Date: 1/23/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.” – Thomas Edison

Sometimes I think one of the biggest challenges facing leaders is the lack of new ideas. We get in our routine, we talk and listen to the same people, and so on. The longer we go in our careers, the greater I think we have the tendency to surround ourselves with what’s familiar, what we’re comfortable with, rather than seeking out something different.

Maybe that works for a while, but the reality is that new problems quite often require new ideas. I’ve had a lot of conversations over the past few years with leaders who said some variation of, “Well, there’s nothing else we can do, I guess we’ll just have to deal with whatever happens.” The reality is that there almost certainly is something else they can do, they just haven’t come up with it.

Ask yourself this: Where do your new ideas come from? As a leader, what are you doing to make sure you’re exposed to new things and new trends and new experiences? Who are you surrounding yourself with that can help you come up with things you might not come up with on your own? As a leader, you ought to have answers to those questions.

So if you don’t, think about people you know or have a connection to. Are there people that could help? Are there individuals in your organization that seem to be ‘idea people’, regardless of their official job title? Are there people in your community, or in your circle of friends, or amongst your peers who could help provide some fresh thinking? How can you access those people?

There’s no shame in asking for and getting help. There’s no shame in feeling like you don’t have all the answers – in fact, part of being a good leader is knowing that very thing. There is shame in not doing everything possible to get help. There is shame in not doing whatever needs to be done to find new ideas.

Get outside of your own head. Find some people who have ideas. Ask for input. Read. Listen. New problems require new thinking, new solutions. Go out and find some, and find an array of new possibilities.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 2 Comments

Date: 1/16/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

There are a lot of leaders out there who spend time thinking about the future, about what they want their organization to be, about strategy, all that good stuff. They think about the markets they want to be in, the customers they want to do business with, how they’ll market to those customers, and the products & services they’ll offer. They’ll even sit down and think about how many people they’ll need to make all of that happen.

What not enough leaders out there spend time thinking about is what exactly those people need to look like. It’s not enough to say, “We’ll need to add 10 salespeople by 2025” – what characteristics and skills will your sales force need to have in 2025? Just adding head count without knowing what kind of heads to add is a recipe for disaster.

More specifically, let’s say today you have 5 salespeople, and by 2025 you think you’ll need 15. It’s not enough to just think you have to hire 10 more – are the 5 you have now going to be able to be effective parts of your vision for the future? Just because someone’s done a job really well for 5 or 10 or 20 years doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to continue doing that job well for the next 5 or 10 or 20.

It’s entirely possible that the kinds of things you’ve asked people to do in the past are not going to be adequate or appropriate in the future. Will those people be able to adjust or adapt? Will they be able to learn new skills? What if they can’t – or won’t?

I’m not suggesting that whenever you think about your vision you have to fire all your old employees and replace them with new ones. What I am suggesting is that we have to constantly be evaluating whether or not we have the right pieces in our organization to get us where we want to go. Sometimes as a leader you have to make difficult decisions about who needs to be part of the team and who needs to go. Those aren’t pleasant decision, but if you’re not prepared to make them then don’t be a leader.

Think about your people. What will they need to change about themselves or their performance to get you where you need to go? Can they do it? Will they do it? The future of your business depends on the quality of its people, on having the right pieces in place. Make sure you do.


the right people

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Date: 1/9/2017 2:00 PM UTC

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

I’m going to at least moderately break on of my own personal rules today. I typically avoid like the plague anything that sounds like a New Year’s Resolution. They’re the same every year, and every year by May you forgot what they were.

So we won’t call this a New Year’s Resolution. We’ll call this a New Year’s Call to Action. We have the chance to take a deep breath and re-start any time we want, but for some reason a new year sounds like the perfect opportunity.

Think about what you’d most like to do with your business or your career or your life). Grow? Take on a different role? Start an altogether new business? Pick up a new hobby? Whatever it is, think about that – better yet, draw a picture of what that would look like.

Now ask yourself: what has to change in my business or career or life to make that picture a reality? What behaviors do I need to change? What skills do I need to learn? Are the barriers money? Time? People in my life who take my energy?

You have the opportunity to do the things you want to do in your life. But they don’t just happen. You have to develop a clear picture of what you want to be and then figure out what specifically you have to do to get there. It takes actual work, and you don’t just luck into it.

Don’t spend the next 20+ years wishing you were doing something else, or being something else, or living somewhere else, or whatever else you can come up with. You’re never too old and it’s never too late. You always have the ability to do the things with your life that you want to do. So take this opportunity of the New Year to make a New Start. Don’t leave things unsaid or undone. Say them and do them – and start now.

a year from now

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 12/22/2016 2:00 PM UTC

"In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day -- or to celebrate each special day." - Rasheed Ogunlaru

Sometimes during the holidays we get so busy we forget to actually enjoy ourselves.  Don't let the chaos and craziness get to you.  Take time each day to remember how special that day is.  It will only come once - don't waste it.

See you in 2017!


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 2 Comments

Date: 12/19/2016 2:00 PM UTC

"Attach yourself to those who advise you rather than praise you." - Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

I’m fortunate to spend most of my day in the company of successful leaders of great organizations. I could list all the behaviors or skills that these leaders seem to have in common – they embrace change, they have an internal locus of control, etc. But there are already hundreds of books written about that kind of stuff.

I want to remind you of something else successful leaders have in common that doesn’t always get mentioned. It’s a willingness to ask for help, and an ability to surround themselves with people who can give it, both inside and outside their organizations.

That may not sound like your idea of a great leader. Some people have the mistaken belief that being a leader means you have to have all the answers, that asking for help shows weakness or a lack of ability. The reality is the exact opposite. Being a leader means understanding that you don’t have all the answers, that you need other people’s strengths to make up for your weaknesses, that the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts.

Who is helping you? Who in your organization can you count on when you’re uncertain or uninformed or lacking the right skills? If there’s nobody internally, who can you count on from the outside? There has to be somebody, preferably multiple somebodies.

Think about your team. If you don’t have people who you can turn to for help, find some. It can be peers in another organization, it can be a trusted advisor, it can be a mentor, whatever. Just find somebody to be part of your team. We can all use a helping hand.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 1 Comment

Date: 12/12/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.” – Virginia Satir

We spend a lot of time in the change arena talking about what we need to do as leaders in creating and implementing change. WHERE do we want our business to be? What steps do we have to take? How will those steps and that WHERE impact the business as a whole?

One thing not enough leaders spend time figuring out is how change will impact the individuals who work for them. Quite often we get so caught up in how much growth this change will create, or how much more profitable we’ll be, or how much happier our customers will be, that we assume that’s all that matters. We think that if it’s better for the business from a 30,000-foot view, then everybody will get on board.

The reality is that the vast majority of people don’t ever really see the 30,000-foot view, and if they did, they might not even care. What most people are primarily concerned with is “What’s in it for me?” Just making the company more profitable doesn’t motivate people. They interpret “more profitable” to mean “my boss gets to make more money”. And if you can’t get people motivated about change, they’re not going to help you make it – and you will fail.

So as you get ready to implement change, think about how that change is going to impact the people who work in your business. Maybe if you only have 4 or 5 employees that’s a manageable task. But what if you have 300? Or 3,000?

Think about the people who work for you. Who are the individuals who are innovators, or early adopters, people who tend to get on board with change quickly, who like new things & new ideas? Work on those people first. Get them excited and on board and let them help you reach everyone else.

You’ll never convince everybody to get behind change. There is a segment of the population who will always be opposed, no matter what it is. So ignore those people. Let the innovators and early adopters get the ball rolling and they’ll help you move things along.

Sometimes we get in such a hurry to make change that we forget there are actual human beings that will be impacted, and they aren’t going to put much energy into helping you make that change until they understand what’s in it for them. Think about it & communicate it. Because it’s not just about you.

corporate culture


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Date: 12/5/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“Let us not seek to fix blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy

I enjoy watching sports, and I watch a lot of them. I enjoy watching teams over the course of a long season, the inevitable ups and downs, wins and losses, etc. As teams’ seasons start to wind down, the best teams start talking about playoffs, and winning championships, and all those kinds of things. Inevitably, some player or coach will be asked a question about all that stuff and will respond with some version of “We control our own destiny” or “We just need to take care of our own business” or something like that.

I wish I heard more of those comments in business, or frankly, in life. We spend a lot of time worrying about a bunch of things we can’t control, that could maybe possibly go wrong, that might get in our way, or that could throw us off track. In fact we spend so much time on those things that we don’t spend enough time on the things we can control, our own stuff, the things we can impact today and tomorrow and next week.

As you go through your day and beyond, pay attention to the things that are taking up your mental energy. Are you spending time worrying or focusing on things you have no control over? Or are you focused on stuff you can change?

And here’s the great part: you can control way more than you think. You aren’t helpless, you aren’t just floating along, living a life completely controlled by outside forces. Your life is largely the result of the choices you make. Your business isn’t losing customers just because the outside world is challenging – it’s because you’re not providing the value those customers are looking for. You didn’t lose a great employee just because somebody else offered them more money – it’s because you didn’t create an organization that they wanted to be part of or that engaged them in a way that made money less relevant.

Yes, there are things you can’t control, and yes, they will have an impact. But don’t use that as an excuse. You have far more of an impact on what happens in your life and your business than those outside forces. Accept responsibility for the future – and make it your future.


Posted by Matt Heemstra | 1 Comment

Date: 11/28/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

It’s probably been true since the beginning of time, but it seems today that we are constantly going. From the minute we get up in the morning until we finally go to bed at night we’re doing something virtually all the time. And when we’re not doing something, we often feel guilty, like there must be something we should be doing.

Do you ever stop and ask yourself why you’re doing some of those things? Why exactly you’re spending the limited amount of time you have on earth doing this instead of that? I’m not suggesting that you’re wasting your time doing stupid things. I just mean, how often do you really think about why your life is filled with all this activity?

I don’t think understanding why is just some kind of intellectual exercise, something we can write down in a corporate or personal mission statement and hang up on the wall. I think it’s actually an energy booster. It’s pretty easy to go mentally numb when it’s go, go, go, day after day, week after week, year after year. Everything becomes just another routine.

Reminding yourself why is like reigniting the flame on your energy furnace. Getting on the treadmill at 5am every morning eventually becomes mundane and boring and a nuisance – until you remember that the reason for it is how good you feel when you’ve been exercising regularly. Having regular one-on-one meetings with people who work for you eventually gets stale – until you remember that the reason for it is to help your people succeed in ways that perhaps they haven’t even thought of and what that would mean for your business.

It’s easy for us as humans to do things because we’ve always done them, or because we think we’re supposed to do them, or because it seems like everybody else is doing them. When those are our motivations, we have no passion, no energy, no engagement, and we do them at a level that’s far less than our best. Don’t just fill your day with stuff for no good reason. Think about the reason on a regular basis. Remember why you’re here.

question mark

Posted by Matt Heemstra | 1 Comment

Date: 11/21/2016 2:00 PM UTC

"Reflect upon your present blessings - of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." - Charles Dickens

With the Thanksgiving holiday happening here this week is seemed like a good time to think about the things in our lives that are really important.  And I can't think of anything more important than a singing turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

Date: 11/14/2016 2:00 PM UTC

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.” – Charles F. Kettering

If you’ve read this blog for very long you’ve probably guessed that we spend a lot of time working with our clients on planning for the future. A huge part of how we structure that process is establishing a vision of WHERE you want your business to be, in much more detail than people typically do in their own minds. I’m convinced that there’s no way to successfully navigate meaningful, results-oriented change without having that clear picture laid out first.

That said, at some point, you do actually have to, you know, do something. It’s a lot of fun (at least for me) to sit around and strategize, to think about the future and people and markets and customers and all those kinds of things. It’s fascinating to work through different scenarios and how we might handle different things that come our way, or, better yet, how we might influence those things rather than respond to them.

But eventually, you have to take action. You have to do things. In particular, you have to do things you haven’t done before. Thoughtful consideration first is important, but then go. Start doing the things you’ve talked about doing.

Just as importantly, you have to keep doing those things. You’re going to get busy, you’re going to run into barriers, you’re going to have all kinds of issues to deal with. But you have to keep going. You can’t stop. You may have to adjust, but you can’t stop. Sitting down in the mud and hoping won’t cut it. You can’t allow yourself to get so distracted that the change you need to make to reach your WHERE grinds to a halt.

So as you get ready to take the plunge, make sure you’ve built accountability into the process somewhere. Who or what is going to make sure you keep doing the things you’ve agreed to do? For more people, self-accountability is a myth. Who are you going to enlist to make sure you keep going? Because you’ll never get there if you don’t keep moving.



Posted by Matt Heemstra | Post a Comment

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