Don’t Simply Ask, “Does the Person Fit?”
Posted on Monday, Aug 18, 2014 by Michael Canic

Yes, you want people with the right talent and right fit. Yet what if someone isn’t exactly right?

One thing that separates great coaches from ordinary coaches is how they answer this question. Pete Carroll, head coach of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, doesn’t simply look at a player and ask, “Does he fit?” Instead he asks, “What does he have that’s special?”

In other words, what talents, traits and/or skills does the person have that can help us win? Maybe the player doesn’t cleanly fit an established position or role. Yet is there a legitimate position or role the player can fill that can support the organization’s success?

The answer may point to something or it may point to nothing. But asking the question expands your thinking and ensures you don’t overlook what you shouldn’t.

Your thoughts?


How to Be a Fallen Angel
Posted on Monday, Aug 11, 2014 by Michael Canic

It’s not an uncommon story. Up-and-coming business has a better concept / model / product, connects with customers, develops a following, expands rapidly, and becomes the shining star in its field.

Then loses its way.

It’s happened to many and it happened to Starbucks. How? To Howard Schulz, who masterminded Starbucks meteoric growth, stepped down as CEO in 2000, and then returned in 2008 to reinvigorate the company, the answer is clear.

Success covers up mistakes. Profits hide many sins. A sense of entitlement starts to develop. And companies get conservative. They “play defense instead of trying to score.”

Schulz’s approach since returning to Starbucks has been to counter conservatism by placing big bets on big opportunities, investing in management training, turfing deadwood executives, streamlining operations, and refocusing the culture on Starbucks values. It’s worked.

Keep the edge. Cultivate a healthy dissatisfaction. Apply positive pressure.

Don’t be a fallen angel.

Your thoughts?


The Myth and Reality of Apple Design
Posted on Monday, Aug 4, 2014 by Michael Canic

To design compelling products and create a great user experience, Apple must have the best designers, right?

Not according to Mark Kawano, former user-experience evangelist and long-term designer with Apple. The secret lies in how the organization is “structured to appreciate and support design”, and the culture that results. Design is what people think about, focus on and value. Designers don’t have to fight to be heard. They aren’t at the low end of the status ladder. Design is core to the fabric of the company.

Sure, Apple has very good people. Like Google, they have a rigorous process to make sure they hire people who are a strong fit with the desired culture. But those people flourish because of the systemic support.

The reality of Apple is the reality of every successful business. It takes the right people with the right focus in the right environment. All three.

Your thoughts?


The Surprising Secret to a Great Adventure
Posted on Monday, Jul 28, 2014 by Michael Canic

The reason to go on an adventure is of course for the adventure. Yet when you're exploring, exerting, and taking in the wonder of everything, there is one other thing that can greatly amplify or diminish your experience.

The food.

We recently did the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. Starting from a high plain, up and over a mountain pass at 15,200 feet, then down into the jungle ... the pace at which we passed through distinct ecosystems was almost surreal. A great trek.

And fortunately we had Herbert. Our first clue that he was special came on night one when he quickly prepared a delicious four-course meal for us. I stared at the meat dish trying to determine what it ... good God, it's chicken cordon bleu!

On day two he somehow baked us a cake.  On day three he made us the most delectable mushroom ceviche framed with sweet potato spears. Not for a second did I pine for seafood ceviche!

And so it went. Great food reinvigorated the spirit of our team at each meal.

So here's a question: What simple things can you do to reinvigorate the spirit of your team? To bump morale? To enhance their experience?

Your thoughts?


Why Torre Dorada is the Best Boutique Hotel in Cusco
Posted on Monday, Jul 21, 2014 by Michael Canic

When traveling internationally Bernadine and I like to stay at boutique hotels. In prep for our recent trip to Machu Picchu, we perused TripAdvisor - our preferred source for travel info - for places to stay in Cusco.

We were struck by the reviews of Hotel Torre Dorada. The ratings were overwhelmingly 'excellent' with almost all the others 'very good'. People raved about the service. So we booked it.

And what a hotel. Martin, who greeted us at the airport and then checked us in, was a fountain of useful information. The rooms were beautifully and comfortably decorated. A selection of teas, and regularly refreshed hot water, was made available on each floor throughout the day. We anticipated the tasty omelets, fresh fruits, pastries and cheeses each morning. The breakfast staff could only be described as joyful. Monika, at the front desk, was exceptionally helpful. A shuttle service was available around-the-clock with 10 minutes notice.

Finally, we had the good fortune to meet Peggy, the engaging and spirited proprietor of Hotel Torre Dorada. I asked her how she was able to provide such consistently first-rate service.

"Hard work! I ask my staff to imagine how it would feel if they were in another country, another culture. How would they want to be treated? What would make them feel comforted? Well taken care of?"

Then she looked down at my tea cup, stopped, and said, "Oh no." She immediately went to make a phone call. Two minutes later a woman arrived, the head of housekeeping.

"Look, this cup has a small chip in the rim. We can't have that for our guests."

The woman noted it, nodded in approval, and went to replace my tea.

"As I was saying, hard work! Every detail has to be just right."

And that's why, if you should ever travel to Cusco, you must stay at the Hotel Torre Dorada.

Your thoughts?


How Ruthless Consistency Got Me to the Summit
Posted on Monday, Jul 14, 2014 by Michael Canic

After hours of steep glacier travel, then 600 feet of face climbing at angles up to 65-degrees, guide Marco and I summitted Yanapaccha at 17,900 feet in the Peruvian Andes.

I shouldn't have been surprised that the one thing Marco embodied on summit day was the one thing I've long said is the foundation of achievement and success: ruthless consistency.

But consistent at what? He didn't set a consistent pace. With the varying steepness of the glacier, the subtle changes to the angle of the face, and the thinning air as we gained elevation, a consistent pace would have been crushingly exhausting ... and guaranteed failure.

What he sustained, with almost unbelievable precision, was consistent effort. If the slope became a few degrees steeper he would slow just a fraction. If the angle of the face eased he would slightly extend his ice axe placements. And as we climbed higher and higher he recalibrated his pace to the thinning air.

It was hard, hard, hard, yet at the same time I felt my breathing and pounding heart were beautifully consistent.

All I had to do was imagine the voice of my Uncle Tony, who first introduced me to the mountains when I was just 10. "Take the next step. Take the next step."

Your thoughts?








Climbing a Mountain Takes More Than Just Climbing the Mountain
Posted on Monday, Jul 7, 2014 by Michael Canic

I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know it would be that hard. Still, with guide Marco I was able to summit Yanapaccha, a 17,900-foot peak in the Peruvian Andes.

Climbing a mountain takes more than just climbing the mountain. Pursuing any goal is an exercise in ruthless consistency. To maximize the probability of success, everything that can influence success needs to be aligned with success.

You need infrastructure. In our case we had a porter and cook who carried supplies, set up base camp, and kept us fed and supported.

You need the right gear. Technical equipment such as helmets, ropes, ice axes, ice screws, belay devices and crampons. Clothing to protect against cold, wind and snow, while allowing for agile movement.

You need intel. Marco had summitted the mountain several times previous and knew it well. So when we came upon a section at 17,000 feet where the crevasse danger was simply too great, he was able to quickly identify an alternate route (that required 600 feet of face climbing up to 65-degrees!).

Acclimatization is critical. I spent four nights at over 10,000 feet, had two acclimatization hikes to 15,000 feet, and slept two nights at 16,400 feet before the climb. And you need a base of physical training. On hikes, and using various machines, I had climbed over 140,000 feet in the six months leading up to the climb.

Finally, you need to prepare mentally. For fatigue, uncertainty and danger.

Climbing a mountain takes more than just showing up and climbing the mountain. It takes a ruthlessly consistent approach to planning, preparation and performance.

Your thoughts?


Are You Ruled by Rules?
Posted on Monday, Jun 30, 2014 by Michael Canic

We say they're crazy drivers. They ask, why are we so afraid of life?

I, for one, love how most of the world drives. In countries where lines on the road are merely a suggestion and speed limits a curiosity, people have adapted by cultivating two traits that are in short supply on North American roads: awareness and consideration.

For all the jostling, angling in and out, and honking of horns (not out of anger but simply to say, "I'm here"), the amorphous auto ecosystem in most countries just seems to work. It's as true in Tunis and Ho Chi Minh City and Istanbul as it is right here in Lima.

So what does this have to do with the right focus?

Do you think if we put less emphasis on rules designed to protect people from themselves and more on developing good judgment and individual responsibility, that people might actually make better decisions?

It reminds me of Rule #1 in the Nordstrom employee handbook: "Use your best judgment in all situations."

Your thoughts?








Do You Need More Employees or Capabilities?
Posted on Monday, Jun 23, 2014 by Michael Canic

Your organization is growing. To keep up with the demands of growth you need to grow your capabilities. But does that mean you need to hire more employees?

Don’t assume the answer is always “yes.” Capabilities come in many forms: full-time and part-time, permanent and temporary, employment and contract. The first question to ask is what additional capabilities does your organization need to win? Then, can you develop those capabilities internally at an acceptable time and cost?

If your answer is no, now you look externally. Does the need justify employment or is it more time-and-cost-effective to bring in a consultant or contract employee? If the need justifies employment is it an ongoing need or a temporary one? And does the need require a full-time commitment? Having the best set of capabilities usually involves some combination of these.

Evolve your mindset from we need more employees to we need the right capabilities.

Your thoughts?


Planning to Succeed is not the same as Planning Not to Fail
Posted on Monday, Jun 16, 2014 by Michael Canic

To be successful you must plan to succeed. But you must also plan not to fail.

Here’s the difference:

When planning organizational change you likely think of communicating purpose, allocating resources, and getting people trained. Those help you succeed.

Yet you could still fail. Why? Often people don’t change because of the uncertainty associated with it. Will they like the change? Will they be good at it? Will they be more secure or less secure? Will they have more status or less? Uncertainty makes people fearful and fear creates inhibition. That’s a big reason why people don’t change.

Planning not to fail means identifying the potential causes of failure and then taking preventative action and preparing to take corrective action. Involve your people. Before you start to implement change, ask them one question: How could this fail? Encourage them and recognize them for talking about what could cause your efforts to fail. Now you’re playing defense as well as offense.

Don’t just plan to succeed. Plan not to fail.

Your thoughts?



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Don’t Simply Ask, “Does the Person Fit?”
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