Highlighting Rich Hall

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Rich Hall has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2020. He currently serves as a Board member, Chair of the Membership Committee, and Facilitator of two CEO Roundtables (The Woodlands area and in partnership with Houston’s Better Business Bureau).

As the founder of Rich Hall Group, he works with small business owners and leaders to help them achieve their vision of success for themselves and their company. He has extensive experience with family-owned businesses looking to grow, transition to the next generation, or prepare for a successful exit.

In addition to his advisory and coaching services, Rich is the proud father of 3 boys, Jeremy, Mark, and Daniel, and husband to his beautiful wife, Jamie. They’re active members of The Woodlands Methodist Church, and parents to pandemic puppies, Bucky and Riley.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Hall, or Silver Fox Advisors, see our website at www.silverfox.org/directory

Perfecting the Art of Recruiting Key People

Are you prepared when recruiting key personnel into your organization? 

What is your process? 

Are you sourcing, identifying, and choosing the best candidates or simply choosing from the most available?

Should you be using a recruiting firm or are you sufficiently set up internally to handle this function effectively?  If you use a recruiting firm, make sure you are using one that is ROI focused and delivers prospects that can provide a return on your investment.

Here are seven steps to consider before starting your recruiting process.

  1. Yes, you must have a Job Description
    1. It’s important to know the title, duties, and responsibilities of the person to hire and where they fit into your organization chart.  This is a given.
  • An Extended Company Vision-Mission Statement. 
    • Have a clear vision of the company’s mission, including established goals and the required strategies and tactics of who’s doing what by when to achieve projected results. 
    • An accurately portrayed picture story of where you will be in 10 years adds value to your offering by proving growth opportunities and a security factor.  Know clearly and communicate how this position contributes to your company’s success. 
    • Knowing where you are, where you are going, and having a plan on how to get there is a confidence builder in the minds of desirable candidates. 
  • Your Company’s Value Proposition. 
    • What differentiates your company?  Why should someone consider you and why do current employees work for your company vs. pursuing other opportunity possibilities? 
    • Know the reasons your people work for you and your company and know what they are saying about working in the company.
  • Knowledge of your Company’s current and desired Culture
    • What attributes are you seeking in a candidate that match your company’s culture? 
    • Are you wanting a person who fits your current culture or someone who is a culture creator to help establish best practices for the company’s future direction? 
  • Return on Investment (ROI). 
    • When considering an employee’s cost, know what the return expectations are for hiring them. 
    • Having team members involved in specific strategies and tactics that drive mission goals, they become profit centers for your organization. Employees either make or save money for your company’s operation. 
    • A key personnel attraction and retention feature is employees experiencing a sense of pride, knowing their contributions add value to the growing success of the organization. 
    • Promotional Opportunities – Are they lateral or are they expected to move up the corporate ladder?  What are the performance expectations, the contribution requirements, and how far can they go?
  • Established Agreements
    • When recruiting, discuss critical success factors and key performance indicators required to achieve the company’s objectives and goals. 
    • Your best prospects are those you can establish agreements with on your processes. 
    • As an added benefit, this helps eliminate on-the-job expectation surprises, the ….we didn’t discuss that, after they’ve been hired.
  • Compensation Plan
    • People not only want a cultural environment where they can learn, grow, and feel secure, they want to feel competitively compensated for their contributions. 
    • Make sure they know the What’s In It for Me.  Communicate the career/promotional opportunities along with pay and incentive plans tied to performance results achieved when attracting the desired candidate.

For additional information on recruiting key personnel and/or other strategic questions, give me a call. 

Jim Iden, CPC

713 927 3564


A Serious PLIGHT of the Business Owners and Execs

In my coaching activities, I have found that there is one common issue present in virtually all of these folks that leads to what I refer to as the 3 Ps:

  • Lower Productivity
  • Lower Profit
  • Lower Peace of mind

What is this roadblock?

CONTROL – it seems that most want too much control over many aspects of their business and other affairs. Often referred to as micromanagers

Almost always, they see others performing certain tasks and their first thought is that they could do it better, faster etc.

This leads to micromanaging, a desire to control too many things. This results in

  • Poor time management – spending time on trivial matters
  • Resistance and resentment from workers who want to do it their way – that are doing their best.

The Need for Control

Unfortunately, this need for control usually carries over to other parts of their life.

They want to be the writer and director of the play that is going on in their daily lives.

But because they cannot control so many things, they lose focus and momentum. Then people resist and the results almost NEVER turn out exactly the way THEY think it should or the way THEY would do it.

Since things are not meeting their expectation, this, in turn, leads to toxic emotions like frustration, which can lead to anger and resentment.

And people DO NOT like to be controlled. Like a dog resisting when you pull their leash. And since people are one of any firm’s most important assets, you need to set the stage for them to succeed and not control them.

Breaking this habit of control is the single biggest breakthrough I have witnessed in business owners that I have coached.

After I point out this issue and the negative consequences outlined above, they are ready to get out of that rut.

They are ready to work ON the business, not IN all the details.

Like right NOW.

Time Usage

They reaffirm what they already know – they should use their time on the highest and best use instead of the minutia that comes from micromanaging – in ALL of their affairs.

But habits are hard to break, so I recommend a process that they repeat over and over until they form a new better habit of “LETTING GO”.

That process is:

  1. I ask that they commit to me and another person, to give up fighting to control people and things
  2. They come to realize that while they engage in that fight, they never or rarely win.
  3. I have them realize the value of peace of mind that comes from accepting people places and things for what they are. In most cases you cannot FIX people and have a minor influenced on other things/situations
  4. They are to carry a copy of the serenity prayer with them and when they become agitated with people or circumstances, they PAUSE and read/think about, the serenity prayer.

A good but simple example is traffic.

 Instead of tensing up and/or shouting, pause and read/think about the serenity prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can.

And the wisdom to know the difference

I have seen this work with many people, myself included.

Their state of calm and peace of mind is immediately apparent and rewarding to them, their coworkers, their family, and friends.

Of course, vastly improved results naturally follow from such freedom. .

Do everyone a HUGE favor, let go of the reins and let the world go around.

Note – This article was written by Howard Rambin, of the MoodyRambin Company. He is a Silver Fox Advisor and is available for consultation, advising, and mentoring.

Has the Family Business Become Too Much Family and Not Enough Business?

One of the many plights of a successful family-owned business is employing family members to the point that it hurts the business.

There are articles, posts, research, and everything in-between about how you should run a family-owned business. What many do not address is what to do if you are already in the situation where there’s too much family.

Let’s be honest, many times, family members are hired because they need the job and may not be the most qualified candidate. If it happens too much, the business becomes burdened to the point that it struggles to survive.

Even worse, family issues can and do spread into the daily operations.

  • A child wants to do things their way and the parent (owner) refuses. 
  • Preferential treatment is shown toward family members and their close allies.
  • Special “bonuses” or gifts are provided to family creating financial stress.
  • Cliques are formed.
  • Non-family members are afraid to speak up due to the “Sunday dinner effect”.

Eventually, something must be done.

What do you do?

This just might be one of the most difficult challenges an owner faces. Save the company and lose family members? Appease family and the company goes under (along with the family finances).

First of all, the owner MUST be committed to doing what’s right for the company.

Second, a hired gun can help execute changes, but the owner must provide 100% support and backup. Anything less and it quickly falls apart.

Third, communicate with the family what is going to happen and how they must adhere fully. Any deviation and they can find employment elsewhere.

Here are seven ways to avoid this trap.

Everyone has a job they’re accountable for.

A family member, whether intentional or not, changes the dynamics of meetings when they’re present. They cannot be allowed to come and go as they like. They must have a specific job with accountability, corresponding duties, and complementary compensation. They must be held accountable for their performance just like everyone else.

This is especially true for immediate family members like a spouse or child. I’ve seen spouses that want to “drop into a meeting” just to see what is going on. Most of the meeting is spent bringing the spouse up to speed and nothing gets accomplished. Even worse, the outcome is not what the team wants, it is what the unprepared spouse decides.

Make family members work at another company to learn before joining the family business.

Many family members may not have worked anywhere else in their adult life. Let them learn from other bosses, be held accountable, and learn how to fail. Experts say a person should work somewhere else at least 2-3 years, if not more, before joining the family business.

If they’re already in the business, have them seek employment elsewhere. This will be very tough for most as they are unlikely to want to start over and may not get as sweet a deal as they currently have. That’s part of the lesson to be learned – value hard work, earnings, and authority.

When work is discussed, Owner is boss, even at home.

Talking shop at home is inevitable. We all do it. As the owner, however, the position of authority must be respected. Whenever work is discussed, it is not father/daughter, mother/son, etc. It is Owner/CEO and Vice President or Director or Customer Service agent (whatever the title).

If you as the owner would not want an employee to speak to you directly without going through their boss at work, don’t allow it at home. I’ve seen too many owners agree to something on Friday afternoon only to change their minds to the staff Monday morning. Weekend discussions erode trust across the board.

“Open door policies” used at home is allowing someone to leverage undue influence associated with family.

No more one-off, special financial treatments provided to family members. No “spot bonuses”, new cars, new cell phones, etc. to drag down the financials. Arrangements can be made to fund family members based upon the profitability of the company. An example is to establish quarterly “dividends” to family members based upon profits. They learn to spend what they earn, not drag down the company finances when they choose.

Here’s a tragic example – I saw a company provide profit goals to the employees for their upcoming bonuses. The employees did their jobs and qualified. The family pulled profits from the company for themselves and the employees received much smaller bonuses.

I’m not saying an owner should not share success with the family. It just needs to be factored into the financials of the company and not treated as a cookie jar.

All employees are treated equally/fairly, regardless of family relationship.

This is a tough one. If a family member needs to be reprimanded, do it. If they deserve praise, do it. Letting family get away with bad behavior is at the top of the “bad things to do” list. It destroys morale and trust throughout the company. Let the family members know up front they are accountable for their actions.

I’ve seen family behavior so destructive that good employees quit and those that remained hated being there.

Family members can also be very deceptive. I’ve seen Jekyll and Hyde many times. The family member acts great in front of mom/dad and is abusive around employees. Be willing to accept constructive feedback from non-family members and be acceptable to doing something about it.

Identify training gaps for each family member and require training.

If you have family members that have rapidly advanced in rank or haven’t worked somewhere else, there can be crucial knowledge they’re missing. As the Owner, you could help but may not have time or they may not listen? What child listens to their parents anyway?

I’ve seen too many family members in leadership roles that had major gaps in their knowledge. They may know the product but not the business side. The company may have grown due to the Owner’s relationships throughout the years but now they need a more traditional approach (i.e. Marketing and Sales best practices).

Take an inventory of each family member, their knowledge, and skills, based upon their current and potentially future job function. If you want them to someday take over the company, start preparing and training them now. Make this training a priority as it will only help them in the future.

Consider a non-family executive or coach as a mentor.

It is very hard to be objective when dealing with family. I get it. I’ve been the hired gun before and provided feedback on what needed to be done with family members. Sometimes it went over well, other times not so. Objectivity is the key here. It is easy to let personal feelings or knowledge of homelife influence your thinking on the business. More times than not, it leads to compromise.

I’ve seen successful family businesses run by an outsider in the President’s role. Owner is still the majority shareholder and CEO.

I’ve seen other companies establish an “Operating Unit” and a “Family Unit”. The Operating Unit runs the business and is held accountable by the Board of Directors. Family members can be on the BoD and in the business, but leadership and decision making are empowered to the leadership.

Consider hiring an executive coach/business advisor for family leaders to help them develop and navigate the waters. It gives them someone other than the Owner to bounce problems off and receive professional feedback.

Wrapping it up!

Much of my career has been working in family-owned businesses. There is something about a true family-centric culture that is appealing to work for.

I’ve seen:

  • Owners provide a chef to employees because they wanted healthy meals rather than fast food.
  • Friday afternoon company meetings with “wine and cheese” to celebrate the week.
  • Owner call an employee and meet them at the hospital because they had a health issue that was getting worse.

I’ve also seen:

  • Business falls apart because of an unruly family member.
  • Business goes bankrupt because of unrestrained family spending.
  • Long-term employees depart because they’d had enough and wanted a well-run company.

My goal for you is to make sound business decisions to ensure the success of your company for generations to come. It starts with the employees and ends with the leadership team. Sometimes you must make tough and unpopular choices. I hope some of the recommendations I’ve made will benefit you now or in the future.

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Achieving the Take-Off Stage in Small Business

Would you like your small business to Take-off?

In 2018, 9% of small businesses made more than one million (SBA.gov).

If you are one of these 1 out of 10 small businesses and have revenues less than ten million, then you have reached a unique position that I term the Growth stage.

If you have been in business five or more years, then you ought to feel a sense of accomplishment as half the small companies do not make it that far.

In the early phase of the Growth stage, you most likely have fewer than twenty employees.  It gets down to math on how many people that you can afford.  With the average annual salary in the US of about $50,000, then twenty people would be a cost of $1 million not considering burden.  You are not likely to be paying the average salary, but you already understand the significant cost of employees.

You quickly find though that you need more people to do more things to accelerate your growth.

The larger the size of your organization the more challenges you face.  Everything needs to rise to the next level of sophistication as the complexity increases, and in particular your leadership if you really want to grow.

It is very possible that you are comfortable letting your small business naturally evolve particularly if this is a lifestyle business for you.

With growth comes change and you may prefer to have things stay pretty much the same.

I have seen many small companies in the lower end of the Growth stage with this perspective.  Sometimes they even say they want to grow significantly but that is not really a driver for them.

There are others that you can easily spot that have a real passion to build their small business into something much more significant.

This blog is geared for small business owners/CEOs that fall into this latter mindset.

Growth Stage Elements

If you want to accelerate your growth, you need to follow good planning processes to first assess where you are at today. 

My 4 Stage Growth Model outlines various elements that should give you a good picture of your current position.

You will probably find that you are ahead on some, behind on others, and several others will describe your condition. 

Take a look at the elements below and go through this simple assessment of marking them red if you are behind, yellow if it is a good description, and green if you are more progressive.

If you are mostly red, then go back to my blog of February 3rd on Breaking out of the Development Stage for Small Businesses.  

If you are a mix of colors or primarily yellow, then this blog should give you some insight into moving into the next phase termed the Take-Off stage. 

If you are all green, then a future blog on the Take-Off stage advice will be coming.

Growth Stage

  • Revenues – Owner(s) are getting excited about the organization’s success. Traction with new customers or expanding activities with current customers is generating a growing revenue base. Typical revenues run above one million and below ten million.
  • Sustainability – Organization is approaching a going concern where owner is less critical to survival and growth. Revenues are providing cash to invest in business and improve operability and compete more effectively for new business.  Loss of key customers can prove devastating.
  • Business Focus/Planning – There is a fair amount of activity on generating new ideas for products/services/customers and more sophisticated approaches to attracting customers through marketing. Still planning is heavily oriented towards current year.  Planning still may be rather ad hoc lacking strategic focus synchronized with tactical game plans.  Planning framework including mission, vision, objectives, value propositions, target markets, strategic themes, competitor analysis, goal cascading, accountability, and so forth are often lacking.  Effort does not seem to match current rewards for many with the focus still on the here and now.
  • Organization – Other key players have evolved and perform critical roles.  Often, these players interact more, and teamwork is emerging.  Organization structure is still somewhat loose with not overly formal role definition. The size of the organization varies based on the nature of the product or service provided.  Often staff exceeds ten and but generally does not exceed fifty and almost always less than one hundred.  Contractors are used to avoid adding staff in many cases.  People can perform multiples functions.
  • Processes – Processes have emerged and there is a level of documentation and sometimes training.  Processes are often changing and adapting as more effective functioning progresses and customer feedback requires modifications to be made.
  • Target Market – Local market continues to dominate customer base in most cases.  Customer loyalty has emerged and identified as key customers with a retention focus.  Expenditures for sales and marketing have expanded significantly. Often there are some dedicated people to sales beyond owner and budgets for improved websites, marketing collateral, and marketing campaigns.
  • Value Proposition – Value proposition is adapting to customer needs and customer feedback.
  • Leadership – Owner and key players are beginning to think about how to motivate and retain employees. Decision making processes are receiving some scrutiny.  Delegation has emerged where owner feels comfortable with key players carrying out more defined roles.  Level of participation in decision making varies but generally still well controlled by owner.

What is your Vision?

I find that many small businesses have difficulty in describing a picture of what they want to look like in their next stage of progression. 

That is the beauty of the 4 Stage Growth Model in that it provides an overview picture. 

There are many things you have to do to get from your Growth stage to the Take-off stage. Knowing what you want to look like invigorates finding the pathways to achieve this next level of progression.

Take-off Stage

Below is the description of the Take-off stage using the same criteria above in the Growth stage.

  1. Revenues: Customers pulling business into extended and new offerings
  2. Sustainability: Going concern sellable if owner disengaged
  3. Business Focus/Planning: Extensive multi-year planning
  4. Organization: Matured with more structured roles and responsibilities exhibiting extensive teamwork
  5. Processes: Tuned as a competitive advantage
  6. Target Market: Tied to broader strategy, potentially new geographies/offerings.
  7. Value Proposition: Rigorously adapts to beat competition or take advantage of new opportunities.
  8. Leadership: Seen as key, owner seeks leadership development for self and management team.

Advise in reaching the Take-off Stage

So how do you move into the Take-off Stage?  Let me give you some of my mentoring advice on each of the key elements.

  • Revenues – If you are really taking off, you ought to see a doubling or more of your revenues in a two-to-three-year time frame.  That means you will have to make substantial progress on your marketing plan and sales effort.  Ensure your target market is clear as are your target customers. Then focus on brand advertising with communication channels that fit your customers’ appetite. It will take more than a website. Depending on your product or service, you should consider strategic selling with profiles of your customers and tactical game plans to grow revenues. For a broader customer base, sales funneling, and a fully functioning CRM system will be key.
  • Sustainability – Cash flow has become sufficient to operate in your current mode without sufficient concern.    However, you will likely need to take some more risk on investing to really grow the business. This is a good time to strengthen your bank credit lines/relationships and depending on your situation consider investors for major investments. It may be worthwhile to investigate acquiring companies that enhance your offering or customer breadth. While acquisitions/mergers can be challenging, they can provide leverage through economies of scale.
  • Business Focus/Planning – This is where you will really have to ramp up your efforts. Redefine your vision, mission, and long-term objectives with a broader mindset.  If you do not have clear company values, do so now as they will have a real impact on the company culture as you grow.  I also strongly encourage you to develop mid-term plans of critical success factors that move you on the path of reaching your vision and longer-term objectives. Look for help.  If you are here in Houston, I would really recommend you join a Silver Fox Advisor CEO Roundtable.  This is a great vehicle for seeing how other companies are trying to grow their businesses.  Many of the members of these CEO Roundtables are in the Growth Stage.  As your company breaks through five million in revenue and heads towards ten million, you may also want to consider an Advisory Board.  The Silver Fox Advisors can help you on that, particularly if you do a deep dive on your business challenges through their Fox Den business review. Like the CEO Roundtables, the Fox Den is pro bono.
  • Organization – Your company probably lacks definition on who does what, who is accountable, and how people work together to achieve your company’s objectives. You should really take a read of TRACTION: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. He does a good job in describing an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) that brings the essentials of running your small company to a higher level of sophistication.  It uses the concepts I taught in my Corporate Strategy course for big businesses and translates them into a practical approach for small businesses.  It is highly beneficial for companies in the Growth Stage in particular.  My clients and CEO Roundtable members find it extremely beneficial.
  • Processes – If you are in the Growth Stage, then you have conquered to some degree putting processes in place that enable the business to operate efficient and effectively.  Do not underestimate the competitive power of having even more highly effective processes that describe the flow of how work gets done to produce your product or service better than your competition.  Processes need to be tied to your customer value proposition.  It is often an advantage to start with a clean whiteboard and rethink how a process can fulfill your value proposition better than your competitor. If you are trying to be the low-cost producer, then think out of the box on how to achieve that.  You can also look at your current processes and determine ways to simplify or eliminate steps.
  • Target Market – You can’t be everything to everyone.  In the early stages of your business, if a customer has a need, then you generally try to fulfill it as revenue is king.  Somewhat ironically, as you grow, the specificity of your customer becomes more targeted.  With small companies, this is also true of the geographic market.  In moving to Take-off, you need to rethink your target market and geography.  In many cases, expanding your target market translates into widening your geographic reach.  There are many repercussions in making this kind of move, particularly the need for investment dollars and organizational building/restructuring.
  • Value Proposition – In the Growth Stage, you have articulated your value proposition most likely on your website and marketing collateral.  The value proposition is framed to attract your target customer.  To move to the Take-off Stage, you need to think more strategically in terms of differentiating your company from the competition. You will need to do much more competitive analysis on their strengths and weaknesses in providing their described value proposition. Then, think strategically. Treacy and Wiersema in their book The Discipline of Market Leaders outlined three broad strategic approaches to capturing customers. While written in 1997, the thrust of these strategic approaches is still very applicable to most small businesses.  The Operational Excellence strategy is built on delivering the best total cost that is driven by operational competence.  The Product Leadership strategy is excelling in product differentiation to deliver the best product.  Finally, the Customer Intimacy strategy provides the best total solution to the customer driven by customer responsiveness and focus. My advice to clients is lead with one of these three strategies but be strong enough in the other two to ensure you win your targeted customer. 
  • Leadership – You have recognized the importance of leadership as your company has grown in the number of employees and organizational structure. The companies I know in the Take-off stage, their CEOs have a voracious appetite to improve their leadership capability and that of their management team.  I have written a whole series of blogs on the Silver Fox Advisors website to help you improve your leadership capability.  One in particular entitled Your Leadership Personal Profile has been very insightful for clients.  The methodology can also be used by the CEO to coach other members of their leadership team.  It provides significant insight for both the CEO and the coached.

Let me conclude by adding to the suggestion for you to reach out for help. 

Think of a personal advisor to mentor and coach you in transitioning your business.

The Silver Fox Advisors have essentially two types of Advisors. 

Those who have had significant careers in larger organizations and understand the complexities and need for best practices for a company to be successful. They have the insight to bring this perspective to small businesses.

The second type are those who have run small businesses and come with a deep understanding of their inner workings. They come with significant knowledge and insight to share.

Take a look at the Silver Fox Advisor website under Engage an Advisor and see if one of our Advisors fits your needs to help you grow into the Take-off Stage.

Also, take a look at the CEO Education Series videos on the SilverFox.org website that gives advice on many of these elements.

Contributed by Lane Sloan, former Shell CFO and Silver Fox Advisor.

The Performance Side of Leadership

Most small business owners/CEOs have a desire to grow and become successful notwithstanding the challenges. In my recent blog of October 8, 2020 talking about the 4 Stages of Growth for Small Businesses, I set out a framework on what the path forward could look like.  Leadership plays a greater and greater role as you progress through the stages.

In the Development Stage, progress is a lot about you and perhaps a handful of people that are trying to build a sustainable business.  As the business grows, more and more people become involved. In previous blogs, we have been building a leadership model based on the 3 Ps of People, Planning, and Performance.

On the People side of Leadership blog, we advocated to be a leader not just a boss by understanding and addressing what matters to them.  This facilitates people following you and being motivated.

On the Planning side of Leadership blog, we advocated your envisioning the direction and engaging your people to form a common purpose. We described the planning process and how your leadership impacts each activity. Setting specific plans that are critical for the business’s success follows your key strategies that provide your differentiated value proposition for your targeted customers.  This too will have a major impact on Performance and the motivation of your people to achieve these plans.  Finally, the performance review and adjustment process will also have a huge impact on performance of the business.  Plans are the catalyst to bring performance from your people.

This leads to today’s blog. Without successful execution of the plans that leads to positive performance, it can all become rather futile.  Most plans that fail do so because of poor execution. Don’t be deceived by thinking when the plan is done it will magically happen.

Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan in their book Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done, say that “Execution is a systematic process of rigorously discussing hows and whats, questioning, tenaciously following through and ensuring accountability.” (p. 22) This is one of the few books written on execution compared to strategy and leadership that are overabundant.

What does matter on the Performance side of Leadership?

Communication Matters

Many leadership authors expound on the importance of communication. That ought to tell you something about its central role in achieving performance.  Most will say it needs to be clear, concise, simple, and executable.  Almost all recommend the leader being a good listener and soliciting feedback.

You might recall in my blog on the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership that one of the strength domains under Proficiencies is Executing.  Rath and Conchie in their book on Strength Based Leadership, further delineate this domain into strengths described as the arranger, consistency, deliberative, focus, responsibility, and so forth.  Under the Influencing Domain, key subsets are activator, communication, significance, etc. Their book is worth your while to take a read and the test.

George Bernard Shaw had a profound quote that gets to a key point, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” You cannot overcommunicate as long as its purposeful. Beyond regularly scheduled meetings, my recommendation is that you plan for your key communication interactions every week and modify daily. That planning coupled with your listening skills ensures communication happens rather than an illusion in your mind.

Ask yourself these kinds of questions. Have I set aside time to talk with my people on how things are going? Have I reinforced our company values?  When is the last time we talked about how the company is performing? Does everyone understand our value proposition?

Systems and Processes Matter

As Vice President of Business Services for Shell Oil, I led some big process redesigns as that was the era of business process reengineering.  There are numerous books on the subject if you are at that point to redesign your processes. Often, these books are geared towards larger companies. A simpler approach if you are just starting to think about processes is to view the Silver Fox Education Series (September 21, 2020) under Process & Systems. It is a basic primer for those not familiar with systems and processes.

In the 4 Stage Growth Model, the effectiveness and efficiency of business systems and processes improves as a company moves through the stages of growth.  No surprise as they represent how things get done.

When you first start your business usually processes are rather ad hoc and rarely written down.  As one progresses to the Growth stage, processes are often charted out and specified so people know what to do.  Then, with time the processes are continuously improved.  There may even be work on the bigger system on how the processes work together utilizing software programs.  At the Take Off stage, processes become an opportunity to really differentiate from the competitors.  Rethinking, simplifying, innovating, computerization, and so forth can make a difference.  By the Expansion stage, the processes and system architecture may require a further revamp to fit the volume and various new localities.

Organizational Roles Matter

The follow up to processes is organizational roles that outline who is responsible and accountable for getting things done.  Organizational structures have gotten a bad rap with many people suggesting for small companies you don’t need one. There is no doubt that overly bureaucratic structures can become an impediment particularly in this fast-paced world.  However, without role definitions of who is responsible and accountable there will be a lot of chaos and finger pointing on why things didn’t happen as planned.  These roles can be charted within your systems and processes because interfaces among roles can be the real goblin in the works. This leads directly to the next subject on teamwork.

But before that, let us go back to the 4 inner Ps of leadership model and talk about Proficiencies that make a difference in considering organizational roles. Strength-based leadership along with technical proficiencies should play a key role in deciding who plays what roles.  In other words, leadership capabilities are important for those having responsibility and accountability.

Teamwork Matters

In my book Develop a Leadership Plan Become a Great Leader, I say that “teamwork is a state of mind. It’s a cooperative attitude…” There are lots of books and articles on teamwork for those who want to go in depth.  John C Maxwell has several.  Patrick Lencioni’s book entitled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is still a good read

My Silver Fox Advisor colleague Doug Thorpe has given you a roadmap with his blog of October 8, 2020 on 6 Steps to Build Better Teams.

To sum it up, I love the quote in my book from Chief of Staff General Sullivan on his rule Leadership is a Team Sport. “Effective leaders forge alliances and build teams.  They break down walls, floors, and ceilings distributing leadership throughout the extended organization. Team building empowers people with a sense of responsibility…Effective leadership …is about unleashing the power of people.”

Capability Development Matters

As one progresses through the 4 Stage Growth model, the focus on developing your people’s capability grows on multiple fronts.  Training on specific job duties and activities takes on more formality. More attention is focused on developing people’s leadership capabilities through increased responsibility, accountability, and role expansion. A high priority is placed on learning and coaching one another as the organization vitality increases.

In the Silver Fox Advisors’ CEO Education Series of August 11, 2020 on Organization Effectiveness, I used these areas below as considerations for Capability Development.  Some are values to reinforce in the organization such Self-accountability, Achievement focused, Execution excellence, Process innovation, Outward looking, Forward-facing, and Performance driven.  Others are leadership activities such as Strategic Thinking, Coaching contagion, Relationship building, Organizational flexibility, and Learning culture.  Then there are those areas requiring knowledge and skill development such as Market knowledge, Leadership skills, and proficiencies in Execution excellence.  All these builds organizational capability.

Effective Direction                                                                                        Efficient Coordination

Market knowledge                                                                                       Relationship building

Strategic thinking                                                                                          Execution excellence

Leadership skills                                                                                            Process innovation

                                                                                                                         Organizational flexibility

High Motivation                                                                                            Ongoing Results

Self-accountability                                                                                       Outward looking

Achievement focused                                                                                  Learning culture

Coaching contagion                                                                                     Forward Facing                                                                                                                                                                         Performance driven

Culture Matters

As some offer, a business culture spans your vision, values, beliefs, norms, working style, tradition, and habits. You can see from the value list in Capability development above; culture has a huge influence on the Performance of your company. Being the leader, what you say and what you do matters.  It is always amazing to me the things people pick up on watching you and your behavior.

This is a big topic and rather amorphous to describe what you need to think of in building a positive culture as there are so many dimensions and nuances.  One thing is for sure—a bad culture kills performance. Virtually everything we have discussed in my blogs has an impact.

My only two recommendations here are first, think about the elements you want in pursuing the vision and values, plus when communicating, exhibit a sense of heart and purpose for your people. Secondly, in this world of accelerating and chaotic change, try to create a learning culture.  That will be a subject of a later blog.


Success comes from high performance.  The organization must have an uncanny focus on results. In my 3 P vernacular, Performance comes from  rich communications, highly functional systems & processes, clear organizational roles, powerful teamwork, significant capability development, and a positive culture synchronized with your emphasis on those things that matter to your People and your inspiring vision with executable plans and goals to get there.

Contributed by Lane Sloan, former Shell CFO and Silver Fox Advisor.

advisory board

The People Side of Leadership

In a previous blog on September 15, 2020, we looked at my 3 P Leadership Framework: People, Planning, and Performance. This blog goes more in-depth on the People side.

I am asked by small business owners for the best current leadership books to read that are concise and insightful. That is a good question and I say something like John Maxwell’s LEADERSHIFT The Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace. Given the accelerating pace of change in today’s business world, Maxwell does offer real insight.

In giving this response, I often think how much foundational insights are lost that really ground a person becoming a good if not great leader. Many key thoughts on leadership were not created these past couple years. Here are some key foundational insights that I think matter:

Beliefs in People matter

I believe modern leadership theory really began with Douglas Mc Gregor’s 1960 book entitled The Human Side of Enterprise in which he laid out two opposing theories on perceiving and motivating employees.

In simple terms, in Theory X the manager/leader believes employees have little desire for work other than the paycheck.  In Theory Y, people are internally motivated requiring less direction and control. In my opinion, these beliefs can become self-fulfilling prophecies and lead to different leadership styles. 

With Theory X assumptions of People, leaders will tend to be autocratic telling people what to do with little discretion.  Those with Theory Y beliefs will tend to give employees more freedom and bring them into the decision-making process.

We talked about beliefs as part of Persuasion in my 4 Inner Ps of Leadership blog of October 30, 2020. Clearly this belief around people’s internal motivation is critical to a successful relationship with your employees.

Leadership styles matter

Researchers picked up on the idea of different leadership styles.  Rensis Likert found four different styles whose titles accurately explain the approach: Exploitative Authoritative, Benevolent Authoritative, Consultative System, and Participative System. 

The punch line is the Performance of the organizations went from Exploitative Authoritative being the worst improving up the scale with the Participative System being the best.  His book The Human Organization published in 1967 still sits in my library.

Also, in the 1960s, Blake and Mouton published their Managerial Grid or better said Leadership Grid with two key dimensions: Concern for People and Concern for Results (i.e. Performance).  So, there you have two of the 3 Ps.  A style that was low on both dimensions, called impoverished management brings disharmony, disorganization, and dissatisfaction.  

In their lingo, the Produce or Perish style focusing high on results but low on concern for people breeds an authoritarian.  The high on concern for people and low on concern for results is labeled Country Club Management and as expected, produces low results with lack of direction and control.  

Interestingly, taking a Middle of the Road approach ends up with only mediocre performance.  The best, which they described as the Team Management having a high concern for both People and Performance, has a leader with a Theory Y belief and participative style- no surprise.

As we discussed in the recent blog on the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership, leadership style as part of your Personality has a significant impact.  Know your style and how you are relating to your People.

Trust matters

We described in my earlier blog on the 3 Ps of Leadership the Zenger and Folkman’s leadership model of a tent.  Character was described as the pole that holds up the tent of the other four stakes: personal capability, focus on results, leading organizational change, and interpersonal relationships. It is the centerpiece.

As Warren Bennis, one of the great leadership thinkers once said, “real leaders, and people of strong character, generate and sustain trust.” There are many elements that build trust such as doing what you say you are going to do.

In other words, People can count on you. On the People side, showing respect and listening goes a long way. Lots more could be said on character and trust, but you can generally see it and feel it when observing someone’s behaviors and actions.

Back on the Inner 4 Ps of Leadership, Persuasions have a fundamental impact on your interpersonal relationships.  If you lack a strong moral compass, People will be extremely cautious on what you ask them to do and why. As highlighted in the blog, Personal Purpose can be a guidepost in building your character.

People’s needs matter

In my psychology class, we discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the most influential models for me in understanding People.  You probably have heard of his theory that there are five levels of needs beginning with physiological (i.e. surviving) followed by safety, love and belonging (social), esteem or ego, and self-actualization. 

People move up this hierarchy and are motivated by the level they have reached.  If they are driven back down, they are demotivated.

Herzberg outlined this back in 1959 (in his Two Factor Theory of Motivation) as Hygiene factors such as pay, company policies, fringe benefits, physical working conditions, status, and interpersonal relations. 

In these hygiene factors you can become dissatisfied, but they are not big motivators.  He saw motivational factors as recognition, sense of achievement, growth and promotional opportunity, responsibility, and meaningfulness of the work. Even sixty years later, Herzberg had a lot of insight into what needs motivate People.

Back to Maslow, in my opinion as a society here in the United States we have generally risen to the level of ego needs.  As some say, we are in the “me” generation.  People want a job experience tailored for them and their desires.  A hundred years ago they primarily just wanted a job. Some would argue that People driven by self-actualization are emerging.  They can provide powerful results if your offering fits their needs.

There are a couple dimensions of the 4 Inner Ps of Leadership that support understanding your Peoples’ needs.  In the former blog, we discussed under Persuasions the importance of understanding others’ perspectives that drive their behavior. Then your leadership skills come into play.

In Proficiencies, strengths in Rath and Conchie’s domains of Influencing and Relationship Building not only help you understand others needs but can help you in addressing them.  Ultimately, that will lead to value propositions.

Value Propositions matter

In my book, Develop a Leadership Plan: Become a Great Leader I advocate that value propositions are needed for all your key stakeholders.  Of course, we all recognize the need for an impactful value proposition to attract customers.  The same can be said of your employees and leadership team. What do you offer that makes them want to work for you and your company?  How does that compare to your competition?

For an organization, I see value propositions as layered.  At the highest level, what is your value proposition for the whole organization?  This will include bigger picture ideas such as vision but also the values, empowerment, and other hygiene and motivational factors that People can expect. 

Then, at the individual level, what is your value proposition for specific people? How do you get the best that People can provide, and the organization needs? These tailorings will generally fit into Herzberg’s motivational factors with recognition, sense of achievement, growth and promotional opportunity, and the meaningfulness of work.

Do not forget their participation in decision making and engaging in the direction and vision of the business.

Depending on the size of the organization, there may need to be mid-level value propositions.   These are specific offerings for different types of work groups.

Incidentally, John Maxwell does a great job talking about leaders adding value in his book on LEADERSHIFT.

Bottom line, as a small business owner/CEO you are the boss, but to become really successful you will need to become a leader.  Think about People first.  Think about what matters to them.  In Servant Leadership vernacular, how can you serve them first such that it makes them want to follow you on a common purpose.  In a future blog, we will provide some Reflections on Servant Leadership.

Contributed by Lane Sloan, former Shell CFO and Silver Fox Advisor.

The Perfect Tool In an Imperfect World

Business owners and managers are worried about their remote workers. If you’ve never had anyone work away from the office before, it can be unnerving. How can they trust what is going on? Are hours being used wisely? How can I make everyone more accountable?

On the flip side, employees who work remotely worry they are not going to be given credit for the effort they spend and the work they produce.

Having this air of uncertainty doesn’t help anyone feel productive. I’ve heard of talk about upping your communication. What does that mean? More zoom?

Leaders providing clarity of purpose, assignment, and mission must have ways to drive accountability. Simply talking more won’t get there.

It’s Not a Perfect System.

How can the two sides connect to provide clarity of expectations and certainty of delivery? Well, you can have daily zoom calls, but who wants to do that forever?

You could build a giant database but who needs that burden piled on top of the already difficult process?

There is actually a very simple yet elegant system I’ve used for years. Calling it a system may scare some people away already. Maybe process or habit is better.

Explaining the Solution

The process is called Big 5. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time I’ve written about this before.

But now is an especially significant change in workforce activity.

Big 5 can be the missing link for all you leaders who are worried about productivity and workers who wonder whether the boss knows your value.

Here’s How It Works.

On a regular basis, every employee (managers included) writes out five goals or expectations they have for the upcoming month. These would be your ‘big rock’ priorities or ‘must wins’.

Next you write down your five biggest achievements for the past month.

Neither of these sections is long text in paragraphs. No, it’s simply bullet listed items.

You can add some comments about resource needs, constraints, etc. But focus first on goals and accomplishments.

Then send it to your boss.

gratitude smile

The boss can review and give feedback. It becomes a flash moment of coaching between manager and employee.

“I like your goals 1 thru 4, but let’s talk more about number 5.”

“Wow, I had no idea you got so much done last month. Thank you for such a big contribution.” Or…

“Sam I like what you can do for us. However I see you’ve been struggling with this remote working environment. Let’s talk about ways I can help you.”

When the next period rolls around, the things you said were goals should become accomplishments. Now, you update the goals.

Take really big, longer term goals and break them down into those bite size tasks.

Frequency of Reporting

Usually, when I teach Big 5, we start with monthly check-ins. However, with the massive change in the workplace, like what we have right now, you might ask for weekly updates.

I once ran a large project with very high velocity, rapid-fire activity. A weekly check-in made more sense. I was providing my client with a status report every Monday, so I had my team do a weekly Big 5.

When they left on Friday, they dropped me their individual reports. I could compile them into a summary picture I gave the client on Monday.

It was powerful, productive, and very effective. Huge goals were achieved, deliverables were met, and the client was very happy with the results.

What About Me?

You might be saying I don’t have a team, but I do have a boss.

Ok, write your Big 5 and give it to the boss. When he/she says “What’s this?” Explain it to them. Say you want to create more clarity and you believe this can help.

That is exactly how I was introduced to Big 5. The colleague who created it actually worked for me many years ago. We were going through tumultuous times in our industry and days flew by.

Finally, one day he dropped a printed copy of his report on my desk. Sure enough, I said, “What’s this?” He explained. We had a brief discussion about the content. He left with perfect clarity of my expectations for him and his team.

Next month he was back again with an update.

And we thrived after that with better clarity, alignment, and a sense of achievement. Sure, we had meetings in between, but the big objectives were being conquered.

Fill the Gap

If you are worried about the productivity of your team, introduce the Big 5 process. If you don’t think your boss understands what you do, give them a Big 5 report. Rinse and repeat.

Big 5 has even replaced employee ranking and annual assessment tools. If you’re doing Big 5 monthly, when the annual review comes around, you have 60 data points to discuss. That, my friend, is powerful.

It’s by far not a perfect work world right now. Why not use a more perfect tool to manage the crisis?

Big 5 Performance is created by Roger Ferguson of ISIHRConsulting. Big 5 has a cloud-based app to automate the process. It even manages the reporting with the next level up managers. If the app is something you want for you, your team or your company click here.

COVID Fatigue is Real!

The United States is in a high state of uncertainty where the future is concerned. We’re a nation that wants our news, meals, and money right now. Once a big event happens, we are all consumed with Twitter, Facebook, and news outlets for a few days or even weeks. And then we move on.

We’re not able to move on from COVID, at least not yet. We’re still wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, dealing with childcare, loneliness, financial, and mental issues. We drag on wondering when this will be over.

I spoke with a group of CEOs recently that are highly concerned with employee fatigue. They’re seeing a rise in employee issues and considerable productivity drop off. Words of encouragement are falling on deaf ears when the actions following are not personal. “Just do your job” or “find a way” is not cutting it.

Each person is wired differently. How they act under fatigue may be quite different than normal circumstances and not easily recognizable.

If you want to combat COVID fatigue, you have to meet your employees where they are. Get personal.

team meeting

Here are some ideas for you to think about that I’ve heard were effective:

Conduct 30-minute discussions with staff daily. One on one meetings may not be doable but small group calls can be. Ask how are they doing at home, how are the spouse and kids, is there anything impeding their work that you could help with?

Proactively identify those at risk. If you already have a personality assessment on employees, dust them off. If not, consider getting one. Look for things like their Social Energy scores, or Restlessness, or Organizational needs.

Employee Surveys– Do a formal and confidential survey and get a pulse. Results may not be specific, but it can be a good starting point.

Professional Counseling – Many insurance companies offer some form of counseling for mental challenges. Inquire about eligibility through the Employment Assistance Option or consider purchasing an option for the employees. Whatever you do, make sure the employees know it is confidential.

No one is certain when the risk with the pandemic will finally subside. We should expect COVID fatigue to get worse before it gets better.

Get on top of it with your employees now. It is real.

If you need further assistance, send us a note through SilverFox.org.