There’s Always More to the Story
Listen to Episode 180:
Episode 180 Transcript:
Pam Harper: When you’re in the middle of tropical storms, pandemics, or any other crisis, what’s the guiding principle to keep in mind? Find out by listening to episode 180 of Growth Igniters® Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper.
Chris Curran: This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and sitting right across from me as always is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s great to join you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio, and as always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders — and their companies — to accelerate to their next level of innovation, transformation and growth. And you know, Pam saying that “I’m really glad to be here” isn’t just a figure of speech these days. We’ve just been through a tropical storm, tropical storm Isaias.
Pam Harper: Yes. We don’t get a lot of tropical storms here in New Jersey, so it was especially tough to know how it would impact us.
Scott Harper: Right. And as it turned out, there was a lot of wind, at some points as high as 70 miles an hour, and a lot of rain. But when the storm was over and we looked out our windows, there were a few branches down, leaves were all over the cars, and so on, but the important thing was we were safe. There was no damage to our property. We kept our power and internet on. So, from our perspective, it looked like we dodged a bullet
Pam Harper: That was our first impression. But when we started reaching out to family, friends, and people in our business networks, and checked into media reports, it became clear that there was much, much more to the story. In fact, we received a call from the town we live in telling us to stay put because many of the streets were impassable. There were a lot of very tall trees that were in full leaf, and they were falling on cars, downing power lines, and hitting houses. It was much more serious than it appeared when we just looked up our street.
Scott Harper: It was a bad scene. In New Jersey alone, over 1 million people lost power. And even worse, some families and businesses didn’t get their power back for almost a week. And this was with temperatures over 90 degrees.
Pam Harper: Meetings were scheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled again, and flights, buses and trains were delayed or canceled. Tragically, the storm was even more severe and deadly in other parts of the Eastern U.S. So it was a good reminder of how important it is to go beyond our initial perceptions and impressions before we make decisions about responding in a way that’s most appropriate under the circumstances.
Scott Harper: Of course, the challenge of drawing conclusions from our perceptions and making decisions based upon first impressions doesn’t only happen with storms. It happens all the time in business.
Pam Harper: In our client work. We often find that issues appear one way from the board, another way from the C-Suite, another way from middle management, and yet in a variety of other ways for frontline employees and other stakeholders. In short, there’s always more to the story in any situation. And it always makes a difference in the outcome of any decision
Scott Harper: And going beyond first impressions and considering perspectives from a range of stakeholders is the only way to find out what’s really happening so you can make better decisions in high-stakes situations. The thing is though, there’s no time to establish a network in the middle of a crisis when decisive action is really needed. That’s why being proactive about gathering perspectives before there’s a crisis can be a true benefit when chaos hits and time is short.
Pam Harper: Ideally, yes, but here’s the thing — when we have to respond quickly and we’ve never dealt with the situation before, for example, COVID-19, it’s not always easy to keep in mind all the stakeholders who might be impacted or may impact you. That’s why when I wrote my book Preventing Strategic Gridlock, just after 9/11, I included a way to keep these key stakeholders in mind. I listed as many different internal and external stakeholders as I could think of at that time, and you know what? I came up with a lot more of them than I originally thought I would.
Scott Harper: Okay. So how could we make use of that list?
Pam Harper: It starts with focusing on the situation that you’re facing. For instance, dealing with a tropical storm is one thing, and addressing the immediate strategic and operational issues of COVID-19 is something else. So when the pressure to act as intense, a list like this can serve as a great reminder of whose perspectives you need to know, and who needs to know your perspective. The key is finding ways to not only establish these connections, it’s to maintain them so that you can stay current. There is nothing worse than thinking you have somebody in place or a set of stakeholders in place, and it no longer applies.
Scott Harper: We have compiled this list as a download for quick reference for our listeners. You can get it by going to Growth Igniters Radio.com, selecting episode 180, and clicking the link in the resource section on the episode page.
Pam Harper: This list also comes in handy during times of a prolonged crisis like we’re currently facing with COVID-19. The uncertainty and stress of the situation makes us feel a need to make rapid decisions and take quick action. But there’s in actuality, a little more runway for decision making. It’s still serious, but this is when it’s especially beneficial to consider more perspectives that lead to even better decisions and outcomes. For instance, one top leadership team we worked with created a special task force consisting of people who are knowledgeable about public health medicine and infection control. And this provided the leadership team with a sense of clarity and confidence for reopening their facilities.
Scott Harper: That’s a good example. And another benefit of proactively establishing and maintaining a network of people who can provide us these different perspectives is that it can lead to us discovering silver linings of new opportunities, even in the midst of the crisis
Pam Harper: In fact, a while back, we had a great conversation with Shari Spiro, the CEO of Ad Magic Games and Breaking Games about that very thing .You can listen to the full episode by going to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, selecting episode 180 and clicking the link in the resources section.
Scott Harper: Meanwhile, for a quick taste of immediately useful ideas for creating silver linings during a crisis, here’s a segment from our conversation with Shari, stay with us.
Scott Harper: You are listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at businessadvance.com.
Scott Harper: Does this sound like you? You’re a visionary CEO or C-suite leader of an established company, and you want to leave a lasting legacy of good in the world. You also want your company to be the disruptor and not the disrupted, and you have a need for speed. But in the constantly shifting business environment, there are so many new twists and turns we’ve never seen before. How can you and your organization take full advantage of every opportunity — faster?
Pam Harper: That’s where we come in. As strategic growth advisors, we specialize in guiding our clients through the critical leadership conversations that come with navigating through uncharted and ambiguous territory. Our clients have told us that we’ve been able to help them frame their challenges in unexpected ways that has enabled them to quickly get to the heart of complex issues. This has led to breakthrough decisions about strategy that have enabled them to accelerate momentum for top- and bottom-line growth worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Scott Harper: Find out how we can help you and your leadership team take full advantage of all of your opportunities faster. Take the first step by contacting us today at businessadvance.com
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with Shari Spiro, CEO and founder of AdMagic Games and Breaking Games, about the silver linings that you can find in the midst of a crisis and beyond. Shari, remind us again how people can find out more about you and Breaking Games and AdMagic.
Shari Spiro: They can visit us on the web at admagic.com and breakinggames.com.
Pam Harper: Okay, and remember that you can always go back to our conversations on growthignitersradio.com, and this one is episode 173. Scroll down under resources and you’ll find links to all the resources that we’ve been talking about in this episode. So Shari, as you know, this is the part of our podcast when we discuss the practical ways to bring all of these ideas we’ve been discussing to life. You talk about finding opportunities for what can be changed to carefully move forward. I’m quoting you, what is one way you can do this?
Shari Spiro: Well, the main thing is to set weekly meetings for each division of your company as a way to monitor what people are doing without micromanaging them. What I do is I get little teams together and we weekly monitor progress and make changes on the fly to see what’s working, what’s not working. That’s been one of the most interesting and successful things that we’ve put forward in the past couple of weeks. While we always had a certain amount of meetings, we never had quite as many small organized meetings as we have now. And these are not long meetings. These are 15 to 20 minutes get togethers. And then, along with those planned meetings, we do have impromptu meetings to bring up issues. And the beautiful thing about that is people don’t have to be in a certain location. We can just reach out to them and now it’s more accepted to just grab somebody in the middle of the day if you really need them and say, “Listen, in 20 minutes we need to discuss this. This is really important. Is everyone available?” If they are, we get together and we knock it out.
Shari Spiro: For example, two days ago, we had a warehouse issue that we needed to go over with the client. So in a half hour or so I’ll be meeting with our client and the warehouse team briefly just to go over a few things and clarify some details. The number of small meetings has definitely grown, but the productivity has increased.
Scott Harper: Okay, so building on that, what’s a useful idea for gaining comfort in yourself and in your team members with what individuals and teams are actually able to do?
Shari Spiro: So that’s a really, really good question. Again, I don’t want to micromanage people.
Scott Harper: Right.
Shari Spiro: So what I’ve come to do is ask them to advise us in sprints. We use Agile, which is a method of keeping track of what people are doing. So the tech team instituted that some time ago. And so people on the team provide me with daily scrums, which means that they tell me on a daily basis what it is that they’re doing, what they hope to do that day, what they accomplished yesterday. And then if they have any blocks, they explain what the block is. And then I review the scrums, and if there are blocks, I free them from those blocks and they’re able to move forward. And this way we are able to keep track of pretty much what everyone is doing.
Pam Harper: Wow. And I imagine as you’re continuing to grow, that there’s going to come a point where all of your leadership team, your management team, is going to be doing a similar kind of thing.
Shari Spiro: Right. The management team does that now and then they report to me. I don’t take individual scrums from everyone. I take them mostly from the leaders of the teams. But, I still do reach out to individuals. I think it’s important. I want to keep the dialogue open with the people that work for me. There’s not that many. It’s not like we have 1,000, I have 47 people. I feel like I should be able to have an intimate relationship with 47 people right now.
Pam Harper: Right. But I have a feeling, Shari, knowing you as we do, that you’re always going to find a way to reach out to the people you need to reach out to.
Scott Harper: No matter how big you get.
Shari Spiro: I hope so. I hate to think that I wouldn’t be able to do that because I think that’s when you become inefficient.
Pam Harper: So what’s the final immediately useful idea for responding to people’s fears? Because you talked about that too in your blog.
Shari Spiro: So we still have a lot of that. People are, they’re afraid. And in the warehouse, we have a couple of people who have a high level of fear. So what we do is we’ve taken every precaution, we clean every hour. We’ve moved into that very, very large space, which has given people a lot more freedom in that they have so much more space around them. They feel a little bit more comfortable. They are still required to wear masks and gloves, but they are not right on top of each other. They’re way more than six feet apart. And so that’s helped a lot. But in general, people do have fear. So in the meetings, I try never to dwell on what is going on around us. I try to focus on what the team is doing and keep people’s minds busy with what their work is because I believe that a good company can work through this and just stay focused. I do not watch news. I got on the team meeting one week and I said, “Please don’t watch the news. Watch a little bit so that you know what’s mandatory in your State, but do not sit in front of the TV for hours and watch the news.” The news is not there to help you. They are there to sell advertising.
Pam Harper: It’s hard. I mean people are stressed out. Again, you are an essential business, so people do have to show up in whatever way they can.
Shari Spiro: So the warehouse people do have to show up and we have made all kinds of accommodations to make people comfortable and safe. But they do want to work. If a person really didn’t want to come into work, at this point, I would not force them to come into work. I would say, “Do what makes you comfortable. Work as much as you can from home.” But people in the warehouse actually, they have to be there or the warehouse won’t survive. So fortunately, we have a lot of really dedicated and devoted people and they’ve been very, very careful. These people are quarantined at home and they do very little besides go to work so that they can keep each other safe. Now the people that are working from home, I try to keep up conversations with them.
Shari Spiro: For example, I’ve been making sourdough bread and I started my own sourdough starter. And I’ve encouraged other people to do things that they’ve always wanted to do that they’ve never done. And I find that being in the kitchen more is something I’ve never done. I mean, sometimes I don’t even know who I am. I like baking, I made pancakes this morning. I think encouraging my team to stop working, because some of them will just work until they drop. And I’ve encouraged them to stop working. If it’s a beautiful day, go outside for a couple of hours, walk away from the computer, try to round your life out as much as possible. I’m just giving them the advice that I’m trying to give myself.
Pam Harper: So not ignoring the fear, helping them work through it and be able to be comfortable working. And that’s a lot of where everybody needs to be right now. This is a longterm marathon. It’s not a sprint.
Scott Harper: Yeah.
Pam Harper: And the important thing is figuring out how to move forward. So final thoughts you want to leave us with, with regard to finding the silver linings and leading to advance through the crisis and beyond?
Shari Spiro: Well, the truth of the matter is, I had to find my own inner strength. So I try to keep myself focused and I think that’s what everyone needs to do. You need to focus on what you can do. I think people have to dig down and you have to find that grit inside of you. Look, we’ve had an easy time in the United States for a long, long time and some people were waiting for the other shoe to drop, and the other shoe dropped. And it could be a lot worse than it is. Like I said, the glass is half full for me. Things are not as bad as they could be, for sure. I hope they never get as bad as they could be and I hope that we’re able to keep working, indefinitely like you said, through the marathon. And all we can do is just stay as positive as possible, be realistic, but stay positive and be strong.
Pam Harper: Absolutely. And do games and do puzzles.
Shari Spiro: And play games.
Pam Harper: Well Shari, thanks again for being our guest on Growth Igniters Radio. We wish you every success as you keep growing your businesses through the crisis and beyond.
Shari Spiro: Thank you Pam. It’s always a pleasure to speak to both of you.
Scott Harper: Thanks so much Shari and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, read Shari’s bio and the episode transcript, or even open a conversation with us, go to growthignitersradio.com, select episode 173.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper.
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to consider.
Scott Harper: How can we look at our limitations with new eyes, with new eyes so we can find silver linings that can help all of us move forward during and beyond the crisis?
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters and Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper are registered service marks of Business Advancement Incorporated. All Growth Igniters Radio episodes are copyrighted productions of Business Advancement Incorporated, intended for the private use of our audience. Except as otherwise provided by copyright law, all other uses including copying, editing, redistribution, and publication without prior written consent of Business Advancement Incorporated are prohibited. © 2020. All rights reserved.
We speak with Shari Spiro, CEO & Founder of AdMagic & Breaking Games, about how her company has found ways to change for the better during the COVID-19 crisis