Stop The Vanilla Blog

Wear the Right Hat

Top Hat #2Every family member who works in the business should be placed in the position where they can bring the greatest value to the company and themselves.  That place is what we call “home,” or the spot that is matched to his or her skills, gifts, education and experience. Once in that position, he/she must have the understanding and discipline to wear the right hat.  Simply put, an owner cannot wear his/her shareholder hat while serving in their functional role.

Of course, as an owner you have a responsibility to interact with all of your employees and build relationships.  But what do you do if an employee comes to you looking for advice about an issue from a different department outside of your functional area?  When an employee approaches you, listen to his/her idea. Ask if he/she has spoken to his manager. If yes, what was the result? If no, suggest that he/she go back to their supervisor. Then, talk with the manager yourself.   As an owner you can help with follow-through by removing the obstacles or providing the necessary resources to implement the idea, but let the manager do their job and lead the department.

Resist the urge to become too involved. Nothing can deteriorate the effectiveness of a management team more than when an owner jumps into the proverbial sandbox, kicks over the castles, and then leaves it for the manager to put back together.  It will undercut the authority of the manager and he/she will be at risk of losing the respect and credibility of his/her team. It also eliminates or reduces the level of accountability to which you can hold the manager.  Once you as the owner step in you release the manager of accountability on that specific issue.  It also confuses employees, as they don’t know where they should turn with issues in the future. Having the shareholder hat in the wrong place creates inefficiencies and diminishes the benefits of a team.

It is imperative that the owners and shareholders respect the structure and deal with issues through the appropriate channels.  The larger the organization the more important this is.

To make it easier to keep the right hat on I suggest a couple of ideas to business owners and shareholders.

•Hold consistent shareholder/board meetings – The place the shareholder hat fits best in a consistently held shareholder meeting.  The shareholders or Board of Advisors/Directors should be meeting at least quarterly if not monthly.  It makes it easier for owners to keep their functional hat on when they know a shareholders meeting is coming up on their schedule.

•Keep list of shareholder topics – When you are working in your functional role keep a note pad with you and when a shareholder topic comes up write it on your list for the next shareholder meeting.

It is critical that owners and shareholders understand the difference between their functional and shareholder hats.   Recognizing the difference to their leadership team and organization has become so important to several SM Advisors’ clients that they have two hats in their office – one that says “Shareholder” and one that says “Functional.”  It’s a lighthearted approach to a critically important topic.  Take steps now to make sure you are always wearing the right hat. Remember, Those Who Plan – PROFIT!

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Plan For Effective Social Encounters

social encounter #2

Be prepared. It’s the Boy Scout motto, and it applies in our daily lives as well. We prepare for such things as meetings, vacations and our retirement.  But it’s also a good idea to think ahead and prepare for approaching social encounters. Planning can make all the difference in assuring a positive outcome.

Think about those times when you are planning to attend an event such as a Chamber of Commerce function, a family wedding, a company function, or maybe even a Green Bay Packers game. Someone is going to be there with whom you want to talk about a specific topic.  Those topics could range from getting together to working together.  It’s a good idea to plan ahead for that encounter and think through beforehand what you are going to say when you see that person.  And maybe just as important, is what not to say.

I have more successful interactions when I plan them out in advance. I would suggest you document your plan for a while and then after you’ve done this a few times, you will likely develop a short template in your head and it will become more routine for you.  It also helps when you see someone across the room you weren’t expecting to see. You can take an unexpected encounter and make it a positive experience for both of you.  These encounters are going to happen, so why not have a process to make each and every one a step forward.  When developing your process consider some of the following steps for your next planned or unexpected social encounter.  (template at

The process template could include the following:

1)      Interaction or encounter target (who the person is and at what event)

2)       A short list of your objectives for that interaction

3)      Warm-up questions to get the person talking about themselves and relevant “small talk” topics

4)      Transition questions for specific topic. Key question or topic you want to discuss targeted at accomplishing your objectives

5)      Follow-up action plans from discussion

Make it easy for the individual to communicate with you. Don’t just think about what you want to say, but how the other person might want to be approached. Anticipate his or her behavioral style, and then adapt your approach accordingly. For example, is the person really outgoing or more of an introvert?

Once you do this successfully a couple of times it can become a strength of your communication style, which can only create more positive outcomes in all the relationships in your life.  It will help you accomplish your professional and personal goals.

When you think about it, you wouldn’t go into an important meeting without planning ahead. So why would you fail to plan for important social encounters as well?  Remember, whatever the situation, Those Who Plan – Profit!

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Celebrating The Success Of Others Is Inspiring

Celebrate the success of others

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” That quote from Les Smith really summarizes a breakthrough I experienced in my life. Early in my career, I found it difficult to be happy for the success of others around me. Here I was, … [Continue reading]

Board’s Role In Strategic Planning – Role Clarity Makes Planning More Effective

Board of Advisors

Have you ever struggled to gain clarity over the responsibilities of your board of advisors/directors in the strategic planning process?  It’s very common, regardless of company size.  At SM Advisors, we have experienced this firsthand with our board … [Continue reading]

Brainstorming: Action Plans To Make Goals Happen


Teams brainstorm action plans to achieve each goal, but they do not indicate an owner or completion date on the action plans. The key is to brainstorm as many action plans as possible for each goal. Then when the department leaders are developing … [Continue reading]

Effective Relationships Have Clarity


My wife prefers not to make any big decisions after 8:00 pm at night. It’s a reasonable request: she’s ready to relax at that time of day and doesn’t want any heavy discussions. That’s one example of relational clarity in my life. It leads to more … [Continue reading]

What Businesses Can Learn From The NFL


One of the redeeming qualities of NFL teams that go deep into the playoffs is that they acquire the specific talent (via draft or free agency) to execute their game plan on the field. In simple terms, one of the key drivers of all their talent … [Continue reading]

To Optimize Life Break It Down Into Seasons


There is an old song that goes, “To everything¸ there is a season and a purpose under Heaven.” As we approach February, I would recommend you take time to sit back and consider what season of life you are in right now. I’ve come to learn that life is … [Continue reading]

Your Strategy Is an Evolution, Not Revolution


Imagine driving your car at night without any headlights. It’s a pretty scary thought, right? You would be hoping you stay on the road and don’t hit anything. I’m not suggesting that you try it, but that’s what it’s like not having a plan for your … [Continue reading]

Will You Be Remembered For What You Did or Didn’t Do


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things that you did do.”  When I first heard this Mark Twain quote it became a motivating force for me because I do not want it to become true. I became … [Continue reading]