Learning from Leaders by Steve Schmidt

Guest Post

By Steve Schmidt, President, AbeTech Bar Code & RFID Solutions

When Tom Salonek wrote his book, The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership, I was eager to read it. I’ve long admired Tom’s company and the many awards it has received, not to mention Intertech’s consistent growth and profitability. I run a small business of my own and thought Tom’s book might give me some new ideas.

Oh boy, did it ever!

If you haven’t read The 100, I highly recommend it. This little book is crammed with practical management strategies that Tom has tested and proven at his company. Not only does the book provide 100 practical mini chapters (Tom calls them “takeaways”), it is sprinkled with fun quotes and Tom’s trademark humor. It’s the perfect book for a short business flight.

I should confess that Tom is my cousin, but please don’t think for a minute that this is a gushing “puff piece” based more on familial connections than merit. I’ve known the guy a long time and he’s always been highly motivated, focused and eager to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. He’s a, well, natural born leader. I’ve watched his company (and his family!) expand over time, and seen first-hand the productive and healthy workplace he and his partners have cultivated.

The word “mindfulness” is trendy now, but it’s a perfect description of Tom’s approach to business and life. By thinking and acting in deliberate mindful ways based on hard science and life experience, he has built a thriving organization on a solid foundation of values, like delivering beyond what is expected, treating people kindly and fairly, and keeping things in perspective. His book generously shares that experience and practical knowledge in an easy to digest format. It also comes with dozens of downloadable forms and other tools that I’m guessing are worth much more than the modest book price.

Now a confession.

When I first read The 100 it was still in the galley (pre-print) stage. Like the leader he is, Tom reaches out to others for input and alternative perspectives. I was happy to read the manuscript and give him my honest feedback. And, to be honest, I found it all to be a bit much. There are so many great ideas and recommendations; frankly, I wasn’t sure where to begin or how to implement them at my firm without losing a lot of time in the process.

I shared this reaction with Tom and he responded by explaining that following the ideas in The 100 actually save time by reducing surprises and increasing employee retention. Then he created a calendar showing how to implement his leadership program in the most efficient way possible. I reviewed the revised manuscript a second time and was pleased to give it my highest endorsement:

The 100 “artfully captures Salonek’s decades of leadership achievements and details repeatable steps that we all can take to improve our business results. Read the book, learn the secrets and enjoy the fruits of winning in the marketplace.”

Make Meetings Work

If you’ve read my book, “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership”  you know I’ve devoted a fair amount of thought and study to the subject of effective meetings. While many people hate meetings, I’ve found that efficiently run meetings are productive and even fun. Just when I thought I had the perfect formula for meeting magic, I ran across a great business leadership book called “Traction,” by Gino Wickman, which expanded my thinking and meeting practices in a number of positive ways.

Traction provided some great ideas for making our meetings better than ever. For example, not only do we find time to connect as people and colleagues (without the meeting veering off into a 20-minute account of someone’s new car or perfect golf game), we definitely focus on the issues that matter most. Wickman calls this a “meeting pulse,” which gets taken with the help of his “Level 10 Meeting Agenda.” He says, “The Level 10 Meeting Agenda is a tool that will help you get to the core of what makes for great meetings, namely conflict and resolution.”

Here are some takeaways that might help kick start your meetings too (see my sample agenda at the end and feel free to adapt it for your own organization):

  • Start with sharing personal items during the “Segue” portion of the meeting, which helps to build personal connections.  This is where I ask everyone to share something personal to build personal bonds (like, my kid is having challenges in school, and I’m doing A/B/C to help). The agenda has suggested time allotments for each section. This helps everyone to remember to share meaningful information concisely.
  • In the part of the meeting where people share customer/employee highlights the idea is to get the meeting off on a positive note. I don’t want to ignore problems or issues, which we tackle in the “workout” section, but remembering the positive employee and customer experiences is especially important since our leadership team only meets once per month.
  • Covering the Scorecard (see my previous post for more on Scorecards) and goals/rocks right away without discussion is by design because this section of the meeting just sets the stage for the in-depth discussion to follow.
  • The bulk of the L10 meeting is to discuss ideas/issues.  As things come up from one month to the next, I’ll email our office manager, who keeps the agenda, to make sure these items are added to the agenda. This process makes it simple to create the agenda (anyone on the leadership team can add items knowing they’ll be covered at the next meeting).

Intertech Meeting Agenda:

  1. Segue (11:00, 5 Minutes). Each meeting answer one of the following:  What’s one good personal and professional thing since the last workout?  What’s working at Intertech?  What is one highlight from the weekend?  What’s the biggest win in the last seven days.
  2. Scorecard (11:05, 5 Minutes). Review of financial and operating metrics.  Update, not discussion.
  3. Rock Review (11:10, 5 Minutes). Review top goals.  Update, not discussion.
  4. Customer/Employee Headlines (11:15, 5 Minutes). Share positive wins since last meeting.
  5. Workout (11:20, 90 Minutes). This is the core of the meeting.  It is going over upcoming plans for
  6. strategic goals and important issues that surfaced in end-of-day huddles.  Review/update quarterly goals (All).  Review/update Work Plan items (All).  Define 90-day work plan for ’18 goals
  7. Conclude (12:50, 10 Minutes).  Recap To-Do List. What shook out today that needs to be tackled by whom?  Cascading messages. What messages need to be communicated company-wide?  Next meeting: When’s the next meeting?  Rate meeting 1-10 (Should be 8+). Less than 8 merits discussion so we can improve.
  8. Next Meeting Date

How to cultivate winning client-consultant relationships

Much like members of Congress must “reach across the aisle” to forge effective political partnerships, effective client-consultant relationships work best when both parties communicate, participate, treat each other with respect and share responsibility for outcomes.

Unfortunately, as frequent legislative failures demonstrate, people do not always play by common-sense rules.

When they do, however, the results can be impressive. As the owner and CEO of a consulting company that works with hundreds of organizations to build software, I can attest that great work happens when we partner with clients who share these values. In fact, our people will go far beyond what is reasonably expected when a client follows these simple principles… read the full article in Upsize magazine’s “How to cultivate winning client-consultant relationships.”

Intertech Named One of the 100 Best Companies to Work For

Intertech has been named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Minnesota Business magazine for 2018.  My thanks to all of our loyal customers and dedicated employees for making us possible.

If you’re curious on how we create an environment of engagement, you can view the slide deck from a talk I deliver on engagement.

30 Free Life and Business Tools

We’ve all been seduced by those that magic word “FREE.” It’s right up there with “life hacks” and “ageless” in its power to reel in even sophisticated consumers. Often, of course, we often find “free” comes with strings attached or the freebee is so lame you’d just as soon wished you’d passed.

I hope you’ll put aside all that valuable consumer experience and consider that I have something free to offer and valuable.  I’m talking about the couple of dozen free resource downloads that come with my book “The 100: Building Blocks for Business Leadership.”

The free downloads you’ll find associated with my book include templates and checklists. These are free, don’t require sharing your information, and don’t require a book purchase.

These tools are my go-to resources for:

Self Management:

Business Management:

Recruiting

Employee Management:

As you work through the takeaways in my book or the associated free resources, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions.