The Black, White and Grey of Success

Written by: Alan Rodway - Your Coach Online

This article gives a dozen ways to achieve individual, team and organizational success . White if you’re doing it, Grey if you’re close and Black if you’re not.

  1. We have ears to listen and eyes to observe. We have a brain to process. We have arms and legs to act. The white is to do all of this . The grey is to only engage some. The black is to miss the first one … failure to listen, observe and perceive will sully the use of the other ‘parts’.
  2. Track your numbers, know your numbers, use your numbers. Your numbers are the metrics that represent the causal actions (inputs) and results (outputs). If you’re not succeeding one of three things are causing it … not enough of what you’re doing (grey), doing the wrong things (black) and / or inadequately skilled at what you’re doing (grey). The white is using the metrics to adapt activities for continuous improvement.
  3. Seek feedback without regard to your own personal sensitivities. (And encourage / coach others to do the same). There are two aspects to this: Seek feedback, don’t just be open to it, and don’t allow personal sensitivities to delay the feedback (e.g. waiting for the right time, the right mood, the right words or anything else). Take it and give it instantaneously, so that improvement is quicker. The white is seeking feedback, the black is not wanting it and the grey is insisting on ‘niceties’ in the way feedback is delivered.
  4. Make calendar entries that are beyond just the meetings you have booked. Entries for YOU … exercise, self time, family time. Entries for networking … on two fronts, to build your network (i.e. to add new people to your network) and to ‘work’ your network (i.e. spending time with those already in your network). Entries for your own professional and personal development …. and not just those that your business, your industry or your employer already provides to you. The white is calendar entries that proactively cause your success, the grey is running a calendar that only tells you when / where your meetings are and the black is being disorganized with calendar management itself.
  5. ‘Pick a reason’ to act or change. Ignore the usual guff about motivation, attitude, confidence, etc. Train because you want to look better. Make more calls because you want to earn more. Learn more because you want a better role. The white is keep it simple, be clear on your reason to act and then just do it. The grey is to do it but still keep thinking about it. The black is to get lost in the ‘think’ as to why we human beings sometimes feel demotivated and how you might prevent it happening in future.
  6. Don’t tolerate a ‘poor’ team member who is not attempting to improve or who doesn’t fit the agreed values. He / she is ‘hurting’ the team’s outcomes. One of the most frequent reasons for (good) people leaving a team is because of disenchantment of the team tolerating someone’s poor behaviours for too long. The white is to act swiftly and fairly when a team member is just ‘not right’. The grey is to delay changing them out for a bit too long. The black is to keep them.
  7. Don’t put up with a ‘poor’ customer / client. That sucks the energy out of team members. Those customers / clients are often not profitable anyway when the effort is actually calculated against the revenue generated from them. A business that doesn’t ‘sack’ clients and reject others is not serious about its own success … consider that. Same white, grey and black as for previous point.
  8. Figure out the cost of acquiring a customer / client from alternative methods …website, advertising, social media, referral, networking, paid leads, etc. Then engage the most profitable methods (more predominantly). The white is engaging the most cost effective ways to source customers / clients. The grey is to engage an array of strategies, some of which are cost effective and some of which are not. The black is to engage cost ineffective ways or to not even know the cost of acquisition.
  9. Make it difficult for good customers / clients to leave. This might be ‘swiftness’ in dealing with them, the quality or uniqueness of the product itself, the ways the product is ‘delivered’ or something else. The white is constantly finding (new) ways to bind your good customers / clients to the business. The grey is to be a little ahead of competitors in what and how you provide to keep them, but that competitors can still copy. The black is to try to keep them on price and engage the ‘race to the bottom’.
  10. Make it difficult for good team members to leave. The best way is to grow a solid group of high quality people who essentially find their own way to success, with support from the organization, rather than the other way around. The white is that good team members want to stay because of the satisfaction and meaning of being with the organization / team. The grey is for them to stay due to reasonable satisfaction but also some deliberately created ties (e.g. remunerative incentives, moral ‘pressure’ brought to bear on them). The black is that good team members leave without genuine thought and effort from the organization to prevent that happening.
  11. Have a single guiding principle. In his book ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins talks about “a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything”. For a business, a principle that will generate the greatest revenue or profit. For a sporting organization, a principle that will generate the most sustainable ‘onfield’ success. For an association, a principle that will continuously and significantly increase membership. The white is to have one that everyone is aware of, understands and acts on. The grey is to have one that those ‘at the top’ (or only some key people) are aware of. The black is not to have one
  12. Ingrain leadership. Leadership is about behaviour of people inside the organization / team. Information and practice on leadership can be learnt in training courses but too often that learning does not find its way into consistent behaviours , sometimes even for the people who have ‘graduated’ the courses. The more that leadership development is based on internal experiential learning and development the more effectively it will be ingrained and across more people … that’s the white. The grey is s ending people off to leadership courses rather than basing it INSIDE their daily experiences. The black is talking about leadership and doing very little to change behaviours. (An aside: There can be a danger in setting up an internal leadership group if it sends an unintentional signal to others who are not in that group that there is a lower expectation to show leadership. Sure, some people who are outside the leadership group will aspire to sometime be included but those who don’t can (wrongfully) conclude that the leadership responsibility rests with the leadership group itself).

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