challenges that stretch and excite us.

As a project manager I have found several tools that are very effective to use on a daily basis applicable to personal management and client/corporate management. Keeping a detailed ‘issues log’ as well as ‘lessons learned’ database will help to track and identify the recurring themes that need to be addressed in your approach/operations.

So the next time you feel like the problems are mounting, just ask yourself “Is this one that money can fix?”

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

5 Tips for Fast Growth in a Slow Economy

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Inc. magazine is packed full of good advice for business owners of all sizes.

An example of the great articles I’ve read in it over the last 10 years is Fast Growth In A Slow Economy from their latest (April) issue.

It focuses on 5 strategies which have transformed the business of the owners who adopted them.

Here they are.

1.    Drop your worst customers

Inc.’s emphasis is on customers who don’t pay on time, but the definition can be broadened.

We include customers who want non-standard products or services; always want a deal on price; leave it to the last minute to order; or are abusive to employees. Some bad customers do all of these

I was interviewed recently by Diane Buckner, of the Dragon’s Den, for her post, Customer from Hell? Don’t be afraid to fire them.  She comes to the same conclusion.

Get rid of the customers who drain your lifeblood.

2.    Get help from your customers

Email or on-line surveys are inexpensive ways to get insight into customers’ thinking and challenges.

In the Inc. article, Barrett Distribution, reported a 30% response rate to their survey. The fact that 56 questions could be completed in 12 minutes helped.

Barrett surveyed half of their customers immediately and half 6 months later. That allowed for quick reaction to the feedback. One opportunity they uncovered meant business with one customer quadrupled – providing, by itself, a decent ROI on the survey.

3.    Act locally, not globally

Pursuing companies with a national brand can appear to be very lucrative. However, it’s easy to find yourself competing hard just to get their attention.

The experience of Door Number 3, an ad agency, can be typical. They pursued national accounts and won fewer and fewer of them. When they examined their business, their best accounts were located in their own area.

It’s easier to build relationships with decision makers in smaller, local accounts. Travel costs are less and you can spend more time with them, getting to really understand their business.

Finally, local companies talk amongst themselves and so there’s more word of mouth promotion and referrals from them.

4.    Treat everyone as a potential employee

Virtual organizations offer many advantages (we run one at ProfitPATH). So I can relate to the consulting company in the Inc. article. The owner, Tom Koulopoulos, needed access to specialist skills to complete bids on RFPs his company had a high odds of winning.

For a number of reasons, he couldn’t add the people he needed as full-time employees. So he forged partnerships with them, exchanging a share of the contract value if they won the RFP.

Since Koulopoulos’ company was the vendor he had to find people whose values were similar to his. The key to his success his use of his network, in many cases people he had known for many years.

5.    Get small to get big (think niche)

The owner of Medisys Health Communications’ breakthrough came when she read Blue Ocean Strategy

She realized that they had to stop trying to be all things to all people, competing with everyone else doing the same, find a niche that no one inhabited – and then own it.

So they focused on something they’d been giving away free for years and ended up collaborating with her previous competitors – doing something none of them can do.

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Strategy, Productive Paranoia and Boiling Frogs

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

A friend of mine, who is a social media strategist, talked in a recent blog post about what happens when companies hang on to a strategy for too long.

Jeremy Miller believes that they either:

  • Never live up to their potential (even if they make a profit and do good work).
  • Or they stagnate and decline.

The reason they hang on to their strategy, he says, is because it’s hard for owners and their teams to accept that they need to change when things – top and bottom line – are going well.

I know that’s true from my experience over the last 10 years at ProfitPATH – and also from  my corporate days, where I experienced it first-hand.

Jeremy mentions that, in the book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries argues that a business must constantly evaluate whether to persevere with their strategy or “pivot” to a new one.

But how do you know when to pivot or change a strategy?

I think the need to change (and therefore the timing) is driven by events. I gave some examples of them in early February 3 Times You May Need To Change Your Strategy

But, if it’s driven by events, is waiting for them to happen leaving things too late? Yes, possibly – maybe even probably.

So how do you anticipate events before they occur?

Ries’ theme of constant evaluation is echoed by Jim Collins, in his book Great By Choice. Collins’ research shows that one of the things the leaders of successful businesses do is instill a “productive paranoia” in their culture. They and their teams are always thinking about and discussing things that could change in their world – and how those changes would affect them.

This type of paranoia is productive because it gives successful companies the opportunity to consider their response – as opposed to reaction – to the events beyond their direct control.

But to be productively paranoid the owner and her team must refuse to succumb to 2 temptations.

The first is to simply be paranoid – in the conventional sense. Owners who do that are in a constant state of (over) reaction and are likely to change strategies too soon and too often.

Remember, there’s a world of difference between a response and a reaction.

The second is the temptation to become complacent. It is hard enough to accept the need for change when a company is successful. And the longer the success continues the more likely it will produce feelings of security, even invincibility and, that least attractive and most destructive of human characteristics – arrogance.

So what’s an owner to do?

No owner sets out to become complacent – that’s not the issue.

The issue is that it can be hard to recognize a problem when you’re right in the middle of it. In fact they even have a name for that.

It’s called the boiling frog syndrome.

So when someone tries to tell you something about your business which you think is wrong, misinformed, or even ridiculous, take a moment to do the “Man (or Woman)  from Mars” test before you dismiss them out of hand.

Don’t know what the “Man (or Woman) from Mars” test is? Call me and I’ll be happy to tell you for the price of a cup of coffee.

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Cannonballs And Email – Or Anything Else For That Matter…..

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Cannonballs and email – really, what could they possibly have in common?

A couple of things – I found myself involved with both last week and one of them applies to the other. You see “cannonballs” is a metaphor and email, for this purpose, is a marketing tool.

Other marketing tools are direct mail, adverts (on-line or traditional), newsletters and any other printed or electronic promotional piece.

And cannonballs apply to them too – and other things……

Cannonballs first

I’m reading Jim Collins book “Great By Choice”. In it, as you may know, he contrasts pairs of companies in 7 different industries. His goal is to find the reason(s) why one of the pair did incredibly well in uncertainty, even chaos, while the other company very definitely did not.

Collins and his team wanted to determine the role of innovation in the relative performance of the companies.

They found that, contrary to their expectations, the better companies did not always “out-innovate” their less successful competitors. In fact, the opposite was often true.

What the better companies did do was to combine innovation with discipline. Collins introduced the cannonball metaphor to illustrate the point.

Imagine a company has to fight a battle (with its competitors). It has both bullets and cannonballs (products/services) but a limited supply of gunpowder (resources) to fire them with.

Should the company fine tune range and direction to the target? If so how?

Bullets are the obvious choice because they use least gunpowder. Get the range and bearing right and then use cannonballs to put a dent in the competitor.

Now email………

Last week I was talking to a client who was considering lead generation ideas.

He had a proposal recommending email campaigns and some other things. Our client said he didn’t have much faith in these campaigns because the results had always been poor in the past.

I asked him which of the variables – the layout and content of the piece, the quality of his list or both, timing of the drop – had been to blame. He didn’t really know.

We hear this all the time.

So I suggested he get 2 or 3 alternative layouts for a campaign. Each should have different graphics and copy than the others.

I told him to take them to 6 to 12 customers who he trusted to tell him what they thought. Then show the alternatives, one at a time, and ask the customer what the piece told him. Saying nothing, he should record the comments word for word.

This would give him quality control for the most difficult variable – layout and copy. When he heard that a layout was communicating the message he wanted, he could email or mail it to everyone.

There are variations on this approach. He could mail different layouts to larger parts of his list (say 10 % of the list for each layout) and compare the responses. He could also email or mail the pieces at different times on different days.

But whichever variation he chose, he would be firing bullets. Only when he found the layout which got the response he wanted should he fire a cannonball – emailing it to everyone.

Finally, anything else………..

The metaphor has wide application.

Why launch a new product before testing it with a portion of the market first? Why move into a new region, Province or country before firing bullets at part of it first?

And yes, why adopt a change in strategy before testing that first too.

This approach may take a little longer but it will dramatically reduce the risks and conserve valuable resources.

Any thoughts?

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like Why Strategy Is Still Worth A Business Owner’s Time

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

The People Pipeline

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

JSRKZVA7BSGK

Of all the interesting and valuable things Tony Hsieh says about managing people in his book “Delivering Happiness” for me, one concept stood out.

That was “The Pipeline”.

Hsieh makes the point that, unlike many companies, Zappos doesn’t believe that (individual) people are an asset. They think of a pipeline of people with varying levels of skill and experience as the asset.

Here’s why I really like this approach.

It Solves 3 Fundamental Problems

First, traditional thinking is that people are a company’s greatest asset. But if an employee leaves, the company has lost an asset.

The second problem (which we see all the time) occurs as a company grows, an employee who was considered valuable, or even outstanding, at an earlier stage of the company’s life begins to disappoint and become a liability. It’s usually a result of the employee not developing or upgrading his or her skills as the company grows.

The third problem occurs when the company deals with the other 2 problems by bringing in someone from outside the company.  The new person may bring the right skills and have great experience – but they don’t fit the company culture.

The “People Pipeline” Solution

  • Bring almost all new hires in via entry level positions. This offers two benefits.
    • If they aren’t a fit for any reason the company faces the least expense and disruption by making another quick change.
    • Entry level positions will likely attract people with limited experience. The new employees are more likely to be open minded about adopting the company’s processes – and culture.
  • Provide a comprehensive training program and mentors for the new hires. Then offer a series of courses, either internally or at local colleges, which cover the skills the employees will need in order to progress in the company.
  • Make the route upwards quite clear.
    • Set expectations around when employees can expect to achieve each level.
    • Make completion of certain courses a pre-requisite for promotion.
    • It helps if a company is growing at the rate Zappos did (and is doing) – that generates lots of new positions in the org. chart. However, positions further up the organization will become available as people move on (natural attrition). At this point a business owner could argue that all of the investment in that person has been lost. That’s possibly true – but every company loses some employees (e.g. they move to another city, make a change in career).
    • By investing in training and offering a career path a company may keep those who would have drifted away for much longer.
  • With the pipeline there is always someone ready to fill the shoes of the people who do leave, who have been training for the opportunity and who know the culture.

A Couple of Points to Consider

When Hsieh arrived at Zappos he was an experienced, successful business manager. And he brought one or two key management team members from his previous company – most notably his CFP – with him. So at least some members of the management team knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and that they could work together.

On the other hand, one of the original Zappos team, Fred, joined as a buyer and rose to become a senior executive.

The pipeline can only be used when a company reaches an appropriate size. A start-up doesn’t have the resources.

If you enjoyed this post you’ll like 10 Strategy Tips from Tony Hsieh.

Click here and automatically receive our latest blog posts

Top Ten in 2011…….

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The votes (page views) have been counted, the results can be announced!

Our top 10 blog posts in 2011 were:

  1. The 2 Truths Every Business Owner Has To Face which I wrote in early May was the winner by a significant margin. It talks about why many  owners ignore the second truth.
  2. 4 Things Every Business Owner Must Think About deals with the 6 reasons companies are sold and the 2 factors which are common to all of them.
  3. 10 Tips To Improve Your Public Speaking Body Language written by Mark Bowden of TruthPlane, is the first of our guest posts to make the list.
  4. Why You Need A Consultant With Hands-On Experience is one of several posts we wrote during the year about how to work with consultants.
  5. Bad Strategy – How To Spot It discusses the 4 hallmarks of bad strategy identified by Richard Rumelt in his book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters”.
  6. Leading Business Plan Execution is the second guest post to make the list. Brian Brennan a Chartered Accountant and Chair for TEC Canada wrote this piece for us.
  7. Strategy, Culture and Leadership deals with how these 3 things affect the development and the execution of strategy.
  8. Social Media And Strategic Planning Make Interesting Bedfellows Marie Wiese of Marketing Co-Pilot demonstrates how social media can be used to strengthen the strategic planning process.
  9. 3 Surprising Strategies (Or Not) comments on 3 surprising things that emerged from the responses to our survey of 600 people in our database.
  10. 4 Laws Of Effective Implementation is one of the first pieces I ever wrote. If a weak plan strongly executed really is better than a strong plan weakly executed here are 4 “laws” that will make sure you execute effectively.

If you haven’t seen them before, here’s your opportunity!

More Heat Less Chill

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Although the weather’s changed a bit since my last post – Don’t Let The Summer Heat Cause A Winter Chill – we’re still in vacation season and it’s still hot.

But we’re also well into the third quarter of 2011 and heading for the annual business planning; budgeting; whatever you call it, process for 2012.

And I believe that process is the engine that drives your growth. So in the last post I talked about 2 things business owners should be thinking about now. Here are another 3……

1. The Opinion Trap.

The planning process has to be completed by a specific date. Often that’s set to enable Finance to use the output/numbers to produce projected financials for the upcoming year(s) while still completing their regular work. 

However vacations, short work weeks and long Holiday weekends and a more laid back, summer mind set can result in the focus being on doing the things that are urgent rather than the things that are important. 

So, even although the deadline is well known, the process is often started later than it need be. And that puts the value of the output at risk.

Why – because the logical thinking required to make the process effective declines in direct proportion to the increasing proximity of the deadline. It becomes more and more about getting it done on time and less and less about getting it done right.

When that happens the basis on which key assumptions are made is less likely to be well collected and considered data and more likely to be someone’s opinion. And by definition an opinion is a subjective belief, often the result of emotion.

2. Who’s Baby Is It Anyway?

The owner must take ownership of, and remain the champion of, the planning process. If the perception that anyone else is driving it is allowed to take hold, the motivation for doing it thoroughly will suffer.

If, for example, the accounting department are seen to be driving the process it will be seen only as a number crunching exercise. And people will treat it simply as something to be completed as quickly as possible and get off their desk.

The only way to get everyone involved, engaged and buying in is if the owner demonstrates the importance of the process by leading it personally.

3. Keep It Together.

I talked to an executive recently who was busy completing annual expense budgets. This at a time when many of the people who had the detailed knowledge required to complete the schedules thoroughly were on vacation.

They told me that budgeting had been separated from the creative, thinking part of the planning process so that the Finance department could meet their internal deadlines.

But I’ve also seen other variations of this in the past. A favourite with companies which have enjoyed a leadership position in their industry for some years, is to start by producing the numbers – revenue, bottom line etc. – and then develop action plans and programs to fit them.

That’s as bad as a company that completes the creative, thinking part of the process then becomes distracted by tactical issues, allowing a lengthy period of time to pass before completing the numbers. Valuable momentum is lost and the participants are left to wonder if anything is being done with their input.

4. Last Words.

It’s not enough just to have a planning process and to complete it.

Like any other engine, if you want to get maximum output from it the parts must work smoothly, without friction, and you must use a high energy, premium power source/fuel.

Otherwise it’s unlikely to carry you anywhere near to where you want to go.

Features and Benefits Don’t Build Brands

Friday, July 15th, 2011

This is the second guest post from Jeremy Miller, President of Sticky Branding, a brand consultancy specializing in digital marketing and social media. Jeremy speaks, consults and writes on how companies build remarkable brands online.

Companies love to compare their products to the competition, and justify why they’re better. They’ve got the latest doohickey, fandangled, whatyamacallit feature, which of course makes them better than the competition.

RIM has embroiled itself in this classic feature-benefit positioning game with their Playbook tablet. The key selling features listed in their ads:

1. It plays Flash. “It runs flash. So unlike some tablets we can mention you get the best of the internet,  not just part of it.”
2. It’s smaller. “Small enough to take anywhere, powerful enough to take you everywhere.”
3. It runs multiple apps simultaneously. “It runs all this at the same time. Why can’t every tablet do that?”

RIM backs up these impressive features with its latest tagline, “Amateur Hour is Over. The world’s first professional-grade tablet.” Compared to what? The iPad? If that’s the case, this is a pretty precarious branding and positioning strategy.

Positioning on features and benefits is risky for 3 reasons:

1. Features are susceptible to innovation.

RIM’s positioning strategy is a classic one. It’s applied in almost every industry: automotive, consumer electronics, computers, building materials, you name it. Companies are constantly trying to up the ante, and offer their customers new features or choices.

The challenge is features can be displaced by innovation. Apple has been the 800 pound gorilla in the consumer electronics arena. The iPod made the Walkman and Discman obsolete. Why carry around a CD with 12 to 15 songs when you can carry 1,000 songs in your pocket?

Then there’s the iPhone, which sparked the app revolution for mobile devices. And now the iPad is changing the way we interact with the internet and consume digital content.

Apple is an unusual competitor. In less than a decade Apple it has created 3 new consumer electronic categories. They didn’t try to compete on features and benefits with existing options in the market. Instead they created devices and platforms that serve untapped markets.

RIM is entering Apple’s playing field, and employing a classic features and benefits positioning strategy is shortsighted.

2. Features aren’t always the deciding factor

People are wise to the feature-benefits positioning game. Eventually they get tired of the comparisons, and choose what they’re comfortable with.

The Playbook does some things really well, and the iPad does other things really well. At the end of the day, both Apple and RIM have released incredible pieces of technology. Really you can’t go wrong with either, and buyers know that.

3. People value intangible factors.

The Playbook may have impressive features and capabilities, but it’s not an iPad.

That may not be fair, but that’s how many people think. The iPad is a status symbol. The iPad has more apps. The iPad comes from Apple. The iPad looks cooler. Everyone else has an iPad, and I want one too.

Perceived value, perceived leadership and perceived quality all come together in the customers’ minds to influence their purchases. It may not be logical and may not even be accurate, but those perceived values are as important to customers as the actual features.

Brand beyond the features

Features and benefits come and go, but brands last much longer. People buy brands first, and features second.

Instead of pushing the features and benefits of your products and services, look to the intangible aspects of your brand. Why does your company exist? What does it value? What is it thriving to accomplish? What kind of relationship does it have with its customers?  These are the intangibles to build upon that can lead to a clearly differentiated brand.

You can reach Jeremy at Jeremy.Miller@StickyBranding.com or 416.479.4403, Ext. 22.

Execution – Flexibility In Practice

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

There’s been a lot written about the need to be flexible now that uncertainty plays such a part in the new normal. And, like so much else, it sounds like good, profound advice. Especially when you’re giving it, which, as strategy consultants, is something we have been doing for some of our business owner clients.

But, every now and then, life hands us a very practical opportunity to practice what we preach.

For example, for a number of reasons, I have to go to the U.K. at Christmas. For the first 5 or 6 years I did this my travel plans went smoothly. Last year I had a few weather related challenges coming back to Canada. Still, it was manageable.

But this year I have already been handed an opportunity to develop my flexibility – and I haven’t left yet!

I was supposed to fly out last Sunday night but, that morning, my flight was cancelled. Not a “biggie”, I reworked my strategy, developed an action plan and began to implement it.

I had to react quickly because there were lots of competitors also trying to grab the available seats. I had to alter my route, but I saw that as an opportunity to avoid Heathrow and the ongoing threat of bad weather there. And I may have saved a few dollars on the cost of the original fare. Bonus!

As in business, there were “knock-on” effects. But I rearranged the rental car and called in additional resources – my relatives. Their offers of help were gratefully accepted.

Now, it looks as if we (my wife is also scheduled to leave tomorrow night) are going to continue to have opportunities to work on our flexibility. Will our connecting flights be operating and will the roads on the final leg of our journey be passible? Then, in 10 days’ time, we have to get back home.

However like, I suspect, some of our business owner clients I find the mechanical aspects of being flexible – e.g. changing schedules or the start or completion dates of action plans or modifying budgets or forecasts – relatively easy.

But developing and executing an action plan to deal with the intangible aspects is more difficult. Chief amongst the intangibles in the case of my example is the impact on the person we are going to see – my Mother. She’s 82 years old, lives alone and her health is not as good as it used to be.

Reassuring (while not promising) her that everything will be fine and that we will be there for Christmas requires different “skills” than re-booking a flight or a rental car. Recent changes in her health have created new threats because she lives alone and mean that, while we’re there, we have to find new opportunities to provide support for her.

I find that responding to the requirements of being flexible is much harder when I’m managing people and their needs and expectations. I suspect that some of our clients find that too.

So perhaps being reminded that there’s more than one dimension to flexibility is the real lesson of the last few days. It’s an essential one because people are much more important than anything else.

And so my first New Year’s resolution is to bear that in mind when I work with our clients in 2011.

Post History