Tag Archives: Lead

Let it or Make it?

WatchandKeys

I’m a pretty laid back guy.  When things need to get done though, I make them happen instead of let them happen.  Yesterday one of my buddies said, “man, things are pretty slow today.”  Things are slow because we are allowing them to be slow.

To make things happen one must:

  • Learn the system and identify slack points and remove them.
  • Meet the people involved, especially decision makers, address their concerns directly and mitigate.
  • Drive the timeline.  When will this step be completed?  What’s next?  Warm up the next step.
  • Congratulate accomplishments.
  • Keep the bosses excited so you can ensure resources and support.
  • Be ready, each ‘thing’ made happened opens up the possibility for another.

If you let things happen you wait for things to come to you.  You avoid pressuring the system, your peers, subordinates or superiors.

It doesn’t matter if you work at McDonalds, Google or the White House.  Stop waiting for someone to hand you a purpose and make things happen, time is running out.

Just Stop Talking

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Remember the other day’s post about listening? You can listen while you talk too, in fact, I recommend it.

Watch the audience or the person you’re talking to. Listen to their body language and comment.

It should be clear if they are getting it or not. If it’s not clear, ask.

If there not getting it, start again, reframe your point and see if they catch on.

If they still don’t get it or just don’t care about what you’re saying, stop. Please, just stop.

Your prudence now will pay dividends later. People will see you and say, “See that guy? He doesn’t have diarrhea mouth.”

They might not say that but they might be more receptive to listening to you later.

Courtesy: http://www.improbable.com/2009/11/29/please-stop-im-bored-mug/

Courtesy: http://www.improbable.com/2009/11/29/please-stop-im-bored-mug/

You think I’m listening because I care?

4861394-Golden_Gate_Bridge_San_Francisco

The truth is I do care.  But, I’m also listening for selfish reasons.

I’m looking for a bridge that I need to use to get you to where I need you to be.

While at work, much of the time I have an agenda.  I need to get things done, I need a resource, support or a decision.  My talking points are always in my back pocket.

When I’m listening to you I’m getting to know you more.  I appreciate you and your deal, whatever that is.  At some point during your talking you will present an opportunity for me.  An opportunity to bridge to my agenda.

I will use what you are talking about to insert some of my talking points.  You will see that I was listening (because I referenced what you just said) and feel heard.  You’ll be happy.  You might even listen to me.

I care about what you are saying.  I also care about what I need to say.

Thanks for listening.

The Toothpaste Presentation


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I just need some toothpaste.  There are so many choices.  The toothpaste aisle is a dark fluoride forest and I don’t have a map (or fresh breath).

Whitening, Tarter Control, All in One, Mouthwash Combo.  ProHealth?  I thought they were all pro-health?

Worse yet, there are a different set of choices than last time I had to buy toothpaste.  Apparently, 9 of 10 dentists recommend them all.

Why can’t I just find fucking toothpaste?  The kind that cleans your teeth.

You can do the same thing at work, when you’re talking.  If you don’t plan ahead you can give your audience a confusing menu of ideas clouding their understanding of the point you’re trying to make.

Ask yourself:  What’s your brief about?  Why is what your talking about an issue and/or  what do you want from your audience?  What will be solved by getting what you want?

Don’t give your audience too many choices, give them what they need to make the decision and leave.  They have other shit to do like choose toothpaste.

Highway confessions; I ran over that sign

This sign has directed its last patron

So I had a bit of a rough weekend in terms of driving.  I had a hitch mounted cargo carrier on the back of my jeep to haul camping supplies.  I guess I had a hard time judging distances, I blame the heat.

I hit two things:  I ran down a fast food joint’s sign and bumped someones SUV in the parking lot.  There’s a difference.

When I bumped the guy’s car, I felt really bad.  There was barely any damage, a small dent in the rubber probably on its way to popping back out.  I stayed out in the parking lot and waited until he came out of the store and explained what happened and apologized.  He looked at the bump briefly and agreed that it was too small to care about.  We went on our way.

I stopped briefly when I cut a turn too hard and clipped the fast food sign.  It made an awful sound.  Not a full stop, a rolling stop really.  I’m pretty sure the sign was already down and I just finished the job, it was rusty and seemingly sheered off at the base.  I didn’t feel bad though.  As a matter of fact, I was more concerned with any damage to my jeep and wondering why they chose such a poor place for a sign.  Honestly, I laughed  hardily as I drove down the highway, trading jokes with my wife about the situation and my impending arrest.

Here’s what separates the two incidents:

I identified with the SUV owner, even though I’d never met him.  He is a person and deserves to know that his car was bumped.  I was prepared to pay for any damage caused because I wanted to do right by him.

This fast food place is a nameless and faceless corporation.  Their parking lot was unkept and cared about me only enough to get me out of their drive through line.

The fix?

Chain stores need to identify themselves using their people.  Managers should have their pictures up and meet customers.  Clerks should make a bit of small talk and use their names.  It’s an easy fix really and customers will come back because they were treated like people BY people.  It’s not that corporations need to increase the number of self reporting sign runner overs, they need to increase the customer return rate.  Even corporations can be small town shops.

If I had met Bill the manager or even knew his name I may have let them know that I ran their sign over.  I might mention to him that it was really poorly placed though.

Fried dough with sugar; who does it better? The hedgehog does.

I grew up on Long Island.   We had Dunkin’ Donuts.  I have fond memories of my Mom bringing home a dozen donuts or stopping by for a quick Boston Creme before we got on the train.  It was good.

Dunkin Donuts makes the best donuts and coffee on the planet.

Dunkin Donuts makes the best donuts and coffee on the planet.

DUNKIN DONUTS MAKES THE BEST COFFEE AND DONUTS ON THE PLANET!

Dunkin Donuts makes sandwiches.  Shitty ones.  Dunkin Donuts makes…well, they have ice cream stores attached to them now.  They make all kinds of garbage.  Check out the front page of their website:  www.dunkindonuts.com

They lost their brand.

What if, for the last several years, they just refined and built on to the fact that they make the best coffee and donuts on the planet?  Whether or not its true doesn’t matter; it can be true.

What if for the past several years they concentrated on just coffee and donuts, that perfect combo and left the rest to fast food joints or other, lesser establishments?

The Dunkin Donuts brand would be a lot better off.  Maybe they would make less money in the short term, but in the long term, they could forever seal their fate as the best coffee and donuts on the planet.

I walk into Starbucks and ask the bubbly chick what she does and she says she is a barrista.  She makes coffee, oh yeah, they have some other stuff too.

When I walk into Dunkin Donuts the dude isn’t sure what he does, he makes ice cream sundaes, terrible sandwiches, some  ice cream cakes, breakfast burritos and oh yeah, donuts too.

It’s sad really.

It all goes back to the hedgehog concept.  To be truly successful, you should:

1.  Determine where your passion is.

2.  Determine what you CAN be the best at.

3.  Determine what drives your profit engine.

Jim Collins, author of the Good to Great series describes it in video here:

The Hedgehog Concept

You can apply this anywhere.  Apply it to your life.  Apply it to your office.  There is something that you are passionate about, something that you can be the best at, and maybe it will even pay the bills…if not, maybe it should.  Whatever you choose should not be breakfast burritos, though.

Customer Service – What get’s it done?

The gym I go to has a great front desk staff.

Their greetings are strong when I come in, smiles big, very receptive to the few requests I’ve had and bid a great farewell when I leave.

Every time, all of them.

Most of the other staff seem to be on board as well.

So what is it?

Does American Family Fitness pay really well?  Do they just hire the right twenty somethings?  Are they consistently trained and managed?

I’m not sure exactly but what I am sure of is that the culture is right.

Regardless of hiring practices, pay or training models the culture set by the leadership creates the environment for success…or failure.

In my experience culture is determined through time by communicating with your peeps often, by being forthright with standards and expectations and, most importantly, by explaining “why.”  Explaining why means explaining to the staff the enduring end-sate, the objective, the second or third desired effect.

Your people are smart and will help you to your goal; if they know what it is (exactly) and you allow them to.

Leaders need to take some time to reflect, communicate and observe; this, done over time, will start an organization on an enduring path to success – it will create the right culture.

Answering lots of email doesn’t.

Romeo Dance Cheetah – US Air Guitar Champion

He’s the best at what he does; can you be the best at what you do?

A few weeks ago I met this dude, stage name: Romeo Dance Cheetah.  He is a marketing guy who specializes in video production.  Pretty good guy it seems.

His boss mentioned that he was a national air guitar champion while we were having lunch.  After thinking about it, I was impressed.

He is the best in our country at what he does.  He trained, he performed and he won.  He went on to the international championship (I think in Amsterdam) but was out gunned.

Not everyone can be the best but we can try.  Maybe instead of trying to be the best and falling short, we should spend time trying to find out what we can be the best at, and then do it.

Either way, accept your lot or try to be the best, your choice.

My hats off to you Romeo Dance Cheetah.

Dirty Work

I change the oil in my Jeep. You should change your car’s oil. There are a bunch of reasons to do it but mostly it feels good inside.

I’m no handy man, so stay with me here. You can do this too.

There is something about working on a car. Sure, it’s easy and fast to pay for basic maintenance but there is nothing rewarding about leaving Jiffy Lube after the barely trained tech has explained the hundreds of dollars of items you should have taken but opted not to. He’s only “recommending” that stuff because the computer told him to. I guess they vacuum your floors right?

You’re just going to have to trust me on the intrinsic value of breaking a warm oil plug on a cold winter’s day; I can’t find the words to explain it.

These are some real factors:

Its easy: Check it out on youtube. Its easier than changing a diaper. Almost all cars are the same and it requires hardly any tools. Perhaps you are scared, don’t be Luke, let the internet show you the way.

It’s family time: It’s damn good for the wife and kids to see you doing something manly besides stare at the TV screen. The kids also get to see a machine, they see that more goes into a car than a DVD player and whatever mom does up front. Kids need to see that machines make things work.

Its a gateway drug: Changing your oil won’t save you money. You break about even once you invest the initial $20 or so for tools. Once you change your oil a few times, your confidence will rise leading you to other equally easy jobs. This weekend I changed my brake pads and rotors, I saved about $200 (compared to any shop) and it cost me about 2 hours. Last month I changed my differential fluids and transfer case, another $200 savings.

Easy Talking Point: Car maintenance makes great conversation. A lot of guys are curious but afraid to ask. Be their guide at the water cooler. Show them that they can since you did.

Peace: The time spent working on jobs like this is stress free and relaxing. I hang out under my Jeep with some music in the background while I sort through the world’s toughest issues. This is my day at the spa.

Try it. Don’t be afraid. Just do it once. The satsifaction you’ll get when you start it back up then examine the dip stick is immeasurable (that’s what she said).

2 hours and barely any know how made my weekend a great one.

Environmental Hazards

A lesson in management by Dr Drew:

This morning I forgot my headphones. I usually zone out to Pandora Radio, Rage Against the Machine mix turned just loud enough to drown out the sounds around me, not this morning.
For some reason at 5 a.m. the gym sound system was rocking some Bob and Sheri, the TVs that surround the place are set to Dr Drew, CNN, a local televangalistic infomercial and sports. Dr Drew is the only one we can hear.

This morning on Dr Drew we enjoyed a segment about a woman who paid $50K to have her dog cloned. What the fuck has happened to us? Why is this on TV at the gym? Why is this on TV anywhere. Friends, its not a in-depth documentary on cloning, stem cell research and the like. No. Its about ‘Double Trouble’ the dog who has been cloned for a common man’s year’s salary. The woman sits on the floor of the studio while the dog curls up comfortably in a director’s chair.

Bob and Sheri have asked our nation’s population to call in and explain the stupidest things they’ve done. Callers, please note that whatever you say on this nationally syndicated radio show will be second (on the stupid scale) to the fact that you called Bob and Sheri to tell them about it. Between exercises I learned what happens to a woman’s face when a bottle rocket is shot from her mouth.

The lesson: The reason this shit was on at the gym was due to a few things.
1. No manager that has ever exercised has ever been to that gym during these peak hours. Leaders have to be places. What goes unchecked, goes undone.
2. Perhaps no one is in charge of changing the channels on the TV, it’s someone else’s responsibility (or no one’s). Every responsibility has to have a name attached to it. Perhaps the efforts will be shared but the responsibility lies with a real person. Bill, you’re in charge of the lights and the TV.
3. Customers have no easy feedback mechanism. You want your place to be better? Listen to your customers. You want your customers to tell you about your place? Ask them and make it so easy for them to tell you it makes them uncomfortable. The right message is delivered just by asking.

So, tell me how great this post it. I really, really want to know. Its easy, just click on the ‘comment’ button and fire away, send me an email if you prefer, no matter what I want your feedback. Bill, make sure you are paying attention to the TV, Ill be checking in on you tomorrow.