Are You All-In or Just All Talk?
Posted on Monday, Oct 12, 2015 by Michael Canic

Today, customers and employees have little patience for organizations that trumpet what they stand for but fail to live up to it. And they’re shifting to organizations that do. 

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia actively promotes their concern for the environment. So do they walk they talk? Ten years ago, founder Yvon Chouinard gave the company 18 months to stop using industrial-grown cotton, which was the most environmentally damaging fiber they used. Even though 25% of their $250 million in revenues came from products made from industrial-grown cotton! And they did it.

More recently, they’ve made a commitment to “Traceable Down” to ensure the highest standard of animal welfare in the industry. They trace their down from the parent farms to the apparel factories to verify that none comes from geese that have been force-fed or live-plucked, or is blended with down from sources they can’t trace.

Is it surprising that customers and employees are flocking to Patagonia? (Pun absolutely intended!)

What does your organization stand for? And are you all-in or just all talk?

Your thoughts?


What a Fashion Icon Can Teach You About Business
Posted on Monday, Oct 5, 2015 by Michael Canic

Karl Lagerfeld is an icon in the world of fashion design. Creative director at Chanel (for over 30 years), Fendi (for 50 years!), as well as his own fashion house, Lagerfeld is as relevant today as he was decades ago.

How? How is it that Lagerfeld has stayed at the cutting edge, especially in an industry as fickle as fashion?

First, despite his countless designs, innovations and accolades, he is utterly unsentimental about the past. He completely embraces the now and is forward-looking to the extreme. As a writer in the Financial Times put it, “For Lagerfeld, nostalgia is creative poison.”

In his own words, “I’m always into the next step. I’m interested in what’s going on, not what has happened. I never look at the archives. I hate archives!”

Second, his work is his passion and he relentlessly immerses himself in it. Lagerfeld recently staged two couture shows in Paris – one for Chanel, one for Fendi – in a single week. In the world of fashion that is a Herculean task. Clearly this is someone who is not just riding out the wave.

Are you constantly looking forward? Is your work your passion? Are you immersed in it? And as a result: Will you remain relevant?

Your thoughts?


Click To Empathize? Maybe We Should Empathize With Facebook
Posted on Monday, Sep 28, 2015 by MIchael Canic

Two weeks ago I wrote about how one of my clients has embraced empathy as core to their business strategy. How seeing through customers’ eyes, thinking in their minds, and feeling with their hearts will allow them to interact, connect and satisfy needs at a much deeper level.

So of course the visionaries at Facebook have just announced a breathtakingly efficient way to accomplish these same things.

Click a button.

That’s right. If you should experience a death in the family, all I have to do for you to be deeply touched by how I share in your suffering is click. If only the Buddha had had such a tool.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains:

"What people really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment."

Yes, not every moment is a good moment.

And the reactions?

Susan Pinker in The Globe and Mail writes:

“Clicking an icon on Facebook to express empathy has to be the laziest, most inadequate reaction to other people’s misfortune. You could call and listen to what’s wrong. Better still, invite them over for a meal. If they’re not up to going out, you could bring over their favourite foods, send flowers or a handwritten note. An e-mail offering sympathy might be appreciated if you’re far away and the message is heartfelt. In it you could ask how you can help.”

Roman Krznaric in The Guardian weighs in:

“Clicking a button as an act of empathy represents the worst kind of digital slacktivism. It substitutes genuine action in the real world for a momentary online act that might salve the conscience but does little else.”

Gail Rosenblum of The Minneapolis Star Tribune adds:

“Facebook already has a wonderful, and underutilized, empathy button. It’s called “log out,” and it’s very easy to use. You simply click on it, and you immediately return to the real world, which is full of people who likely aren’t always enjoying good moments.”

Maybe I should be celebrating this. If companies adopt this click-to-empathize approach, then I’m betting the farm that my client’s commitment to empathy sets them apart in a big way.

Your thoughts?


The Talent Management Practice We Too-Often Avoid
Posted on Monday, Sep 21, 2015 by Michael Canic

Growing companies recognize the importance of onboarding – providing new employees with the knowledge, skills, expectations and support to become effective contributors. Yet they often avoid an equally important talent management practice.


I have a client company that is poised for strong growth over the next few years. They now understand that if they don’t hold their people constructively accountable – ultimately removing those who can’t or won’t meet expectations – then they aren’t likely to realize that growth.

How do you hold people constructively accountable? By giving them candid feedback about their performance and conduct. By conveying clear expectations, and the “why” behind those expectations. By providing coaching and encouragement. By letting them know there are consequences if expectations don’t get met. And finally, once all reasonable steps have been taken, by removing the employee from the organization.

What is the consequence of managers not holding people accountable? They destroy their credibility, demotivate their people, and undermine their organization.

Onboard people to help them meet expectations. And off-board those who don’t.

Your thoughts?


A Surprising Yet Effective Business Strategy
Posted on Monday, Sep 14, 2015 by Michael Canic

If you’re a retail business that sells what a bunch of other companies sell, how do you stand out? How do you make yourself desirably different?

One of our clients provides material solutions for builders, contractors and vineyard operators. A family-owned business for 60 years, they are clear about what resonates with both customers and employees, and what helps them effectively compete.

Empathy. Seeing through others’ eyes, thinking in their minds, and feeling with their hearts. Much more than just pointing the customer to where a product is, it means understanding what the customer is working on, why they are working on it, what challenges they face, and what they are thinking and feeling about it all. That’s empathy.

Sure, some customers in some situations just want a quick grab-and-go. That’s okay. Empathy also means recognizing this and not holding the customer up by engaging in unwanted conversation. It’s all about understanding what the customer wants and needs.

If you truly empathize – with your customers, employees, colleagues, suppliers, or any stakeholder – then you can connect and satisfy needs at a much deeper level.

Empathy. Not your typical business strategy. But an effective one.

Your thoughts?


Why You Should Unashamedly Trash Your Company “Values”
Posted on Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015 by Michael Canic

There are at least three reasons you might want to trash / tear-up / blow-up your company “values.” Ready?

1) Without looking at any reference material … what are your company values?

If you don’t know, aren’t sure, or struggle to answer, then we’ve identified the first reason. If they are truly values that are core to your company, shouldn’t you and your leadership team – in fact, every employee – know them at the drop of a hat?

2) Do you know how well your company is living the values?

If you don’t have a way of knowing whether the values are being lived or are simply words on a piece of paper, then are they really that important? And how could you possibly manage them?

3) Do you test for values in your selection process?

If it’s hit-or-miss whether new employees share the values of the company, then can you really call them company values? Or should they more accurately be called company “hopes and prayers”?

So, how did you do?

If you know your company values, monitor them, manage them and select for them, then, yes, you can keep them. However, if you don’t … it’s time to open up the trash bin.

Your thoughts?


The Biggest Threat to Successful Organizations
Posted on Monday, Aug 31, 2015 by Michael Canic

While sports analogies may be overused in business, there is one analogy I am constantly reminded of that applies perfectly: the biggest threat to successful teams is also the biggest threat to successful organizations.


Championship-winning coaches say it is their greatest fear. Coaches of teams that sustain a high level of success say it only gets harder to avoid. Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who has led his teams to six straight playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory, was asked recently about sticking with a winning formula.

“You’re ignorant, foolish, dumb as a rock to think that. If you don’t continue to try to get better, improve yourself, you’re going to get your ass kicked.

Exactly as true in business as it is in sports. If you get intoxicated by success, if you succumb to complacency, you’re going to get your ass kicked.

Your thoughts?


Three Reasons Why You Want to Fail Fast
Posted on Monday, Aug 24, 2015 by Michael Canic

You’ve experienced failure. And you’ll experience more failure. That’s okay, as long as you learn from your experience and don’t repeat what led to failure.

So what’s the best way to fail? Fast. Failing fast beats failing slow for three reasons:

1) It Accelerates Adaptation – Organizations that learn and adapt are organizations that endure. The faster you learn what works, what doesn’t, and why, the faster you can adapt.

2) It Costs Less – When you fail fast you don’t keep throwing good money after bad. Your total cost is less. Consider your initial cost an investment in your organization’s education.

3) It’s Easier to Move On – The longer you play a losing hand the more invested you are psychologically, and the more difficult it is to fold. Failing fast avoids this trap.

Failures can be constructive. Just make sure you get the most out of them and put the least into them. Fail fast.

Your thoughts?


Six Interview Questions They'll Never Expect
Posted on Monday, Aug 17, 2015 by Michael Canic
Job interviews can be like theater. Each person has a role, prepares for it, and takes the "stage" to play it. Interviewees have become especially skilled actors, deftly anticipating questions, and providing answers that make them appear - take your pick - confident / humble / successful / experienced / driven / creative / friendly, in order to position themselves as the ideal candidate.

Shake it up! Here are six interview questions they won't anticipate. They won't tell you whether the person is the ideal candidate but they will help you evaluate the real person.

1) Describe the culture of a company in which you would be a poor fit.
2) What's the biggest misconception people have about you?
3) What early influence shaped who you have become as a person?
4) What is a little known fact that people would be surprised to learn about you?
5) How have you intentionally improved yourself over the past year?
6) Why shouldn't I hire you?

Interviews are just one part of a rigorous selection process. Make sure you're interviewing the real candidate, not just someone playing the role of the ideal candidate.

Your thoughts?

Responsible Leadership: It’s Easy to Lead if …
Posted on Monday, Aug 10, 2015 by Michael Canic

(This is the 4th and final blog in a series about John Race, mountain guide and co-owner of Northwest Mountain School, who recently led two of my nephews and me up Mt. Baker in Washington State.)

John, like every mountain guide, is a leader. Yet unlike other leaders, in his job he leads clients. And John believes it’s easy to lead if you have …

1)     The Right Passion: He had a love for climbing well before he started his business
2)     The Right Background: Over a number of years he earned his International Mountain Guide certification, attesting to his skills, knowledge and experience
3)     The Right Mindset: His number one focus is always on his clients and their needs
4)     The Right People: Although it’s challenging to pre-qualify clients, it’s much easier to lead those who are positive and capable than those who aren’t

You’re a leader. Do you have a passion for what you do? Do you have the right background? How about your mindset? And are you leading the right people?

When all is said and done, how easy is it for you to lead?

Your thoughts?



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