Monday, May 27, 2013

I Can't Do It Alone

There is a special magic to this thing we call the social enterprise. Connecting has never been easier and people have access to so many things that mean so much. Last week, I became aware of Zach Sodiech's dying wish to leave the world with a song. My friend John Hein reminded me of a father's documentation of his daughter's growing up. There are those who do not share their lives in the social enterprise for fear of repercussion. That's no way to live.

You cannot help but feel extraordinarily human when viewing the stories above. Whether a tragedy, a reason to live or the simplicity of celebrating life...we have tools to help us expand our mind share. Why wouldn't you relish the opportunity to help people?

In the 5 years I have been writing this blog, I have introduced you to my family, said goodbye to friends who have transcended the earth, talked a whole lot about interpreting one's professional motivation on their own terms, used sports as a metaphor for life and escaped through music. I hope you have enjoyed the stories I have shared. I probably get more out of the process than you do.

The nostalgia of Memorial Day overwhelms me. I have been pretty good at a bunch of things in my life. I have never been reluctant to try new things. I have not, however, had the courage to dedicate myself to one thing. Those who care enough about something to die for it have a degree of dedication that I do not. There are big wave surfers who risk their lives for perfect natural acceleration and golfers who have dedicated years of their lives to hear the sound of the perfect drive. I would wish to be so perseverant.

With so much content through which to navigate, how do we find the things that are worth the investment of our limited time in this sad and beautiful place? Here are a few ideas:

Step Out!
As a hard working father of 2 with a wife who works harder than I do, I savor my (mostly non-existent) free time. The desire to put my feet up hits me like a freight train at the end of the day. I am acutely aware that my children will be too big to hold tomorrow. There is so much great music being performed every night, sporting events that are producing affirming moments of human achievement, films that require years of commitment to produce, and a collection of books that would take a lifetime to read.

Live now and sleep when you're dead!

Get Pissed Off For Greatness!
There are so many people who are OK with giving the minimum effort. There are people who watch too much TV, eat too much, yell at people who love them, and live life for their own entitlement. Can you not see the divine opportunity to be an extraordinary achiever if everyone else is OK with being average.

The best way to give all of yourself to something is to choose a conquest that genuinely matters to you. Complaining is a result of poor choices. You make your choices and they form your existence. Don't even try to pretend that anyone else is responsible for your success.

It's Go Time...and very few want to be part of the chase!

Develop Empathy!
That line around the block is full of people who will tell you what you are doing wrong. There are very few who will invest themselves in your progress as a human being. Don't let the bastards grind you down. People are going to screw up....on a broad scale...with great precision. The art of living is helping others find a way to get through the consequence of their effort.

Be Humble in Victory and Accountable in Defeat!

So, Then....
I remember playing a song for a friend. When I finished I put my head down and started to explain why the song sucked. He instantly stopped me and told me it was magnificent. I was on a high school campus recently and a young man approached me with a light in his eyes to proclaim that he got in to college. I was honored to share that moment with him. Harold Crick believed enough in a story to vanish for it. Andrew Largeman may still be discovering the infinite abyss.

There are people to whom you report....none of them will save your life. Holidays are merely an excuse to remember what is important. There is opportunity every day to create and amplify a majestic existence!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This Ordinary Life

I'm not a big TV watcher but for as long as I can remember I have loved The Office. Our friends at the paper company in Scranton, PA said their final goodbye last week. The final curtain set among the swan song with a chorus that said: Life happens at work.

My occupation takes me to a different professional landscape each day. I always have a new audience with new business issues that create performance initiatives. We take extreme measures to find unique solutions to complex problems. In truth, we're just a bunch of people with the intent to make things better. So why would PBS choose to do a 10 year documentary on a small company in Humbletown, USA? Why not?

We spend most of our waking hours at work so lets revisit the final words of the great Jim Halpert who shared his love for his beautiful, boring job. In reflection, our hero realized that everything he had he owed to the job he felt he had no engagement toward. When we put aside the self-fulfilling prophecy that work sucks, we may come to realize that we cannot live without it.

My quest to discover the essence of Employee Engagement can be characterized by process analysis. Survey the surface area, find the faults and seek to connect where there may be a divide. What if engaging our workforce is not nearly as complex as we make it out to be?

Do you agree with the following statements?

I Feel An Obligation To Work As Hard As I Can For My Company!
The line of engagement is drawn upon the difference between willingness and duty. Are you pursuing each day's task list with the intent to evolve yourself and your company or are you doing what you must to stay employed? Are you empowered to take chances? Is there joy in the completion of your agenda items? Do you feel that your personal life is evolved through the work that you do?

You should not have to question your motivation. You should be driven by that which means something to you. Is that so hard to embrace?

My Manager Understands Me
Free will is a beautiful thing. Wouldn't it be nice if every manager/peer relationship was guided by free will. Wouldn't it be nice if your boss understood that you could walk out the door if respect faded (wouldn't it be nice if you could). Often, the problem is not finding a new job but starting over. So, you endure the boss you do not respect for the sake of getting through another day. Very few of us have the wherewithal to sustain the pseudo-motivation forever.....and things usually end badly. Not because we dislike the company but because we are on a different page than the person we see most.

Trust drives relationships. We want to be able to say what is on our mind and to voice our opinion without fear of repercussion. Fat chance!

Biting your bottom lip from time to time will keep you in good standing. If you feel you are holding back more than you are sharing, your boss may be dangerously incompetent.

I Have A Greater Chance To Succeed Here Than I Do Anywhere Else
No job is perfect, it's work and we accept the good with the bad...!

Do you have the tools to succeed? Are your co-workers invested in your success? Are you kept awake at night by the excitement of the challenges of tomorrow....or are you awake with discontent of the choices you have made that got you here?

With all this in mind, there is one way to solve any Engagement Crisis. Take action!

The one strategy certain to ensure success is a personal desire to overcome any and all hurdles. There are times when your company, co-workers, or even your boss cannot help. It is at this point that you have to choose to succeed. The driving factors to your willingness to make this personal commitment are listed above.

Today Dunder Mifflin operates like any other company. Client calls are made, orders are processed, product is delivered and employees are paid. And in-between employees do ridiculous things and make friends for life.

When the camera turns away from your office how will your character be remembered?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, May 13, 2013

5 Lies Forced Upon Graduates

I have the divine pleasure of being a member of the Phi Delta Theta Education Committee. Our goal is to enhance the learning experience for undergrads to develop their professional acumen. Fraternities get a bum rap based on tradition. Nowadays, the young men I work with are committed to their education and their communities. Times have changed and the youth of today give me profound faith in the future!

Unfortunately, graduation time comes with a plethora of bad advice. It is at this time that Uncle Bill has too many whiskey sours and tells you the truth about the real world. The problem is there is no truth in these tall tales.

It is a shame that at the time of graduation we discourage progress. I have seen the leaders of tomorrow and they are ready to tackle the world!

Class of 2013 -
Here are 5 things that people will tell you that are simply untrue:

1. Finding a Job Will Be Difficult
Congratulations to Generation Y, you are the most stereotyped generation in the history of the professional world. Just so you know, the studies written about your lack of attention span and sense of entitlement were written by Baby Boomers who are trying to validate their existence. You are more focused and more creative than they are....they are scared shitless of you and they should be!

Advice: Next time someone outside of your generation gives you advice about your generation, steal their job!

2. It's Time To Conform
People will line up to tell you how things are done in the real world. Smile, nod, and do it your way. Tradition is simply a way to validate the existence of those who have run out of ideas. DO NOT allow yourself to be marginalized. Be constructively disruptive! Be creative! Find a door where others see a wall (because you are not a victim of tradition).

Advice: You will be validated if your ideas are well-presented and backed with statistics. Always have numbers to strengthen your words!!!

3. Slow Down
Nope, speed up! If you are not moving forward, you are in reverse. Every company has their nay-sayers.........ignore them!

Advice: Don't allow negative influences to rain on your parade. You are capable of anything!

4. Fun Is Not Part of the Equation
Wrong! Your personal brand is as strong as your company logo. Now more than ever feedback from the trenches is valued.

Advice: Don't pretend the party is over! Use your unique voice to empower your company culture.

5. If at first You Don't Succeed, Get Another Degree
Your book knowledge is intact....and you will spend 10 more years paying for it. Get some street smarts to go along with your certification. Learning is an awesome foundation, but you cannot evolve until you apply. Books don't talk back. The script changes when it becomes interactive.

Advice: Skip grad school for 2 years in the Peace Corp

Congratulations on your monumental achievement! Of all the advice you receive, lend the most credence to the words that come from the other side of the mirror.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2,380 days later!

I have done over 300 speaking engagements on the topic of Employee Engagement over the last 6 years and I am getting tired. My quest to find the essence of what creates organizational culture and how we can empower workforce awesomeness has been trumped by a number of things:
  • People who seek easy answers to complex organizational problems.
  • Vendors who think gifts and/or technology can automate engagement.
  • Organizational indecision due to fear of change.
  • ....and so much more
In simplest terms, Engagement can not be packaged and sold. Engagement is not a benefit. There is no turnkey solution to create Engagement.

I know I sound like a broken record...but let's set the records straight. Here are a collection of discoveries made in my time in the trenches (a thousand cups of coffee and many miles later).

How do you know if a manager is protecting the herd?
Employees don't leave companies, they leave managers. An expert in the field of engagement remarked, "managers who rule by the clock are dangerously incompetent". Employees need to have transparent, trusting relationships with their managers. Micro-management has to be replaced by performance empowerment. Organizations need a pipeline from employee to manager to CEO (No, I'm not talking about a performance review).

The recession is no longer an excuse!
Organizations that used the "you're lucky to have a job" ethos during troubling economic times are experiencing mass exodus. As I write this The Dow has closed at an all-time high, the housing market is improving, and believe it or not companies are hiring again. Fear and intimidation has a new audience: Management!

What's your price?
Not surprisingly, there is a direct correlation between the amount of money it would take an employee to leave an organization and their level of engagement. The only employees who complain about the value of their benefits are those who are not performing to their highest potential. Reciprocity will accelerate when you tune out the squeaky wheel.

Your greatest Marketing tool!
An engaged corporate culture extends beyond the organizational walls and into your customers world. There is a direct correlation between the level of an employee's engagement and their ability to advocate the organizational cause...and this sells products and services better than any sales person or marketing campaign.

You cannot hide!
If you are mistreating employees it will be broadcast to billions of people via social media before the report reaches Human Resources. Managing in silos is no longer an option. Everyone should be accountable for their level of performance in an open forum. The days of sheltering mediocrity are over.

Wellness is not just for gym rats!
Wellness is popular theme in Human Resources, mostly connected to pedometers and reduced insurance costs. It's not about that. Workers who are allowed work/life balance are more productive. It has been proven that if you give employees half days in the summer, they will perform 5 days work in 4.5 days.

We're not entitled, we're bored!
There is a compound word used to describe generational stereotyping: Bullshit! Iggy Pop is 66 years old...need I say more? Generation Y has been unfairly stereotyped worse than any sub-population in professional history. It's a tired, uninventive concept! Workers are not entitled, they're bored. They can do the work in half the time of their predecessors and your process is wasting their talent.

The ceiling....
As I have stated previously, every promotion should be internal. Developing talent within your organization is HR's most critical responsibility. You can stop the exorbitant cost of recruiting and hiring if you do a better job developing talent. The concept that arming employees with too much knowledge will cause them to quit is absolutely asinine!

Amplify training!
Don't believe there is a need to educate your workforce on an ongoing basis? Does training still feel like torture for your employees? Take your kid fishing...hook a fish and let him reel in the last few turns. Then, let him catch his own fish and see the difference in reaction. You just turned a boring day with dad into a father/son tradition.

The only answer you need to hear:
I believe that I can accomplish more at my current company than I can anywhere else!

The quest for Employee Engagement continues and there are no simple answers. Worry not, I will keep fighting the good fight!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Volume of Our Actions

There are new year's resolutions, personal sacrifices made for religious purposes, and vows to turn over a new leaf....most of them don't work! Indeed, we see those who have endorsed a diet gaining back the weight and repeat rehabilitation stays for those inflicted with addiction. Can it be said that the human condition is vulnerable to imperfection?

Why do we spend our time trying to convince others that we are perfect?

No one is perfect!

Too often, we choose to seek the faults in others and exploit them. We want to position ourselves as superior to gain leverage. When we have leverage, we can command respect. Then people will be forced to listen to us. Not really.

In truth, we have a desire to work hard, achieve, and to be rewarded.

What gets in the way?

Actions Speak Louder Than Words!
Trust is important in business. The best way to become untrusted is to prove your actions do not support your words. There are those who talk a lot and do very little. There are others who speak very little and perform without expectation of public accolade.

We cannot be who we are not....

Put accelerated effort into the areas in which you possess your greatest skill. It could be that you are naturally gifted or maybe you have a passion for a certain line of work. When passion and hard work come have found your genuine purpose.

The Act of Desperation...
The flip side of following your strengths is miscasting your line. When one misrepresents their skill set in the spirit of advancement it creates transparent insecurity. It never ends well.

Our choices define us. Our actions are driven by the authenticity of our choices.

Are you doing something because you would not want to live any other way or are you out of options?

You Won't Question The Things You Value
We can all fake it for a while. We can all try something for the sake of a new challenge. We can fool some people some of the time. Eventually, we all encounter that person in the mirror.

It's hard to be engaged if you are faking it. It's human to admit you are forcing yourself to accept an undocumented truth. When your spirit fades, it becomes evident. At some point you have to reevaluate.

You should challenge yourself every day....not to pretend you know how to do your job, but to do it better than anyone ever has.

You should find the things that matter to you most....and let the love you feel for those things drive your decision making.

You should be great at what you do...because your life would be incomplete without the purpose you derive from your work....because others would be disappointed to see your purpose disappear.

Don't Forget to Remember!