Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Long & Winding Road

Last week we touched on the concept of perseverance. Today, we will take it a step further. It is one thing to see a challenge through; you win and lose every day. Life can be a roller coaster of ups and downs and only the strong survive. But, just because they are "the strong" doesn't mean they can't get their asses kicked.

So, you have endured the year and have fulfilled your aggressive multiply it by 40.

It seems loyalty is not what it used to be, some folks give up too easily, others simply cannot find a challenge that truly engages them, and many are just going through the motions.

Every great professional I know has had an off year. As the professional turnstile revolves vulnerability to failure is replaced by reason to believe. We have to bring it every day and we have to replicate our results year after year. One thing remains certain if this is to be our professional conquest....

...You Better Love What You Do....

Love Lasts
What was the first thought that crossed your mind when the alarm clock introduced you to today? Is your motivation driven by fear or are you genuinely engaged in your profession? Does your stomach knot up on Sunday night? Do you hang up the phone in a cold sweat created by lack of certainty? Do you respect the people to whom you have dedicated your professional life? Would the 5 year old you be intrigued by who you are today?

The masters in their field are so because they love every day that they have the opportunity to serve their professional purpose. Great companies open their organizational heart to the things that matter to the individuals that formulate their collective. To be great at what you do you have to accelerate in every area. Nothing is worth doing unless you are dedicated to doing it better than anyone ever has in the history of the world.  

Keeping The Fire Burning
Everyone hits a professional plateau. We all ask ourselves if we have made the right choices or if our effort has done any good at all. That's life in the big city! The good news is that your mind is infinitely capable. You can always bust a hole in the wall. You can ollie any plateau. 

Creativity is the key to endurance. The best way to ensure what you are doing is working is to consider (or better yet invent) alternatives.

Passing The Torch
It is honorable to covet your family, to protect anything else is an act of insecurity!

If you have created something original you should want to share it. If you are fearful of sharing the content you feel belongs to only probably just got lucky. Everything should be passed along to those who will follow. Those who follow should accept everything with intent of passing it along better formed than it was given.

The only way to grow a concept into a reality is to ask everyone to help mold it.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Never Give Up!

This life can throw us curve balls. Every day it gets harder to compete in the professional marketplace, the price of diapers is increasing, and we probably see our friends less than we would like. Jobs will come and go, our children will grow up quicker than we would like, and people we love will die. The task of braving each day can be daunting!

...and then we accept the challenge before us and strap on our boots!

If Not You Then Who?

Those who appear invincible will fail and those who have put up a facade are always exposed. When it is your turn to take the controls how will you command the ship?

Workforce management strategies are becoming more transparent eliminating silo-ed management politics. This is a good thing! Now, everyone will have a chance to lead without a title. Opportunities are everywhere and your ability to shine will be magnified based on your willingness to participate.

All You Have To Do Is: Show Up & Care!

As we revisit life's curve balls we understand that it can be difficult to get out of bed on certain days (let alone perform at the highest level). With this in mind, many people are reluctant to even try. Risk scares certain people, hard work is foreign to some, and others try but simply do not possess a differentiated skill set. This is a massive opportunity to get more out of life. You spend most of your waking hours at is time for you to commit to maximizing your time on the clock!

"It's not how hard you hit, it's how hard you can get hit, and get back up"
- Rocky Balboa

In The Dip, Seth Godin explains that most people put most of the work in...and then give up. His studies prove that we get 90% of the way to results and then redirect our attention. This creates manic effort without substantial production. We run in circles without a sense of achievement. Life's unfair pomp and circumstance may actually be a result of our own imprecise strategy.

It is those who can stay the course that succeed. Endurance is more important than speed. Life is a marathon not a sprint.

Do you see opportunity in challenges or do you let obstacles cripple you?
Are you able to find little wins along the way or does the word "no" defeat you?

In this life, pats on the back may be few and far between. People are lined up to tell you that you can't do something (because they tried and quit).

There is no standard! You are empowered to create your future every single day!

All you have to do is show up every day and work your ass off! Assess what you have done right and do more of it. Assess what you have done wrong a do less of it. Allow no one to tell you, you can't. And, most importantly....

Never Give Up!

When a bully gets punched in the face for the first time; he falls hard. It is those of us who can take a beating and emerge stronger from it that end up with the trophy!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 25, 2013

Reason to Believe

Indecision will always get the best of you! We want to think that we rationalize our way into every decision we make but Dan Ariely would refute that predisposition. In fact, it has been proven that our decisions are only 23% reason and 77% emotion.

Yes, when we are able to provoke emotion the leap into action is steadfast and convicted!

There are 3 ways to stimulate emotion in our employees:
1. Form a competition
2. Give it meaning
3. Create something bigger than the individual

You Want to Win!
People tend to shy away from competition because they believe they cannot win. Back a man into a corner long enough and he will come out swinging!

Too often the spirit of competition is ruined by the hell bent over-achiever who does not want to share the glory. Competitions fail to engage if the playing field isn't somewhat level. We all love a good challenge but a new hire and an established performer simply do not share equal ground.

Level the playing field.

If you group the workforce by production levels the trophy becomes more achievable. When I know I can win I am more apt to compete.

A Reason to Participate...
You can collect a check anywhere and every company has benefits. One will not jump out of bed simply to punch the clock. We need to do work that means something. If you look up after 30 years without the feeling that you have impacted lives for the better; your time has been wasted.

Maybe you have a great product, your organization may be committed to corporate responsibility...or maybe you have a way of connecting people in the workplace. If you don't believe in what you are doing, it makes it harder to brave the winter dawn air.

It's Lonely at the Bottom!
There are sub-cultures in every company. We all want a seat at the bar next to our compadres and the ability to wax poetic on what isn't working. We want to vent. This may lead us to formulate a culture of apathy. With any directive, we roll our eyes and criticize the disconnected leadership purpose. This is a terrible way to live!

Don't be the smart ass in the back of the room who needles the presenter, don't act as though nothing is worth believing in. In fact, do the opposite.....

I would ask you to try to be the person who believes in things...or is at least willing to try.

Life is too short to be jaded. If you are going to spend 60 hours a week somewhere you better believe in the cause. Don't pretend everything sucks. Give people a chance. Don't be the person who validates bitching with more bitching. Be the person who helps the pessimist find some optimism.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Race For The Prize

With the advent of social media and mobile technology, it seems as soon as it is written it is outdated. We are consistently looking for new information about new things....the latest scoop, the newest gadget, the next facebook. With whiplash intensity we catapult ourselves into the next day.

The term innovation has been used loosely to describe the roller coaster that corkscrews us into the future. Is the process of moving forward about the tools at our disposal (and their limited shelf life)? Or should we consider other means?

Move Forward
The more gadgets that emerge, the less we tend to physically interact with one another. The better we write online, the further we seem to get from the art of personal articulation. We cannot assume that gadgets will accelerate us into the future. We cannot assume that a gaggle of friends in the social enterprise means anything of our ability to influence.

Can it be said that innovation may be characterized by our ability to take a step back?

Step Back
Does anybody remember laughter, kindness, the ability to smile at someone and make them feel like everything will be OK? Do we login to a social site with our armor on? Are we competing with one another (even in our free time)?

I step back to remember the words of Steve Jobs who said that innovation is an act of love.

He/She who gets to the tape first does not always win. We are not always competing, the game created does not always require participation...the rules are yours to form for yourself!

Find Your Path
The world is full of rules. Do not force more rules upon yourself or others. Pushing forward creates progress. Finding new ways to traverse the beaten path is the true journey.....the joy is in the journey!

Love is at the center of all things that propel us. You don't have to run others over to win the race for the prize. You don't have to drive yourself insane to find the next big thing.

You can be brilliant, relevant, and nice...all in the process of finding what really matters!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Number One

If you were anywhere near La Pera Circle in the 80's you would have heard the echoing of a ball bouncing. I played basketball for hours in my early years. I didn't play pick up games nor did I play organized basketball; I just shot for hours...on my own. I would play out games in my head, keeping score against myself. I wasn't a shut-in, it was just a therapeutic way to end each day.

One of my first memories of observing the game of basketball was the championship that North Carolina State won in 1983. My dad and I watched this underdog team from across the country beat the unstoppable Phi Slamma Jamma. I was thrilled to see the underdog win. I always cheer for the underdog!

Their coach was an enigmatic New Yorker who was full of life and full of confidence. His determination and creative mentoring gave young people (all people) the feeling that they could do anything...and they did. Coach Jim Valvano left the earth 10 years later but he left us with many words of wisdom:

There are 3 things we should do every day....

Do you ever find that you are taking yourself too seriously? Professional life can be difficult so every day you need to assess and move forward. We stare at the ground waiting for our challenge...with tunnel vision...walking past the things that matter.

At a certain point, you come to realize that nothing is too important. You can miss a meeting to see your daughter's dance recital, you can miss a business trip to go to Disneyland, you can miss work to spend the day with your mom.

Disarm your guard and learn to laugh at yourself.

There is a solution to everything. You cannot hide from a problem or wait for it to solve itself. Hit the whiteboard and pick apart the puzzle. Find someone with whom to confide in. Most importantly, take a moment every day to isolate yourself in uninterrupted thought!

Put down the cell phone, reflect on the day, take a walk, stare at the wall. Whatever it takes....find a few moments each day to expand your mind.

Have Your Emotions Moved to Tears
My Son and I were watching a film in which an actor was moved to tears. My son felt sorry for the film's subject until I described to him that the man was crying because he was happy.

I remember the first time I cried from joy. It was in overtime in the soccer playoffs around the same time NC State cut down the nets. I dumped the ball into a friend and he scored the winning goal. We had beat the best team in the league. We had overcome a challenge and I was part of it. The joy was too great for me to contain...I cried....and it was glorious!

You can watch a movie, read a book, hear a song, or see your child help another. There are a lot of ways to move yourself to tears....if you can do it once a week you are living a life well served. If you can do it daily, you are creating perfection.

Jimmy V. was a real-life example that dreams come true. Not because luck is on your side but because preparation and hard work have a way of trumping natural skill.

Don't give up, don't ever give up!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Be Part of Something

The recent mandate by Marissa Mayer to bring her employees back to campus sent shock waves through Silicon Valley.

How dare the boss make demands of her employees!

Why would a workforce need to be in the same place to be productive...?

Well, she is the boss and there is an unquestionable organizational value in having people in the same place. I would be the first to agree that cramming people into cubicles for 10 hours a day is not productive. I would also have to admit that never seeing the office negates a critical element of organizational culture.

Our personal brands are now more powerful than our company logo. We have free resources at our disposal that can raise millions of dollars and crowd source any organizational directive. We also know that the more friends we have online, the fewer we have in real life.

Get Real
We often tell our children to put down the video game while they order their grilled cheese. Then we retreat to our cell phones. In any given social situation, when the conversation lags we flip on our phone. We are losing our ability to drive enticing conversation, to interact with meaning, and to articulate the Terabytes we devour before lunch. All the knowledge in the world means nothing if you don't know why it matters...or how to vocalize it!

The Trouble With Words
They have not created a narrative tone application for email as of yet. Too often, our actions are misinterpreted when conveyed in the typed word. We may cast ourselves onto the "people to fire" list by posting something on our company intranet community that we thought was funny. Words without human interpretation are dangerous little creatures.

Returning Home
So it stands to reason that the employees of Yahoo might benefit from a few days in the office. Some of them may be realized for their inefficiencies when they are "exposed"; others may be promoted when their voice is finally heard.

We need friends at work. We need to be around other people. We need a support network to help us grow. If we are left in solitude with only our thoughts and our monitor, our progress is stifled.

None of us want to admit it...but it is a fact!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Extreme Belief

"Twice you burned your life's work: once to start a new life and once just to start a fire"
- John Roderick

In his book, "Start With Why", Simon Sinek describes an annual leadership summit among the world's most successful Entrepreneurs. This gathering serves more as a support group than a celebration. Why? Because success for the hunter means the end of the game. It is the hunt that most inspired these uncompromising thought leaders. With the selling of their companies their balloon had been deflated. The hunt was over, they now had found fortune, but they had lost their purpose.

Big wave surfer Laird Hamilton likens himself to a dragon slayer: when there are no waves, there are no dragons to slay....his search to conquer the impossible is stifled.

Many heroic athletes experience depression in their retirement, their quest is no longer celebrated.

The stories above have a common thread: the climber has reached the mountain top but the wish is to keep climbing. Indeed, we will all look back on this life with a fondness for the seemingly most difficult times. Over steak and fine wine, with our life's achievements behind us, we may miss eating pizza on the floor of our dorm room.

As we endure this wonderful life, our bodies might slow down but our vision becomes more focused. Michael Jordan will admit that his game was elevated when his mental discipline helped him slow the game down. If you are crystal clear in your purpose, have participatory evidence to fall back upon, and are more driven than your adversary...your trophy awaits.

There are people who possess natural talent, those who have read thousands of books, and others who have attained countless certifications....but they have never experienced success. They are doing what they are good at not what they love. They are following an attainable skill set not a passion. Anyone with a heartbeat can read books, take classes, and pass tests. There is no differentiated skill in the process of knowledge attainment. It's what you do with the knowledge that matters.

Sales is a hell-of-an-occupation. The uncertainty in sales requires endurance, unflappable confidence, and an uncompromising belief in your purpose. Most people try sales...and fail. Transactional process knowledge might help you sell bibles door to door, but over time you will plateau. In order to endure the world of selling over the long haul, you have to learn to differentiate. Empassioned story telling beats product-knowledge every time. 'Tis far more important to articulate why something can make the world better as opposed to knowing simply what it does.

Boredom... the end will you look back on a life well-served...or the times you did the less-popular thing...and won! We seldom remember the validation of a test passed. We remember the time we followed our heart despite our brain. The time we sacrificed everything to conquer a challenge that logic may have told us to avoid. There is nothing sweeter than the taste of victory!

When Alfred Hitchcock made "Psycho" we mortgaged his house to finance the film....his belief was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice everything to bring the film to life. The bands Wilco and Radiohead mortgaged their careers to produce their most relevant musical artwork. Even Francis Ford Coppola went broke making "Apocalypse Now". We don't know of the depths of sacrifice that lead to greatness, we only remember the result. All things worth investing in share one great certainty:

Their Creators Had Conviction!

...are you going through the motions? Has convenience taken over the drive to do more? Are you part of something that matters? Do people admire your spirit?

Need I remind you that we have 29,200 days on this planet...why would you waste one of them doing something you don't believe in with all of your heart and soul?

Stop pretending and be part of something bigger than yourself! If you can't find it, create it!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Amplify Success!

Employee Appreciation Day has come and gone. My organization gave this day very little formal attention because we appreciate our employees EVERY DAY! I'm unsure where the tradition started but the concept of saying "thank you" once a year is asinine. Employee Appreciation Day gave way to service awards. Appreciating everyone once a year gave birth to the practice of appreciating only our especially loyal employees once every five years. WTF....?
Rewarding Survival
Tenure based rewards make no sense. Are the employees who have reached 5 years of tenure at your organization more worthy of praise than a new hire? Is the employee who reached their 20 year service anniversary with your company a cultural icon or a marginalized hanger-on?

What does the scorecard indicate? Should you give greater rewards to a person who achieved their goals every year? Is the man who spent 15 years in a cubicle here because he loves the job or because he has no other options? Does he have no options because the lack of opportunity for advancement in your company has made him a prominent negative influence?

What's worse is that we give those who have dedicated decades of their lives a catalogue of discontinued gifts and a half-hearted speech. We cut the cake and get back to grinding it out for another 10 years.

What causes disengagement?
  • Unreasonable workload
  • Boredom
  • Lack of opportunity
  • Leadership uncertainty
  • Lack of transparency
  • An inability to recognize effort
If you use the "love it or leave it" approach to workforce motivation, the marginal employees will stick it out and the all-star performers will leave. Over time, your organizational culture will suck because you have retained people who hate their job and have propped them up as organizational thought leaders....based on their tenure.

Creating a High Performance Culture
Employee Recognition is an every day practice. The CEO should thank her top performers every day. Managers should recognize the members of their team that are helping the collective advance. Individual contributors should have an open invitation to stand on the soap box and recognize the effort of a single mother who stayed late on a Friday to finish an Executive's TPS reports.

It is drastically important to respect your elders but sometimes tradition is stupid! "We've always done it that way", is a sure fire indicator that your skills are eroding.

If you are allowing tenure to drive strategy the old guard of mediocrity is destroying your company's future.

I would advise organizations to change their ways but it is not the organizations choice anymore! Keep celebrating marginal talent and you will go out of business!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 4, 2013

Pass The Torch

A fairly recent World at Work survey listed "lack of opportunity" and "dwindling faith in leadership" as key contributors to employee disengagement. This bell rings very familiar! Early in my career, I experienced ongoing disappointment at my own expense. I was young, energetic, and full of motivation. I understood the core functions of my job and executed them like wild fire. I volunteered to do extra work and read the books suggested by management. Still, the opportunity for advancement was not offered. Massively frustrating!
The new generation in the workplace are characterized as impatient and entitled. There is a simple explanation.

High School Football Advancement Grid:
Year 1: Freshman Football
Year 2: Junior Varsity Football
Year 3: Varsity Football
Year 4: Team Captain

...a similar 4 year scale exists in advancement through higher education. When a person is used to progressing each year for 8 years and then runs into an uncharted 40 year career road map; frustration with the pace of advancement is immanent.

Let Them Lead
Slow down, stay off the radar, read this book.....these are among a variety of ways management marginalizes talent. Why don't we take a chance on promoting young talent? Risk in this professional day-and-age is hard to defend. You can find thousands of professionals with management experience, so why would you take a chance promoting the "kid with an attitude problem"...?

Advancement does not rely on promotion. Most people simply want to know where they stand, if mistakes are being made, and how they can learn from each day's experience. Too often, we are caught up in the day-to-day minutia to give our people the appropriate level of coaching. A person spends 2 years in our onboarding programs learning the ropes and then splits for one of our competitors.

3 Questions...?
1. What is your turnover rate?
2. How much is it costing you?
3. How can you retain the people who matter?

Let's say a team of nine loses 4 contributors. Conservatively, it will cost the rate of one year's salary to replace the departed employees. If the remaining collective is not doubling their revenue target, we are navigating a revolving door system to certain failure. In this case, the numbers don't lie.

You cannot wait until the end of the year to review performance. You can't wait for five years to celebrate employee tenure. You should not appreciate your employees on only one day of the year. This is what is broken in the world of employee engagement; the notion that delivering performance feedback should be a siloed semi-annual process. Still, we neglect the future star performers to placate the egos of the hangers on. We ignore feedback from the trenches to follow process mandates. Our functional fixedness has kept us believing in a failed system. Human beings are not pawns on a chessboard.

The process is simple:
1. Carve out short-term and long-term goals for your team.
2. Provide levels of advancement when goals are met.
3. Allow a culmination of achievements to catapult performers into new opportunities.

There is no need to promote new workers simply because they are bored with bureaucracy nor is there a reason to dismiss frustration under the stereotype that new workers are impatient.

Don't Forget to Remember!