Friday, April 29, 2011

3 Lessons from Kid To Work Day

Yesterday was national 'take your kid to work day'. One of my favorite days of the year. This day is typically an opportunity for in-office staff to bring their child into their office environment to show them what Mom/Dad do for a living. A quick office tour then it's off to the copy room for arts and crafts supplies.

Like every thing else in my life, my 'kid to work day' is far from typical. This year my five year old and I traveled into San Francisco and through the Silicon Valley to visit some of Michael C Fina's customers. Up early, dressed sharp, and on the move. Not typical for a kid who is used to spending the morning with cartoons and toast before a day of well facilitated learning.

If I were to give him a performance review (which will never happen) my son would definitely have received 5's across the board. We logged several miles, dodged in and out of parking garage's, ate lunch in the car and he even sat in on a few conference calls. He didn't complain once!

On our long drive home I reflected on how proud I was of my son. A simple question came to mind:
If He Can Do It Why Can't We?

Kid to Work Day is a blast because it helps the little people understand a few elements of the Big World of Business. On this particular day it also helped me reflect on how childish we can be in our professional behavior.

I have 3 tips learned from my 'ride-along' with the Great Sam Kovacovich:
1. Keep it Simple
2. Don't Throw a Fit
3. Have Fun!

Intricacies Revealed
As Consultants,we are called upon to be 'experts' on several different product lines. We tend to forget that product knowledge is far less important than the solution we can create for a genuine need. Far too often we drone on and on about product capabilities without discerning their applicable nature to our customer's organizational culture.

People hate Salespeople because we are notoriously self-centered. Ask a simple yes/no question and get a diatribe about the product itself that provides no insight to the original inquiry.

Ask a simple question, get an insignificant answer, and spend the rest of the meeting staring out the window....not gonna work with this guy, he has no interest in our needs.

Sales Advice to Live By:
Listen More than You Talk
Speak the Customer's Language
Keep it Simple (answer yes or no)

There is a Capital I in Insecurity
I receive endless communication from people expressing their discontent for being under-valued. No one wants to spend time contributing without being recognized for their effort. But, some times you have to consider the situation.

Consider the following:
~ Sometimes people get busy and forget to say thanks
~ Our ego sometimes emphasizes detail over the ultimate goal
~ You are not 5, don't document yourself in such a light

I'm pretty hard core, I believe in winning, but my career didn't evolve until I learned to ignore certain things. Nothing within the detail of any given work day is so vitally important that you have to work yourself into a frenzy. In fact, most of our meltdowns are a result of fretting over the 'little things'.

We want to be validated and feel that we are contributing. We want to make a difference. When we bust our butt for 50 hours on a project, we don't want our work scrutinized. This is the part of the movie where we discover that life isn't fair! You are not in control of the reactions of others, you are in control of your own! You have to learn to ignore what you cannot control and set your own standards.

A bowl of ice cream for Sam and a beer for Dad was a great way to celebrate our productive day!

As we grow older we tend to complicate the process. We try harder when we should let things go. We assert ourselves when our point has already been made. We attempt to impress the unimpressible.

When I was a boy I thought my Dad walked on water for a living. I am so grateful to have an opportunity to show my son that I do not...and that is OK!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, April 25, 2011


Last week we pondered the question:
What if you didn't need to be validated?

Today we will take this concept a step further:
What is the purpose behind your effort?

Do you perform on the job for the sake of promotion, to be granted more responsibility, or just to make more money?

Is your intent genuine? Are your motives transparent?

Leadership has transformed in recent longer is it about what you make but how much you can give away. Marc Benioff, Tony Hsieh, Keith Ferazzi, and Blake Mycoskie have lead a philanthropic charge to share their wealth.

Last week we also talked about the assumptive characteristics of a leader: direct, out-spoken, and always in the public eye. These characteristics are changing as well. I was shocked to see the principle of 'vulnerability' listed in Keith Ferrazzi's book, 'Whose Got Your Back'. Keith explains that in order to have a genuine path for improvement we have to be willing to divulge our human propensity to make mistakes from time to time. The Jack Welsh 'keep your guard up' leadership ethos replaced by Keith's 'let your guard down' pathos.

First thing I hear this Monday morning is a 'manager' confronting her employee about the metrics of her job description. What a way to start the week. Another example of how the system has trumped the need for thought leadership. Without trust there can be no leadership and default managers cannot trust because they fear their vulnerability will be exposed....they choose to keep their guard up.

Last week I issued the challenge to endure a whole day without complaining. Today, I ask that you try to take on your professional relationships without criticism. Try to see your employees, co-workers, and customers as trust them and to be empathetic of their life's challenges.

Here is a pretty good certainty: The challenges you face at work this week will not mean a thing a year from now. So why allow them to hang you up.

Live, Trust and Thrive!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, April 22, 2011


What makes a great Leader? We often think of the traits of strong personality, public speaking prominence, and convicted commitment. Vocal, Prominent, Confident, and Ever Present.

Can it be said, however, that those who are truly admirable do not need to be in the public eye?

The question we pose today: What if You Didn't Need to be Validated?

Is our need to step out in front of a group and gather applause a characteristic of confidence or insecurity?

It is evident that Leadership is sorely lacking in today's professional world. I equate this to the fact that the task of Management has overwhelmed the Vision of Leadership. In many organizations the true visionaries choose to stay in individual contributor roles, start their own companies, or leave for different opportunities. In reality, those who are passionate in their conviction are just not willing to 'play the game'. Office politics, meetings about meetings, and the need to restrain genuine thought are management traits that tend to appal true leaders. So, the defacto Managers accept leadership roles as the 'safe bet' and the truly inspired become uninspired.

How Can We Take the Power Back?
* Create your own job description
* Recreate yourself every day
* Ignore the unimportant

The Goals of Self
Reports are homework to document effort. They are also meaningless. The need for metrics to prove professional existence makes people...numbers.

Developing the ability to find personal significance in each task is mastery of your professional existence. You don't need to quit your job. You need to understand what every task means to you, how you can adjust each chore to your vision, and to prioritize accordingly.

Ask Yourself:
1. Who Am I
2. Who Do I Want To Be?
3. What Does This Mean to the Rest of the World?

Stagnation is Damnation
When you stop moving forward, you start falling back. This doesn't mean you have to leap into every mundane task. It means you should recommit and adjust your vision every day. The best way to embrace change is to create it for yourself.

Ask yourself:
Is it better to master one thing or experience many things?

The Best Advice...
From time to time, I get caught up in the unimportant. I let personality differences get in the way of larger goals, I get hung up on passing comments, or mundane detail derails genuine intent.

I once asked my do you stay level headed in the midst of all these personality clashes?

He said: I ignore them!

Have we come to accept less because we expect less? Are we victims of circumstance? Are we products of our environment? Is our energy wasted on other people's goals?

Kick the peddles out of you way and climb mountains!

Life is far too short to get hung up in the mundane defacto chores of personal validation.

You Are Great Because You Know You Are Great!

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results"
- Albert Einstein

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, April 18, 2011

The Complaint File

A few weeks back I dropped into a downtown bar to grab a cold one. 3 Gentlemen next to me were trading complaints about each and every one of their co-workers. These fellas talked about how hard they work and the lack of recognition they receive. They talked about the top achievers on their team and their unworthiness of such distinction. In a similar circumstance, there are a group of people who gather at the local coffee shop and get their day started by complaining about everything from their jobs, to the government, and how bad the coffee tastes.

It begs the questions: Why must we relate to others by finding common complaints?

Life can be a grind. So we get up early, talk about how much our day will suck, and then go make it so. We all have pressure at work and our peers understand that more than we get a little loud mouth soup in us and sympathize with one complaining.

Complaining is an effort to find validation to life's struggles. But, you don't have to find common group in the negative. In fact, most people's intentions are good, they just want to know others feel the way they do. Shaking your head and sipping your Vodka does not produce solutions...if fact, it makes the challenge harder.

I have had my time in the complaint file. I can recall nights in the similar bar with colleagues...leading the charge. I spoke of the challenges I had before me, that I had done all I could, and that everyone else was falling short. I engaged each day with a furrowed brow and sought to share my discontent with everyone I came across. I thought my narcissism was charming but people walked in the other direction shaking their head.

There are 2 certainties in life:
* You can always find something to complain about
* Every complaint can be conquered by positive thinking

Everyone wants to help more than hinder. To redirect complaints into action items. To invalidate negativity by proposing new ideas instead of adding fuel to the bitch fest.

Start with one day...try not to complain. After a few days, you might find yourself becoming a beacon of hope. Then they will come to you to ask for advice instead of asking for your validation of how bad everything is......

I am not sure why it is so easy to be negative and so impossible to be positive? What I will say is that when you try harder to eliminate complaints YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE!

If people know you are not going to validate their excuses, they stop complaining. When you are not surrounded by negativity the day moves faster.

Would you rather be forward thinking and Happy or smarter than everyone else and miserable?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Being Human

* A young lady at one of my favorite establishments has a problem. She is inelegant in her communication.
* A fellow I know is so linear in his thinking that he cannot seem to form a direct sentence.
* A guy who manages one of my favorite watering holes is constantly indirectly offending people.
* My friend is hyper-focused on his goals, but when he explains them, his intensity presents negativity.
* Every time I ask a co-worker for something, he explains to me why it's not his fault.

Do you struggle to find the right things to say?
Do you have trouble articulating your point with out footnoting every thought?
Do you lean on catch phrases to transition thought?

The mastery of Communication is the most difficult Human characteristic. There is no such thing as communication expertise. Public Speaking, Negotiation, and Conflict Resolution are all points of emphasis in Communication courses. You have to walk before you can run.

We often fail in pursuit of Elegant Communication because we concentrate on all the wrong things. If you give great speeches, but cannot hold a conversation, you are putting the cart before the horse!

Let's start from the beginning by remember a few very simple Human Interaction techniques:
Eliminate A, Um, So, and Ya Know
Stop framing your language
Be direct
Honor Silence

Ummm, Ummm, Ummm
It's conference season where we will listen to hundreds of well-intentioned speakers. The content is what draws us in, the delivery is what redirects us to the exit.

I make a practice of counting ummms. I once saw a man tally 520 umms in a 45 minute speech. True Story! Ummm is a verbalized thought segue way. Between thoughts it is natural to grasp for a thought stop gap. Keep it to yourself.

You can replace ummm with a tap of your foot or a second of silence between thoughts. Ummmm's happen in meetings, on conference calls, in speeches, in interviews, and while you are trying to pick up chicks. No matter how good your content....if you ummm you destroy your credibility.

At the end of the day.....
Here are a collection of uninventive phrases that serve as lazy thought transitions:
At the end of the day
It is what it is
Throw me under the bus

These phrases are usually used by people who are well rehearsed in their language delivery.....and that's not always a good thing. People lose interest in these fast talking techniques because they convey that you are trying to establish credibility without earning it....and that's never a good thing.

Slow down your delivery, listen and treat every conversation as a unique entity. If you replicate the same mission statement to everyone you meet, you will be consistently cast away as inauthentic. Your conversation should be rooted in thought and unique to each individual you engage.

Think in Bullet Point
I know a guy who is of superior intelligence. He can program network continuity that can make any system simple to use. The programming process is extremely detailed. His inherent programming traits work on computers but not on people. His conversation starts with a point in mind and trails off into mundane detail. Programming is about exploring all possible conclusions, conversation is not. In communication you have to make a choice, make a point, and allow it to resonate.

Golden Silence
I was in a meeting with a Young Lady a few days back. She was determined to impress us. She did not stop talking the entire meeting. She did not allow us to ask questions, give feedback or interact. It was a one way street to 'not hired'.

There seems to be a human condition to fill space...a feeling that all silence is uncomfortable. In fact, many people like to digest information and think through their response before opening their mouth. Of course, no one likes a dead beat and sometimes you have to carry a conversation. But, you are far better served listening than talking...that's why God gave you two ears and one mouth.

Mastering Communication is an ongoing process. No one is a perfect communicator. If you start by focusing on the simple things on a small stage you can hone your skills and up your game when the chips are down.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Put Down The Branding Iron

Last Year, I surveyed the top performers in their respective industries. Some interesting facts revealed themselves:
* Over 60% of top performers are of Generation X
* Money played second fiddle to Flexible Schedule & Opportunity for Advancement
* 36% of Top Performers desired employment of 10 years or more
* Recognition from Senior Leaders is the most important Motivator

I presented these finding to a group at a major Social Networking Company. They denied the validity of these results. Their contention was that top talent in the Silicon Valley lived by different rules:
* Generation Y is the top talent pool
* Employees are consistently looking for new career opportunities

The statistics don't lie, but the points of the Social Networking Company are well taken. Any way you slice it, the talent battle is always on. The state of the economy is secondary to business planning. Companies always have to put industry trends aside to find the extra edge. We might want to consider a few things:
* Talent is not Generation specific
* Employees don't want to switch careers
* Cash is not King

Y does it matter?
I understand that career planning is crucial to your organization. You have to know what motivates your employees and how long they plan on sticking around. I must say that most companies idea of retention planning is uninventive at best. We are so quick to brand our companies in a certain way in order to create sex appeal among the talent pool.

Why not just treat people really well? Give them great Leadership to admire and a career track motivated by open dialogue. Why not let your employee culture create itself instead of trying to brand every person as they walk through the door.

Turnover is Never Voluntary
The term voluntary turnover seems like an oxymoron to me. No one joins a company to leave it.

People quit for one of the following reasons:
1. You are not treating them well
2. There is no room for advancement
3. There is no Leadership commitment

People want one career, at one company, for life. You give them a reason to is best to figure out why and action plan from there.

It's not all about the Benjamin's
In the foreword to his book "Good to Great", Jim Collins pondered how much money it would take to prevent the book's release....he couldn't put a number on it. The old adage, what would you do if you didn't need the money.

People can go make money anywhere. Most people are driven by their occupation, it creates a great deal of their personality. As long as you trust them, empower them, and Lead with purpose....they will stick around.

The survey seems simple and the results shouldn't be surprising.

We get so caught up in generalizing our company and stamping a catch phrase to our recruitment strategy that we forget how to treat people.

You cannot brand kindness. Trust is not just a word on the wall. When you tell people to do something but you can't explain the purpose of the give up your Leader badge!

You cannot brand your company to be like Zappos. Zappos is great because they care about people.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Life of a Salesman

In 1949, Arthur Miller wrote The Death of a Salesman. It is a story of a man whose livelihood was dependent upon his continual effort. A man looking for stability in an unstable profession. I remember seeing the play as a Kid and feeling so very sorry for Wily Loman. It makes me wonder why I chose this profession...?

It takes a special person to be in Sales. The lack of predictability is difficult to endure as a bachelor. It is even harder to endure when you have mouths to feed. You cannot perfectly predict your income, you cannot ensure you will be employed tomorrow, and the lifestyle wears you down. When my son asks me what I do for a job, it is difficult to explain. When my wife asks me to 'show her the money', sometimes I have only lent in my pockets.

...and then some days you win. When you win, you win big! You celebrate for a few brief moments in the sun and then we get back to the grind.

Some people say that the salespeople make all the money for the work of others. That, my friends, is Bullshit! Yes, I would like a life of greater predictability...but, I'll be dammed if I am going to wait for someone else to determine my success.

So I go boldly into each day. I put on a tie, a smile, and keep my fingers crossed in my pocket.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Broken Bones

My son just had a cast put on his arm. The poor little guy busted his arm jumping on the bed. He now only has to break his arm 5 more times, break both legs, and get a whole bunch of stitches to catch his dad.

My son cried for a few minutes when his arm snapped but the cast serves a badge of courage. At 5 years old he already lives life with reckless abandon in the pursuit of fun! I am wondering if a few more broken bones might caution my son to slow down or if the need for more mementos of a life worth living will keep him moving they did his dad!

I recently heard the story of the Broad Street Bullies. The Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970's. They were the toughest guys in the league...they also won back to back Stanley cups. People don't like that. The hockey purists were of the impression that the Broad Street Bullies had tainted the game with their rough style of play and neglect of the rule book. This is a 'purist' way of blaming losses on something other than the scoreboard.

When the Zephyr Skateboarding team showed up at a skateboarding contest in Southern California right around this time they provoked a similar reaction that the Broad Street Bullies did. The kids who where technically perfect on their boards were beaten by the innovative stylings of Jay Adams and the Zephyr team. Like the fans of the NHL's original six, they did not want a new style to trump tradition. The thing about tradition is that it doesn't evolve....How can anyone defend stagnation? How could anyone miscondone progress?

Like the Broad Street Bullies, the Zepher Team won multiple trophies. Not necessarily because they broke the rules but because they had the willingness to push past convention.

I can remember planning for a meeting by proposing to try something completely different, off the wall even. We went in dressed differently than our competition, we conducted the presentation with a special energy, and we presented our solution from a non-traditional point of view. We won the deal because we were not boring or predictable and we knew our customer didn't want to do the 'safe' thing.

Why not jump higher on the bed? Why not use physical toughness to open up your offense? Why not try tricks that have not been attempted? Why not approach a presentation with the intent of differentiating yourself (instead of being like everyone else)?

The worst that can happen is a broken bone. The cast comes off in 3 weeks and your back to jumping on the bed.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, April 1, 2011

4 Stories from the Final 4 - Part 4

I remember being mesmerized by Theo Epstein. This youngster was the General Manager of one of the most powerful franchises in professional sports. How could that be possible?

This years Final Four proves that the Red Sox faith in Gen Y leadership is a formula for success. Earlier this week we spotlighted Shaka Smart. Today I want to introduce you to his opponent this weekend: Mr. Brad Stevens. One would mistake Stevens for an injured player on the sideline before they would assume him the head coach. Similar to the disbelief of seeing Theo Epstein in the owners box, or Shaka Smart calling plays, the general intuition is to step back when we see a youngster running the show.

Make no mistake about it, Brad Stevens is running the show!

The Bulldogs of Butler as well as those of Gonzaga have a few things in common: Great Shooting, Disciplined Game Planning and Awesome Coaching!

With the NBA recruiting High Schoolers and the fundamentals of basketball being lost to remarkable athletic basketball has actually improved. There are few dominant players that last longer than 2 years, the team concept carries the game, and the emphasis on game planning makes geniuses out of the guys calling the plays.

Name a player on the Butler Bulldogs or the VCU Rams...? Now you know their coaches.

There was a time when players wore jerseys without their names on them. The name on the front of the shirt was what mattered. The superstars are chasing contracts and short timers are being overlooked for a better team of lifelong amateur athletes. The boys on the court on Saturday may never play for money. They love the game and their teammates and they are about to earn college degrees. The experience on the court and the mentorship of their coaches will serve their lives far better than an NBA contract!

Enjoy the Final Four!

Don't Forget to Remember!