The Wish Group Summer Reunion

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This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting our annual Summer Reunion for the Wish Group and all of companies that we own. We have been doing these events for many years, and every year they somehow get better and better. Next week I intend to write up some of the more business and sales related issues we discussed at the event, but this week I wanted to share a few of my reflections from the event and why I believe events like these are essential for companies.

When you’re working day in and day out on tasks, meetings and other things, it becomes easy (far too easy) to lose sight of the most important asset in your company – your people. Your people are the reason that your company is successful.  Your people are essentially the secret sauce of why your company is different than any other company. That’s why it’s important to see where your people are coming from, and what motivates them to do what they do – and holding team events is the perfect venue for that.

At the Wish Group, we organize these events bi-annually – once at the beginning of the year to set goals and review the previous year, and one in the summer time to regroup and discuss how things are currently progressing. Even though we meet on a quarterly basis and do practice an open book management policy, we hold these more extravagant events so all of the leadership team has the chance to connect with staff on a more personal level and build rapport. Once your team understands why you’re so passionate about what you do, and vice versa, it’s easier to accomplish all of the goals you set out to do.

Another great benefit of events like this is the fact that your team will get to know each other better. This is arguably the most valuable thing that you’ll get from this event. Your team members are probably used to working with core people that they’re comfortable with, but these events provide the chance for them to build new relationships with team members they’ve never had the chance to mingle with. What this ends up doing is building peer accountability across your team. Peer accountability is crucial for any business, as it means that your team will work hard to finish projects and not let each other down – allowing you to grow your business without worrying.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be an extravagant event that you host. No matter how many employees that you have, you need to get your team together outside the office so they get to know each other better, and so you see what kind of drive they have towards your business. Once you see how dedicated your team is to your common goal, I guarantee that you’ll be inspired.

Motivate Yourself and You’ll Motivate Your Team

motivation-for-entrepreneursThere was a recent meeting I attended with my leadership team that got me thinking about motivation. We were discussing sales numbers, and I encountered a typical problem – the numbers were good, but they could have been much better. This can be difficult to communicate to staff, because some think that “good” is enough, and simply don’t have the motivation to improve their methods.

There are countless articles online that discuss how to motivate your employees. In fact, I encountered one great article from Inc.com that details three questions that you should ask your employees every few months to gauge their motivation. After reading this fantastic article, something occurred to me. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you, yourself, are motivated to become a better worker, a better entrepreneur, and essentially a better person. Once you can keep yourself motivated to do better, you’ll understand how to motivate your team to do better. Here are three pieces of advice I can offer fellow entrepreneurs to help you motivate yourself:

Prioritize your Tasks: It’s easy to get bogged down by little tasks that may seem incredibly important to you at the time, but aren’t truly essential for day-to-day operations. If you keep getting distracted by little tasks, it will eventually drain you and leave you with little “juice” left to focus on the important items on your list. Take a step back and prioritize what tasks are truly essential to business operations, which will keep you focused and inspired to perform to the best of your abilities.

Realize That People Are Depending On You: They may not blatantly tell you to your face, but your team is depending on you in many different ways. They depend on you for guidance, mentorship and general leadership. Of course, it’s not just your team that is depending on you either – your family is depending on you too. When you realize that you have so many people counting on you, you’ll recognize that you have to become better in more ways than one.

Think about the Flip Side: As an entrepreneur, you ultimately decided to take the risk of running your own business for one central reason: you despise the idea of working for someone else. This one point alone is usually enough to motivate most entrepreneurs, but hectic days can make you lose sight of this. Remind yourself that you opened the doors of your business because you not only wanted to be your own boss – but you knew that you could do it better than anyone else.

What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you find that motivating yourself helps your team stay focused? I’d love to chat with you about this in the comments below.

The Difference between Being a “Boss” and Being a Leader

difference-between-a-boss-and-a-leaderWhen you’re an entrepreneur who runs their own business, you might find yourself questioning your leadership techniques from time to time. Being a leader is no easy task, and business owners should take the time to reassess how they’re influencing their co-workers and staff. Over the past 12 years of my entrepreneurship, I’ve had my share of triumphs and failures concerning leadership. I’m constantly trying to re-evaluate and change my methods to ensure that I’m not “bossing” my team around, but that I’m providing an avenue for personal and professional growth instead.

The terms “boss” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, but there is actually quite a big difference between the two. A boss watches and supervises workers to ensure that tasks and projects are getting delivered on time without any difficulties. A leader will give the same list of tasks, but also brings with them a level of inspiration and guidance. Leaders are there for their employees, and instead of telling their team to complete a task, they provide guidance and offer different methods to complete them.

Another quality that a boss possesses is that they only focus on their projects one at a time, and once those projects are complete they move on to the next item on their list without considering the big picture.  Leaders understand that every project your team completes should grow your company in some shape or form, be it financially or professionally. This isn’t limited to simply successes either – even a failed project or a lost client can help your team grow by realizing what mistakes you need to avoid in the future.

Lastly, a boss will examine their employee’s work and criticize their mistakes, while a leader will view these mistakes as coaching opportunities. It’s vital that instead of simply telling your staff why something is wrong, you coach them through their mistakes, tell them what they can do to avoid these mistakes in the future and how they can improve their work. There is nothing worse than having someone on your team who is too afraid to approach you with their best work because they’re concerned with how much you’ll dislike their efforts, instead of providing them with advice on how they can improve.

Of course, the transition from being a “boss” to becoming a leader takes time. I find myself struggling with these challenges almost every day, and even after 12 years I constantly remind myself to look for all of the coaching opportunities available for my team. It will take time and dedication, but the outcomes are well worth the effort.

Success is Revenge!

Based on the popularity of my recent hockey blogs I’ve decided to write about another on ice experience.  Due to some travel I missed a couple of games in a row and hadn’t been on the ice for a while, because of my improved play of late it was actually flattering and uplifting when my line mate Tommy Siskos was eager to have me back.  In a very nice albeit odd choice by team captain Grobo, he actually called on our line to start (almost never happens as we are usually the second or third line).  Coaches usually do this at time to fire up a line or reward a line that has been performing well of late so we did not disappoint, I scored a goal on our second shift and added another assist on one of Tommy’s goals in the second period.  We went deep into the third period with a 2-1 lead in what was a very tight game without a single penalty called on each team, yet at that point something very odd happened.  In the offensive zone, with only a minute to play Tommy had a very questionable penalty called on him, there is an unwritten rule in hockey code that says tight games where no penalties have been called you don’t call one with one minute left in the game especially on a marginal call in the offensive zone to boot!  Well needless to say Tommy was furious and venting in frustration (happens after almost any penalty) and the referees knowing this was such a debatable call should have understood but to add insult to injury gave him an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct!  They had crossed the line, even I burst out yelling and I’m the soft spoken one on the team, how could the referees not only make such a silly call late in the game as opposed to letting it play out, but actually now be factoring into the decision?  It was ludicrous.

Well as luck would have it we were scored on almost immediately which forced overtime but because it was a double minor we would also went into the overtime period shorthanded 4-3 which given the momentum blow we just took almost meant a sure defeat.  As any hockey player reading this will relate too as it’s happened to us all, Tommy just felt awful that his mishap would cost us the game, he wished he could just disappear yet there he sat alone in the glass penalty box for everybody to see.  What happened next in this game as what often happens in life when we are faced with challenges was awesome.  As we were a few seconds away from killing off the penalty Grobo yelled out my name to go on the ice next when Tommy’s penalty had expired.  I don’t blame Grobo for the choice, I had played a great game scoring a gorgeous near perfect goal on a very good goalie to break the 0-0 tie late in the second period which gave us the belief that we could finally beat this stingy goalie.  I had then made a perfect pass to Tommy to give us the go ahead goal.  However, I had a gut feel, call it intuition or my belief in the powerful motivating force of redemption or sweet serendipity but as I was about to take the ice, I was standing right beside Tommy who was in the penalty box eagerly waiting for his penalty to expire when I looked at him right in the eye and said, “Tommy, you go out there AND score!”  What was a fraction of a second I saw a mix of emotions of surprise of the selfless act, excitement at the possibility of redeeming himself and what looked like a jolt of energy in his eyes as he yelled “ok!” with sheer glee and enthusiasm.  He skated directly into the offensive zone and scored in under six seconds flat and we won the game!  Sweet poetic justice.

Although nobody likes to face challenges, we tend to embrace the comfort zone or clear sailing so to speak, but in life we learn most when we struggle and face challenges.  We tend to find another gear, we dig deeper into our souls and further into our inner core for the strength to pull us through.  Whenever the storms or injustices of life hit me, I always find some solace in the fact that I’m about to learn a life or business lesson, gain yet another amazing experience or battle scare to mold me into a better human being capable of doing more to make this world a better place.  This attitude is always harder when we get dealt a blow that doesn’t seem fair, crap happens in life out of happenstance or coincidence but when we are clearly wronged by another intentionally to do us harm, it’s at those times that we question whether there is a force or God out there or whether there is even meaning in this life, so it’s not a comfortable feeling to say the least.  I’m a firm believer in the laws of compensation and when you sow good seeds, good things come back at you in different ways that you can’t even imagine.  When it comes to bringing justice to the world when unjustifiable acts happen, I urge you to immediately say to yourself “success will be my revenge”.  It’s what I do every time life or somebody knocks me down and I focus all my energy into what it takes to succeed in the circumstances and visualize what I want the end result to be, exactly what I did when I put the team first ahead of myself and put Tommy in knowing with all my heart that he was going to redeem himself.

The Holy Grail of Leadership

Like most Canadian boys, I grew up playing hockey and like most of them, dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. Needless to say, I was never quite good enough to play professionally, but over the past few years after determining that I needed to de-stress and have some male bonding time, I decided to get back to playing in a beer league with some old friends. Besides working up a good sweat, I find it therapeutic at the end of a hectic work week to kick back and relax with the guys and have a few pops after the game. What I think I get most out of it though are the same things I took from the game growing up, which is how important discipline, teamwork, passion and fun are in life and in business. The early morning practices, trying your hardest, working together as a group and the camaraderie that comes with it is truly fulfilling, especially seeing the pride in my father’s eyes after I had a good game, not to mention the dollar he gave me for each goal!

Well now that I’m older, I still enjoy the game, in some ways even more than I used to as a kid, no pressure, it’s truly just fun now. However I’m blessed to be on a team called the Screaming Eagles and we are quite the passionate bunch of thirty and forty something’s. Although we aren’t playing for money, the Stanley Cup, or a Gold Medal for our country, you would never know it by our passion and our strong will to win. Something happened in a recent game that really made me reflect on things. It was after the first period and as our goalie George Benak was changing sides and came over to the bench for some water, out of the blue he yelled at me to move my feet out there and skate insinuating that I was standing around. Well, you can probably guess my reaction, probably no different than any of my employees who I’ve called out before, I was pissed! However, that being said, deep down, or not that deep down, I knew he was right. In fact I was just thinking to myself that my lack of intensity on the back check probably caused a goal, but what upset me was that Benak noticed! So my inner voice started off with the usual “who the heck does he think he is?” and “well he should worry about himself and stop letting in soft goals!”.

As we started the second period I had a decision to make, I could mail it in and chalk it up to a bad game and let my ego win, or I could prove Benak and myself wrong and turn things around. So I really dug deep and skated my butt off and it made a difference. Afterwards in the dressing room, as Benak walked in he yelled out in front of everyone, “Hey Frank, hell of a game out there!”. I couldn’t believe the feeling that came over me, I was beaming and smiling from ear to ear just like I was eight years old again and my father was walking into the dressing room and complimented me on my play. At first I couldn’t believe that I was reacting this way, I mean Benak’s a great guy but I’m the all-powerful CEO of many businesses, I’m the one who usually inspires and motivates people to action, how had I fallen for such a simple compliment? Well, it reminded me that holding people accountable is the right thing to do for them and the team, and it reminded me that praise ALWAYS works.

A few days later in our company wide sales meeting, I told this story, and what we all took from the story that I hadn’t thought about was the power of peer to peer accountability. Unlike professional or even organized youth hockey, there are no coaches on our team, we have to self govern in a way while we are in the play, we don’t have much perspective besides when we are on the bench in-between shifts.  Accountability is often lacking in most companies, it’s what separates good performing businesses from poor ones, and in most cases even when it’s present it comes from management. Don’t get me wrong it needs to be there from management, but in my experience, the exceptional companies always have peer to peer accountability in them. It’s when a colleague calls you out to do your best, or you want to excel in your job not only for yourself but because you don’t want to let the team down and you’re looking for their respect. This peer to peer accountability is what every team should be striving to achieve, and when as a leader you achieve this within your team, you’ve achieved what has been termed, the Holy Grail of Leadership.