We know time is of the essence at every business, and your to do list isn’t going to complete itself if you’re stuck in meetings all day. We feel your pain and we’re here to help! Meetings are a necessary evil, but you can run a productive and effective meeting in these simple steps.

  1. Consider the topic or project and invite the appropriate employees. We’ve all sat in on a meeting where we just… well, sat. There was no real purpose for us being included and we weren’t able to add anything constructive. To avoid this, make sure you are only inviting those who are actively involved, unless someone outside of the project has mentioned new ideas or an interest in getting involved. In this case, invite that person and let them bring fresh ideas to the table.
  2. Speaking of tables, consider the space where the meeting will be held. That conference room down the hall might be your go-to, but consider the park that’s just a block away or a coffee shop with lots of space. Changing up the space and getting people out of the office might inspire more creativity, and a little walking will get everyone’s blood pumping to their brain and fresh air to their lungs. You can’t go wrong!
  3. Always have a written agenda, and send it out ahead of time. This practice helps everybody. It forces you as a leader to formulate a clear and concise outline of what needs to be covered so no time is wasted off topic. An agenda also helps your employees better prepare for the meeting and attend ready to contribute. Bonus: if you find the agenda is looking pretty pointless as you write it out, cancel the meeting and send an update email instead. Everyone will appreciate the update and the time to work towards the broader project objectives.

With some practice and consistency, your team will start to feel energized and excited when they receive that meeting invite. Mustangers know that hard work pays off in big ways. Meetings might seem like a small part of the payoff, but they are a key ingredient to success.

This throwback photo of Mustang’s founding team from 1987 is significant – not because of those metallic blue shorts – but because Mustang Engineering took off not much longer after these photos were taken. It’s moments like these – where the whole team is working together, putting in the work, and celebrating milestones – that makes all those meetings worth it.

For more ways to build, motivate, and celebrate your teams, order a copy of Mustang: the Story, From Zero to $1 Billion by Bill Higgs and become a Mustanger today!

So you don’t work at a company that has a strong culture, or you worked at Mustang Engineering, but now it has morphed, so what! You don’t have to work at “Mustang” to be a Mustanger.

“If you are not happy with the culture around you and want to re-define it, start with defining your own culture and transforming yourself.”

Create the culture you want to be part of. Nobody says “thank you” to you? Start saying “thank you” to others. Consider the people you work with. Who can you proactively say “thank you” to in a meaningful, personal and specific way? What’s stopping you?

An effective business relies heavily on the willingness of employees to work together and promote a positive brand and image.

Here are a few important things to remember when working to instill a culture for success.

Live Your Values

One of the primary elements of fostering a positive company culture is to stay true to the company’s values. As part of the company, evaluate and assess your mission statement and values to determine if you are leading in respect to what is expected and encouraged by management.

Leadership is Key

How you communicate and lead employees can drastically impact the company culture. But even if you are not in a management role, you are a leader. Take a close look at the team around you. Recognize that each of your co-workers has unique personality characteristics and work ethics. Accommodate your communication strategies to improve overall outlook and performance with your team.

Lead by Example

Be a team player to improve and develop the company culture. If you want a more cohesive workplace environment that relies on teamwork, jump in and do your part. Form teams that are diverse, yet complement each other. Pair individuals together who can build on each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and cross-fertilize – what Bill Higgs refers to as “bust communication silos” by joining teams outside of your own department as well.

 

What does it mean to truly work collaboratively?  How can a company best leverage their workforce?  What’s the best strategy for busting the designated groups, or silos, of a company for optimal outcomes?

Mustang answered these questions by recognizing early on that all problems are communication problems.  And the only way to face those issues, internally, before they escalated, was to bust their work silos wide open.  Essentially, foster the free space for all employees to think, share, and articulate ideas across titles and work streams.  Thereby, business development works concurrently with sales who works together with manufacturing, and so on.

Mustang Co-Founder Bill Higgs acknowledged, “Each group within a company was responsible for delivering a bottom line and developed its own structure to do that. Each one of these silos could handily report out at the top to the organization, which could then roll everything together for projections and results. The reporting and organizational lines were very clear as well as career paths and job descriptions. Everything was set up well to be ‘managed to metrics’ that had been proven to deliver a healthy bottom line.”

Ultimately, establishing open lines of communication among employees make it easier to recognize potential hiccups, talk through strategies, and be more tolerant of the decisions being made.

Fast Company Contributor Asha Sharma agrees, “A company should make sure their employees feel comfortable asking questions so they consistently have what they need to perform at their highest levels. They should never be without crucial information because they don’t know where to go, who to ask, or are worried their inquiries will be shut down and not taken seriously. Questions spur creativity and get people talking about how to tackle problems in new and different ways. Cultures that are built around defensive territorial behaviors are not built to last. Cultures that promote and embrace intellectual curiosity across the business are sure to grow and thrive.”

Communication is the key to success in any relationship, and certainly in business.  What silos will you bust to make your business boom?

For more tips to optimize workplace dynamics, schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event. Contact Haven Creative – 704.256.4008 or email us – jeni @ thehavencreative.com.

It’s no secret that the Mustang: The Story team has an affinity for leaders in companies and life that emerge from military academies. Author Bill Higgs’ alma mater, West Point (ahem, beat Navy), much like it’s branch counterparts, has a mission to educate, train and inspire its cadets to become leaders of character leaders of character to serve the Armed Forces and the Nation. It’s always a pleasure when Higgs gets to speak directly to fellow Academy graduates, and discover the trajectories their careers took, while imparting his own lessons learned in leadership. A recent West Point graduate networking luncheon held in Houston, Texas provided such an opportunity.

Higgs framed his speech around his self-proclaimed, “no fate leadership” approach to weathering the ups and downs of an industry through steady work for steady people, and thereby instilling a “win-win” culture. Using Mustang as his example, he explained how creating a vision and values broad enough to engage all people at all times, enables an opportunity to make heroes everywhere, despite the cyclical nature of all industries. “As leaders we lived and communicated our vision and values relentlessly throughout the organization.”

Mustang opened up the communication top to bottom in the organization by having fun events every month where they provided “free space” for people to bump into each other and realize they were all on the same team. This enhanced their ability to bust silos by cross training everyone such that they could pick up any task if someone went out of commission for any reason. Cross training increased people’s value and they learned how their activity helped or hindered others. Consequently, they were able to adjust accordingly and become a stronger team.

At West Point, and in the Army, communication, leadership and creating tight-knit teams were cornerstone concepts. And as it turned out, all of this is applicable in the business world. Why go to work if you cannot have fun? Mustang had all of it, and it helped Mustangers, as their employees were referred, differentiate from their competitors. It may sound hokey but you are working to create a team that feels it can take on any challenge with no fate leadership, and within that bonded team lies a win-win culture.

If life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it, then developing a winning mentality will be what sustains you through the ups and down of business ownership.

Bill Higgs, Mustang The Story, implores startups to see how “CANNOTS” can turn into “COULDS” and finally into “CANS.” The entrepreneur will be inundated with voices that say, “You Cannot…” How many times will they hear, “You cannot do that…it’ll never fly!” New business ventures are rife with naysayers. And if you listened to each one of them, you’d never get your feet off the ground. Positive people with a “just-do-it mentality” face the ever-present challenges and rise above. Those same people dismiss sheer luck as the path to success, and rather focus on their unwavering dedication to creating their own luck to deliver their value proposition and move their industry forward.

Business Zone Editor Dan Martin asserts, “We get the results in life that we think we’ll get. Hence confidence is a crucial aspect in my opinion. The top performers have an inner confidence which allows them to make the moves which others would step back from.”

It’s that desire to push forward, despite the obstacles, that creates a winning mentality. It’s having faith in yourself and your abilities to assume that if you push hard enough, you’ll make it through. Does it also take a commitment to excellence and a willingness to continually hone your craft? Absolutely! But it equally requires an inner confidence and calm under pressure to spur you onwards and upwards.

 

 

 

In honor of Black History month, we often recognize impactful leaders that helped shape our history and inspire others to succeed. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” This concept can be applied to business leadership today.

The most successful entrepreneurs possess strong leadership skills, an uncanny ability to generate game-changing ideas and a knack for hiring exceptional talent. Part of being a great leader also means recognizing and acknowledging that the strength of an organization is within its people and providing them with what they need to succeed — Mustangers call this, “Making Heroes.”

Leaders who devote themselves to fulfilling the needs, to the extent possible, of their employees, model a hero-making culture ultimately inspiring others to do the same. By “making heroes” out of everyone on the team, you can create a win-win environment where everyone succeeds.

Forbes Contributor Glenn Llopis asserts, “ Team building requires the management of egos and their constant demands for attention and recognition – not always warranted.   Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.”

Teaming in “heroic space” – that which everyone feels heard, trusted, and integral – is the gold standard of performance excellence. By ensuring that each team member understands their purpose and contribution, they in turn, feel valued and willing to put in the extra time and effort for the overall benefit of the company.

Essentially, morale building goes a long way in profit generating! But beyond the mighty dollar, most leaders feel fulfilled when their subordinates feel the same. So what have you done to make heroes in your organization?

It probably goes without saying, but starting up a business is not for the weary! It is for the driven, organized, tenacious, steadfast, passionate, decisive; energetic…[breathe]…the list goes on and on!

Many startups come out of the gate strong, but quickly putter out. We’ve compiled a Top 5 List of what to focus on in those formative stages, that will help you keep the momentum going as you grow.

  • Take Ownership –At the helm, you are the mastermind of your business and will solely be laying the groundwork for the direction in which it goes. Keep your vision clear and focus on your core competencies. As your own boss, you get to define the scope, time, limits to your work.
  • Be Resourceful – No need to reinvent the wheel; use what you have. Don’t spend on what you don’t need. You may not need a brick and mortar building to operate your business. Stay lean and mean. Focus on your work ethic and the quality of the service/product you’re offering. “Because while it’s one thing to have a great idea, it’s much more rare to be the kind of person who finds creative ways to execute,” affirms Inc Contributor Bill Murphy Jr.
  • Communicate – How are you going to get your product into the market? What will your elevator pitch be? How will you communicate to others – be it investors, clients, customers – what you offer? Will you be able to convince others that you have something they want?
  • Have Enthusiasm — Optimism and enthusiasm will propel you forward, despite the daunting path ahead. It’s a force multiplier, as enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. Amidst all that is involved in starting up a new company, ensure your zest for the startup to begin with remains intact as you go.
  • Know What It Takes to be Profitable — Prove to yourself that you can actually make money. Is there a need in the market for what you offer?

If we are to believe the statistics that 90 percent of startups fail, do your homework, know yourself, and make sure you’re the minority that succeeds!

Mustang stayed lean and mean by building their own bookshelves when they first started.

For weekly tips on entrepreneurship and cultivating leaders, follow our blog – Mustang The Story/Blog. Find Bill Higgs on Twitter – @MustangHiggs and Mustang The Story on Facebook /MustangTheStory.

Team Mustang was back on the road again, this week at Texas A&M University for The Instrumentation and Automation Symposium for the Process Industries. This conference, in its 72nd year, strives to educate professionals and students in the instrumentation industry. At the symposium, practical technical papers as well as vendor exhibits are presented with a focus on education.

Putting his stamp on the symposium’s discussions, and dovetailing to a recent blog post Bill Higgs presented to attendees on the notion of whether leaders are born versus made. He referenced his four years as a West Point cadet, where he learned that in reality, a leader is 1/3 born and 2/3 made.

His presentation outlined his “Leadership How-Tos” some of what included the following:

  1. Vision and values – Engage your whole team and figure out what you want to accomplish together. Recognize that all problems are communication problems and agreeing to your vision and values is the top level of communication. This is the start of a win-win culture.
  2. Planning for Tasks and dollars – Plan the work and work the plan! Utilize a SWOT analysis and determine the critical areas on your project space. Then develop an Income and Expense Plan to update consistently so that leaders can be familiar with their objectives and work diligently to deliver results.
  3. Working the organization – Cross-training is the key here — making sure that anyone on the project can pick up a task if someone needs to bail. Leaders must push for cross-fertilization between groups and emphasize being “other-oriented” (read: how one’s activity helps or hinders others for the betterment of the team).

Ultimately, a leader’s ability to create a culture that can easily handle the thorns of any project while enjoying the roses is the key to their success. Energy and enthusiasm is a force multiplier that starts at the top!

bill higgsFor more leadership tips and details on creating culture in one’s company, Bill followed up his speech by signing copies of his new book, Mustang The Story, at the A&M campus bookstore. Click here to order your own copy!

 

Good leaders are trailblazers, making a path for others to follow. Great leaders, however, inspire their team to reach higher, dream bigger, and achieve more. Not everyone is a born leader, but becoming one is within everyone’s grasp if key characteristics are nurtured. Here are six traits of great leaders:

Self-Awareness The most important element of self-awareness, especially for those who lead organizations, is a clear understanding of the impact they are having on the people around them.

Decisiveness.  Being a leader means making tough decisions.  The best leaders make sound, defensible decisions in a timely fashion, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty. Executives perceived as indecisive or poor decision makers will quickly lose the confidence and commitment of their team. It’s key to know when it’s time to make a decision, but also to have the fortitude and resolve to stand behind it.

Accountability. Standing by the decisions you make as a leader is only part being accountable.   To some extent, a leader must also be accountable for the decisions of those on their team. Employees are an extension of you.  They were hired and delegated tasks based on some vision or processes that you put in place.

Passion.  All great achievements start with passion. There is no greater impetus for success than to see it relentlessly sought by another.  Passion is what drives success and when it flows down from the top, it inspires others to succeed.

Team-Building.  Mustang co-founder Bill Higgs has always valued the presence and input of the larger team.  The ability of a leader to bring his or her company together, such that all parties are contributing to its success is the crux of being a Mustanger.

Integrity.  It would be wise for us all, leader or not, to carry this trait.  But authenticity is pretty easy to detect, as too is disingenuity.  “There are two critical components of integrity that go beyond just doing the right thing when no one is looking. The first is the adherence to a moral or ethical principle. This isn’t simple compliance to a rule; it implies a philosophical understanding of the reason it exists. The second is the pursuit of an undiminished state or condition. Everyone makes mistakes, so being a person of integrity does not mean you haven’t committed a moral or ethical violation, ever. It means having the strength of character to learn from those ‘misbehaviors’ and seek continual self-improvement,” says Col. Eric Kail, an Army field artillery officer and course director of military leadership at West Point.

Perhaps the most important leadership skill of all is the ability to provide inspiration to your team. For more inspiration on cultivating leadership, check out Bill Higgs’ book, “Mustang: The Story” or schedule him to speak at one of your events by emailing us at mustangthestory @ gmail.com.

Bill Higgs has been making his rounds across the Lone Star State this week, meeting and speaking with groups from the energy industry, looking to build upon their company culture through his insights on cultivating leaders in an organization. His spotlight engagement was an event hosted by Universal Pegasus International (UPI), where Higgs shared methodologies from his book Mustang The Story to inspire the engineering and construction management firm to become an industry leader.

Cultivating Leaders UPIHiggs’ speech outlined the building blocks of great leadership — leading by example, effective communication and establishing a clear set of values and vision creates a strong baseline.  From there, details stemmed off to include the all-important priority of planning.  Most businesses know that creating a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis allows them to truly see both the competencies and limitations, but Higgs provides a methodology to developing an effective SWOT that also helps guide project management and enables realistic goal setting.

Setting goals and understanding the end game is key, but leaders also have to have the passion and discipline to see it through.  Higgs believes, “Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits and habits create your destiny.” And a desired destiny is best achieved through an organization in which leaders choose to cross train, cross fertilize, and ultimately, empower their employees.  Higgs encourages leaders to foster an “other-oriented” mentality that takes care of colleagues, vendors and clients alike.  Essentially, bust your silos at every opportunity.

Looking to cultivate leaders in your organization? Schedule Bill Higgs to speak at your next event by emailing Jeni Bukolt at mustangthestory@gmail.com, or calling Haven Creative at 704.256.4008.