Right Seat, Wrong Chicken?

Right Seat, Wrong Chicken?

As my husband and I started talking about getting chickens, we created our vision: free range chickens that laid lots of eggs.  

As you know, the first round of chickens were free range but they stopped laying eggs in our coop.  Our second round has been confined to our run and the quantity of eggs has slowly been increasing.  But, the free range part isn’t going so well.  We have two issues, first our dog JacX who believes her job is to catch the chickens and bring them to my husband (Mike is working on addressing this issue with the dog trainer).  

But, our other issue is Oden, the rooster. The reason we have a rooster is twofold: first, roosters will protect the hens, and second, having a rooster allows me to continue the bloodline without purchasing additional chicks.

Oden is very good at protecting his hens. But about a month ago, my husband went to put them in for the night, and Oden wasn’t quite ready to turn in. My husband gave him a gentle nudge toward the coop, which Oden didn’t appreciate. His response was to flog my husband. While my husband didn’t dwell on the incident, Oden apparently isn’t over it yet. He now likes to strut up to me or my husband to challenge us. Fortunately, Oden has learned the word “No.” But it has definitely reduced the fun in caring for the chickens. In fact, I can’t be in the coop when he is walking around, as he will come up and try to challenge me (he hasn’t tried to flog me yet). 

Based on our Chicken Values, I’ve been wondering if we have a Right Seat, Wrong Chicken problem.

The phrase “Right Person, Right Seat” comes from Jim Collins’ 2001 bestseller Good to Great. The “Right Person” is someone who shares your organization’s core values. The “Right Seat” means that person is using the skills and talents they were born with. When implementing EOS, I teach my clients that in order to achieve their vision, they need 100% of the individuals in their organization to be “Right People, Right Seat.” If you don’t have that, the organization’s performance will suffer. Allow me to explain. 

Let’s say your situation is Right Person, Wrong Seat. You have someone who shares your company’s core values. They fit your culture like a glove, but they aren’t doing a job that is in line with their skills and abilities. Typically, management makes excuses for the person by saying things like, ”He has been here since the beginning,” or “I really want her to finish her career with us.” So, you either tolerate underperformance or begin to create workarounds to ensure the organization still meets its goals while keeping that person in his/her seat. That results in inefficiency, chaos and reduced performance. 

The other challenge you may face is Wrong Person, Right Seat. This is someone who is really good at the job but doesn’t demonstrate the organization’s core values. I’ve witnessed this with a really strong salesperson who will win at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the company’s core values. It might also happen when you have a very knowledgeable technical person in a key role, or possessing a unique understanding of the product or service being provided. Organizations often feel they can’t possibly let that person go, because they will lose their competitive edge, and if that employee were then hired by a competitor, the company’s secrets could be shared. But I have seen first-hand that letting a Wrong Person go actually liberates other individuals in the organization to step up and fill the void. And oftentimes, after the person is gone, the leadership team will start to hear stories about how this person was eroding the culture and the company’s reputation.

If you sense that someone in your organization is either the wrong person in the right seat, or the right person in the wrong seat, I challenge you to do something about it. Achieving your vision requires that you address those issues within the organization. If you aren’t sure what to do or how to approach this issue, I can help you get clarity on how best to address it for the greater good of your organization.

Oh, and did I mention that one of my 18 week old chickens is a rooster…

Chicken Pranks

Chicken Pranks

So, all is quiet in the chicken coop. Oden, the rooster, has assumed control of the chickens. The baby chicks are about 16 weeks old and gaining confidence (and hopefully will be laying eggs soon), and the other hens are laying eggs and running away from Oden. We seem to have settled into a good routine – meal worms and scraps in the morning, lots of free time in the run and laying an occasional egg. Oh, so this is the life of a chicken mama.  
Or so I thought. Then I opened the lid over the nesting boxes and discovered all the straw had been removed from the boxes and spread all over the coop. Do you have any idea how long it takes a chicken to pull straw out of a nesting box? Did they take one piece at a time or fill their beaks with straw? Was it one chicken or multiple chickens partaking in this prank? These are questions that I could not answer. So I filled up the nesting boxes with more straw and closed the lid. The next day – the same thing happened again. While I don’t know the reason for their behavior, I do know that hens are typically most comfortable laying eggs in a nesting box that is full of straw.
If I hadn’t opened the nesting box, I wouldn’t have known there was a problem with their bedding. And guess what: the same can be said about people. We may think everything is OK when looking at the surface, but what happens when you look deeper?
So many people are struggling to navigate the challenges of COVID. Everything has changed, from social interactions to tensions at home to remote learning to financial stresses. And if we just look at someone on the surface, it might seem that all is OK. But, I assure you, that isn’t always the case. 
I’m going to assume that you truly care about the people around you, whether they are family, friends, employees, customers or suppliers. And you want to help them successfully navigate through these difficult times. That means you’ll need to create the space and opportunity to find out how people are really doing. I believe this can only be done by allowing yourself to be open and honest with the people you encounter. 
While we know that a hen needs a soft place to lay her egg, a human also needs a soft place to unburden their stress.  And during this pandemic, sometimes we are the hen and sometimes we are the straw.  If you need some help navigating the challenges of life, regaining traction as the economy restarts or refocusing your leadership team on your new vision, reach out to me.  I can provide a perspective and the tools to get you out of the coop and back into the run! 

Survival Tips from the Pandemic

Survival Tips from the Pandemic

A Business Owner’s Perspective

Running a business in 2020 presented challenges that many business owners and executives had never experienced. The pandemic impacted different industries differently. Some, like outdoor recreation, had record years that may never be repeated, while others, including commercial aerospace, have been devastated. As 2021 began, I interviewed the leaders of numerous businesses, some of which benefited from the pandemic and some of which were negatively impacted, about what steps they took in 2020 and what they plan for 2021 in order to survive this pandemic. Three common themes emerged from these interviews: diversification, internal efficiencies and leveraging the customer base.

Nearly every business leader I spoke to recognized that serving a wider range of industries or a wider customer base is key to surviving any economic downturn. Companies in oil and gas, automotive or aerospace have experienced significant economic downturns throughout this century. The difference is that this pandemic affected nearly every industry. The challenge this time was to either pivot to an area that wasn’t impacted, or expand their offerings within their primary industry in order to keep their employees working. Here are some approaches that have worked for successful companies:

  • Expand reach among existing customers. One concept that proved true during the pandemic is that customers aren’t thinking about suppliers. They are focused on their business and the best way to survive or thrive during the pandemic. However, the pandemic also created an opportunity to connect at a deeper level with customers, suppliers and others. Taking the time to reach out to those people in our professional network allowed businesses to develop a deeper relationship with those individuals. 
  • Calls like this also provide an opportunity to educate your customers on other products and services that you or your company might offer. Alex Goldfayn, author of Selling Boldly, urges his clients to pick up the phone and call their customers. Customers aren’t thinking about what products and services you provide. By calling and talking with them, you can offer to help them during this time. If that approach feels uncomfortable, think about the last time someone called you and offered to help. And how did you feel? Was that relationship weakened or strengthened? I personally know that this approach increased business for one of my clients by 15% in less than six months.
  • Expand offerings within the same industry. Regardless of what industry your business currently serves, there are always opportunities to provide additional products or services. During the shutdown, many of my clients spent their precious R&D efforts developing new products. In some cases, it was an idea that had been percolating in someone’s head, or an adjustment to meet a perceived need due to the new economic reality. The challenge with this approach is that once these new offerings are developed, you must take action to educate your customers about them. By reaching out to them as discussed above, you are proactively educating your customers on new ways you can help them.
  • Pivot to another industry. The pandemic required businesses in some industries to completely pivot to another industry. Nate Lindquist, owner of Pinnacle Metal Works, said he realized that as the aerospace industry was grounded (pun intended), he needed to do something to keep his employees employed. He made the decision to pivot to the home gym industry, which was booming during the lockdown. While he plans to maintain his foothold in aerospace, establishing a business in a new industry has allowed him to gain new experience and knowledge, including how to grow his online presence and how to adjust his manufacturing plant to meet the differing needs of his new customer base.

Internal Efficiencies
Over the past four years, the US economy has remained strong, which has resulted in growth across nearly every industry. As the saying goes, profit covers sin. So as the economy ground to a halt, most companies began to look at ways to cut costs. Beyond reducing headcount or across-the-board pay cuts, other strategies included cross-training employees, streamlining flow through the plant and bringing outsourced services in-house. Outsourcing included pre-fabrication in the shop versus in the field, while outside processing could include machining or nondestructive testing. In some companies, that meant acquisition of companies providing complementary or down-stream services. 

As companies began to rearrange their processes to allow for social distancing, equipment and processes could be redesigned to redeploy employees while reducing waste. For some manufacturing processes, that included having one employee operate multiple pieces of equipment or perform multiple operations in series. A number of companies also reduced WIP (work in process) and moved toward “Just In Time” manufacturing. 

Understanding that most businesses will go through these cycles, many companies took this time to strengthen their processes. Russ Gallagher, president of Bescast, an aerospace company, tasked his managers to begin strengthening processes and ensuring that when demand picked back up, they were able to handle increased throughput, smaller batches and more complex parts. These downturns are an opportunity to try new technology, develop creative approaches to resolve nagging issues and explore new products in order to reduce costs or find a competitive edge. 

Construction companies found that utilizing their resources and equipment in the shop reduced waste and costs in the field. To do that, they needed additional engineering to ensure the design accurately fit the footprint and met the needs of the customer. Most firms found they could redeploy existing resources in order to achieve this initiative. This meant faster completion of projects, resulting in higher profits and greater capacity.

Focus on the Customer
The pandemic allowed the opportunity to deepen relationships with customers and suppliers. During periods of stress, it is often difficult to look beyond our immediate situation and focus on others, but this outward focus allowed many companies to grow and thrive during the pandemic. Eric Doering, founder of Vulcan DC, had to find other ways to generate sales when home shows, the company’s primary method for reaching new customers, were cancelled. He began calling former customers and asking for referrals, which turned out to be a great way to find new projects while strengthening relationship with his customer base.
Hank Jamerson, VP of Sales and Marketing at Kyanite Mining Company, tasked his team with reaching out to all his customers and checking in on how they were doing. He realized that during the past several years, he hadn’t been proactively calling his customers, but instead was only responding to incoming inquiries. As he and his team started calling his customers, he realized how much he’d missed talking with them and how much they had missed hearing from him.

Even more importantly, he realized that taking the time to truly connect with others was one of the bright spots in an otherwise difficult time.

As we move into 2021 and start the long journey towards a life that mirrors pre-pandemic times, I challenge you to take time to reflect on how you can enhance your relationships with those around you. While business may be the reason these relationships began, I do believe this pandemic provides an opportunity for us to deepen those relationships and carry them forward into a prosperous future. 

If you would need some assistance on the best approach to enhance your customer relations, send me an email. I’d be happy to share best practices and get you on your way.

P.S. I promise my chicken articles will be back next week.  I just needed a little time to grieve the loss of Caramel Corn.  


Be Your Best During Difficult Conversations

Be Your Best During Difficult Conversations

Over the past week, most of the country experienced cold, winter weather. In the Pacific Northwest, we had a storm that impacted the entire region. At our home, it snowed for nearly two days straight, with a snow total of more than 12 inches. The dogs really enjoyed the snow, but most of the wildlife struggled to find food. We had hummingbird wars, and lots of wildlife visiting our bird feeders, including numerous varieties of bird, a pregnant deer with two youngsters and a few raccoons. I can say that the chickens unequivocally did not enjoy the weather. Even though these chickens are Icelandic, I’d venture to say that it has been a few generations since their ancestors visited their motherland. One of the chickens started down the ramp, slid a little and backed right back up into the coop. None of the chickens left the coop from Friday morning through Tuesday morning. 
As you can imagine, we were also concerned about Caramel Corn, our long-lost chicken who left us for our neighbor’s horse pasture. Caramel Corn spends her days with the horses and goats, and in the evening she usually sleeps in the trees and brush along the driveway. During the snowstorm, the horses were in the barn, the goats were in their pen, and there were no chicken tracks on our driveway or the pasture. On Monday, we went down the driveway to find that Caramel Corn had been killed by a predator (thankfully that predator was not named JacX). 
Caramel Corn had managed to survive on her own since July. But, unfortunately, the snow kept her from being able to fly or run to safety. The storm changed her environment and removed her natural defenses. I think there are a lot of people who have also been struggling through their own storm, otherwise known as the pandemic. They were strong and resilient, but the pandemic changed everything. 
As we start to see a faint light signaling the end of the pandemic, we can’t lose sight of the fact that people are struggling, and businesses are fighting to survive. The key to emerging from this pandemic as healthy individuals is for all of us to be willing to support each other, even as tensions are high. As I share with my clients, I believe all issues, outside of politics, can be resolved with direct, honest communication.
Engaging in these difficult conversations can be uncomfortable and, at times, scary. But the benefits of engaging far outweigh the risks. Ignoring the tension will only lead to additional stress, anger and reduced performance. 
Every situation is different, but here are some tips that can help you be your best during these difficult conversations:

  • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I’m sure this tip isn’t something you haven’t heard before, but this pandemic has made me realize that we are all dealing with different stresses in different areas of our lives. Viewing the situation from a different perspective provides insight into the motivation behind someone’s behavior, which hopefully results in compassion.
  • Listen to understand. It is so hard when tensions are rising to really listen to what the other person is saying. So, take a deep breath, close your mouth and listen. 
  • Ask questions. As I coach my clients, during difficult conversations, or when a conversation takes a turn that you aren’t expecting, the best way to recover is to ask questions. This gives the emotional side of your brain a chance to calm down and the intellectual side of the brain time to respond appropriately. 
  • Don’t ignore it. Most of us would like to avoid these conversations altogether. However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the best time to eat a frog is in the morning because it isn’t going to taste any better if you wait. Eat the Frog. Have the conversation. 

If you still aren’t sure how to address an issue, please reach out to me, and together we can help you emerge from those necessary but difficult conversations with a deeper relationship and increased confidence for the future. 
I think that is what Caramel Corn would have wanted.

My Costly Mistake Of Not Keeping Score

My Costly Mistake Of Not Keeping Score

The week before Christmas I filled my chicken coop with hens and one rooster.  I felt pretty good about myself as I was finally on my way to achieving my goal of having free-range eggs on a daily basis. 
The following afternoon, I went up to visit the chickens and noticed that one hen was outside the run.  Seeing the rest of the chickens in the run, I made the assumption that our long lost “Caramel Corn” (from the previous batch of hens) had been called in by our rooster. 
Both my husband and I were very excited.  And so was our bird dog, JacX. 
JacX began chasing the chicken as we discussed how to get her into the coop.  Our attention wasn’t on the dog or the chicken, as we knew Caramel Corn could fly.  Well, apparently, she couldn’t fly as well as we thought. JacX cornered her and killed her. 
I was so distraught.  How could this chicken live on her own for the past five months and then get caught by JacX in just a few minutes?  I even think JacX felt bad as well.  It was a sad ending to the “A Chicken’s Way Home” movie.
The next morning, I got the call from my husband: Caramel Corn was up in the front field with our neighbor’s horses and goats.  Yes, Caramel Corn lives again! 
So, where had this other chicken come from?  I couldn’t say for sure, but I assumed it was a neighbor’s chicken.  Mostly, I was happy that Caramel Corn was going to live another day.
All was fine until I went up a few days later to clean the coop.  To my dismay, I realized that I was missing a hen.  I searched high and low, but she was gone.
And now I knew where that free-range hen came from.  I still don’t know how she got out, but she did.  So, yes, I am down one chicken.  And, again, I’m feeling really bad about my chicken mama skills.
Not keeping score really hurt me. If I had been keeping count, I would have known that I had lost a chicken and could have taken steps to address the problem before the instincts of our hunting dog took over.
Not keeping track of the leading indicators in your business can also have drastic consequences.  How many times could you have avoided a problem in your business if you had taken steps earlier? That includes things such as declines in revenue, safety issues or losing key personnel who are not feeling appreciated or fulfilled.  
The reality is that no matter what plan you set for your business, issues will come up.  Small issues left unattended can grow into large issues.  If you aren’t tracking your business’s key metrics, or leading indicators, you could find yourself reacting too late, after an issue has impacted business performance.  
However, by reviewing your leading indicators on a weekly basis, you will be able to see data and trends that let you know you need to take action.  
Don’t have a scorecard?  No problem: follow these three steps to develop one.Identify key metrics for each of your departmentsMonitor those metrics every week during your leadership team meetingsTake steps once you see a metric trending off trackTo make this even easier, you can request a copy of the scorecard I created that will automatically create graphs for your key metrics. 

Now is the time to get yourself and your team aligned on the key metrics that will ensure you launch 2021 on the right foot because I don’t want you to experience anything like the sad ending of “A Chicken’s Way Home.” 

P.S. Starting your year with a clear vision and plan to achieve that vision will improve your chances of achieve your goals by 300%.  A scorecard makes sure you are staying on track.

Are you ready to accelerate into 2021?

This is the time of the year when people start thinking about next year.  And many of us are really looking forward to putting 2020 in the rearview mirror.  I’d venture to say that those of you who did set goals had to either really scramble to achieve those goals, or shoved them aside due to the complete upheaval of our business and personal lives.
That being said, 2021 is a new year.  We have already lived with the pandemic and really, how much worse can 2021 be (I know, I should never ask that question)? But we should at least be in a better position to set and achieve our 2021 goals. 

Here are the benefits I’ve experienced when I’ve set intentional goals:

  1. Increased clarity
  2. Healthier relationships
  3. More contentment
  4. More focus

Last year, I wrote a blog that outlined the goal-setting process I follow when setting my annual goals.  What I like the most about this process is that it is focused on what I want more of in life.  I remember the first time I followed this process I was coming off a very intense year, and I realized I wanted more balance and more fun.  So, I set my goals with those two things in the forefront of my mind.  This whole process allowed me to take a wholistic look at my life, and as a result, I was able to achieve my goals while maintaining balance and having fun. 
If you need some help setting goals centered around what you want more of in life, I’d like to invite you to a free webinar on Friday, December 18th at 10 AM Pacific where I’ll walk through the process I use to set my goals.  If you can’t make it, don’t worry – I’ll have a recording of the webinar for you to review when you are ready to set your goals.  
As you consider 2021, I think through what you want more of.  For me, it would be more time with family, more travel and of course, a steady stream of eggs from my free-range chickens! 

P.S. A copy of this webinar can be found here.

Chicken Pranks

Another Attempt at Raising Chickens

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I received one hen and four 5-week-old chicks.  We put them in the run (which has been secured to keep the chickens from flying out), and the chicks immediately escaped the run through the chain link fence.  As we ran around the field trying to get the chicks back, I really considered giving up on this whole chicken mama thing.  But with some patience, we were able to get all the chicks and the hen back in the coop.  Then I added chicken wire to the chain link fencing.  

It has been fun to actually see chickens living in my coop.

As my husband pointed out, this (1 day) is the longest any chicken has resided in my coop or run.  Once they get settled in, we will add some more laying chickens and a rooster for safekeeping.  According to my chicken coach, the one remaining chicken who hangs out with my neighbor’s horses and goats may return once she hears the cackle of the rooster. 
I’ve really tried not to repeat any of the mistakes I made last time, so that I can finally enjoy having chickens and fresh eggs.  And it has been helpful to review the advice from readers of my earlier posts, read more chicken books and seek out additional knowledge.  While success with the chickens isn’t life or death for me, it is something that I would really like to accomplish.
Similarly, I know that many business owners would like to be successful in the ever-changing world of COVID —except in this case, it is life or death.  Businesses are struggling to keep their employees safe and protect the customers while continuing to operate and be profitable.  Many companies, especially manufacturers, have had to start and stop production when they have had COVID cases within the workforce.  One local company has had to stop shipping product for at least one day every two weeks for the past two months.  That is a lot of lost revenue and increased labor costs.  
In order to stay on top of all the changes, businesses need to anticipate issues and take proactive steps in order to avoid shutdowns, production delays and customer shortages.  But it is hard to be proactive when you feel you can’t do anything but react.  If the leadership team is clear on the direction of the organization and the path to get there, though, they can prioritize the issues and take steps to resolve them. 
If you feel that your organization has become more reactive and less proactive, you can take steps now to regain control. It may feel like you don’t have time, but if you don’t do something different, the reactive cycle will continue to repeat.    
The great news is that I can introduce you to some tools that can help you put yourself back in the driver’s seat.  Let’s talk today and I’ll help you regain control over your business.

The Big Chicken Experiment

The Big Chicken Experiment

I saw my former chicken yesterday. She was hanging out with my neighbor’s goats and horses. Seeing her made me reminisce about the times when she would come lay eggs in my beautiful chicken coop. Oh, those were the good ol’ days. 
So, those of you who are wondering – it’s true, I have no chickens left. Of the five I started out with, only one is still alive and she has left me for greener pastures. I haven’t found a single egg in any of my nesting boxes since late July. I have no idea what happened, but I went from getting 11 eggs in one week to getting none.

Where did I go wrong?

A question I’ve asked myself frequently over the past five months. I think what happened is that I was so caught up in building my coop that I failed to consider some important details that would have made things much easier and more fruitful. 
One of those important details is that chickens can fly, and if you don’t want them to leave, you have to either clip their wings or make it so they can’t fly the coop.
I guess you could say that my first try at being a chicken mama was a failure. 
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and have decided I need a chicken coach. Think about it: athletes have coaches, business owners have coaches, why shouldn’t an aspiring chicken mama have a coach?
Most people are afraid to admit that they need an outside perspective in order to achieve their goals. While many will eventually reach their goals, working with a coach helps achieve those goals faster.
That is one of the things I enjoy about working with my clients. I help them reach their goals faster. Whether your goal is to grow your business, work less, make more money, or have more fun at work – I can help you. 
You can’t coach yourself from within. Or, in my case, you can’t coach yourself from inside the chicken coop. 
If you are trying to reach your business or personal goals, I’d love to help you reach them faster and maybe have a little fun along the way. 
I’m ready to achieve my chicken goals. Are you ready to achieve your goals? 
If so, let’s find some time to connect. 

Are Your Employees Free Range?

Are Your Employees Free Range?

For the past few weeks, l’ve been writing about employee engagement. Although employee engagement has been on the rise for the past few years, 35% engagement isn’t a number that we should consider success. My last article described a company that judged productivity in terms of availability. While that may make sense for some companies, I’d urge you to find a more compelling measurement for yours.

Not surprisingly, this conversation brought me back to my chickens. Yes, I still have chickens — but I’m not sure how many. As you may recall, after spending the month of April building a beautiful coop for them, we inherited five chickens from a friend. On day one, I learned that chickens can fly much better than I realized. They flew the coop.

They are now free to range wherever they want and will occasionally come back to the coop for food or to lay an egg. I have learned that the Easter egg hunt was born out of the need to find where the hens had chosen to lay their eggs, outside of the established nesting box or boxes.

So, what do chickens and eggs have to do with employee engagement? Read on, my fellow readers.

The purpose of my having chickens is for eggs. Of course, it would be easier for me if I made them stay in their enclosure all day. I’d be able to harvest all my eggs and ensure the hens were safe from predators. However, the eggs wouldn’t be as healthy as when the chickens are free-range.

So there’s a trade-off. If I want them to be free-range, I have to give up control over them. I worry about their safety, and I don’t get to collect all the eggs they are laying. But they forage for berries, bugs, and who knows what else, which produces healthier eggs for me to enjoy.

Giving up control over how our employees do their work can be uncomfortable. But it also gives them the freedom to explore and grow, and they may produce a higher-quality product.

I was listening to a podcast that referenced “The Impact Filter” (Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach). This filter provides managers with a tool that outlines an idea, project, or goal and provides the structure to be clear on the purpose, importance, and outcomes before delegating the work to another person. If both parties are clear on those items, the manager is able to delegate the project, and the employee can find the best way to get it done. But if the manager hasn’t done the work up front, he may feel the need to micromanage, or Monday-morning quarterback, neither of which will result in an empowered employee.

So, I challenge you to be clear on what you want your employees to accomplish and let them be free to create the desired outcome. This will lead to engaged and empowered employees.

If you find yourself unsure of how to empower your employees, I can teach you a proven process that will allow you to get the most out of your business.