Thursday, January 30, 2014

What Coaching Youth Sports Has Taught Me About Business

We live in an interesting time... our personal and professional lives are more intertwined than ever. We can now research individuals as easily as we can the organizations for which they work. The line between work and life is ever-indiscernible. Smart organizations are designing in equal part to personalities as they are critical skills. We should celebrate all of it!

My weekdays are encompassed by adult conversations with Human Resources professionals. My weekends find me trying to relate to 5 year old girls and 8 year old boys. These lines blur...

So, what do a 35 year old HR Lady and a 5 year old soccer girl have in common? As in any situation, it is not so much about the audience but how we approach them. There are those who tell me I am crazy for trying to convince HR Pros to be strategic. Others think I am insane for thinking I can teach soccer to Kindergarten girls. Fortunately, I've never paid much attention to my critics...which leads us to our first lesson.

Have a Plan
Early in my career I was all action and very little theory. It was all a numbers game: if I made enough calls I would eventually sell something. Nowadays, I know that 5 well-researched calls are far more beneficial than 100 cold calls. At some point, I replaced blind effort with strategic communication. This art form makes the manic world of sales far more predictable.

Trying to keep the attention of young people is extremely difficult. You have to have every minute filled with repetitive direction. Keeping these little people on task turns habits into skills. We elders require similar attention.

Be Bold!
No one wants to see their child fail by fault of poor coaching; a grand responsibility to say the least. Coaches either develop greatness or cement bad habits. The best way to win trust is to earn respect. Respect is earned by succeeding on the field through developing camaraderie. 5 year olds will rock your world if you are not in control of the situation... a candor we should all possess.

In any business situation, second guessing yourself is never looked upon favorably. You have to make decisions and own them. Sometimes you are right, sometimes you are goes the merry-go-round! Great business leaders develop followers because they have great ideas and the confidence to turn theory into action. You cannot win people over with half-hearted commitments.

Have Fun!
People say that youth sports are not important. I disagree. We have an opportunity to effect young peoples approach to living their lives. If we instill that giving ones best effort will!

We tend to remember the games we win more than those we lose. We remember the friends we make more than those who seek to derail our mission. It is always more enjoyable to share victory.

In the end, it is just a game and a job is a job. We take things waaay too seriously. That deal you lost, the deadline you missed, the presentation you screwed up... none of it matters! People will remember you for the way you conducted yourself: your degree of honesty, your ability to make tough decisions seem logical, your willingness to take one for the team.

We all want to win, make some friends along the way, and to finish the game with our heads high!

Don't Forget to Remember!


* Photos provided by Jennifer Ricketts -

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Awesome Sauce

The Super Bowl is upon us. There are many Championships in American sports but none measure up to the pageantry of the Super Bowl. In this championship, as in other sports, there are people who find a way to win. They may not be the most talented or best-practiced, they have an inherent ability to seize the moment.

Which poses the question:
Can the heart of a champion be transplanted?

Heck yes it can!

In the moment when the game is on the line the most daunting opponent we face is ourselves. Each contest reaches a turning point where you've worn down your opponent, discovered their weakness, or realized that you want it more than they do. Then the game is yours and there is nothing they can do about it!!!

Awesome Sauce Recipe:
1 part preparation
1 part execution
2 parts perseverance

Know Your Audience
Sales people have a terribly difficult job. I know we all want to assume that the guys and girls in the fancy suits make all the money while we do all the work. So, I'll ask you this... when was the last time someone hung up the phone on you? How did that feel? There is not a more helpless feeling than having your stream of thought silenced by a dial tone. Try that anguish 100 times... in one day. Daunting to say the least.

The art of selling has changed. It is not a negotiation or a pitch... now more than ever sales people are called upon to find a solution to an unmet need. There is no convincing necessary. Your clients have taken the same training you have by simply reading the Internet. Time to figure out how to problem solve.

Information Without Implementation...
A failure I consistently see in Organizational Development is the collection of information without action planning. Many organizations issue surveys without follow through on the input received. The employees who go above and beyond the call of duty often give up because their extra effort only creates unnecessary exposure. Another write off in the Executive playbook: ask for the sake of asking so people feel like they have a slice of the pie.

Fortunately, you are in control of your own destiny. You have the ability to learn from your mistakes, search out alternative forms of thought leadership, and to find mentors in the world. Any job can be great and you can be massively successful in any position. If the tools are not given to you, create them yourself!

Get Through The Dip  
Seth Godin's book "The Dip" brings attention to an elephant we all see in the waiting room. Sales people are called upon to be fearless. Still, our efforts are often applauded without results. Godin points out that most of us give up right before the momentum swings.

Example: People are prone to respond to a voice message after 6 tries. Most sales people stop calling after leaving 4 messages. Similar to the way organizations schedule meetings about meetings, calling people for the sake of being active is a waste of effort.

Formality in business is fading. Suits are gathering dust, time in the office has given way to remote communication streams, the silos are fading, and we are now all sitting on the same side of the table. The guess work is gone. Problems need to be solved.

Things have been simplified: know what your customer needs, design something totally unique and do not give up until you've found a way to change the world.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Hypocritical Oath

The Bay Area has been flooded with calls, blogs, and social media posts over the last few days. It appears Richard Sherman has a big mouth...?

Who Cares!

Let's be honest: the real reason 49er fans are upset is because their team lost in dramatic fashion. Sports are a divine metaphor for life and we take these moments incredibly personally. I get it. It could be worse niner fans, you could be a Raider fan like me.'ve got that going for you!

I recall a playoff baseball game in which Derek Lowe was criticized for pumping his fist after a strike out. Players are always frowned upon for excessive celebration. There are a million 40 year olds and twice as many 60 year olds who forget how they acted when they were younger. Many have never won a championship, some never even played a sport. They speak of a code that doesn't exist. The celebration only hurts when you lose, and believe me, I know that hurt.

Don't pretend you wouldn't have applauded your guy for his "enthusiasm in the moment" if the scoreboard were flipped.

It takes an extraordinary amount of self-confidence to be great, if you don't get it, you don't have it!

Dry & Secure 
I have always lived by a simple vision statement:
Be humble in victory and accountable in defeat!!!

...easy for me to say...

There is nothing more important than self-confidence. If you go into a game with the pretension that you are going to lose, you should stay home. The miracle of living is that the future holds no certainty. In sports more than anything, we have a rare glimpse at the power of the human spirit. Every once in a while someone who is more talented and/or better practiced loses to someone who wants it more. Glory can only result when those who are assumed better are knocked off of their pedestal. Such a contest makes everyone better.

Discomfort Gives Birth to Change
The great Steve Jobs was notorious for throwing fits when things at Apple were seemingly at their finest. Mr. Jobs admitted that "fine" was totally unacceptable. The moment you get comfortable, you start moving backward.

Only you know if you have done everything you could have today to make the world a better place.

To the women and men who hit their pillows with utter exhaustion tonight, I salute you.

The rest of you who are making excuses about the company you work for, the leadership, or your faulty something about it!

No More Hiding
Almost every conversation I have with Human Resources professionals begins disingenuous in our polite workforce management vision.

Millions of people will retire in the next 5 years...
are they passing along their knowledge or protecting their asses for another 36 months of pay checks?

Millions of people will be taking on leadership positions for which they are not qualified...
why do we assume great individual contributors will be good leaders?

Millions of people are entering the workforce in the next 5 years....
why are we pretending to understand THEIR preferences and not just issuing challenges to our entire workforce?

In Summation:
A man grew up in one of the most violent neighborhoods in America, survived to graduate high school, and ultimately received a degree from Stanford University.... Inspiring! Does he not reserve the right to be proud?

His name is Richard Sherman. You know nothing about him.... you're just mad your team lost.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The End Of An Era

6 years ago I left the world of technology sales to join the “employee recognition” industry. At the time, trophy manufacturers and fulfillment houses were giving prizes to people for their organizational tenure. Much in the way one receives a class ring, employees were rewarded a milestone award that was centric to their company brand. These mementos served as badges of honor to certain employees. Then technology took over.

Things have changed! Adults no longer want prizes.
So, the terminology of Employee Recognition became Employee Engagement. To be merely recognized is no longer enough, we want to engage! Engagement is an active process whereas recognition is synonymous with a stamp on the hand for showing up. Indeed the process has become far more important than the prize.
Nowadays everyone has advice as to how to “build a culture of recognition”. Newsflash: there is no such thing as a culture that is built on recognition. You cannot create transformation from a series of transactions.  
Manufacturers started hiring Marketers to pretend their prizes engaged employees; those-the-wiser yawned. Then there was the trend of assigning the Engagement perspective to a specific function within the organizational hierarchy...
Multiple Choice Quiz:
a.      Engagement is the Executive’s responsibility?

b.      Engagement is the Line Manager’s duty?

c.        Individual contributors determine the level of Engagement?
Extended explanation: there is not a trophy that will intrigue one to care more or less about their company.
1.      It is incumbent upon HR and Line Mangers alike to find extraordinary talent…this is a “word of mouth” exercise. Recruiting is not a process of submitting a resume into an ATS.

2.      Managers should value their employee’s future over their own.

3.      Executives very seldom create culture.
      Talent Matters Most
My friend, Steve Boese, wrote an excellent post the other day equating winning to the caliber of talent. As a person who coaches 5 year old girls soccer – I concur. I can create a game plan and yell all I want, but if the other team has superior talent, we’re toast. This absolutely applies in corporate culture.

The characteristics of supreme individual contributors:
  1. 1. They are self-focused
  2. 2. They always crush their number
      3. Their process is immeasurably awesome

Organizations screw up in three areas when it comes to managing extraordinary talent:
1.      They over-manage superstars

2.      They prop up individual stand outs as organizational leaders

3.      They promote individuals to management positions based only on their results
Your best individual performers will not always be your best managers. So, why do you put them in front of job candidates and pretend they are models of organizational efficiency? Putting an all star candidate in front of  your top sales person does not increase their likelihood of joining your company.
A business development professional who is responsible for 20% of your new business revenue didn’t get there by being nice. They are (understandably) self-centered and they are probably better at promoting themselves than promoting your company.

Action Is Better Than Talk

As we enter 2014, organizations face a certain tragedy:
The first response was having Baby Boomers write and present about the entitlement of Millennials…. another failed HR strategy.
The wave of succession planning is shifting. All star talent is no longer loyal, no one stays with a company for more than 5 years, and a trophy for 18,200 hours of effort is an insult!
The smart line managers are embracing the Millennial lifestyle, not pretending to deter it. 
Things to Consider: 
·         A superstar performer can start her own company for $20,000.

·         Any of your competitors will pay your top performer as much as you are to change companies.

·         Loyalty is dead.
The recession is over, individual contributors have more options than ever. Finding extraordinary talent is now less important than off-boarding dead weight.

The Table is Full!!!

Executives get paid to do many things. Promoting your culture is not at the top of their list. 
Executives are in charge of keeping the doors open, not engaging your employees. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
It’s 2014 and it’s time to grow up:
  • Generations in the workplace are shifting.
  • Technology is streamlining efficiency. 
  • The “talent gap” applies to employees who have outstayed their welcome.
Don’t Forget to Remember!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why New Year's Resolutions Don't Work

It's noon on January 1st: Football is on and I have the day off work.... time to break all my New Year's Resolutions (12 hours after I set them). Am I a weak willed person? Hardly. Putting a new calendar on the wall just doesn't present validation for change.

The behavioral economics theory of the Say/Do Gap shows us that mundane commitments (such as New Year's Resolutions) do not provoke our emotional intelligence. Jonathan Haidt used the metaphor of a Mahout riding an elephant to exemplify our motivation. These studies showcasing that our motivation is, in fact:

23% Reason

77% Emotion

Dan Ariely digs deeper into these concepts in his book, Predictably Irrational. Ariely points out that we believe we rationalize ourselves through every decision. More often, emotion overrides the mind creating a knee jerk reaction (for better or worse).

I am far from a Behavioral Scientist but I do know that the heart is bigger than the brain when it comes to life commitments. A New Year or even The Lenten Season are not enough to improve my workout regimen. If I have a heart attack, however, you can bet I'd make some adjustments.

The real questions we face are not those of resolutions but life changes. We can commit to a goal for a limited time, achieve it, and learn very little. Did you hit your financial goal in 2013? Great! Will you stay motivated to double your income in 2014 or will you stop to smell the roses and fall back? Indeed, if our heart isn't in it, our brain will come up with a reason not to change.

Separating Preference from Necessity
So you quit eating chocolate for the first 3 months of the year, well done! What came of it? You lost 5 pounds and saved yourself $90. Big whoop. In the process you may have become irritable to the point that your production at work fell 20% due to stress and mental fatigue.

I don't know the exact statistics but most people who go on resolution driven diets gain the weight back. In contrast, if an alcoholic realizes that their habit is a disease and seek proper help, they have a far greater chance of saving their life.

What Really Matters?
In goal setting for the new year will you look at what was and develop a metric for improving upon it? Is not the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Look not at simple flaws as a means to employ methods for short term correction. Change your life because you want to effect the world (not just yourself). Humanity is collective.

Fear of Inability Only Halts Achievement
If we are motivated by fear, we will do just enough to stay on task. This is why most managers suck at their jobs and why mundane goal setting achieves nothing.

You can resign yourself to try to change... or you can vow that every day you are going to force yourself to be uncomfortable. In order to instill real change you have to turn a decision into a skill set, commit yourself to it, and formalize a behavior change. Sound difficult? Good!

Do the hard work!

Start something that matters!

Commit to be better than any who has ever lived!

Evolve to be different, not better than what was!

Fight mediocrity!

Be courageous!

Don't Forget to Remember!