Are you an effective leader?
If you answered ‘Yes’, how did you come to that conclusion? Did you base your answer off your company financial performance, goal achievement track record or your wonderful employee morale? What if Peter Drucker himself had an opportunity to review your leadership work, do you think he would come to the same conclusion?
If by chance you are new to the philosophies and teachings of Peter Drucker I highly suggest taking some time to familiarize yourself with his works. Short and sweet – Drucker is considered the godfather of business leadership and is responsible for much of what we know today on how effective leaders work and operate. His works redefined leadership through the 60s, 70s and 80s and we still refer to his teaching on the daily today.
What makes for an effective leader? Let’s ask Drucker himself. ‘The Effective Executive’, a leadership book for the times and originally published in 1967, provides eye opening insight on exceptional leadership in ways which broke the mold back then and continue to do so today. ‘The Effective Executive’ provides a straight forward, simplistic guide to “getting the right things done” for people in a leadership capacity. What I found amazing about this book is how relevant and simplistic Drucker’s advice is, even for today’s purposes 52 years later in a business world that is far different from when these thoughts were put to paper.
So, what is it then that makes for an effective leader?
All too often I find people enjoy making the topic of leadership how-to’s overly complicated. Maybe they do that to sell more books or to justify their new and insightful leadership methodology. For me, I’ve found the more simplistic something is the better chance I have in understanding it, implementing it and continuing to act on it as a new habit.
Drucker’s approach to leadership success and effectiveness is simplicity at its best. He identifies the following five core competencies successful leaders should have as a part of the fabric that guides them through their daily work:
Humbly, I’d like to offer up a 6th leadership core competency to add to Drucker’s list:
While this list may seem incredibly simple, I can tell you from personal experience it’s anything but that. Often times the most simplistic things in life can be the most difficult to master. Why? Because it takes discipline. Though these concepts may be easy to understand, the difficultly comes in the form of holding oneself accountable to doing it above all other things. That’s the tough part!
“Intelligence, imagination and knowledge are essential resources [for a leader], but only effectiveness converts them into results.” – Peter Drucker
Being disciplined to doing the right thing at the right time is certainly easier said than done. So much so that Drucker identifies that the number one reason for leadership failure is the inability or willingness to change with the demands of and expectations of the new job.
Key Take Away:
The leaders’ who are willing to change and adapt while being disciplined to doing the right things at the right time are the ones that will be the most effective.
Read Drucker’s book ‘The Effective Executive’. Regardless of your job title the insight you’ll gain from his timeless approaches to leadership is worth every minute you spend reading it.
In this weeks Monday Quickie Recap we talk about our article ‘How to be Successful in the Start-Up World’ and the importance of working outside of the box and your respective job description, as well as the impact good/ bad leadership can have on small companies.
Working for big business certainly has its perks, there’s no doubt about it. Stability, direction, benefits, work that is defined – you name it. For some, this is the ideal work environment. We plot along through our 8-5 and enjoy the consistent pace that comes with it.
For a growing number of professionals while the world of big business has its strengths, it also serves to hold us back in our careers which is why we turn to the start-up world. How do I know this? I’ve lived it myself. After more than 10 years of working for a $6B company I left and went into the start-up world.
My story, while it may not be unique, is a growing story many others now share.
Why do people like the idea of start-ups?
First and foremost, it can be an exciting place to work. Decisions are often made speedily, there’s typically much less bureaucracy, work is more flexible and of course it tends to be much more creative. We also have the ability to learn much more about our jobs and the impact it has on the overall company and or business. Therefore, it is possible to say being in the start up world allows us to become better business people in the process as we get to see the big picture, not just our individual roles and workloads like what happens in big business.
Then it’s settled, everyone should work in a start-up! I mean, who wouldn’t want to work in that kind of an environment?
Hold up compadres, pump the brakes a moment. The start-up world is no picnic. Yes, the start-up world is exciting and full of daily innovation and discovery but it can also be rife with challenge, uncertainty and stress. Not everyone is built or meant to be in the world of start-ups. We may think we are however the reality is some of us are just better off being in big business. Before you jump ship from your large company into the world of a start-up (and or small business) take a moment to check in with yourself on how you land with these five characteristics which are vital to ones success in the start-up environment:
1.Working Outside the Box
When we work for big companies often times our job and daily output is focused on a certain set of tasks. It’s the opposite in the start-up world as often times the mentality of those who are successful in this space is that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and company moving forward. This includes taking out your own trash! If you’ve ever said “that’s not part of my job description” in response to work that was requested of you I would recommend taking a hard look at whether a start-up or small company is the right move for your career. You don’t have an option to be picky in a start-up, the only option is to do it. Even if that means taking out your own trash.
Working 8-5 in a large company can be a great perk. If you’ve done that for any length of time you may have forgotten how nice it is to mentally shut off at 5PM. In start-ups working 8-5 is non-existent. It’s common to work long hours and or be tethered to your smart phone around the clock. The statement ‘work life balance’ is blurred beyond recognition in the start-up world. Those that are successful here know and understand that it takes time and effort to create something. How dedicated are you to making that happen and what are you willing to give up in the process?
Working in a large company doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is clearly defined and outlined yet it is typical that SOPs (standard operating processes) are at the very least available for workers who choose to use them. In the start-up world you may find yourself creating these on your own. Take a moment to think how you would feel about being confronted with a daily situation where you are supposed to be working hard, hell – harder than ever before, and there isn’t a lot of direction or support to help you in that effort. If the thought of that excites you than the start-up world may be a breath of fresh air, if not then maybe your 3 foot wide cubicle and plush ergonomic chair your large company bought is the safer bet.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of a start-up in my opinion. Leadership. If you haven’t worked in the start-up world before you may not be aware that people in leadership still do much of the hands on work. In big business this is hardly the case. Neither camp of leaders are necessarily better than one of the other, it’s just a very different environment. In start-ups every person on the team has to give 150% to the cause which means those who don a leadership title still have to get dirty in the day to day work. The reason you want to consider this as a part of your ‘can I make it in the start-up world’ is because leadership ultimately can have a great or very grave impact on the start-up business. Seems a bit obvious but when someone is doing both daily work and in charge of strategic decision making their influence and involvement has a much greater impact. In big business if a company experiences a failure with one of their leaders it typically can be salvaged whereas in the start-up world one or two costly mistakes by leadership will send the company into a grave six feet under.
Start-ups offer an intimate working experience. Working in a start-up everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s close quarters with high amounts of communication, partnering and feedback. Collaboration of course exists in big business but not at the intimate level of the start-up. When we work for a big company we are often a part of a team but doing work independently, even times on our own little island. If you’ve come to enjoy your island and aren’t interested in having neighbors up in your grill on the daily than perhaps staying in big business is the right decision for you.
A professional life in a start-up can indeed be a rewarding and exciting adventure. Once we’ve spent some time analyzing what’s most important to us in our career and what we’re willing to do to get it than we’ll have a better idea of how the start-up environment and career fits in with our plans.
We're covering this weeks article talking about the art of negotiations and a simple yet effective tactic to use during a negotiation. Reduce your chances of saying something you don't mean, reacting too quickly and missing an opportunity.
Think back to the last time you experience a moment where during a conversation an elongated pause or silence occurred between you and the other person, inevitably leading you to think in the moment “this is awkward”.
Perhaps you were in a social setting, on a date, in a debate, or even at work. Whatever the situation may have been it’s highly likely you did or thought about saying something in moment just to end the awkwardness of the deafening silence between you and the other person. If in fact you acted and said something in order to break the uncomfortableness of the silence know that you just failed one of the basic lessons taught to many professionals about the art of negotiations.
Don’t feel bad, it happens to all of us. Here’s why…
While the situation you were just thinking about may not have had anything to do with a negotiation, the action you took and therefore the outcome is all too reminiscent of a typical negotiation setting.
Did you know many people in a professional ‘buying’ role are trained on how to deal and negotiate with a seller? Meaning, they’ve been taught a ‘buyers strategy’ on how to negotiate with sellers in order to get an outcome which is more favorable to them as the buyer.
I know this because I’ve been through the class. Many companies train their key people in decision making positions, such as leadership, buyers, purchasing, contract managers, etc. to use an interesting tactic in negotiations which is the ‘pause’. It’s a devilish and fairly simple tactic that works like a charm with sellers, especially those who aren’t particularly skilled with negotiations. Here’s how the ‘pause’ from a buyer works:
Seller: Well Tom, we can certainly provide you with 10k units of ABS molded tubing at $3.85 per meter.
Buyer: Doesn’t say anything in response to the sellers pricing comment; buyer just sits there with a smug look on his face starring at the seller creating an uncomfortable and certainly awkward silence.
Seller (20 seconds into the awkward silence): Actually, you know what Tom, we can probably get that number down to $3.40 per meter if you’re able to sign off on a PO today.
And there you have it.
The art of negotiation at times is nothing more than a pause; flat out no response at all, no reaction. When an inexperienced seller is confronted with a pause in a negotiation they squirm in their seat to the point where they feel compelled to say something in an effort to get out of the awkwardness and hopefully move the discussion closer towards the sale. They then break the number one rule of negotiations, “whoever responds 1st loses”, and blurts out another offer.
The buyer may have had every intention to buy the sellers product, they were just trained better in the art of negotiations to know that sometimes patience and not responding to the first offer can get you a better deal.
It happens all the time.
If you’re a consultant the art of negotiation is very much the same. Many times a client early in a conversation will put a consultant on the spot by asking “what is your rate?”. Most people and or consultants hate that question, especially if it’s early in the discussion as they haven’t been able to ask enough questions to better understand the client or buyers needs. As a result, the consultant throws out a figure with limited information which further puts him or her in a back peddling position defending their rate and or service with the client.
If you find yourself in a conversation where the rate question comes out early in the discussion the best way to address it is, yep, you guessed it – use the ‘pause’.
Pauses also work on the sellers side too.
Utilizing a pause, a momentary stalling in discussion, allows you to adjust and think before blurting out an answer. Peter Bregman’s book ‘4 Seconds’ talks about the power of pause and how even a 4 second pause before responding can dramatically improve your outcomes.
“What’s your rate?”, the buyer asks.
“My rates are based on the work I’m performing, length and difficulty of the project. For this reason I don’t use a standard rate for my work and would need to understand more details of your project before I can ensure I’m the right person for the job.”
Basically, you’re saying ‘I’m not a commodity, so don’t treat me that way’. You also didn’t rush into giving them a price which may or may not be reflective of the work the client needs completed. You ‘paused’ as the seller and backed up in order to reframe the conversation in a way that helps both you and the client learn more about one another’s capabilities.
Key Take Away:
If you’re in a negotiation don’t rush to fill silence with a comment that might work against you down the road. Stew in the pause, in the silence. You may find the person on the other side of the table cracks before you do.
Read the book by Peter Bregman called ‘4 Seconds’. It’s a quick read and provides great insight and perspective on how utilizing a pause, even 4 seconds, can dramatically change the outcome of your conversations, actions and even relationships.
The demand for consulting is up, way up!
The US consulting marketplace has grown consistently over the past decade. In the last three years, 2015-2018, consulting services have increased upwards of 25% bringing it to an estimated $68.5 billion U.S. dollars.
Demand is up and so is the desire from the US workforce to provide the service.
Whether you’re new to consulting hoping to dive in to get a piece of the current demand for consulting services, or you’ve been consulting for years, you’ve inevitably been challenged with the thought…
“How should I charge for my services?”
Here we’ll give into a quick and straightforward guide for establishing your consulting fees and the things which need to be taken into consideration before settling on your pricing approach.
#1: Research the local marketplace – it is imperative you understand what the marketplace yields for the consulting services you plan to offer this way you have an understanding of how you fit in with your competitors and their respective offerings. Best way to obtain this information is to ask others in the business, attend events and get quotes from others in similar lines of work. While you always want to make sure you’re getting paid for what you’re worth, you also need to be cognizant of pricing yourself out of the game.
For example, in Irvine, CA there is a large supply of people offering mechanical engineering design services. Baring any unique or niche expertise the average mechanical engineer consultant charges anywhere from $50-80/hr. If you’re charging $125/hr for similar services you may find yourself missing out on projects with potential clients because the end user, or client, has too many other reliable and capable consultant options to choose from at rates cheaper than your offering.
#2: Fixed cost vs. time & materials – you’ll need to decide up front what type of pricing strategy you’re going to use. Fixed cost is when you charge a flat fee or a ‘not to exceed’ fee for work you’re performing regardless of the amount of hours it takes you to get the job done. Time & materials pricing structures price based on the amount of hours it takes to complete the job. Read more HERE.
#3: Long game mindset – your pricing should reflect both your experience, capabilities but also your willingness to get repeat business from your clients. If your rate is higher than the average marketplace rate for similar service you may still be able to get work, however you may find the client doesn’t pick you for additional work or longer projects. Remember, the higher your rate the higher the clients expectations will be on your performance and the further scrutiny you will receive on your work output.
#4: Know your profit margin – it’s important you understand what potential profit you stand to make for each project. Profit is what keeps you growing and stable long term. If you’re constantly breaking even you leave yourself at risk for unexpected downturns and other things out of your control. Establish an ideal profit margin per project you want to achieve and incorporate that into your pricing. Learn how to establish a profit margin HERE.
#5: Flexibility is key – clients like working with consultants that are flexible; if you’re too rigid with your pricing you may find you’ll lose out on opportunities in the long run. Try pricing your work based on the difficulty of completing the task. Perhaps you have a minimum threshold you’re going to charge per hour (say $100/hr) and then based on the work you’re potentially taking on you will scale your price upwards by 25%. It’s not uncommon for consultants to have a pricing menu based on the range of their capabilities and difficulty to perform the work at hand. We suggest not using a ‘one size fits all approach’ for pricing your services.
#6: Know what you need – while you should never price your consulting practice based on your personal lifestyle (clients don’t care how big your house is, what car you drive or what your bills are so they certainly aren’t going to pay you more just because your lifestyle requires it) it is important to know what you need to be charging in order to meet your personal financial obligations. Once you know this number go back to step #1 in this article to see if your pricing number is in line with the general market. Don’t charge more just because you need more to live. Clients can smell that from a mile away and it’s a big turn off.
Pricing should be based solely on the value you provide. Your consulting price should have flexibility built into it while keeping in mind the difficulty of the work being performed. Ensure you know how the marketplace is operating and what others are charging for similar services so you can be competitive with your offering.
Meet 3-5 people in the consulting space which is similar in nature to yours. Learn about their offerings, how they go about pricing their service and what challenges they’ve had with clients specific to pricing. The more you can learn from them ahead of your own efforts the better off you’ll be when it comes time to present your price in front of a potential customer.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.