Less Culture Talk; More Leadership + Strategy


There has been a lot of talk about “changing the culture” of a lot of things lately: education, crime, business, neighborhoods, families - you name it.

And, no doubt, there is room for growth in all these areas. I welcome the conversation; however, I came across an article on LinkedIn that is challenging paradigms on culture, strategy, and leadership.


The author is Fred Aubin. Follow him on Twitter @FM_Aubin.

Although you owe it to yourself to check-out the article, I wanted to share a couple of takeaways. The first one is, by far, the most important:

Culture doesn’t eat strategy for breakfast….

but it will regularly feast on weak leadership and incoherent strategy.

Leadership chart

Personally, I think this is a powerful reality check. It certainly made me sit-up in my chair and give serious consideration to what I do in my various roles: family, volunteer commitments, work, etc.

To me, the statement above all else is saying – it’s on us. It is on us to do what needs to be done right now. And, if we feel we are coming-up short, don’t blame the culture. Own it!

Does culture matter?  Of course it does but let’s not blame culture (something we can influence but not directly control) for our lack of action (something we can control).

Back to the article….

Peter Drucker often argued that a company’s culture would trump any attempt to create a strategy that was incompatible with its culture.

The actual quote in question is, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.”

Instead of describing how you are going to change culture, concentrate on creating conditions that will promote positive change.

If you are not enamored with your corporate culture … you may want to take a long glance in the mirror.


Please stop using culture as your whipping boy for incoherent, or poorly communicated strategy.


 Your corporate culture is not the bogeyman.


 It’s an important facet of any strategy and you ignore it at your own peril …..but it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.

And, …. if you firmly believe that your culture is a brick wall, just remember that you had a role in building it.

What are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to impact your _______ (fill-in the blank – family, neighborhood, non-profit organization, place of business, etc)?

What are three things you can do in the next 6-12-24 months?  Better yet, what are three things you can do in the next 90 days?

Don’t let culture be a reason not to act!

Thanks for reading!

Frank Haney – “Rockford’s Insurance Coach”

 Questions?  Comments?  Let me know.

  • Post a reply on this article
  • Email me: frank@frankhaney.biz
  • Call me: (815) 979-4045
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Dare To Disagree


I am a huge fan of Ted Talks. Recently, I clicked on the following video: Dare to Disagree. It is a Ted Talk by Margaret Heffernan. Here are some key takeaways:

- Some people are afraid of the consequences of having a tough discussion. By nature, people are afraid to raise conflict. 85% of people have this concern. As a result, nothing changes and problems persist. However, at some point, must become more afraid of the negative impact of silence; of not having the tough conversation.

- Openness is good. But openness is not the end.  It is the beginning. Openness alone does not drive change. You must seek partners who are not echo chambers.

- What is the difference between constructive conflict and destructive conflict?

- We need to find people who are different from us; both in perspective and experience. Find ways to engage.

- It is critical that we remain open to changing our minds.

- The biggest disasters come from situations where the info is out there but we are not comfortable talking about it.


I also read an article by @LeadershipFreak that discussed the concept of Tough Compassion.  It is definitely worth a quick read.

- Compassion is a good thing. But compassion goes wrong when it coddles. Tough compassion calls for extraordinary commitment that stretches people.

- The most important aspect of tough compassion is monitoring the team as they work. Step-in when shoulders droop and frustration persists.

- People never know how far they can reach until they reach for something that’s out of reach. Coddling suggests people can’t do it before they try.

Warning: Constant pressure eventually defeats. Failure to celebrate devalues success. Time-off and fun energize teams to bring their best.

Tip: Celebrate wins!

Tough Question: How can leaders walk the line between stretching people and pushing too far?

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know.
- Post a reply on this article
- Email me: frank@frankhaney.biz
- Call me: (815) 979-4045
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- Connect with via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn

Social Media: The Slingshot For Small Business

5 Questions To See If This Article Is For You:
1. Do you work at or own a small business?
2. Do you compete against a BIG BUSINESS that has a huge marketing budget, large staff, national advertisement campaigns, and numerous consultants?
3. Does your future depend on taking market share from BIG BUSINESS; a large national firm in your industry.
4. Does the marketplace seem noisy? Crowded? Is it more difficult to stand-out today compared to even a few years ago?
5. Is cold calling and traditional approaches working as well as they did 10-15 years ago?
If you answered in the affirmative to the above questions, then we have a lot in common…
My Competitive Marketplace
I work at a locally-owned, independent insurance agency.  When it comes to home and auto insurance, my four largest competitors spend more money on advertising than McDonalds, Nike, Visa, Samsung, Sony, and Apple. Additionally, there are more insurance agents in the State of Illinois than there are ants. How is that for competitive?
My primary competition is below (source: www.ryanhanley.com (@RyanHanley_Com):
Insurance Marketing
The Big Four
- GEICO spends more money on marketing than McDonald’s, Sony, and Nike.
- GEICO, State Farm, Progressive, and All State spend more money on marketing than Apple, Coco-Cola, Visa, and Samsung.
Social Media is the Sling-Shot
Is the marketing budget disparity fair? That’s NOT the right question. NOT at all. The real question is, what am I going to do about it? How does a small business, or someone who works at a small business, compete when the playing field is not exactly even from a marketing standpoint? I submit that because of the rise of social media, blogging, and content marketing, this has NEVER been more possible. If the analogy is David vs. Goliath, those tools are the slingshot. Never before has it been easier to tell your story; both the story of your small business AND your personal story.
Build Your Personal Brand Intentionally Across All Mediums
- I connected with @TonyVidler, a financial service consultant on Twitter. I was scrolling through his page and I came across a very powerful quote:
“In professional services, your personal brand is everything.”  - Tony Vidler
- What is personal brand?  They are the thoughts and feelings people have when they hear your name? Does your personal brand help or hurt your ability to grow your business?
There are many ways to build your brand.
1. One on one relationship building.
- Success in business (and life) have always been and always will be about two things:
1. The relationships you build.
2. The value you bring.
- Have a mentality that you want to meet new people everyday; not just at a particular event. Not just a certain type of person.
- How do we build individual relationships? Face to face meetings? Yes. Doing a great job for people? Of course. However, when it comes to social media, people forget that strong relationships can be established and grown overtime.  In some cases, relationships are started via social media and grown off-line.  In other cases, relationships are started off-line and grown via social media.
2. Social media engagement.
- Many sign-up but few engage. Many treat their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages like a static brochure vs. a conversation.
- Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter gather large audiences.  So, for the 5% who actively engage on these social media outlets, there are a lot of people there to build relationships with.
Social-Media Engagment
- Please note: engagement is not just talking (typing) and pushing information out. It is listening, learning, supporting, acknowledging, and celebrating with others. For every minute you spend pushing out content, you should spend a minute liking, sharing, commenting = engaging.
Blog Image
3. Content marketing.
- Tell your story.
- Add value.
- Have fun. Be likeable.
- Start a conversation.
- Give people a chance to get to know you.
- Don’t confuse interruption marketing with content marketing. Insurance agent and social media guru Brent Kelly (@brentmkelly) has an interesting perspective on this: “Most consumers go to social media to avoid the old tactics of interruption marketing. They go to social media for fun, to connect, and to be able to choose the content they consume.”
Disclaimer: I am still very much a novice when it comes to social media. There is much I need to learn. However, the more I do learn and the more I see shifts in the business marketplace, the more convinced I am the this approach IS a critical success factor for small business.
Connect with me
Questions?  Comments?  Let me know.
- Post a reply on this article
- Email me: frank@frankhaney.biz
- Call me: (815) 979-4045
- Check-out other articles: www.frankhaney.biz
- Connect with my Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
Thanks for reading!
Frank Haney

The Secret of Change

A mentor of mine once said, “what you focus on… grows!” 
There is so much talk about change in our community these days; especially within the Transform Rockford movement. That conversation is a good thing but making it happen is a very hard thing.
I came across this quote and wanted to share as it speaks to one of the biggest obstacles to change = what we focus our energy on:
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy
not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
- Dan Millman
Is it possible that too much of our energy is wasted on things from the past that we can not control or change?  Does that distract us or help us?  Is there is a difference between learning from the past and dwelling on the past?  If so, what is the opportunity cost of dwelling on the past?
Thanks for reading!
(815) 979-4045


Three ?’s People Ask When They Meet You

How important are first impressions?

Lou Holtz, former football coach at the University of Notre Dame, thinks first impressions are very important; especially when he was recruiting student-athletes to his school.  This is true for those of us who work in the business world as well.

Coach Holtz said that there are three questions people instinctively ask themselves when they meet someone for the first time:

1. Do I trust him?

2. Is he committed to excellence?

3. Does he care about me?

Follow-up questions to ask yourself RIGHT NOW:

How do you think people answer those three questions about you?

How does your dress, eye contact, and body language play a part?

Are you easy or hard to connect to?  Are people visibly comfortable or uncomfortable around you? 

How can you make your follow-up part of the first impression process?  How to you end the first contact?  Do you send a follow-up note, email, or try to connect on LinkedIn? 

- Do find it more difficult to connect with a particular group?

- Your peers?

- People older / younger than you?

- People in positions of power?

 Does your profession make it easier or harder to make a positive first impression?  Ex: Insurance professionals, lawyers, sales people in general tend to be type cast by others.

Make type of first impression does your social media presence make? 

Is your use of social media making it easier or harder to build professional relationships?

Thanks for reading!

Frank Haney

“Rockford’s Insurance Coach”

(815) 979-4045



13 Things I Shared With Business 101 Students

Business 101

Recently, I was asked to speak to Professor Sharon Cooper’s Business 101 Class at Rock Valley College. The focus off the discussion was on lessons learned in business and in life on a wide range of issues:

  • Relationship Building
  • Networking
  • Create Your Brand
  • Social Media

Here are a few of the items I shared:

1. Relationships are like bank accounts.

- Stephen Covey’s believed that relationships are like bank accounts…  you need to make more deposits than withdrawals.

- What are deposits?  What are withdrawals?

- Where are you at with various relationships in your life (work, school, personal)?


2. Create your own Board of Directors. 

- Create your own advisory board of 5-10 people who will help you get to the next level.

- People who will be brutally honest with you.

- Diversity of thought, perspective, and background is key.

- Turn to them for advice as well as to hold you accountable.


linkedin pic


3. LinkedIn.

- College students should start building their social brand BEFORE they graduate and start looking for their first job.  Start where you are at and start NOW!

- LinkedIn is a great way to start this process.  Professional head shot, share relevant data. Also, talk about what you aspire to do in the future.

- Include community involvement, areas of study, and don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation.

- Connect with people you know AND, when appropriate, their parents.  Connect with people at different levels than you.  Your network can not just be your immediate high school buddies.

- Think of LinkedIn like an on-line resume on steroids.  Mega steroids.


4. More than ever before, success depends on 2 things: 

- Your ability to build rapport.

- Your ability to develop a networking strategy.


5. Club vs. Network

- The world has changed.

- Old way: success depended on access to a small club.

- New way: success depends on ability to grow a network – or a network of networks.


6. Make yourself valuable.

- If you make yourself valuable and memorable, others will want to make you part of their network.

- Add value to your relationships BEFORE you ask for something in return.


7. Lou Holtz’s said that people ask themselves 3 questions when they meet someone for the first time:

- Do I trust him?

- Is he committed to excellence?

- Does he care about me?


8. Problem solvers vs. problem spotters

- A lot of people can spot problems.  Few people can solve problems.

- Be careful about hanging around people who can only spot problems; they tend to be negative people.


9. Power of full engagement.

- We need to manage our energy, not just our time.

leadership pic

10. Authority vs. influence.

- Some people have a big title but are unable to influence the actions of people.

- Others have no title at all and are able to influence the actions of people at a high level?

- Why is that?



11. Community Engagement.

- Rule #1 - Get involved.

- Rule #2 – Only get involved with things you are passionate about.

- Get involved with a cause for the right reasons and a by-product of that will be that you meet good people and your network will grow.


12.  You need to work. 

- Don’t let ANYONE tell you don’t have to work your ass off in business!  They are doing you a big disservice if they do.


13.  Be extremely intentional in your use of social media. 

- Professional pic on LinkedIn.

- Your Facebook, Twiter, and other social media outlets can NOT completely contradict your LinkedIn account.  Your social media outlets should compliment one another.

- Potential employers check all of your social media outlets.

What advice would you have for college kids if you spoke to a Business 101 Class?


Thanks for reading.



4 Levels of Commitment

I came across this concept several years ago.  I think this applies to our personal and professional lives in a powerful way.  Each of the four levels of commitment has applied to us at some point.



  • People who have no goals and do not commit.



  • People who don’t know if they can reach their goals, so they’re afraid to commit.



  • People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough.



  • People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to reach them.

When is the last time you went ALL-OUT on something?  Think of the ways:

  • All-out in building your small business or reaching your sales goals.
  • All-out in mentoring others or developing leaders around you.
  • All-out in a project, class, or in a line of study.
  • All-out in building a relationship important to you.
  • All-out in losing weight or getting healthy.
  • All-out in promoting something you believe in.
  • Etc, etc, etc…

Thanks for reading!

Frank Haney

Rockford’s Insurance Coach

Stuff Leaders Say…

LeadershipRegardless of title or status within an organization, working with and serving other people is tough… REALLY TOUGH.  Why? Time and resource constraints, market realities, personality differences, office politics, existing culture, etc.

I came across the following leadership article from Inc:

9 Things Great Leaders Say Everyday.

Although the link provides more detail, I included the 9 statements as an overview:

This is the situation.

Here is the plan.

What do you need?

Tell me more.

Remember our values.

I trust you.

You can count on me.

We can do better.

Let’s celebrate!

Simple stuff I know. However, it is the things we know and forget to execute on that creates the most problems.

Leadership II

Here are some perspective-building quotes about leadership….

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” ~ Jack Welch

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~ Winston Churchill

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” ~ Peter Drucker

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” ~ Tony Blair

“We need leaders, who add value to the people and the organization they lead; who work for the benefit of others and not just for their own personal gain. Leaders who inspire and motivate, not intimidate and manipulate; who live with people to know their problems in order to solve them and who follow a moral compass that points in the right directions regardless of the trends.”  ~ Mary Kay Ash

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”  ~ Abraham Lincoln

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.”  ~ Norman Schwarzkopf

“Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.”  ~ Stephen Covey

“To add value to others, one must first value others.”  ~ John Maxwell

Thanks for reading!




Three Things You Must Have….

Instead of writing three pages or three paragraphs, I wanted to share just three words.

Three Things You Must Have To Be Successful At Home, At Work, And In Your Community… 

  1. Gratitude     

  2. Appreciation     

  3. Perspective

I understand the need for a healthy dose of skepticism.  However, I think it needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of gratitude, appreciation, and perspective.

Thanks for checking-in and reading my blog.