Overcome Feeling Like an Imposter Using Three Simple Strategies

I founded a company in 2003 which ended up on the Inc 500 list in 2009. We started as two guys squatting in an law office building websites. Half a decade later we had over twenty people, a significant client roster, and a reasonable bank balance.

You would think, as I walked from my table at the awards dinner to the stage--to accept our plaque from Norm Brodsky--that I would be beaming with pride and feeling on top of the world.

I wasn't.

Surrounded by hundreds of other award winners of amazing companies I felt completely out of place. Everyone there seemed confident and sure of themselves.

I, on the other hand, was thinking about all of the problems and struggles our growing company was having, despite its financial success. From my perspective, it was obvious that nobody was having these same challenges. After all, they had won an award to prove it

Then, after the awards ceremonies, I had the chance to enjoy a few drinks and talk with some of the other award winners. With our bow ties undone, sitting on the veranda of conference center, I mentioned my thoughts from the ceremony.

One by one, they all admitted that they, too, felt uneasy about the accolades. In fact, they commented that I seemed the most poised and successful of the group.

As we spoke, I realized that my own feelings of self-doubt were minor compared to some of the others' at the table. When we shared some of our war stories, I realized that my company was actually doing fairly well, relative to some of the nightmares I heard that night.

By the end of the night, I was able to remind myself and come to terms with the fact that I am my own worst critic. And taking that sentiment further, comparing my internal assessment of my success to how I see other people's success is a losing proposition.

How to overcome imposter syndrome

Years later, I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review by Gill Corkindale titled Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. I realized what I had experienced was something psychologist have known about for years, it had a title so it must have been more common than I thought.

It set in motion a great transformation in me.

As an entrepreneur, I became much more comfortable pushing new ideas and exploring new territory. I became less worried about how I compared to other people and became more open to sharing my concerns and doubts with others to get help and insight.

As a coach, I learned that one of the best things I can do is to share my own challenges, failures, and uncertainty with my clients. Sharing this vital information breaks down the barriers to deeper sharing and insight. It allows me be to be a true partner in the process and success.

Over time, I've found three easy and effective strategies for overcoming the impostor syndrome trap. These have worked well for both for me and for my coaching clients:

1. Call it out for what it is: bad thinking

The trickiest part of self-doubt is that it can be hard to realize it's happening. Your mind is an expert in convincing you.

The sooner you can catch that you're doubting yourself, the sooner you can start addressing it.

Get good at telling the difference between doubt based on external, objective concerns and those which come from your own inner critic.

2. Remember that even the most successful people have self doubt

Once you're aware of your own self doubt, remember that this happens to everyone. In fact, you can make it a badge of courage.

Knowing that even the greatest minds and most fearless leaders have self-doubt can validate that you're in good company. Try using self-doubt as a sign that you're on to something big and important.

3. Don't strive for perfection and make it okay to fail

Self-doubt is very hard to overcome if your internal expectation is perfection. A zero-tolerance for mistakes and errors will make it impossible to take action.

The solution here is to change your expectations; frame the situation to make failure an acceptable outcome.

One of the best ways to do this it to set up your actions as "experiments". That way, any outcome is a learning opportunity.

Great leaders and successful entrepreneurs need to be critical and careful to exam all options, in every situation, in order to make good decisions.

While you may never completely get rid of your self-doubt, spotting it--and acting despite it--will lead to more success.

(This article originally appeared on Inc.com: http://on.inc.com/2cOjg4a)

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The Secret to Effective Delegation

I’ve been running a management training program for the last few weeks and recently taught a session on delegation. Naturally, everyone in the class was excited to learn how to delegate, but they were surprised by my advice.

I taught them that you can’t delegate work to someone else until you are properly organized yourself. In fact, I spent 75% of the class going over organizingyourself, and only 25% on delegation.

This advice wasn’t exactly what they wanted to hear, and I get it. Who wouldn’t rather just delegate a bunch of work rather than trying to get themselves organized?

But here’s the thing: in order to figure out what to delegate, you need to know where you add the most value and what your true capacity is.

You can’t delegate just anything. You want to delegate tasks that are fairly routine for you and that you feel ready to let someone else to take on. You don’t delegate new work, you don’t delegate critical work and you don’t delegate work that you would otherwise add the most value to.

Until you organize yourself, you don’t know what you should focus on doing yourself and what you should delegate. Delegating before organizing yourself is inefficient and potentially dangerous to your career. 

This isn’t just about making a list of things to do. It’s about assessing the value you provide, carefully considering what work you should prioritize and determining your true capacity.

There are two big factors you need to consider in order to decide what work to do yourself and what to delegate.

1) Determine where you add the most value in the business

Do you develop creative ideas? Do you make sure the reports are accurate and error-free? Do you analyze data for insights and opportunities? What is essential in your role and why do you have it rather than someone else?

2) Identify which work is “new” and which work is “optimized”

Optimized work is that which you’ve done for some time and have been able to cut down on the amount of time it takes you to complete. You have a process, and your results are accurate. You know the checklist. You’ve made, and fixed, the mistakes. You’ve worked out all the kinks. What work do you do right now that is considered optimized? What work do you do that isn’t?

Once you’ve done these two tasks, you’re ready to find work to delegate.

Delegate the work to which you add the least amount of value which has also been optimized. Sometimes, none of the work fits the bill. In this case, find a task that you add the least amount of value to, and work on optimizing the task in preparation for delegation. Don’t try to delegate before you do this step. If you delegate before you optimize, you won’t be able to properly manage the delegation, and you run the risk that quality will suffer. You can’t delegate a task that you haven’t honed first.

What to delegate better? Try this...

Create a work delegation matrix making a list all of the work and tasks that you currently do. Next, assess whether each one has high value or low value. Then, assess whether each one is well-honed or not honed.

For those items that are low-value and well-honed, determine what you would need to do to effectively delegate these tasks, and to whom you would delegate them to.

For those items which are low-value and not well-honed, determine what you need to do to hone these tasks in order to make them ready for delegation.

Good luck! Post questions below.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is an organizational consultant and business coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.


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Focus on Results, Not Effort

One summer when I was in high school, I worked for a house painting company to make some extra spending money. I had a bit of painting experience and figured that working outside painting houses was better than flipping burgers at a fast food joint.

One of our first projects was painting a gorgeous, colonial house in the Linden Hill district of Minneapolis. I was given the task of painting the trim on the windows. If you’ve ever painted window trim, you know that it’s not that easy. In order to properly seal the glass, you need to leave a nice bead of paint between the wood frame and the window pane. Otherwise, the freeze/thaw cycle of cold weather will wreak havoc on your stiles, rails, and muntins. (Hey, I was an architect, I have a duty to use the right terms.)

I spent all day painting several windows and sweating profusely in the summer sun. At the end of the day, our foreman − a big Scandinavian guy named Erik − looked at my work and shook his head.

“Not good enough,” he said. “You see these gaps here and here?” he asked, pointing to two sections where the paint didn’t reach the glass. “And these areas, here, you have too much paint,” he continued, finding several spots where I was overly generous with my brush.

I explained that I worked all day on these windows and that I tried really hard to do the best that I could. He grinned as he said something I’ll never forget:

“Well, I guess your best just isn’t good enough.”

There it was. I was crushed! Before Erik had seen my work, I was proud of the time and effort I put into it. And yet, it just wasn’t good enough.

Erik saw my look of dejection and said, “now look here, I can see you put in a lot of work and time. I’m not saying you didn’t. I’m just saying that we can’t leave these windows like this.” He paused, then continued. “We get paid to paint the house and people expect a quality job given what we charge. We don’t get paid for how hard we work. We get paid based on how good the paint job is.”

Grabbing the paint can, the brush and a scrapper, he waved me over to the first window.

“Look, I know you can do better, and I’ll show you some tricks to getting this right.” He used the scraper to remove the paint I just laid down and then dipped the brush in the paint can.

“First, load your brush with a good amount of paint, but not too much. Then put your outside fingers on the window to stabilize your hand as you glide down the pane. Go slowly and watch how much paint is being laid down, and adjust the brush pressure as you go.” Then he handed me the brush. “Now you try!”

After a few attempts, I figured out how to leave a nice bead of paint. The next day, I scraped and repainted all of the windows. And that summer, I went from being a beginner to an (almost) expert level house painter.

But perhaps the most important thing that I learned was what Erik taught me: that in business, people don’t pay you for your effort. People pay you for results.

There are a few things that Erik did when he focused on my results that I’ve found most great managers do.

First, he turned the results into the goal, rather than the effort spent. My goal wasn’t to spend a ton of time. Or to feel good about my work. Or for Erik to feel good about it. Without beating around the bush, my work was just “not good enough.”

By focusing on the results in a neutral way, you remove the drama and vagueries around the message.

Second, Erik quickly acknowledged my effort and explained that he wasn’t making this statement about me personally, but about the results I delivered. He separated the two, which allowed him to be highly critical of the paint job, without diminishing my effort, motivation abilities, or intent. His feedback was about the product, not about me or my character.

This is where a lot of managers get it wrong. When an employee doesn’t perform up to par, they make it personal and they criticize the employee rather than the product. And when managers say things like “you didn’t try hard enough” or “you know better than to think that this is good enough,” that’s personal. Making it personal never leads to desirable outcomes.

The fact is, you don’t know how hard they tried, what they thought or even what they are truly capable of. You only know what you can see: their results.

Finally, Erik immediately helped me fix the problem. He showed confidence in my ability to get better even though he found my results unacceptable. He made specific comments on the work I had just finished. He showed me where it was wrong and how to fix it. Then, he had me do it so that he was sure that I got it right.

The rejection of my paint job was certainly an emotional blow. But that was my issue, not his. Erik’s clear, neutral and fact-based approach to teaching me how to get better minimized the time I spent emotionally reacting to the situation and instead helped me improve.

By focusing on results in the right way, you can ensure that work is done up to your standard and can help your people learn and improve.

Here are a few tips for how to focus on results in a productive and an effective manner:

  • Make sure the results that you’re after are clear and objective.
  • Point out what was done correctly as well as what wasn’t.
  • Be specific and show them examples in their work.
  • Only comment on things you can objectively see, hear, touch, taste or smell − anything else is subjective and open to interpretation.
  • Explain why it’s not correct and the impact that will have.
  • Show them how to make it right and then have them do it.
  • Agree on a plan for redoing the work and a reasonable check-in point.
  • Try not to use judgmental words like “bad,” “poor” or “terrible” when pointing out defects. Instead, use words like “incorrect,” “needs improvement” or “needs to be changed.”
  • Avoid commenting on the person’s intent, character, motivation, intelligence, etc.

What to put this idea to work? Pick a recent time when you reviewed someone’s work. Go back to the situation and answer the following questions. If you answer “no” to any of them, write out how you could have done this differently.

  • Did you start with comments on factual results?
  • Did you use a neutral and objective tone?
  • Did you point out things that were correct as well as incorrect?
  • Did you support the person's confidence in being able to do a better job?
  • Did you point out specific things that were incorrect and show them how to do it correctly?
  • Did you set up a plan for making changes and a check-in point?


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Bruce Eckfeldt is an organizational consultant and business coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.


Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Great Managers Define Problems Well

The last few weeks I've been running strategy and planning workshops for different organizations. These workshops range from half-day to two-day affairs where senior leaders review accomplishments made over the last year, develop insights around performance and areas for improvements, and then define goals and metrics for the coming quarters.

I truly love these sessions and this type of work. As a facilitator and coach, I have the privilege of learning about really what makes these teams tick and what challenges them. For teams who I work with on a regular basis, we've built trust and transparency that we need to go deep and address core issues which hinder personal and team performance.

My key to my role as a coach is to ask questions. Sometimes my questions are designed to prompt discussion or help the team consider alternatives or possibilities. Sometimes my questions point out inconsistencies or gaps in logic or understanding. Sometimes my questions shine a light on a topic or issue that everyone in fact sees, but nobody wants to bring up.

However, the best questions I can ask are questions that clarify problems. I've found that teams can spend hours, or even days, struggling to find a solution to a problem. Only to realize late in the process that people don't have the same view of what the problem is or why it's important.

Great managers and great teams don't just come up with great solutions,they come up with a great definition of the problem before they start trying to solve it.

Great Managers Define Problems Well

Defining a problem before finding a solution is critical to success. The more complex the problem, the more critical the definition.

Albert Einstein famously once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

While his ratio might seem excessive, I would say that for complex problems, anything from 50-80% of the time should be spent in the "definition" phase of the problem-solving process. Anything less, you run the risk of missing key insights about what the problem really is or coming up with solutions that don't truly address the needs of a solution.

To define a problem well, you need to answer four key questions...

First, you need to define the problem in exact terms. Describe what the problem is in qualitative and quantitative terms. Be specific.

Don't just say "we have a problem with buggy code." Instead try, "we have performance issues with the page load times on mobile devices for six of our product pages."

The key here is to define what the problem is not as much as what it is. Is it all of them, or just some? Is it all the time, or just sometimes? Is it always that bad, or does it vary?

A great technique here is the "Five Whys" developed by Sakichi Toyoda (founder of Toyota) and popularized by Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. Dig further into the problem by asking why several times. Each time uncovering a new layer of insight and progressing to the root problem.

Teams who don't do this well waste a lot of time because individuals are trying to solve different problems. And argue over different paths to take because they aren't on the same page.

Second, clarify the impact of the problem. By defining the impact, you define why the problem is a problem. This will drive the data that will be collected and possible solutions developed.

Building on the example above, "as a result, users are clicking away and we're loosing potential sales." Other impacts could be loosing repeat customers or getting negative reviews. These could drive different questions and paths for solutions.

Third, define what success looks like. The point here is to agree on the criteria you'll use to measure success and decide that you're finished. Defining this up front clarifies the end point and helps articulate the path towards a potential solution.

For the example we've been using, this could be the load time of the pages under review. Even better would be to define which browsers, running which OS, and during what time of day. All of these could be factors in the problem, and thus should be parameters of the solution.

I'm always surprised how trying to define the solution criteria puts teams quickly back into the previous two steps. And that is the true value of this step. Defining solution criteria further articulates the problem and its impact.

Fourth, articulate the value of solving the problem. This is the step that most individuals and teams often skip. And often this results in a lot of wasted effort.

This step is basically the ROI test for the problem. It defines the potential return on your time invested in solving this problem. Ideally, this is expressed in dollars or time saved for the organization. It can also be expressed in terms of risk and uncertainty. The more quantitative the better.

Why do we bother with this step? It's because there are far more problems than there is time to solve them. We can spend every hour of every day solving problems and we'll always have more.

Successful individuals, teams, and organizations, pick the problems that have the highest return for the time invested. They know their time is a limited resource and they are really good about prioritizing the problems that have a high return. They also know how much time they should spend on a problem and do the minimum work required to hit the success criteria.

Many people make the mistake of spending time on problems that are annoying or get a lot of complaints but don't really have much impact or value in solving. While having a product page load slowly is certainly a problem, if it only affects a small number of users or it's low-margin product then the return would fairly low.

Don't focus on squeaky wheels. Focus on value creation.

Here is a simple mnemonic for the four steps: D-I-S-V.

  • D - definition
  • I - impact
  • S - success
  • V - value

Following these four steps before problem-solving will ensure that you're choosing the right problems to solve and zeroing in on exactly what needs to be done to solve them.

If you want a simple one-page sheet that walks you through these four steps, email me at disvtemplate@eckfeldt.com and I'll send one to you.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Want to improve your management skills? Join 52 Habits and get an email each week to help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects.


Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

52 Habits for Better Management in 2016

Here we are. The beginning a new year. If you're like most people, you have spent the last few days thinking of goals and resolutions for 2016.

I haven't.

While I'm a big believer in setting goals, I'm not a big fan of new year's resolutions. Too many people set big goals in January, struggle in the first few weeks, then give up.

There is no better place to see this than at the local gym. Cardio machines are packed the beginning of January, only to be empty by February. (It's why I try to avoid the gym in January and do home workouts or run outside.)

I'd like to suggest you consider an alternative...

Instead of setting a bunch of annual resolutions, try committing to one simplehabit each week in 2016. Small, focused changes every seven days. That's 52habits for the year. My bet is that you'll be far more successful developing weeklyhabits than setting annual resolutions.

There is a great saying, that seems to be a derivative of something Bill Gates once said:

"We overestimate what we can do in a day,
but underestimate what we can do in a year"

What I take away from this saying is that you'll accomplish more by doing a little bit every day, than trying to do a lot in a single day. In other words, small, simple changes lead to big results over time.

So, my suggestion is rather than setting lofty annual resolutions, commit to small, weekly habits.

To that end, I want to offer some help!

As you know, I focus on organizational effectiveness. And the key to organizational success is effective management at all levels. Without it, you can have the best strategy, the best customers, the best product and still fail.

I'm launching a new program that's absolutely free. It's a special group devoted to effective management. This program is for anyone, at any level, who wants to be more effective in the workplace as a manager. (Honestly, you can use most of the ideas in your personal life as well.)

The program is named...52 Habits

As a member, each week you will receive an email with a new habit that will make you a better, more effective manager. Over the course of 52weeks, I'll help you better manage yourself, your teams, and your projects and make 2016 your most effective year yet.

And the best part is that all you need to do is simply sign up for the email. I'll take care of the rest. No more tracking, no reminders, no post-it notes on your bathroom mirror.

Simple. Easy. Done.

To register, click on the link below and enter your name and email address. 


Here is a sample of what you'll get...

Habit #1: Set Clear Expectations.

Whether you're onboarding a new employee or working with a long-time business partner, setting clear expectations is important. It sets the basis for performance measurement and agreements.

Done well, they can help make things run smoothly by identifying issues up front and heading off train wrecks before they happen. Done poorly, they can lead to problems. Sometimes big problems.

People are not mindreaders, yet we sometimes act that way. We get frustrated and disappoint when things are not going the way we want yet we haven't clearly communicated exactly what is we want.... 

Sign up here to read more:

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Writing a Job Description That Has Teeth

Small forests have been wasted on poorly-written job descriptions. Some are too long and rambling, while some are too short and vague. Neither are effective tools for finding talent and managing performance. A well-written description serves as a tool for evaluating candidates, hiring the best talent, managing performance, and getting the results you want, and need, from your people. Done well, it’s valuable enough to be printed on gold-leaf paper and hung on the wall.

Unfortunately, poorly-written job descriptions are rampant in today's business world. Yet the difference between a poor job description and a great one can be summed up in just two words: clear expectations.

A great job description defines an employee's role within the context of a broader management system. It does this by establishing what that system expects and needs from that role to make the whole system work well. It defines what tasks need to be completed, by when, to what standard, and how frequently. The more clear and concise, the better. Job descriptions are not aspirational or abstract. They are clearly defined and measurable expectations of results and behavior.

Poor descriptions typically are either unclear or are not connected to the measurements that truly impact organizational results. Including a bullet point like “must be an entrepreneurial team player” does nothing to describe the work someone is expected to do or how someone is expected to behave. Instead, try “must work collaboratively with the marketing and engineering teams to generate new business models and concepts in order to expand our business services and profit opportunities.” This gives a clearer outline of what will be done and with whom.

Most importantly, a well-written job description becomes the fundamental tool for measuring and monitoring performance. It’s the contract between the employee and the manager (and by extension the company) about what will be expected. A manager and employee should be able to look back at the description and determine if the performance is indeed being met. Without this description, time, energy and talent is wasted arguing over what was expected rather than discussing how to diagnose and solve performance issues collaboratively.

When writing a new job description, or rewriting an existing one, consider these points.

Separate the job description from the job advertisement

Don’t confuse the job description and the job ad. The description is what you’ll use internally to define expectations for the role. Many job descriptions are ineffective because they are trying to “sell” the role rather than serving as a yardstick for performance. Conversely, many ads fail to convert because they are detailing the work, rather than selling the opportunity. Make these separate documents, each with their own purpose, structure and format.

Define the reporting structure

A good job description starts with a clear positioning of the role within the broader management matrix. Who does this role report into? Who reports into this role? What department is it in and where is it located? A good example would be, “Head of Product Development reports into the VP of Product Strategy and leads the user experience design team and copywriting staff.” If the role has dotted line reports or overall organizational responsibilities, those need to be detailed here as well.

List key activities and tasks

Next, the description should list the key tasks and activities that are expected of the role. Generally, this should include about 10-12 items. Don’t bother with general expectations or reasonable norms of professionalism; everyone should be expected to be on time to meetings, work in a professional manner, and communicate effectively. Only list these if there are special expectations such as “speaking publicly to media and the press” or “ensuring the store doors are open during posted store hours.” Establish a reasonableness test by asking yourself, “would it be reasonable to expect a professional walking off the street to know this standard?” If so, don’t bother including it. If you’re not sure, figure out what part would not be reasonable to assume and include that in the description.

Define measurement criteria

Define how success is going to be measured. Generally, this should be 3-5 key measurement criteria for the role. For senior executives, these are usually the KPI (key performance indicators) they are responsible for managing. A Vice President of Sales might be responsible for total dollars sold in a quarter, or perhaps the total revenue. They might also have specific measurement criteria around the size and categories of clients. Define these in specific terms, for example, “$1.3 million in revenue per quarter from Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Northeast US.” Specific numbers might be determined and adjusted on a quarterly basis, but the metric should be stated in the role description.

For mid-level managers and individual contributors, these can be key departmental objectives or work output measures. A manager of customer service might have total calls handled a day, average resolution time, or customer satisfaction ratings measured. A programmer might have features completed in a week, quality of code coverage, or on-time deliveries measured. The point here is to find a few key, objective ways of measuring the work and expectations and to express them in the description clearly and upfront, before their job begins.

Don’t list qualifications, unless they are truly required

I’ve read too many job descriptions that list qualifications that are not enforced. I’ve also consulted many clients whose employees are doing a stellar job despite not having the requirements listed in the description. Leave your “ideal candidate” wish list for the job advertisement. The job description should only have true qualification requirements.

If you’re writing a description for an architect, a lawyer, or a doctor, yes, there are specific educational, accreditation, and licensing requirements. However, unless you truly wouldn’t hire or promote into this role without these requirements, don’t list them. Listing requirements you then don’t enforce undermines the validity and integrity of the description, making it less effective.

This also goes for years or types of experience. Unless you are truly willing to not hire someone without this experience requirement, don’t list it. The fact is, demonstrating ability to perform the work effectively is more important than so-called experience. In fact, research shows that after five years of experience in most fields, there is no additional benefit for additional years. Again, leave your wish list for ideal candidates for the job advertisement.

Disclose any unique characteristics of the job and working environment

If your company does anything that might be out of the ordinary or if there are any unique requirements, make sure to list them. If you require everyone in the company to take improv classes, wear suits in the office, or answer a cell phone 24/7, include this in the job description. Same goes for anything that, if not demonstrated, would be considered a failure to perform as expected. If you don’t list it, you can’t enforce it. Some of these areas can get dicey, so you may want to consult your HR specialist or employment lawyer for guidance on how to address these within the framework of your local employment laws.

Review and revise descriptions on a regular basis

Markets and businesses change, and as a result, what a business needs from it’s people changes. The key is to review these needs and adjust expectations openly and collaboratively with employees on a regular basis. The more transparent and inclusive the process is, the better. I generally recommend to my clients that this happens at least twice a year, or quarterly for high-growth companies. It’s easier to make several smaller changes over the year than to make bigger changes annually.

By engaging employees in this process, it not only builds buy-in to the changes, but it often brings to light new requirements and ideas for how to drive better results. Good employees generally want clarity and goals, and will embrace the process as a way to further engage in their jobs. Those that resist this process are most likely underperformers trying to hold onto outdated expectations.

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For more information on how to write a great job description and to receive a FREE downloadable template that will walk you through the process, send an email to jobdescription@eckfeldt.com.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him atbruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

The Challenge for Female Entrepreneurs Goes Beyond Sobering Stats

While women have made great strides over recent decades in gaining access to and success in the business world, the numbers are still sobering. Only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women ─ that’s less than 5%. And while 30% of small businesses are owned by women, businesses owned by men are 3.5 times more likely to break the $1 million mark. Clearly, we have a long way to go before the business world represents the general population.

However, the problem is much deeper than that. Today’s business world is a product of a centuries-old culture based on competition for scarce resources and a zero-sum game view of outcomes. During the Stone Age, being the biggest, fastest, and most competitive person increased your chances of your survival and that of your offspring. It was, indeed, a man’s world. Physical strength, size, and a winner-takes-all attitude won the day. This mentality has been perpetuated over time and is what drives the business world today. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘to the victor go the spoils’ are major themes in modern corporate culture. Sure, companies create partnerships and joint ventures, but only on the basis of short-term, financial gain. It’s time to realize that the world has changed and we no longer live in conditions that require this type of thinking.

This old approach limits sophistication, creativity, and long-term focus of our organizations and initiatives. Consider how science and technology have radically changed the world and our standards of living. Basic life needs are met for a significant portion of western society, and most of us don’t fight each other over access to food, shelter and clothing. Our highly digital world is an environment wherein physical resources no longer limit our social and cultural development. Developing more media, applications, ideas, and knowledge is only limited by our creativity and collaboration, not by whether or not we can dig raw materials from the earth’s crust before our competition. The sooner we can shift our business culture from that of competition over limited resources to one of collaboration towards unlimited potential, the sooner we can accelerate the improvement of our society.

The first step in making this shift is to promote and support more female entrepreneurs and business leaders. Until minorities have a better representation at all levels of business leadership in all industries, we will continue to be hamstrung by our current ways of thinking and working. Having women in positions of influence and leadership is the beginning of this change.

That said, having more women among the upper echelon who have the same business mentality as men will not be enough to solve the problem. Ultimately, our goal needs to be to embrace new and different ways of thinking. Until businesses start thinking more about collaboration, networks of systems, and multi-generational strategies, we will continue to be stuck in our current problems. Women have the power to disrupt the current business world and allow these changes to begin. Once we have a more balanced and representative population of leaders, all of us, men and women, can begin to change the thinking and culture of our business world.

While the numbers show that we have a long way to go, change is underway and many people are working to accelerate this transition. As a man, I am encouraging and working actively to support these efforts, and I encourage other men to do the same.  It’s not about men stepping down or stepping aside, it’s about making room. We need to abandon the fixed mindset and the zero-sum approach on these issues and realize that a rising tide elevates all boats.

One of the most ambitious initiatives driving this change is the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) organization. Founded by social entrepreneur and animal rights activist Wendy Diamond, it is designed to recognize and support female entrepreneurs on a global scale. It is celebrated in over 144 countries and featured by the United Nations in this year’s full-day conference on November 19th.

WED has also developed the infrastructure to celebrate and empower women at all stages of business growth at a local level throughout the year. WED World Ambassadors include Sophana Dahlan of Saudi Arabia, Sharifa Al Barami of Oman, Ingrid Stange of Norway and Mirlinda Kusari Purrini of Kosovo, just to name a few. These women represent not just leaders in entrepreneurship, but agents of change for the future of our business culture.

Founder Wendy Diamond sums it well, “I have dedicated my entire life to helping the “underdog” get a chance and thrive. Historically, women worldwide have been underpaid, undervalued, underrepresented, underfunded – and underestimated. We are dedicated, determined, and driven to change this status – the women entrepreneurs involved in WED are inspirational role models to women everywhere!”

For more information on Women’s Entrepreneurial Day and how you can get involved, please visit: http://womenseday.org/

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Bruce Eckfeldt is a former Inc 500 CEO and long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him at bruce@eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Why Finding Talent is Your Top Priority

As a leader, you are responsible for the performance and results of your organization. And having the right team is critical to being an effective leader. In fact, everything you do ─ setting strategy, developing partnerships, finding clients, raising money ─ is dependent on having the right people with the right skills and in the right roles. Without the right talent structure in place, a leader can be left with no talent to implement and poor organizational performance.

Defining what talent you need, knowing where to look for candidates, and recruiting them are the most influential actions a leader can perform. You are uniquely positioned to do this job over any other person in the organization. While you certainly can’t spend all of your time and focus on talent, it should your top priority.

If your organization is experiencing high-growth, then focusing on talent is even more important. Having an annual growth of 25% or higher puts strain on company culture because of the constant influx of new employees. Companies growing at such high rates face a great risk of culturally coming apart at the seams as norms and values become diluted. The pressure is on to hire great people who are well-aligned with a company’s values from the start.

There are three key elements that you can focus on to improve the quality and quantity of talented candidates and new employees:

Define the talent you will need in 1 to 2 years, not what you need now

As a leader, you have the best view into the company’s future. You know the strategies, the objectives, and the targets. Use that vantage point to set the talent strategy. What types of roles will you need to fill? What types of experience would be most helpful? How many people will you require? Will you need leaders or followers? What new skills and capabilities should they have? Define what type of culture you want to create.

The most critical work you can do in the area of talent strategy is to figure out what kind of managers you will need as the company grows. This includes identifying desired qualities of both senior managers and middle managers. As companies grow they need to move quickly between management structures or they risk losing momentum and revenue. Knowing what the next structure will look like, defining the key roles, and having the people in place to fulfill those roles will make these transitions seamless.

Be the ultimate salesperson of your company to potential candidates

Don’t underestimate the power you have to influence people to join the company. People want to work for an organization with a strong and clear purpose. You are in the best position to communicate the company’s purpose in a passionate and compelling way.

Make yourself available on a regular basis to support recruiting and to interact with candidates that have made it through most of the hiring process. Encourage them to ask you questions, and focus on showing them the opportunity they may have and the impact they could be able to make.

For potential senior-level staff, take the lead on the final interviewing process. Be sure to spend both structured time in the work environment as well as unstructured time outside of the office with them. Be available to them 24/7 to answer their questions and discuss possible issues.

Invest your time in employee onboarding and integration during their first 30 days

Once you hire someone, spend time with them specifically for the first 30 days of their onboarding. This time is crucial as it’s when the employee is most malleable and is forming habits and values. Answer their questions at length, give them examples of how things work, and talk to them about the vision you are creating for the company’s future.

Not sure where to start? Remember that one of the best tools for this process is storytelling. People learn and experience the world through stories. Talk about how and why the company was formed. Talk about who the key people were. Talk about the challenges they overcame. Talk about clients and partners. Talk about the visions for the future. You can even hold a group meeting for this, or discuss it one-on-one.

Talent is a limited resource. And it’s a fickle one as well. It’s difficult to predict and manage, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get. However, by focusing on defining exactly that what you need, using your influence to win over the best candidates, and investing in the early stages of their employment, you’ll increase your success. And with success in talent comes high organizational performance.

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If you’d like to learn more about how to create a strategic talent plan, send an email to talentplanning@eckfeldt.com. You’ll receive a workbook that walks you through the talent planning process that map your needs and priorities. For more information, please visit http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Making Virtual Teams Work

As the war for talent rages on, the use of virtual teams continues to grow as companies look well beyond the 30-minute commute to find the right people with the right stuff. Companies who limit their sights to local workers are missing the vast majority of the labor pool. Winning organizations are reaching well beyond their city, state, and even country borders to find the best of the best so they can deliver high-performance results.

That said, virtual teams are not business as usual in most companies. One needs to consider different types of configurations, what projects can be tackled, and the mechanics of how a virtual team works to be successful with this approach. A virtual team needs to be carefully designed and managed to avoid disappointment, failure and missed opportunities.

Over the last several weeks, I have interviewed over a dozen experts in communications, project management, organizational development, and talent about the ins and outs of virtual teams. Below are some of the key takeaways from those conversations. For my entire interviews with these experts, follow the link at the end of this article.

Zero in on your goals and measurements

Like any team, virtual teams need a clear purpose and set of objectives. They need to know what their mission is, who they are serving, what they are expected to deliver, and what value they are generating for their client. Outline this clearly and reference it often in the early stages. Allow time for discussion and provide clarifications where necessary.

More so than physically co-located teams, virtual teams need well-defined measurement criteria and reporting. Since there are less opportunities to collectively “see” the results, there needs to be more frequent and more visual reporting of the status and progress toward goals. Develop a handful of leading KPI that will show the team how they are doing as a unit, not just as individuals. Have it distributed daily, and discuss it at least weekly.

Virtual team-building takes more time and more intention

A large part of team-building is developing one-on-one relationships with your team members. This happens naturally with in-person teams. With virtual teams, this is extremely difficult to do without a clear game plan. If possible, get your team together in-person in the beginning stages, and spend time together outside of work too. If your team can’t make the trek, make sure to do plenty of all-hands video chats. Start sessions with ice-breakers, like asking everyone to share personal details about their interests and non-work lives. It’s equally effective to pair people up on early tasks, working together over the phone or video.

Be deliberate with your communications

Even when communicating over video, a lot of non-verbal interaction is lost  ̶­  it’s far worse over the phone and email. The subtle cues of facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture are missed. Encourage everyone to use a deliberate “round-trip” protocol  ̶­  meaning once you say something, the other person repeats what they heard, then you confirm that it was indeed what you meant, and vice-versa. On conference and video calls, check in with everyone regularly to make sure they are engaged and being heard. And don’t forget the emotional factor; virtual teams need to be better at expressing their emotional states and reactions clearly. Be explicit and intentional when you speak and write to avoid being misunderstood.

Set clear ground rules early on

As a team and organizational coach, one of the first things I ask my clients about is their ground rules around how the team has agreed to operate. Ground rules can be as simple as turning off cell phones during meetings, and as sophisticated as formal agenda templates and protocols for running meetings. The important thing is that the team agrees to a set of rules that allow them to work efficiently and effectively. A good team collectively enforces the rules, without shaming the rule-breakers. They regularly review their ground rules, changing existing ones and experiment with new ones.

Virtual teams need to create ground rules that help facilitate communications in their unique circumstances. For example, some virtual teams set rules around meeting times (i.e. “only meet in the morning” or “never meet on Fridays”). The point is to codify the agreements the team has made and to lock in good practices as new ground rules. Take the time to start this list of rules when the team forms, and then review them with each retrospective.

Retrospect, retrospect again, then retrospect some more

Finally, one of the best practices any virtual team can do is to hold retrospectives routinely. This can be anything from a two minute chat about how to make your meetings more effective, to scheduled retrospectives at the end of each working sprint or iteration, to day-long retrospectives each quarter to address deeper issues as a collective group. As with any retrospective, make sure you take the time to first gather data, then develop insight, then determine possible actions. Finish with a clear review of what the team has committed to and record who will be doing what and by when.

With more and more work becoming project-based, and more of us tapping into the global talent pool, the use of virtual teams will soon become the norm rather than the exception. Getting ahead of the curve will separate the leaders from the pack in the coming years.

If you would like to listen to my interviews with experts on virtual teams, sign up for the summit using the link below! There you can also find downloadable audio files and transcripts available at a discounted early-bird price.


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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him atbruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Why Our Brains Are Wired To Create Team Conflict

Conflict is natural. In fact, for high-performance teams, conflict is required. That’s because a team with conflict is debating issues, exploring multiple points of view, and developing the best solutions through critical analysis. That being said, the conflict needs to be constructive and focused on problems and tasks, not on assigning blame to individuals. High-performance teams are “hard on issues and soft on people,”as the saying goes. Differentiating between constructive and destructive conflict, and favoring the former, is a critical skill that a team needs to develop in order to deliver high-quality results.

Teams that avoid destructive conflict avoid what psychologists call the “Fundamental Attribution Error.” Coined by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris in the late 1960’s, we have all been guilty of it because we’re wired to be.  It’s defined as the tendency of all humans to attribute our own shortcomings to extrinsic forces while at the same time attributing shortcomings of others to theirintrinsic characteristics. As an example, we think that we were late for the meeting because the subway was delayed (an external force), but think that Sarah wasn’t on time because she didn’t leave early enough (an internal characteristic).

The more that team members are aware of the Fundamental Attribution Error and correct it, the more likely it is that they will stay in a constructive dialogue and find effective solutions to problems as teams. This is hard work and takes skill and practice. Great teams continually work on getting better about not falling victim to the Fundamental Attribution Error. As a result, they focus more on delivering results and less on figuring out who is to blame for their failures.

Here is how I coach teams to stay mindful of your thinking, and some practices that you can develop to keep yourself and your team in the positive space of constructive conflict.

Be aware of your tendency to excuse your own behavior

Listen to your internal and external dialogue for signs that you’re assigning external factors for your performance and results. It’s called “but for” thinking: I would have been on time, but for the traffic on the highway. I would have made the budget, but for the increase in prices. Blaming results on others’ behaviors and actions should also be avoided: I would have made the sale but for Harry delivering the prototype too late. Be especially careful of assigning fault to other people’s motivations and intents: I would have passed the quality assurance testbut for Jorge being careless with his testing. This kind of thinking will breed frustration and resentment. Instead, focus on factors that you can control and that you can change, and adapt your behavior and approach accordingly.

Consider that others tend to assign fault to external factors

Just as you may tend to find external causes for your outcomes, understand that other people will do the same. Don’t be surprised or assign fault when other people blame the situation or others for their own outcomes. Avoiding these triggers and refocusing discussions on constructive dialogue will help the team stay positive. When someone deflects accountability, acknowledge the impact, then brainstorm ways within their control that the issue can be addressed.

Don’t  take the bait when someone questions your intent

It’s natural to get defensive and to blame other people when we’re feeling stressed. Be understanding when other people fall into this trap and appreciate that they are struggling with the situation. Take a breath, let it pass, and refocus on addressing issues collaboratively. If it continues, call out the situation and the dialogue that is not productive and choose to disengage if you must. Counter-attacking is never productive. Enlisting the help of other team members or bringing in third parties to mediate can help get the conversation back on track and avoid creating deeper scars.

Always assume positive intent

It’s a helpful practice to assume that regardless of people’s behaviors and actions, they are doing the best they can and are acting from a position of positive intent. While it’s not always easy, it keeps you in a productive state and helps you avoid engaging in destructive conflict. Assuming that someone has good intentions can help you get through even the toughest discussions.

A good corollary to this maxim is to keep yourself in a state of curiosity. If you assume positive intent and stay curious, you naturally focus on asking questions and exploring the other person’s situation and perspective. You will not only discover issues that can be addressed, but you will foster appreciation and reduce defensiveness in the other person. An added bonus is that they will likely become more empathic to your position and point of view.

High-performance teams know that people aren’t perfect and we can all fall into the trap of excusing ourselves and blaming others from time to time. They work hard at catching themselves and others in this destructive pattern, and they work to shift conversations back to issues and collaboration. Great teams don’t avoid conflict and they are just as prone to fall into destructive conflict as other teams. It’s human nature. However, they have the skill and training to catch themselves quickly and refocus faster than lower performing teams.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based performance coach.  Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO he now focuses on advising startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him atbruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Applying the Scientific Method to Performance Coaching

As an executive coach and management trainer, I help clients find better, more effective ways of achieving their goals. It is usually fairly clear what the solutions to their problems are, and my first instinct is to just tell them what to do, but I stop myself. Why? Because while it’s easy to give advice, and my clients are often seeking advice, however, I find that telling someone what to do is usually not the most effective approach.

There are three main reasons that giving advice doesn’t work. Firstly, people naturally resist other people's ideas. It’s human nature. Giving advice throws up a barrier, which is better to avoid. Secondly, advice robs them of the chance to learn for themselves. They become dependent on others to tell them what to do rather than developing the tools and skills to think for themselves and come up with their own solutions. Finally, outside advice sets up an out for the receiver. If something doesn’t work, they can just blame it on bad advice rather than taking responsibility for the outcome. As a result, giving advice is not an effective way to coach.

Instead, I’ve developed on a coaching model that enables them to learn through experimentation, discovery, and critical analysis. The power of this model is that they learn through action rather than through thought, and it instills a deeper level of understanding and intuition in them. While the process definitely takes longer than just telling clients what to do, their ability to apply their newfound knowledge elsewhere and the likelihood of creating a long-term solution is significantly higher.

I call my method PEAK coaching. This performance improvement model has four key steps: Plan, Experiment, Assess, and Keep. It’s based on the process improvement methodology made popular by American engineer W. Edwards Deming back in the 1950’s. The main difference between the PEAK model and most coaching frameworks is its emphasis on taking experimental actions immediately, then evaluating its outcomes before committing to long term change. At it’s core, it applies the scientific method by asking us to develop a hypothesis and then testing it. What makes the process effective is that it creates real-time, real-world feedback to reinforce results rather than just taking a coach’s word for it.

As a coach, I work with my clients to co-create several different possible directions. The client is ultimately in control. While I may make suggestions, it’s best when the client chooses the final plan of action. Here's how I work:

Step 1: Start with a Plan of action

Form a hypothesis, otherwise known as a plan. It should state that if a specific action is taken (or not taken), then “blank” result is expected. It should also include a proposal for a method of causation. For example, I had a client, we’ll call him Henry, who was struggling with time management. We discovered that he didn’t prioritize his work well. So we developed the following plan: at the end of every day, Henry would write down the three most important tasks that he needed to complete the following day on a yellow sticky note, and place it on his computer monitor. Then, the next day, before he could answer any emails, or take any new meetings, or even have a conversation, he would accomplish those three tasks. Note how easy this plan was to implement. It required no new software to install, no boards to create, no systems to develop and learn ─ just sticky notes and a simple set of rules.

Step 2: Conduct the Experiment

The next phase is to implement the experiment and collect data for a limited period of time. For Henry, that meant two weeks of doing the sticky note experiment. I had him keep an online journal (something I do with most of my coaching clients) to record his results and thoughts between sessions. Henry journaled about his to-do lists, which tasks he actually completed before working on anything else, how productive he felt, how hard  it was to deter from other activities, and the feedback he received from coworkers.

Step 3: Assess the outcomes

After two weeks worth of Post-Its, we reviewed the results. We had collected hard data: the number of days he prepared his sticky notes at night, the number of days he made them in the morning, and how many tasks he completed. We discussed his feelings toward the experiment and the feedback from his coworkers. One coworker had thanked him for completing a task way ahead of schedule. Another had commented that they were happily surprised when Henry turned down an unimportant task because he had a full list that day.

Step 4: Decide what to Keep

The final goal is to decide what actions make a measurable difference and what is feasible to keep doing in the long term. Our assessment brought to light a number of solutions that Henry should implement to prioritize his work:

  • Making a list of the three most important things he needed to accomplish the following day proved to be helpful and productive. However, it was hard for him to remember to make the list at night. Instead, Henry found that it was easier to do it in the morning. In fact, he was able to think of a better list in the morning while his mind was fresh, rather than the night before when he was tired from the day.
  • He struggled to ignore his emails until after all three tasks were done. We came up with a revised strategy to make the list, then check emails for 15 minutes. If need be, he could reply to emails to say that he would reply to them in detail later, or if something urgent came up in an email, he could include it in his to-do list (and take something else off).
  • Henry opted to write his top three daily tasks in a notebook instead of on sticky notes. This allowed him to add new tasks throughout his day, and record what he completed. He could then review his productivity at the end of each week.

In summary, once the new process was tested and proved and the final process clearly defined, we worked on honing the implementation and focusing on long-term adoption. We could do this confidently because we had tested the process and saw the results. And that’s the key to the PEAK model; checking ideas through experimentation before trying to make big changes and build long-term habits.

Before trying to implement your next change, try experimenting with the PEAK model to see how you can improve and optimize it before investing your time and energy in long-term adoption.

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Bruce Eckfeldt is highly-focused, results-based organizational development consultant and performance coach.  Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc. 500 CEO he now advises executives and teams in startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

One Simple Way to Improve Your Next Meeting

Someone recently asked me for the one thing I would recommend they do to improve their meetings. I quickly answered "ground rules." Here's why and how you can double the productivity of your next meeting.

As a performance coach, I spend about 500 hours a year in meetings. Probably more actually. The one thing that tells me if a meeting is going to be effective is an agreed upon a set of clear and effective ground rules for how the meeting will be conducted and what behavior is expected. Without these, meetings often fall apart and don’t produce the quality results my clients and I expect.

Ground rules are not hard to create. But deciding on them correctly and having the discipline to enforce them as a group can be a struggle. If you haven’t used ground rules before, or the ones you have are not serving you well, use these five steps to enforce them and have meetings that produce outstanding results.

1) Set ground rules as a team

It’s much more effective to create ground rules as a team rather than as an individual who must impose them on the group. When one person creates and enforces them, they end up being the meeting police and creates a NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) mentality for everyone else. Instead, start your next meeting by brainstorming ground rules as a group. Have a list ready in your back pocket, but give ample time for the team to create their own rules, and only introduce yours as suggestions for the group.

2) Brainstorm ground rules and don't veto any, yet

Start by creating an unfiltered list of potential rules and don’t leave any out. Encourage the team to come up with creative and fun ideas. I’ve worked with teams that do stretches before every meeting to prevent back problems, and others who begin with affirmations or a meditation to improve their state of mind. No idea is off the table. And don’t begin filtering your list too soon! The best ideas usually come up toward the end of the process. Build off of existing ideas to create new more innovative ones.

3) Strive for unanimous consensus

After brainstorming, identify the rules the team would like to consider adopting. Use consensus to adopt rules. If you come across a rule that several people would like but not everyone can commit to, discover why and modify the rule until you reach a full consensus. For example, if only a few people don’t agree to turn off their cellphones, try compromising with silent or vibrate phone settings. Another tactic is to agree to a limited test period, meaning to try out a new rule for a few meetings and only continue to use it if everyone agrees.

4) Have everyone agree to enforce the rules

By generating the rules as a group and creating unanimous consensus, everyone is invested in enforcing them. This job shouldn’t fall to the meeting facilitator. Sometimes I even suggest a ground rule like, “everyone is responsible for enforcing rules ─ when you see something, say something.” Then if I’m facilitating, a ground rule gets broken, and nobody in the group reacts to someone breaking a ground rule, I’ll remind others to enforce the rule, rather than enforcing it myself. This prevents me from being a cop, and it keeps everyone responsible for enforcement.

5) Review and revise your ground rules regularly

Ground rules need to be reviewed and revised on a regular basis, just like any process. High-performance teams develop a culture of continuous improvement and are always looking for ways to make meeting time more valuable and to reduce wasted time. I generally suggest that you check in with your group on which rules work and which ones don’t once every four meetings. Also include your ground rules in any retrospective you conduct, and consider adding and editing rules to address other areas of improvement.

Every team needs a clear set of working agreements to be effective in both the short and long term. Ground rules are just one such set of agreements, specifically for meetings. Good teams have a set of rules that are enforced. Great teams have a set of rules that have been internalized and push the team towards higher levels of self-discipline and productivity.

Interested in a developing a set of ground rules for your team? For a FREE list of over 50 ideas for ground rules, click the link below:


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Bruce Eckfeldt is an expert in organizational development and performance coaching. Previously an entrepreneur and a former Inc 500 CEO, he now advises startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. He is a long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and a mentor for the EO Accelerators, ERA, and SBS programs. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website athttp://www.eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Why Ironmen and Ironwomen Make Great CEOs

Over the last decade, triathlon has become the executive sport de rigueur. Triathlon tests you in different ways than most other endurance sports. And interestingly, it is analogous of the unique challenges of executive leadership.

Unlike single-mode sports, triathlon combines three different sports: swimming, cycling, and running. And while there are athletes that place well by being exceptionally good at one sport, to be a highly-successful triathlete, you need to be a top-performer in all three. Top-finishers also know how to transition logistically and physiologically between them. This creates an exceptionally well-rounded athlete in both body and mind.

Like triathlon, executive leadership involves three core key competencies: setting a vision, developing strategy, and managing accountability. Great leaders are well-versed in each of these disciplines and know how to move fluidly between them.

Athletes who progress to Ironman-distance events ─ that’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run ─ have developed several key characteristics that can serve them well as executives:

They know the importance of balance

The first thing you learn as a triathlete is that you need to balance your training amongst three different sports. While you need to excel in each, the real trick is learning how to balance all three. Transitioning from one to the next seamlessly is the key to being a top-performer. As training progress towards race day, triathletes conduct “brick” workouts, which means to combine two or even all three sports into one training session. This conditions the body to learn to cycle after being taxed by a swim, and to run after their legs have been spent on the bike. Athletes that can make these transitions successfully and quickly gain time in the race.

Likewise, successful executives know that they need to be able to move quickly and fluidly from setting goals, to communicating strategic focus, to evaluating performance. Those who excel in each area and who can transition effectively between will be highly successful.

They create long-term plans

Great triathletes plan their races down to each individual mile. They know when they should be out of the water and on the bike. They know the split for every mile on their run. If they are behind, they know exactly how hard they need to push themselves. And if they are ahead, they know that they risk overexertion and hitting the proverbial brick wall. They know exactly how much to eat and drink before, after, and during the race and can make subtle adjustments for temperature and timing.

High-performance executives, too, have a clear plan for where they want to be and how they are going to get there. They define their long-term goals and success criteria. They create a roadmap for the teams to follow. And they continually monitor progress and make adjustments to keep their teams aligned and on target.

They are masters of discipline and commitment

To finish an Ironman-distance event, you need to train for about 10 to 15 hours a week, for 4 to 6 months. This means fitting 1 to 2 hours a day into your schedule on a regular basis and at least one 2 to 4 hour session each week. With this level of excursion, trainers typically need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy. Fitting this in and staying motivated is one ofthe hardest parts of being an Ironman competitor. While it takes superhero-strength to push through the last ten miles of the biking portion after you’ve been on the course for 10 or more hours, waking up at 5 AM in the pitch black of winter and jumping into a cold pool takes a mind of steel.

Executives are continuously faced with difficult and significant challenges. Making tough calls on strategy and objectives, addressing poor performance, and resolving conflicts tests a person’s mental and physical stamina. And while executives can turn to peers and coaches for aid and advice, they are often alone in confronting these matters. Having the confidence and clarity to act decisively takes mental fortitude.

They develop a strong mental focus

Many observers think that the greatest challenge that athletes endure is overcoming pain. In fact, while the pain can be great, the biggest challenge is to not succumb to the boredom of a ten-plus hour race. With such long distances to travel, competitors feel worn out, especially after being alone for miles at a time. Keeping your head in the race is the most challenging and important part of the event. Failing to do so leads to waning effort, failure to eat and drink properly, missing important turns, and even accidents.

In business, staying in the game and keeping long-term objectives in mind as you deal with the minutia and drama of day-to-day operations takes focus. Executives who get caught up in insignificant details and forget to keep theirgoals in mind will find themselves straying from them. It’s the leader’s job to listen to the irate customer and the infuriated employee while still making the right long-term decision, despite the short-term consequences.

While many successful executives are not Ironman competitors, and many Ironman competitors are not executives, the disproportionately-high percentage of those who are both is not by accident. High-performing people often have several outlets for their ambition and need to succeed. I know so from my own experience as an Ironman and a CEO. Both positions are a manifestation of the same internal drive and desire that I have to excel in everything I do.

Bruce Eckfeldt is an entrepreneur, a former Inc. 500 CEO, and a member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He is an expert in organizational performance and coaches startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website at http://www.eckfeldt.com.

This post originally appeared on the Forbes blog:

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5 things new CEOs should focus on

Recently I had lunch with a long-time friend and senior executive of a successful company. She’s been at the job for many years and the company has gone from a startup of twenty people to almost six hundred.

We spoke about the many things she’s learned and changes she’s gone through as she’s moved up and the company has grown. She’s had an impressive career, to say the least.

However, she opened up to me that she wants to step it up and is looking for a new position. Specifically, a CEO position. She wants her turn at the helm and to apply herself in the number one spot, rather than being number two. I honestly couldn’t think of a better next step for her. We spent the next thirty minutes talking about what exactly she would like in a new position and how she might find that opportunity.

At one point she asked me, as a former CEO myself and currently an executive coach, what advice I would have for her once she’s in a new position as CEO. It was a good question. One I should be better prepared for. We talked through several ideas and ended up with a list of five key areas of focus for the first few months.

#1: Be deliberate about your learning

In a new position, you have a lot to learn. The business. The people. The history. Outline everything you can think of and prioritize. Set up specific goals and strategies for getting the information you need and how you’ll retain what you’ll learn. Expect that there are many unknowns and that you’ll need to add to your list as you go. Be a sponge. Stay curious as you speak to people. Key phrases: “Tell me more,” “Help me understand,” and “What else do I need to know?” Also, don’t just listen, look and observe. Pay attention to body language, how others are interacting, where people sit, how offices are organized, where people congregate, etc. Notice differences between what people say and how people behave. Take it all in and don’t make assumptions. Ask lots of questions.

#2: Take a hard look at your past behaviors and their results

If you’ve been at the same company for a long time--five or more years--you’ve developed many of your current behaviors and much of your current style inside one particular environment. This can be a risk. Expect things to be different in a new company. As a result, the things that may have worked for you well in the past, might not work so well in the new context. When you find yourself surprised, take a moment and think about what you expected and how you need to adjust. Ask for feedback and be open to what others say. This is often a good time to work with a coach who can help you unpack the problems, develop new strategies, give perspective, and create plans for implementing changes.

#3: Define your new purpose and role, and communicate it

Don’t assume everyone knows what your role is and what your responsibilities are. While the job might have the same title, how you fill it is most likely very different than how your predecessor did. Get clear on what your commitments and expectations are of yourself and of others. Talk openly and often, especially in the beginning. Far too many people I’ve coached operated with the assumption that everyone knew what everyone else was doing, only to find out--often far too late--that wires were crossed. Especially important are decision-making processes and rights. Who has input, who doesn’t, who makes the call, and who approves, are critical to know in order to be effective.

#4: Build relationships at all levels

One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of being new is forging new relationships. And don’t only focus on your immediate reports. Meet people in all departments and at all levels of the organization. Just sitting down with someone and asking, “What should I know?” or “How would you make this company better?” can yield a treasure trove of information and insights. Find out who the key conduits of information are and develop an open channel for them to reach you directly. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut. Relationships take time to build. Stay present and connected to the conversation. Don’t be afraid to keep going even if it feels like you know everything you need to. Get to know your people and how they tick.

Many new executives fail here because they become too wrapped up in making an impression. They meet with people, but instead of listening they try to convince everyone they deserve the job. They go on about their background, previous successes, and the great plans they have for the future. Don’t fall into this trap. Stay humble and curious. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them proportionately.

#5: Create momentum and advocate change

The most difficult part of starting is taking the first step. Keeping things in motion is much easier than putting things in motion. Find out what needs to be done and act sooner rather than later. Two things keep new CEOs from acting early in their tenure: one, they want to make sure they have all the information before deciding; and two, they want to have a perfect plan thought out before embarking on a new project.

The fact is, you’ll never have 100% of the information and there is no such thing as a perfect plan. The sooner you can try out some ideas by putting things in flight, the sooner you’ll have real data and real feedback. Run controlled experiments early and be okay with the possibility that not everything will work out as planned. Learn and adjust and try again. Most new CEOs play it too safe. They don’t take good, calculated risks as soon as opportunities present themselves. Instead, they hold back and wait. Sometimes until it’s too late.

Obviously there are other considerations and priorities that need to go into the mix, but these five will help make the most impact early in the game. Being a CEO is hard work, but being a new CEO is even harder. With time, things become easier. Getting things off on the right foot and off to a good start helps.

Bruce Eckfeldt is an entrepreneur, a former Inc 500 CEO, and member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He is an expert in organizational performance and coaches startups and high-growth companies on leadership and management. You can reach him at bruce@eckfeldt.com or visit his website: http://www.eckfeldt.com.

See the original article at Business Insider:

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What Rowing Taught Me About High-Performance Teams

I started rowing in high school on the Mississippi in my hometown of St. Paul. When I went off to university at McGill, I decided to try out for the freshman crew team. 

When my turn came up, I pulled harder than I ever pulled for 2,000 meters. Unfortunately, many others pulled harder than I did; I was, at best, in the middle of the pack.

Regardless, they put me in a boat with seven other recruits and we rowed a few kilometers, switching seats and running drills to test our skills and rowing technique.

After an hour or two, they selected a group to come back for additional workouts that week in order to select the final two boats for the season. When they called my name and asked me to come back, I knew my college experience was about to change.

I made the “A” boat and we went on to win the Eastern Canadian Conference Championship that Fall in London, Ontario by beating the next boat by over three boat lengths—a significant margin for a 2,000-meter race. It was an amazing end to a challenging season as we struggled to place better than third up until that moment.

Why did we win so handily after a season of mediocre results? Three things came together for us that day that drove our success. These have become my core team performance principles and have stayed with me over the years. I’ve applied them as an entrepreneur, as a CEO, and now as an executive and team coach.

Understand your role and how what you do affects your team

From the moment you sit in a racing shell, you realize what a precarious situation you are in as a team. The boat is barely wide enough for your hips and, without the oars in the water, the boat is inherently unstable and will flip in the blink of an eye.

Getting eight guys to swing four-meter long oars at 36 strokes a minute and stay afloat is not easy. A successful boat needs two things: set and swing. Without these, the boat tips back and forth and jerks front and back, making it impossible to build momentum and speed.

Here’s the thing: in an eight-person boat, each rower has one oar—four on port and four on starboard. If one side pulls harder that the other side, the boat turns and the tips. If one side’s oars are raised higher than the other side, the boat tips.

And when the boat tips, that side’s oars hit the water and jams their handles down into the gunwale and the thwarts (internal structure of the boat) resulting in bloody knuckles, or, even worse, catches their blade in the water which, in extreme cases, can pull an oar out of the locks or even launch a rower into the water if you’re going fast enough.

In order to find the set and create swing, everyone must work together to balance the boat and have exact timing. Your hands must be at exactly the right height as you slide up to the catch. Every oar has to drop into the water at the exact same time. Everyone needs to pull at equal pressure. All the blades need to come out of the water and release in unison. Any deviation disrupts the boat.

During our championship race, we entered a new level as a team where we became one with each other and the boat. There was no more thinking, just feeling the set and the swing and entering a pure flow state of performance. Great teams find this flow and this rhythm to their work and develop an intuitive understand of their role and how to make small adjustments to deliver exceptional results.

Have a clear direction, but an easy hand on the steering

There was a ninth person in our boat, the coxswain. She was 104 pounds and carried 16 pounds of dead weight to get her to the 120-pound minimum. Her primary job was to keep us on course and steer the straightest line possible. Each boat raced in a lane marked by small floats that were 13.5 meters wide—not wide berth for a boat that is almost nine meters wide with oars extended. She was the jockey of an eight-horse team.

A good coxswain keeps the boat in the lane, but does so with an easy hand. Steering too much means zig-zagging over the course and rowing far more than 2,000 meters, which adds to time. The trick is to keep the end in sight and steer to a center point far down course, not trying to keep coming back to the center every stroke. To do this, the coxswain calls out increased pressure for a few strokes on one side of the boat or the other to correct the course rather than use the rudder, which slows down the boat.

High-performance teams always keep the end in sight and know the ultimate objectives of their work. Without a clear picture of the goal, teams thrash with process and fail to achieve proper alignment in their activities. Going in the wrong direction as fast as you can doesn’t get you any closer to the finish.

It’s not how hard you work, it’s how hard you work together

The key to a fast boat is balance. Balanced weight, timing, and balanced pressure. It turns out that pulling as hard as you can, without pulling together, actually slows the boat down. Imbalanced power will veer the boat one direction and throw off the timing of the catch and the release. Uncontrolled straining at the oar can tip your weight left or right and toss the boat side to side. A successful team pulls in perfect balance and with perfect timing.

The reason I made the boat even with my sub-par ergometer time was that I had good technique and I knew how to sync with my fellow rowers. While others could pull faster times, they would thrash in the boat and couldn’t feel the rhythm of the swing. Pulling hard was not as important pulling evenly and at the right time.

Successful teams know that performance is a function of collaboration and coordination, not a sum of individual effort. Knowing how your contribution is affecting the final outcome and staying highly aware of what others are doing while staying in sync is critical to delivering results. Reacting quickly, deliberately and in a coordinated fashion allows teams to adapt to changes, handle new information, and stay on target.

Freshman year was amazing and rowing was a core part of my university experience. I went on to be president of the rowing club and I still stay in touch with my crew from that magical year over twenty years later. Rowing shaped who I am as a person and as a leader.

Bruce Eckfeldt is a former Inc 500 CEO and long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-rowing-taught-me-about-high-performance-teams-2015-5#ixzz3bFE8SHXF

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Network Like a Boss at Your Next Event

I can’t count the number of conferences and networking events I’ve attended over the years. Some have been amazing and have led to millions of dollars in new business. Others have been a complete bust and didn’t even return the registration fee. While I would love to blame the conference organizers and other external factors, more often than not, the results have been a function of my planning beforehand, how I’ve shown up while I’m there, and what I have done afterwards.

Select the right events based on who’s going to be there

Some conferences are better suited for your goals and have better attendees than others. Before you sign up, do some research to find out who is going to be there and how likely it is that those people are going to  be valuable to you. Look through the agenda to see what content will be presented. Sponsors are another good indicator for who’s attending and what they might be looking for. Some conferences will give you a list of previous attendees, or at least numbers and general titles. Don’t be afraid of contacting organizers to get information about who’s attending. While you have to take their data with a grain of salt, they will sometimes tell you things they won’t publish. Pay attention to the format and session structure. Is there any open networking time? When is it and how likely is it that the right people are going to attend? You can only sit next to two people at a time during sessions. Lunches, afternoon coffee, and cocktail hours will be much more productive if you plan ahead and work the room correctly.

Have a specific goal and a strategy

Going to a conference with a general objective, like “just meeting people”,  will most likely get you lackluster results. Setting very specific goals and clear objectives, however, allows you to quickly zero in on people of value. You will be much more likely to separate the wheat from the chaff, knowing exactly what you’re looking for, and what you can ignore quickly.

While it might appear counterintuitive at first, having a clear picture also helps others make connections for you. Many people go to these events with the idea that general criteria will help them make more introductions, but in fact, it is the reverse. By telling someone, “I’m looking for C-level executives, of high-growth companies struggling with developing effective leadership and mid-level management”, rather than simply saying “I’m looking for startup executives”, means that when they meet a target, they immediately click and think of me.

Talk to people about your passions rather than what you want

Asking for leads upfront can be a turn off. Selling tends to make people put up their defenses, and can turn the conversation into a sales pitch. Instead, talk about the things you're passionate about, see if you have anything in common, or focus on finding what their passions are. I may start talking about making organizations more effective through better management. From there, I can ask questions about how many people they manage, how they learned their management skills, and if there any areas they wish they could improve. Yes, I’m looking for coaching and training work, but that’s not what I open with when meeting someone.

Pace the conversation like a very slow game of tennis

Have you ever been cornered by that person who talks your ear off and won’t let you get a word in edgewise? Don’t be that person. Regardless of how passionate you are and how amazing what you have to say is, don’t dominate the conversation. I like to keep the pace like a very slow game of tennis. I answer a question in a sentence or two and then ask one in return. Don’t drone on for minutes about yourself. If the other person is doing that, kindly interrupt and ask a focusing question to get them back on track. For example, “The advances you’ve made in electroplating sound amazing, and I’m curious, who do you typically sell your products to?”

Explore a few business areas to find a topic that you can connect on more deeply

The best analogy I have for this process is like trying to find a stud in a wall. (I’m trained as an architect, forgive me.) To find a stud you tap around listening for changes in the tone and feel of the response until you can zero in on the stud location. It is the same when finding connections in conversations. Ask a few general question about the business, how they got into it, how things are going, etc. until you hit on a spot where they react. Often times you see this as body language, as much as in what they say. Find something that lights them up, makes them flinch and carefully ask deeper questions. Often a simple “tell me more” or even just a moment of silence will get them to open up. However, don’t make this an inquisition. Try to reflect and share a similar experience. Once I have a connection, I’m in!

Use the 3-5-8 rule to make the most of your time at events

It is important to keep in mind, you only have so much time at the conference and you want to make as many connections as possible. Don’t spend too much time with one person at key networking times. I developed a 3-5-8 rule to keep me on pace. After three minutes of conversation, if I don’t see any immediate or future value in the relationship, I force myself to move on. If I’m seeing good long-term value, but not immediate value, I’ll find a good point to suggest a call, follow up email and try to wrap the conversation up in five minutes. For contacts that have clear short-term value, I’ll go as long as eight minutes and then I’ll make specific plans (date and time) to continue the conversation; this could even be at another break or after the event on the same day. The point is, during networking time, you want to focus on meeting as many people as possible and scheduling follow-ups.

Always get a card or at least an email address

I’ll be honest; I don’t bring cards to every event. Personally, giving out cards does not yield enough responses. If I find someone I want to follow up with, I make sure I have their card. If they don’t have one, I will pull out my phone and have them send an email to themselves. I tell them that this way, they have my contact information, but in reality I do this to get their email address. With LinkedIn and tools like Contactifier, an email address will lead me to their full profile.

Have pre-written emails ready to go

I have standard emails set up in my phone, which I can send out right away to follow up with people. These include links to my website and other content. They also include a link to my calendar system so they can find a time to schedule a follow up call. You want to send these out within 24 hours of meeting someone. These emails should contain details of the conversation you had, action items and clear instructions for next steps. The more specific a reference to the conversation you were having, the easier they will remember you.

Review how things went and next steps after the conference

Being a big Lean/Agile zealot, I like to do a little kaizen meeting with myself after events. I write out what went well, what didn’t, and what I might do differently next time. I’ll update my conference checklists and write out my to-do’s with respect to follow ups. If I have constructive feedback for the organizers, I might even send them an email thanking them for hosting, giving my suggestions, and offering a follow up call if they would like. You might be surprised how many times this initiates a response.

You might find my suggestions a little intense, but conferences are expensive and your time is precious. If you calculate the cost of your time and what you’ve spent in fees, airfare, hotels, etc., it will bring you perspective, and make you treat them like any other investment. Maximize your return by having a good game plan and excellent follow through.


Bruce Eckfeldt is a entrepreneur, a former Inc 500 CEO, and long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him at bruce@eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

The Best Ways To Build And Maintain Great Business Partnerships

After many years in product design and development, I founded a technology company in 2003. We did well and the company grew in both revenues and people. We made the Inc 5000 list five years in a row, one year placing 243 on the Inc 500. I started the company with a partner who subsequently left and then switched partners during the life of the business.

In 2014, I sold the company to a third party after the partnership failed and we couldn’t find a way to exit on mutual terms. I’ve been in several mediations and even lawsuits over partnership issues and have learned a lot. Today, I coach entrepreneurs and executives on management and organizational performance and deal with several partnership situations.

Whether it’s individual business partners in a company, a strategic partnership between companies, or partnerships between employers and employees, they all require careful design and ongoing commitment to be successful. Partnerships that put themselves on cruise control run the risk of missing obstacles in the road and failing to see upcoming turns. Partnerships that are committed to continuous review and improvement and are able to effectively resolve issues and navigate change have the ability to grow and deliver increasing value.

There are several factors to consider when developing a partnership agreement and several practices to follow to keep the partnership on track and delivering value for every party involved. Ignoring these can not only put the future partnership at risk, but it can destroy the existing value that has been created. Even if you’re not a formal business partnership, these ideas and recommendations can be helpful to ensure long term success and to avoid destructive conflict.

Partnerships are not until death do you part

One of the first things I coach new partnerships on is that you shouldn’t assume your partnership will last forever. It’s unrealistic to think that a partnership won’t end at some point. Even with the best intentions and the largest of opportunities, people and businesses change. Designing a clear, reasonable, and equity way in which to part ways that protects your assets and the value that you’ve built in the business. It’s much easier to work out how to handle different scenarios while the energy and intentions are collaborative and productive.

Design the process to work regardless who is in which situation. Where you can, create scenarios where either party has equal chances of being on either side. This will incent each side to create a fair and equal resolution process. “You split I pick” approaches force parties to be fair about the choices they make because they could end up on either side of the deal.

Separate initial contribution from ongoing contributions

What someone puts in at the beginning of a partnership can be quite different than what they are going to put in over the life of the deal. Plus, things change. Just because someone intends to contribute something in the future doesn’t mean they will. Even with the best intention. My recommendation is that these types of contributions are be separated and, if need be, accrued over time. 

For example, where one side is going to put up working capital and the other side is going to put in time operating the company, I suggest having a equity/ownership model that accrues the second partner's value over some period of time. The rate of accrual should be based on the difference between the market rate of the operating partners time contribution and the actual draw/salary.

If both partners are operating, come up with market rates for each person’s roles and then accrue at the difference between these. If need be, have a process for adjusting these based on a third party over time with some pre-defined formula. Having these in place means that if one partner can’t or doesn’t want to delivery on the ongoing contribution, then there is a clear adjustment that’s fair and equitable.

Have a clear and equitable process for winding down

When things get heated, rational thought and collaboration tend to go out the window. Having a clear resolution and wind-down process ensures that value is maintained regardless of emotions and unfortunate situations. Partners get divorced, tied up in litigations, suffer health issues, etc. These are unfortunate but a reality of life. And these need not be dispassionate. Provide funds, time, consideration for resolution and assistance, but define up front how much the partnership will invest and how much exposure it will take on.

Have a defined process for conflict resolution and mediation

There are two main reasons to have a clear process for conflict resolution. First, you want to know how things are going to be handled should the partners not be able to collaboratively reach a resolution. Have a clear process for notices and escalating that can be invoked unilaterally if needed. I generally suggest a process that has two or more levels of escalation to allow for time/space to re-engage in a collaborative process before moving to irreversible stages.

Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative Law processes are generally more effective and can be significantly less expensive than the traditional litigation. Consider mandating use of these methods before allowing resolution by the courts.

Develop a shared future vision and operating values

Parties enter into partnerships because they think it will get them some future state more quickly, with less costs, and/or with less risk. If not, they wouldn’t need the partnership. The challenge comes when the futures each party envisions don’t exactly line up. That’s not to say the parties need the same vision or same reasons for entering into a partnership, but if each side isn’t clear on why they are doing it and why the other party is doing it, it is much more likely to lead to misunderstanding and conflict.

Get clear on what you want and get clear on what the other side wants and know that you’re making commitments to each other to deliver on both ends, not just your own. If you can’t commit to making both yourself and your parter successful, then think twice about entering the deal. 

Define expectations and commitments for each party

Many partnerships end up in conflict because the expectations of what each party is going to contribute over the life of the relationship is either not clear at the outset or changes over time without clear mutual agreement. Take the time to really explore what expectations are and how each side wants to handle changes in expectations. Who is responsible for what part of the business? If there is a failure to deliver on expectations, what is the resolution process? 

Create a clear and effective decision making process

All businesses need to make decisions. Partnerships need even more structure since values, priorities and impacts might be different for each side. Separating the type of decisions (what copier to buy verses the decision to make an acquisition) can help keep the process effective and timely. Create a few categories of types of decisions and define how each will be determined and which decision making process will be used.

Don’t assume everything needs to be unanimous or just by ownership. There are many decision-making strategies and process you can develop. Think through who has rights for input, developing options, making decisions, approving decisions, and notification. Sometimes the issue is not who gets to make the decision but rather who has input and who get’s notified.

Sometimes bringing in third parties to approve decisions or that decisions conform to external standards or opinion can help. Consider processes for alternating or setting terms for different decision-making responsibilities. The point being, figuring these out up front can help smooth the day-to-day operating process and avoid rows and costly delays. 

Have regular and well-structured review meetings

Regardless of good intentions and well-laid plans, people change and things happen. Not always for the worse. Sometimes partnerships struggle with success. Have a regularly scheduled check in points with a defined agenda to catch issues early and make necessary adjustments. I find quarterly is a good timeframe for conducting a partnership review.

The agenda should generally include a review of the previous quarter and a 12-24-month forward-looking plan. Having a facilitator can help make sure you address all issues in an efficient and thorough manner. Also be sure to include things that are happening outside the partnership that might affect the partnership either directly or through either party.

Every partnership will have particular needs and will want to implement these and other practices in a way that works best for them. Great partnerships take work and careful management. But done well, they can also deliver amazing results that would be impossible otherwise.


Bruce Eckfeldt is a former Inc 500 CEO and long-time member of the New York City Chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him at bruce@eckfeldt.com.

This post originally appeared in Business Insider:

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Setting Powerful Team Goals Using Objectives Key-Results (OKRs)

The Objective - Key Result (OKR) framework is a powerful tool for tying short-term actions to long-term vision. Especially for teams, where you have multiple people to align and coordinate. The key to the model is the two-part framework which provides traceability to long-term goals while specifying short-term action items in a clear and easy-to-manage process.

As a coach, I use quarterly OKRs to help teams decide on improvements they are prioritizing and implementing. My goal is to create a simple and effective method for focusing and aligning the team's efforts. Of course like any framework, while the ideas can be straight forward the implementation can be difficult. For some teams this process can be fairly easy. For others its a challenge.

Regardless of your situation or history, below are several suggestions which will help make the process more successful.

Start with a sober assessment of where you currently stand

You need a clear vision of both your destination and your starting point. If you set overly-ambitious objectives, you risk frustration and disappointment. Avoid failure by starting with a honest assessment of your current skills and capabilities. Then set reasonable objectives that give you good reasonable chance for success. Build on that success by setting progressively more challenging and ambitious goals. You wouldn't go out and run a marathon if you’ve never completed a 5K.

Set OKR’s on quarterly basis

One calendar quarter is the ‘goldilocks’ time period for OKRs. Monthly is just too short. Yearly is too long. Three months is just right. 90 days gives enough time to set meaningful goals while still creating urgency. I find that with yearly OKRs, people will to wait until the last quarter to really focus on action, effectively wasting nine months of time. When you’re working in monthly cycles, a spike in regular project demands can through an entire cycle out the window. With a three-month cycle, when a project crisis hits and you need to put your OKR’s aside for a few weeks, you still have time to pick them back up and make good progress.

In the beginning, it’s better to under commit

Go easy the first round. Being conservative allows you can focus on learning the process and building a solid foundation. Once you have a good quarter and have the taste for success, then get more aggressive. I’ve seen teams who commit to far too much, complete only a fraction of their KR’s, getting deflated, and then spend several months rebuilding their confidence. I’d rather see a team get a few things done well and build momentum.

Objectives show progress towards a vision

When I write objectives, the first question I ask is, “how does this objective help advance me towards my vision?” An objective that doesn’t tie to a vision is at best a waste of time. At worst, it actively interferes with organization success. Good objectives have a clarity of purpose. Sometimes this takes a few rewrites. Everyone should be satisfied that achieving an objective will clearly advance the team in the right direction.

Here are a few examples where rewriting objectives can improved clarity:

  • Get more feedback became Get more customer feedback early in the process so we can prioritize our work better
  • Improve retrospectives became Go deeper in retrospectives so we can find and address root causes
  • Do one-on-ones became Send time each week with direct reports to develop closer personal relationships
  • Waste less time in meetings became Improve meeting productivity by having a clear goal and meeting agenda
  • Work in iterations became Improve delivery consistency by planning and delivering our work in consistent iterations
  • Meet our deadlines became Improve our ability to estimate complexity and capacity so that the business can prioritize and plan confidently

Target 3-5 objectives, each with 3-5 key results

I suggest teams have a total of between 15-20 KRs for the quarter. The size and complexity will depend on the team composition and size, but I find those numbers to work well. Using the 70-80% goal, that means a team is targeting to complete roughly 10-15 KR’s. That's about one a week, which sets a reasonable pace. Generally I recommend you invest about 10-15% of your total capacity in OKR work.

Assuming a team has 3-5 KR’s per objective, then you should have between 3-5 objectives to get to your 15-20 total KR count. Once you have a well-written objective, find three to five key results that, when completed, will show meaningful progress. The KR’s don’t need to “complete” the objective, just show substantial progress. An objective can go on for several quarters with different KR’s under it. Start with three to five KR’s per objective. Less than three and you leave too little room for choice. More than five and you’ll create too much focus on one objective or too many KR’s. 

Select objectives based on passion and impact

It's easy to come up with dozens of objectives. Select those you feel both passionate about and will make a meaningful impact. This will motivate you. If you have an objective that the team is passionate about but doesn't have a clear impact on strategy, keep working on it and find an angle. I find that it’s easier channel passion into impact than to try and rally passion for an objective that lacks interest.

Key results need to be specific, definitive, and independent

Key results need three things to be effective. First, they need to be specific. This means that everyone knows the scope and what tasks are involved, and what tasks are not. Second they need to be definitive. You know when it’s done. And I mean done, done. Avoid subjective measures and vague definitions. Lastly, they need to be independent, which means that the team has the power to complete each KR without dependence on outside parties or resources. This includes independence from other KR’s. Your KR’s should not end up in a big Gantt chart with tasks strung together in interlocking threads.

Develop OKR’s as a group

OKR’s should not be a collection of individual OKR’s. Everyone should have their own personal OKR’s, but keep them separate. Teams OKR’s need to be about what the ‘team’ needs and should be team efforts to complete. One person should not go off by themselves and complete all of the KRs.

Don’t over-complicate tracking and scoring

I’ve seen teams come up with elaborate point values and scoring formulas for each KR. Over-complicating them in the beginning typically turns into a problem and focuses the team on process rather than progress. Better to start simple with a system that everyone can see and quickly calculate progress. If KR’s are of significantly different sizes, I typically have the team adjust them--splitting them apart or combining them or re-writing them--to get them to be in rough balance. For tracking, I suggest a simple chart where each KR can be checked off when completed. Progress is simply calculated by completed KR’s over the total number of KR’s to get a percentage.

Plan and prioritize your OKR work along side your other project work. I have teams keep separate task backlogs, one for OKR’s and one for project work; but when we plan iterations, it's one absolutely prioritized list. For teams working in iterations or sprints, I have them allocate 5-10% of their capacity for OKR stories. For teams working with kanban or continuous pull systems, I suggest pulling an OKR task every 10th task.

Burn-down and/or burn-up charts can help visualize work completed, work remaining, and current progress rate. This allows everyone to see the progress, or the lack there of, and set expectations accordingly. For OKR’s, since the target is 70-80% completion, I have the teams mark those rate lines on the chart so they can clearly see the target zone.

Assign one owner for each key results

While the entire team needs to be involved in the completion of OKR’s, each KR should have just one name next to it. The owner is responsible for managing tasks, delegating work, and removing roadblocks. Do not expect the owner to complete the KR by themselves, but they will likely be heavily involved. KR ownership should be distributed as evenly across the group as possible. I also encourage people to take KRs that are slightly out of their comfort zone. Again, this should be a group effort.

Target 70-80% completion of your KR's

You should have some stretch to your KR’s. If you complete all of their KR’s in a quarter, you haven’t stretched enough. Teams should target completing 70-80% of their KR's in a quarter. This gives you room to do more than planned while ensuring that the you are not over-scheduling yourselves and wasting time and energy. If the you are getting less than 60% completed for two quarters in a row, then cut back. If you are finishing more than 90% for two quarters in a row, add more. Again, do not over-complicate the measurement and tracking.

Don’t get stuck on a KR, if it’s not working move on to something else

If you realize that the KR just won’t deliver the value you expected, don’t be afraid to scrap it altogether. This is another reason to plan on 70-80% completion. It leaves room to drop a few if they turn out to be duds. Be careful of getting into this habit, however, as it will lead to sloppy OKR definition at the beginning of the quarter. And only do this with KR’s, not with objectives. In all cases, make sure to address these in a retrospective.

Sometimes you end up with an KR that turns out to be more difficult than you estimated. When this happens don't be afraid to move on to other KRs and put this one aside. If you have time at the end of the quarter you can pick it back up.

Retrospect after each quarter and apply what you’ve learn

Lastly, be sure to retrospect at the end of the quarter. This is where teams can learn about what’s working, what’s not, and where they can improve. I suggest the following retrospective structure: 1) create awareness by collecting and present information and data, 2) develop insights by asking questions and challenging assumptions, 3) develop a multitude of possible action items, and 4) choose what to implement based on impact and feasibility.


Bruce Eckfeldt is an entrepreneur and former Inc 500 CEO. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce and how he can help you and your company, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him at bruce@eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Building a Powerful Advisory Board

Many companies create advisory boards with great intentions. Unfortunately, they don’t always do the best job and the board becomes a chore for everyone involved or is abandoned out of apathy and frustration. Having a clear purpose for you and your members and a plan for building and managing your board can greatly increase your chances of success and having a powerful impact on your business.

As a successful entrepreneur, former Inc 500 CEO, and, currently, an executive coach, I’ve been asked to serve on several advisory boards over the years. Some had been successful and allowed me to have significant impact on the business. Others have been a waste of my time and the companies’ money. Today, I often help business put together advisory boards and help recruit members. Here are several recommended considerations that can help drive success.

Know the Difference between a Board of Advisors and a Board of Directors

People often get these confused. Generally, a board of directors has some sort of fiduciary responsibility to investors and/or shareholders in a company. They are there to protect the folks they represent and generally have voting rights in high-level decisions and have some control over management. Boards of advisors do not have this type of responsibility and power.

Advisors are there to provide insights, resources, opinions, and perspectives to leadership and management. Making sure you and your board understand this is an important first step. Confusing these can mean that you’re using your advisory board in the wrong way. It can also mean that you’re not getting the right people or the people you want on your board because they are turned off out of concern for legal risk (board or directors usually, or at least should, be insured and protected/indemnified against litigation liability).

Decide What You Want Out of an Advisory Board

Advisory boards can serve many purposes. Some boards provide information about industry or markets, other boards know about operations and management, and others provide access to key resources and external credibilities. These are different purposes. Being clear with yourself so you can be clear with board members is important. What you choose as a focus depends on you and your business.

I usually suggest leaders to identify where they are weakest and where a board could have the most impact and focus on that intersection. Look at your current strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t have much experience with finances and operations, focus your board on finding people with that experience in your industry. If you need access to key markets, recruit members with a reputation and large rolodex. Picking a specific focus will help you find and select members and get the most out of their involvement.

Brainstorm All the Possible Things You Can Offer Members

First, I generally suggest companies don’t offer equity for board members. It’s too complicated and leads to problems if you need to end a relationship. Further, I also suggest that you don’t focus on monetary compensation to start with. (I do suggest you cover any and all expenses and, if appropriate, a small honorarium.) Equity and money miss the opportunity to appeal to a member’s desire for more intrinsic rewards such as community, reputation, and the satisfaction of helping a meaningful cause. Don’t underestimate the value you can offer advisors. Think about things like reputation, networking, and industry insights. The more you can think out of the box on value, the more options you’ll have to recruit.

Decide How You Want to Meet and Interact with Your Board

It’s important to have a clear plan for when and how you engage your board. Generally, boards meet as a group on a regular basis. However, you might want one-on-one time with some or all advisors separately. Think about the benefits of each and what will serve you best. Timing can be anywhere from monthly to annually. Generally, I suggest quarterly meetings as that gives a nice balance between seeing your board too often and not having anything to really discuss and too infrequently and not receiving enough input on key decisions. Some boards alternate between meeting in person and via video conference to ease travel time and costs. Meeting in person at least once a year provides for more meaningful connections with, and between, board members.

Develop and publish an agenda for your board meetings. The one thing that kills a board’s enthusiasm is feeling like your time is not being used efficiently. Know what you want to discuss and what input you want from members. Provide sufficient background and details prior to the meeting with enough time for board members to review. I suggest at least two weeks in advance. You want to spend your board time discussing and working out ideas, not reading documents and presenting background materials. 

Decide Who Has Involvement and a Relationship with Your Advisory Board

Some companies I work with set up an advisory board just for the owner(s) of the business. Others include several members of the management team and senior staff in board meetings. Either is fine, but it’s important to work out the logic and logistics beforehand and set expectations for both the board and the company. Consider why you have an advisory board and what you expect to get out of it. If you want to focus on operations and delivery, you probably need members of your operating team involved. If you’re more focused on long-term strategy, you might not. You can also pull in key managers to discuss specific topics. Also consider what information managers and employees will go out to employees and make this clear to board members. If minutes are being distributed, it might change what advisors are willing to say and you don’t want there to be any miscommunications.

Create an Advisory Board Agreement

Advisors should be treated like partners. And like any good partnership, the expectations, terms, and scope of the relationship should be defined and detailed in a clear document. Draft an agreement you can give to potential advisors once they express interest in serving. Be willing to make changes, but offer initial details so a member can see expectations and the relationship you’re envisioning. Be sure to include things like time commitments, meeting logistics, expected preparation work, and what you expect with respect to phone calls and emails between meetings. Other things to consider are terms regarding confidentiality, non-disclosure and publication, non-compete, termination, and resignation.

Have a Clear Term Limit and Renewal Provisions

I strongly recommend that you have a term limit for all advisory board members. This will ensure you have a means of keeping your board fresh and engaged. Generally, I suggest one to two year terms with any optional explicit renewal provision. This makes it easy to retire board members who either turn out not to be a good fit or fade over time. It also allows you to change the focus of your board as the company grows and the needs change. I also feel that advisory boards benefit from new blood. Fresh ideas and perspectives from people who haven’t been steeped in the history can be exceptionally valuable.

Strike a Balance between Commonality and Diversity

I find great boards have a well-crafted balance between commonality and diversity. Too much commonality and you risk group think and anemic discussions but too much diversity and members can’t build on ideas and collaborate effectively. When targeting and recruiting board members, consider a range of factors: size of companies they’ve worked with, types of roles they’ve had, general views on their domain, etc. Read things they’ve posted and look at their profiles. Also consider personalities and communication styles and how these will affect communications and group dynamics. Don’t fall into the trap of putting together a fan club. Push yourself to create a board that will challenge you and add valuable insight and cover your blind spots.

Creating a focused plan for your advisory board can be a lot of work, but taking the time and care to do so will great improve the contribution a board can make. I’ve served on several advisory boards and it’s always clear to me when a company takes the time and care to create a good plan and a win-win relationship. They’re a pleasure to work with and leave me energized, engaged, and willing to give my all.


Bruce Eckfeldt is an entrepreneur and former Inc 500 CEO. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce and how he can help you and your company, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him at bruce@eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!

Anatomy of a Winning Startup Competition Pitch

Startup competition pitching is hard. You have limited time to convey a lot of information in a compelling and engaging way. The right structure is the basis for a winning pitch and can mean the difference between taking home the gold (literally) and eating ramen for another month (or more).

As an entrepreneur, Inc 500 CEO, and business coach, I’ve helped dozens of startups with their pitches and I’ve been a judge in competitions for many years. Over that time I’ve develop some basic guidelines and recommendations I give my teams. All of these are focused on maximizing the team's ability to convey the right information in an engaging and convincing way. This structure is specific to competition pitches. While similar to investor pitches, they differ in a few important ways which is important to consider before getting started.

Most competitions have a limited number of entrants and the process is forced to award places/money to the people within the pool. With an investor pitch you are competing against complacency and the “do nothing” option. In competitions, judges don't have the option to choose nobody (usually). This means you only need to be the best one that day. With an investor pitch, you need to convince them you are better than anything they “might” see in coming weeks or months.

The format typically gives you a fixed amount of time during which the judges are obligated to listen. There is generally also a fixed amount for questions which makes it unlikely they will interrupt your presentation. An investor can cut you off anytime and every phone call is a potential distraction. This allows you to plan out your presentation with specific structure and timing.

A competition is often filling a higher mission than just investment return. Competitions are usually organized or backed by people with a “purpose”. This could be to support a certain demographic or community or institution. Some competitions have specific application criteria or judging standards to reinforce these. However, even if they don’t, a smart team takes into consideration that judges and organizers want to showcase their selection. Figure out what would make a good-looking winner and tailor your pitch accordingly.

Finally, many competitions are straight-up grants or low/no interest debt, rather than equity. This means that the investment proposal is usually not as important, or at least not considered as heavily, as it would be in an investment pitch. Even in the case when winning involves an equity position, the judges are usually not directly investing their own money. Also, the equity position is usually fixed (X number of dollars to Y percentage of equity) and doesn’t get negotiated. All of this means that you may need to make a detailed case for valuation or provide a return/exit strategy.

Taking all of this into consideration, the general structure of the pitch is based on the idea that you want to present a clear and compelling business model and an engaged and charismatic team within the time permitted. You need to make it easy for the judges to compare against the other entrants and feel good about choosing you over them. And most importantly, you need to be a choice that the judges are going to “feel good” about selecting.

Here is what I typically suggest for the pitch structure:

What's the problem?

First, present the problem you are solving and why the problem is a problem. Who does it impact? How many people? What pain are you alleviating? What happiness are you enabling? If you don’t address the problem what horrible thing is going to take place or opportunity will be squandered? You want to make this emotional, not just logical. Personalize the problem by talking about specific stories of specific people (real people if you can). Show faces and contexts. You want the judges to become emotionally, not just intellectually, drawn into the presentation.

Why hasn't it been solved already?

Second, describe what a good solution needs to consider and accomplish. Where and why have people failed up until now? What skills need to be applied? What knowledge needs to be learned? What external factors need to be in place? This section sets you up as the best solution relative to the competition. You want to define the selection criteria such that only your approach will work and other people's approaches are doomed for failure. Tilt the table towards you by emphasizing your strengths as being the only important evaluation criteria. This will allow you to compare yourself as being far ahead of the competition.

Your solution

Third, present your solution in simple terms. You need a one, maximum two, line description of your concept. “We allow college alumni to stay connected and plan events via online community” (http://alumnispaces.com) or “We provide the insight and support of a great high school guidance counselor through an easy-to-use self-service web application” (https://admitted.ly/).

The key here is you need to provide the judges with a memorable description of your concept. They need an anchor to “get it” and be able to understand what you're proposing. If your idea is not clear to them, they will get caught up in trying to resolve it in their minds and won’t be able to pay attention to the rest of your pitch. I’d rather have teams come up with a description that might not be totally accurate but easy to understand, than try to describe their concept with perfect fidelity and leave the judges confused and questioning.

Further, to the extent that you can make it catchy and easy to remember, you will enable the judges to recall and refer to your idea and team quickly. Judges spend a lot of time trying to sort through many entrants and discussing the relative merits. I’ve found that entries with easy to refer to ideas get talked about more. As a result they tend to get more time being discussed. Though this won’t help a bad idea, it does mean that it’s less likely that a good idea will be ignored.

Why you're better than others

Fourth, position yourself against the competition using the criteria you established in step two. Generally, this is one or more 2x2 matrices showing how you compare. You want to show that even though some competitors maybe close to you on one axis, they are far behind on another. Show that you’re uniquely ahead of the game and that your mix is the best mix to solve the problem successfully.

How are you going to make money and when?

Fifth, describe your high-level financial model. Keep it simple. Show costs and revenues and cash flow for two years; generally in quarters. Only show months if there is something irregular or unique that can only be shown on a monthly basis. For each period, show beginning cash balance, then expenses, then revenue, then calculate profit/loss, and finally ending cash balance.

If you already have capital infusion or debt financing, show that at the bottom and then carry the balance to the top of the next month. This way you can easily show operating expenses, revenue projects, cash flow, and financing requirements. For some competitions you can make this simpler. If there is a risk that the details become too complicated, I often coach teams to show the slide but only cover the points that are most pertinent to that jury. You want to visually show the jury you’ve done the work, but don’t want to take up time with involved explanations.

If you have been in business for some period of time and can show you’re executing your plan, show historical financials. If you’ve already had investment, show when this was done and what it’s been used for. Emphasize that you’ve put in money and time and others are supporting you already. The caution here is that you don’t want the judges to feel that you don’t “need” to win this competition. Make it clear that you winning this competition is critical. You want the judges to feel like they are going to make a true difference in the outcome.

Why should people invest?

Sixth, make your investment case. Again, for a competition, you can most likely keep this simple. For an investor pitch this would be covered much more thoroughly. Make some reasonable and rational projections as to where your company will be in five to seven years. I generally suggest teams start with a bottom up build and then do a top down check.

Start by showing how you’re going to grow the business. How many customers are you taking on each year? What’s your retention rate? What are costs per acquisition? What are your profits per customer? What is the lifetime value of a customer?  Based on your assumptions and projections, show how that translates into annual revenues in the final years of the projection. I suggest five to seven years for two reasons. First, because that’s the typical time-frame for most venture and early-stage capital investors. Second, because it’s a reasonable range for making projections.

Once you have your bottom up model, develop a top down model to show that your projected size and total market share are not unreasonable. Calculate the market size by looking at the total number of current and projected customers, the average revenue per customer, and then show the percentage of the market you are projecting to capture. If you’re greater than 50% you’re likely to be judged as being over-optimistic with how much of the market you expect to capture. In this case, you might want to look at expanding the market to show new/more areas you can compete and grow. If you’re under 10%, you’re projecting that you’ll be a minor play in the market. This can come with concerns that you’ll either need to be acquired or will struggle as bigger players dominate the game. The sweet spot is 20-40%. Big enough to be a player, but not so big that you’d need to be the leader to get your return. All of this is highly dependent on the market and context, but they are good general guidelines.

Why are you the best team for the job?

Seventh, you need to present your team and why you’re the best people for the job. Let’s face it, the adage that one would rather invest in an “A” team with a “B” idea rather than vice versa, has a great degree of truth. In competitions, there is yet another reason to focus on the people behind the business: judges are there to enjoy themselves and feel good. They want to give awards to people they like, or at least know, not to business plans. Highlight the team and the unique qualities the team has to execute. Key things to highlight are related experiences, education, industry knowledge, track record, and unique access to resources. And make your team likable. Use a smiling, high-quality picture. Don’t use cell phone snap shots with friends and drinks cropped out.

Why should people care about your success?

Finally, in the last section I have my teams re-engage the judges emotionally by reiterating the importance of addressing the problem. Highlight what will happen if they don’t award your team. This can take the form of either a horrible impact or a tragically missed opportunity. You want the judges to feel like they are compelled to pick this team because they have a moral obligation. They should feel that finding a solution is so important they should award them regardless of the plan or the team.

Too many teams end on a business note and leave the judges with a spreadsheet showing impossible exponential curves. Instead, leave the judges with the picture of a child walking down the hall of the school with their head down because of bad college selections, the increase in college dropout, and the social tragedy of those who don’t go to college because they never had a guidance counselor to show them the way.


Bruce Eckfeldt is an entrepreneur and former Inc 500 CEO. He provides executive and team coaching and management training to startups and high-growth companies. For more information on Bruce and how he can help you and your company, visit http://www.eckfeldt.com or contact him atbruce@eckfeldt.com.

Interested learning more? Schedule a free consultation!