Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thing 1 and Thing 2

As a leader, it is important to look at Thanksgiving in a different light.  True leaders, in my opinion, have been blessed with a gift.  A gift that needs to continually give to others. 

I recently finished reading a book entitled The Weekly Conversation by Brian Souza.  As I read through this very engaging story, I realized that every moment is a coachable moment.  Too often we as leaders are looking for the "right time" to have a key discussion with a peer, team member, or even a manager we report to.  There is no right or wrong time to have that discussion.  There are only those discussions or conversations that do not occur because of the "what if". 

I had a conversation with one of my sons (Thing 2 or T2) about his schoolwork.  He is consistently a very strong student and work hard.  He was telling me about one of his classes where they were having a group discussion and his thoughts on a topic were different than his classmates.  He said that he chose not to speak up.  At that point, it didn't matter for me about the grade, but rather the "why" he chose not to share his perspective. 

As we discussed a little more, I wanted to share with him that regardless of a grade, in order to be successful in life, he needs to be willing to speak his mind and support his position with a solid argument.  At the same time, he needs to be willing to listen to others as well.  I have read some of what he has written for his classes, and it is solid.  This was my opportunity to impart some of my experience on him that communication is not one sided.  It needs to be an engagement of differing opinions, but a common understanding and respect for others perspectives.  Too often, conversations do not occur for precisely that last reason.

Now, my other son (Thing 1) will argue a point until the cows come home.  This too can be detrimental to open communication as no one wants a discussion to be monopolized.  He is very emphatic about his beliefs and will engage in a conversation on any topic with anyone at any time.  As I have observed him with his peer group from afar, he does actively listen, but will always try and persuade you to his position. 

Back to the book.  Having a conversation should be a natural occurrence.  Whether you are Thing 1 or Thing 2 in how you approach conversations, the key is that you are willing to engage in thoughtful dialogue as a leader.  Be open to others perspectives and be a consummate listener and learner.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Humble Shoes

It is the time of year where I become very reflective about a lot of things.  It is a time to give thanks and to remember the sacrifices of others.  It is a time to give more of yourself for those around you. 

I have a pair of sneakers that I call my "Humble Shoes".  They are a pair of white with black logos and lettering Avia's.  These sneakers have holes in both sides of the toes from being the wrong width, and over a period of a couple of months the leather gave way.  These are very comfortable for me. 

I call them my Humble Shoes because I am not a wealthy person, but I can usually afford to buy myself a pair of sneakers without holes in them.  They are my Humble Shoes because they keep me grounded.

I thought about these shoes when I was on a recent business trip and as my bosses and I were at a business dinner with a prospective vendor, there was a table of 14 men and women having a dinner.  What was interesting about this group was the story that a member of the group told us as they were taking a picture of the table.  This group of 70 somethings were laughing, reminiscing, and enjoying each others company.  They men of the group were all part of the same company stationed overseas pre-Viet Nam, but post Korean Conflict.  The oldest of the group was a gentleman in a wheel chair, he was their commanding officer.  Each year, this group would get together, and as it was harder for the groups Commander to travel, they all decided to travel to him and his wife each year just to stay in touch.  Interestingly, the men and women of this group were actually 7 married couples that had been married for over 50 years each.  WOW!!

After being inspired by this group, I realized how much these men sacrificed over the years.  Some were more successful than others, but they valued the relationships they forged 50+ years ago.

My Humble Shoes keep me reminded that success comes only after sacrifice.  Comfort comes from years of being uncomfortable and learning from mistakes. 

At this time of year, I look around at how commercial the holiday season is.  I am a fan of the lights and music, don't get me wrong, however, you have to remain grounded and remember that there are people around you that are struggling each day.  Some you would never expect have struggles.  Treat people with respect and dignity at all times.

My Humble Shoes keep me humble regardless of personal or professional success.  Like those Veterans who served our country and worked hard to be able to enjoy their lives with their spouses, remember those who struggle and persevere through adversity.

Life is not easy, stay humble. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bosses Day Thank You's!

Today is Bosses Day!  While not a very important day (not a national holiday), it is a humbling day for bosses, in my opinion.  It is important for each leader, not boss, to remember where they came from and who our influences were as we increased our levels of responsibility. 

So, today, I want to recognize some of my Bosses with a short sentence or two on how they influenced me.

John Sprague - Taught me the importance of "WORK" and focus, and most importantly responsibility.
Jon Hobble - Taught me how to take a chance and "go for it"!  If I didn't listen to Jon, I wouldn't have taken my first plunge into leadership.
Rick Simmons - Taught me about the importance of being tenacious and driven in the workplace.
Roger Sedlacek - Made me first think about leadership, not management.  I still find myself asking the question, am I people leader, or a technical leader?
Lee Ervin - A mentor to me.  Taught me the importance of integrity in results.
Erica Mortenson - At the end of the day, all people will remember is a name and is your name associated with positive or negative thoughts.  Erica reported up to me but this conversation has resonated with me for years.
Angela Dossey - A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me how to be human at work and never forget where you came from.  Through Angela, I realized the importance of having fun at work and not to sweat the small stuff.  "Is it a hill worth dying on?
Sean Dickson - A mentor and fellow Jayhawk!  Taught me the importance of relationships from the aspect that I work in a small, but large industry, and everyone knows everyone. 
Terence Hayes - A mentor, and a friend.  Taught me the importance of humility in the workplace.  Success is not about the individual but about the team that worked together to achieve it.  Through Terence I really learned the difference between leadership and management.  Always inspect what is expected!
Shelia Dunlap - A friend, and a mentor.  Through Shelia I have started to recognize my potential as a leader.  Through Shelia, I have realized that credit is not as important as execution.  Take the time to inspire others to reach their potential.

There are many others that I have had the privilege to work with and for.  Remember, as a leader, each of us have an impact on those around us, both directly and indirectly.  Take the time each day to recognize the impact of your actions on others.

Have fun, work hard, enjoy life!  Happy Bosses Day!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Musical observation

I am by no means a musical expert.  Just getting that out on the table to begin with.  I enjoy listening to music and probably over thinking the motivation behind the words, which is the fodder for this post.

As many with people who have to do any type of vehicle travel, I usually have my XM radio stations that I naturally gravitate towards.  I enjoy listening to the decade stations, country music, classic rock, new age music, pop, hip-hop, etc.  I have a varied listening palate that is usually driven by my mood at the time.  As I have spent close to 40 hours in my vehicle over the past week, I have found myself listening more to differences in the decades of popular music and, as a history major in college, can see how changes in society have manifested itself in the music.

Many have researched and gotten into the "weeds" of the driving influences behind the music.  That's not where I am going with my comments.

In my opinion, many problems we have in society today are as a result of individual greed and the entitlements associated with technology.  Music back when I was growing up spoke more about feelings and making things better tomorrow than they are today.  An example of this is in my High School class song, "Don't Stop" by Fleetwood Mac.  Whenever I hear this song, I am reminded that life is a process, and as long as you keep plugging away, good things will happen. 

Music should be motivational and inspirational.  I have a few songs that really inspire me and motivate me.  It's the words, and through the years words have evolved from enjoying people, life, relationships and positive messages to a more negative overtone. 

I can say that I have probably become my father, by making my kids listen to music from earlier generations, and then forcing them to listening to me sing (which I couldn't carry a note in a bucket). 

Maybe I am feeling a little nostalgic this weekend, as this is my High School 25th reunion weekend.  It is important that a person never forgets where they come from.  Even though I won't be attending the reunion, reflecting back on my graduating class, I always stay grounded.

What music motivates you?  Comments are always welcome!

Happy 25th NHS Class of '87!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Morale and Motivation

What is the source of motivation?

Can motivation be instilled, or is it something that individually control?

In workplaces today, you may hear comments that morale is down, what is the leadership going to do improve morale?  I don't see this is a leadership issue, but more as an individual issue.  The part of morale that can be improved through leadership is when it comes to influencing a positive culture where team members are self motivated and feel valued.

As a leader, the right question that should be asked of your team is what motivates people individually in the workplace?  Why do people come to work everyday, and what drives them to continue to give 100% each day?  If, as a leader you are having those types of one on one conversations with your team, regardless of the level, you are well on your way to having positive and engaged morale within the workplace. 

In my environment, I feel very disconnected from what is going on when I have those days that I am behind closed doors.  It's as important for me to be out with team seeing what is working, or not working for them; coaching them when the opportunity presents itself; and if nothing else just having informal conversations about what is going on with people individually. 

It is important that individuals feel connected with all levels of leadership, maybe not on a personal level, but at least on a genuine, interpersonal level.  It is important to remember where we came from in the workplace, and how we can use our experiences to mentor others for future success.  I have found that these connections are key to keeping morale positive, and individuals motivated to do their very best.

By nature, I am huge introvert, although, most that interact with me will wholeheartedly disagree.  If you invest connecting with people where they want you to connect with them, trusting relationships occur.  It is incumbent on us as leaders to develop and maintain those trusting relationships on a daily basis to ensure a positive culture exists.  When the culture is positive, morale is high and self motivation is increased.  People want to contribute more as a result.

The best environments are where team members feel that they "get" to come work and "want" to be part of something larger than themselves.  I love the fact that I "get" to go to work everyday, because I am motivated to have a positive impact on others everyday!

Have a great week!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Problem in K-12 Education

The problem of K-12 education is something that is near and dear to me.  As a parent, as a member of the business community, and as the spouse of an educator, it is apparent to me that the problem in the classroom is what is allowed to occur outside of the classroom. 

It is not what is going on with students in their home life, but rather how the educational system is more concerned about data, scores, and labels.  As a result, school districts are focused more on standardized tests, rather than truly educating, teaching, and mentoring the next generation.

As I was growing up, you always heard of teachers speaking of the student teaching they had done, what their experiences were, and how they wanted to be teachers.  Today, there are more adults in the classroom and in administration that have never learned how to teach, and may not truly have the passion for teaching.  They are instructors as they are solely focused on test results. 

A teacher in my opinion, is an individual that truly has a passion for her students and can think out of the box to facilitate the learning process.  Teachers understand that true education is created when creativity is nurtured and when small successes are celebrated.  Teachers focus on the student as an individual learner, not as a part of the population in her class that did not pass the standardized test.

We need to get back to the basics in our requirements for teachers.  They need to understand what they are getting into when they agree to become a classroom teacher.  It is not an easy job, it is one of the most thankless jobs, but one that has more scrutiny in this country than most of our careers.  We should focus less on teacher accountability for test scores, and more on teacher responsibility in the classroom.  It is not an 8-3:30 job with summers off.  Teachers must, in my opinion, have coursework in how to educate and reach students, not just have a specific degree.  Instructors can be used in the business world, we need teachers, or rather educators in the classroom.

The way to improve K-12 education is to make it a requirement that our classroom teachers have actual documented teaching experience.  In other professions, we would not allow a surgeon to become licensed after only receiving an undergraduate degree in biology.  Or an attorney to become licensed because they have a liberal arts degree.  We should have the same expectation of for the teaching profession. 

Not every student is going to become an Nobel Prize winner, and not all students want to learn.  But at least create an environment where they are truly being educated rather than being labeled by their test scores.

There are a ton of highly qualified teachers with experience and passion for their students, unfortunately, in my opinion, they represent the minority in the profession.

That's my rant for now.....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Importance of Culture

Each work week, we each of us spend at least one-third of the weeks hours at our offices, for those of us that do not work remotely.  What we tend to do is forge strong relationships with our co-workers and get to know each of them personally, not just professionally.

In each of our roles, there are some team members that are innovators, motivators, individual contributors, and leaders.  The glue that bonds all of these people together and keeps them focused and wanting to return each day is not the paycheck (although that does help).  The bonding agent is the culture of the workplace.

As a leader, it is important to understand the cultural aspects of what makes a success team within an organization.  In call centers I have worked in, I have seen where those that can hit high numbers, were not always the best fit for other teams.  I am believer that if you can create a culture, and hire team members that embody the cultural aspects of the environment, the results will take care of themselves. 

As I have talked about in other posts, it is like a peer of mine reminded me about the movie Finding Nemo.  If you remember towards the end of the movie, when the fish begin swimming in the same direction, they are finally freed from the net.  Not one fish individually was able to become freed on their own, however, all the fish working together were able to become freed.  Having a common goal makes teams very effective.  Are you applying the Nemo Principle to your hiring practices?  Are you hiring those individuals that are team goal focused?  Are your front line leaders bought into this concept?  Are you compensating and rewarding your cultural values?

Developing the culture is a daily challenge for all leaders and one that will require constant work.  Once you get it where you think it needs to be, you will need to make adjustments, but keep your cultural beliefs at the core of your decisions.  In buying into this concept, your results will take care of themselves.  Attrition will be lower, as team members will not only hear that their perspectives matter, but they will see it in action.

Here is the first step...  Ask your teams what they like and dislike about their work environment.  Then ask them what they value in the ultimate work environment.  When you determine why they continue to spend one third of their week with you and their co-workers, you will begin having a stronger culture, and a stronger, more focused team.

Have a great week!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Be An Informed Consumer

Life is full of curve balls.

No, this is not a baseball metaphor for once, just a statement of truth.  All good intentions, at times have a way of not working out the way we plan for them to.  Does that mean we are making bad choices, or that we lack the experience to make the most informed choice?

I have been in the call center industry 22 years.  During that time, I and my teams have spoken with thousands of people who have run into to tough times.  When a person gets into this situation, are they asking the right questions of the company they are speaking with?  Even a better question, is the company asking the consumer the right questions for the best solution for the consumer?

At the end of the day, all of us run into bad situations.  Situations that we didn't plan on.  Situations that may or may not be of our own making.  When consumers turn to creditors or service providers for assistance, it is imperative that communication be a two way street.  Consumers must be open and honest about their situation, and creditors/servicers must be fair and honest with the consumer.  Often times, this two way communication does not occur, and as a result, the consumer is the one left frustrated and in a deeper situation than they were before.

I have spent much of my career in the debt collection arena, and what I have found is that regardless of the specific industry, auto finance, medical, mortgage, student loans, credit cards, there are always alternatives to defaulting.  The importance of consumers communicating with their creditors, will almost always result in arrangements being made.  As a consumer, remember the following.

  • Don't dodge creditor calls. 
  • Be specific about your situation.
  • Let the creditor know what you can do, versus what you can not do.
  • Understand any payment postponement options that are discussed and what you can do to mitigate standard monthly payment increases.
  • Be open to a two way conversation, and if the representative is not able to assist you, it is OK to ask for a supervisor or manager.
  • Don't expect that the creditor is going to do everything you ask.  Most industries are heavily regulated and must be consistent in the application of the rules.
  • Don't become upset at the messenger.  Often times the person representing the creditor is staying consistent with their policies.
  • At the end of the day, creditors and service providers WANT to assist their customers.
In my career, I have seen many situations where good people are going through a rough period.  As a creditor, I knew that if I was able to customer satisfaction one interaction at a time, I was creating a fan of the organization for life.

Creditors can not assist consumers who don't want to help themselves.  Communicate.  Communicate.  Communicate.  It is the best way to make improve a seemingly helpless situation.

Have a great week!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blogging...Not Blah Blah Blah

Communication is an evolutionary process.  It began as grunts, groans, and pictures drawn in caves, but has evolved into what we see today.  Plastered on billboards, on our phones, on television, in print, everywhere our senses are, there is some form of communication.  Blogging, is a form of communication as well.  Regardless of the medium, communication must be meaningful for the receiver.

I have recently been reading different blogs posted in a variety of different communities, and one thing has struck me.  If the message is not meaningful for the reader, it will not be read. 

Like any form of communication, there is a sender and a receiver.  The sender, must anticipate what their receivers are wanting to see and hear.  However, the sender does not always know and understand their audience.  They assume that the audience is listening, until their perception of their audience goes silent.  When do they go silent?  When all they hear is blah, blah, blah. 

Why do people blog?  For some it is an agenda they are attempting to further; or a product they are talking up; or a service they are selling.  There are a myriad of excellent writers in the blog world, and I know I have only read a handful of their work. Their work inspires my to continue writing with passion and conviction.  I enjoy reading about personal experiences that writers blog about.  I enjoy reading about how people have turned adversity into success, and now are able to provide better for themselves and their families. 

For me, blogging is more therapeutic. It allows me an opportunity to get thoughts out of my head and clears my mind when I have a busy schedule. It is good to know that every now and then, there are tidbits of advice, or information that a reader of my blog can glean. My intent is not to preach, but rather do a defrag of my mind (to put into more technical terms).

Take the time this week to read some one's blog and provide feedback on what they are writing about.  There will be blogs that you will read that are inspirational, and there will be others that you as the receiver of communication will hear...blah, blah, blah.

Have a great start to the week, and as always, if you have comments, please post them.  I will respond and I do appreciate you taking the time to read my ramblings.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The A&E Network has a reality show called, "Intervention". This show documents the lives of people dealing with a variety of substance abuse and how it effects their families and friends. Sometimes the intervention works out and the addict is rehabilitated, other times, it does not.

As anyone in leadership understands, it takes hard work, not an entitlement to attain all levels of leadership.  We work hard, and our expectation is that our hard work and tireless hours will lead to greater levels of responsibility and of course higher paychecks.  At what cost does this occur though?

As leaders, is being a workaholic an unhealthy addiction that affects our friendship and family relationships?  In other posts, I have discussed the importance of recharging your batteries, and having "me" time.  Doing both of these is paramount to having a work-life balance.  In doing so, you can become cured of workaholism and enjoy the little things in life.  Being a workaholic can be just as damaging and detrimental to the individual as any substance abuse can be.

I have read many articles over the years that those leaders that have a true work-life balance, they are typically more successful.  The reasons for this is they are able to clear their mind and focus at work, and at play.

How do you determine if you are a workaholic?  Ask your peers, family, friends.  If they truly care about you and your well being, they will be honest with you.  Give yourself an informal intervention. 

My name is Mark Brody.  I am a workaholic. 

Can you take the same first step?  If you can, better health, and healthier relationships are nearer than you think.

Take time this Labor Day Weekend to not think about work and enjoy doing something that you don't typically do. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

They're here... Millenials!!

Whether leaders of today like it or not, a new generation is making an impact on the workplace.  Millennials or Gen Y'ers are forcing leaders of today to change their traditionalist thoughts of work.  When I think about this topic, I remember a song from the Musical, Hair that starts off talking about the differences between 1948 and 1968.  The differences between generations are not a 2012 phenomenon, but one that have been facing generations for generations.

It is really a matter of perspective.  Each year since 1998, Beloit College publishes a mindset list for incoming Freshmen so educators can put into perspective their students reference points.  As leaders, we must keep these reference points in mind as well.

Regardless of our industry, change is inevitable.  It is how we as leaders cultivate the change within our industries to continue to make us more viable.  If we stifle innovation and thought, we begin to choke out progress.  As I sit here in a Starbucks writing this blog post on my laptop, I know that others may be reading this on any number of devices, from their phones, to tablets, to a home PC, to their TV.  These mediums were not available 30 years ago.  We have become, as a friend of mine has told me I am, urgency addicts.

Millennials are children of these innovations.  They expect instant communication and feedback.  The postal service will no longer work for them.  As leaders, we must be communicating constantly.  We need to have open doors and open minds, the later of which can be somewhat difficult at times.  As leaders we need to respect that today's millennial workplace is better educated with less experience.  This needs to be channeled properly to ensure cultures are cultivated that grow thought and execution in our verticals.

Take a look over the course of the next week with those in your office (or virtual office).  Are there opportunities available to open our minds to change?  Can you as a leader be more inclusive of new ideas and channel ideas into action.  Communication is the key as it is imperative to explain why change can not occur, or conversely why it is occurring.  Explaining the why and the why now into understandable terms across the organization makes progress and innovation much more attainable.

Have a great week!  Become a thought leader within your organization if you are not already one.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Recharge Your Batteries!

Are your batteries recharged?  This week, my batteries got recharged and I am motivated to do so much! 

I was in a Leadership Development course this week.  As most leaders, we have attended many of these sessions, but for some reason this one was exceptional! 

How were my batteries recharged?  Even though the content was similar to other leadership training, the timing of this was excellent, and I was able to attend with peers in our organizations' Sales vertical, as well as my intact Operational team.  This created a very interesting dynamic that really recharged my batteries to enhance collaborative team relationships in our workplace.

At the end of the day, it is important in any team environment, that you are able to see the challenges that others face in meeting their goals.  At the end of the day, we all face similar challenges, but approach the process from different angles.  It is important that in the workplace, leaders can bridge the cross-functional gap.  This is difficult to do when, when you don't have a lens into others silo's.

When you are having challenges with cross-functional peers, take the time to network through collaborative work groups.  In doing so, you will gain an understanding of their challenges, and they will better understand yours.  At the end of the day, the customer your organization serves will reap the benefits. 

Recharge the passion in your career.  Get back to the basics.  Most importantly, put your customers as your workplace priority by reducing time spent on non-customer focused topics.  Define the goals you need to attain with your customers, and don't just plan the work, but work the plan!

Thank you to the trainer for creating this experience, and for those in the class that really made this a valuable couple of days!

Have a great weekend!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Deep Thought

Remember if you will Saturday Night Live back in the late 1980's, early 1990's.  Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handy...  Today's blog is one of those such moments....

I rarely write in the first person, because I really feel that what I write about here is not about me, but about others.  However, my thoughts are different today.  I had a thought recently while I was having a meeting with a direct report of mine.  We were talking about customer engagement and how effective we were being not with our consumer engagement, but our clients that hired us. 

Since we have had very few requests come in from our clients, and our consumer ratings have been consistently strong, we wondered if there are issues beneath the surface.  Thus my recent thought, that "the messages often lost are in the words never spoken".

What this statement means will be interpretted by each person individually.  Here are my two cents.  As a vendor, service provider, retailer, etc., it is easy to get caught up with positive vibes when no one seems to be complaining, however, are you sure there is not something brewing beneath the surface?  Are you surveying your clients and touching base with them on a regular and ad hoc basis?  How do you know what their "ping" points are? 

On a personal level, are you connecting with those that really matter?  In any relationship, communication is the key to success, even at times where you may not personally feel like communicating.  My self-perception is that I am shy and introverted, although I have been told just the opposite in almost all facets of my life.  Communicating with others is something that I really struggle with, especially when it comes to "chit-chat".  My preference is to be more of a listener and analyzer to gain perspective.  However, in order to be successful in my line of work I have found that I need to proactively communicate with clients and staff.

I have found that by not being proactive in my communication, I have often lost messages in words that were never spoken.  There is the old saying that when one assumes...  I have learned never to assume.  People, personally and professionally, appreciate proactive communication more so than reactive communiction even if it's as simple as just checking in call.

The messages often lost are in the words never spoken.  Make it your goal to not lose a message today.  Then make it a goal for a week, then a month, and pretty soon it will become a habit, both personally, and professionally. 

Have a great week!  And feel free to communicate back with me!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Listen to be heard

I was watching an excerpt of an interview with Lebron James recently where he spoke about losing last years NBA finals was the worst experience of his career.  He said that experience he was able to turn into a positive situation by ensuring he grew from that experience.
Are athletes the only ones who can draw strength from setbacks and have those negative situations become catalysts for positive future outcomes?  It can be argued that each of us as individuals and as leaders can turn negative situations into positives, we just need to listen and understand how those situations came to be. 

It is easy for leaders to want to "tell", but the best leaders allow their teams to "experience".  It is our leadership responsibility to guide people through developing their own experiences, so they can be stronger performers and leaders in the future.

As in the case of an athlete, a coach can preach to a multi million dollar athlete all day, however, it is not until the inexperienced player becomes a seasoned and mature veteran that they really understand and respect the coaching they received early in their careers.  This is why many young, but talented players never are able to win a championship, and why many talented young professionals never reach their full potential. 

Spend more time over the course of the next week listening to your teams, and less time directing.  Hear what they have to say, and they will begin to hear more of what you have to say.  Listen to be heard.

Allowing for experiences is a process.  Allow the process to naturally occur, within a pre-defined framework of established feedback opportunities.  That feedback should be equally provided and needs to allow for a free flow of ideas based upon the experiences obtained since the last feedback opportunity.  Remember, to listen in order to be heard.

Have a great week...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inspect what you Expect

One of the greatest attributes of a leader is to be able to develop those whom are being led, as well as become a leader among their peers.  As a leader of people, it is drilled in that in order to be successful an effective leader must delegate.  What happens often times is that leaders delegate tasks, however, they do not effectively follow through to make sure assigned tasks are completed competently and on time. 

When assignments are not effectively executed, many leaders become managers, or even worse, micro managers because in their minds, they can not trust that when they delegate the task is able to be completed.  As a result, a leader can never truly develop their direct reports. 

It is important to remember that most tasks fail not as a result of the person the task is delegated to.  They typically fail because the assignment of the task has not been set up properly.  There are a myriad of leadership classes that leaders can learn the principles of effective delegation, but here are a few key reminders.

  • Provide background  - What is the problem that is needing to be resolved and why is it important to the organization?
  • Gain commitment - Is this a problem that has relevance and is not perceived as simply busy work.
  • Resources needed - Who and what is required for effective execution?
  • Time frame - When does the task need to be completed?
  • Checkpoints - When will there be progress reports?
  • Review - Once the task is completed, ensure that feedback is provided to the person that the task is delegated to.
Feedback throughout an assignment is essential, but in setting up the task assignment, it is important for the leader to allow two way feedback to all of the above points.  A sure way to see a task fail is if the person responsible for completing the task gets the feeling that they are flying blind.

By allowing mistakes and course corrections to occur, leaders develop others by providing them valuable experience and instilling confidence in others abilities.  At the end of the day, we always need to be thinking succession planning.  The best way to do that is by allowing others to drive results and providing individual feedback when timely and appropriate.

Remember, leadership is not about us, it is about the constant strengthening of the organization and applies to all organizations.

Have a great end to the week!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Directional Leadership

In 1984, singer Joe Jackson had a hit song with a line in it that said, "You can't get what you want, until you know what you want".  As a leader, the most important questions that can be answered is where are we going, and why are we going there?

Typically, business are started to solve a problem.  Whether the business owner is attempting to create a new product or to improve on an existing concept, they are fundamentally wanting to solve a problem.  The leaders reporting to the business owner must believe in the vision and direction that the owner has.  Leaders must engage the front line employees in the direction of the organization in order for the business to be successful.  As a result successful operations have top to bottom synergy.

In customer facing roles, the worst response that can be provided to a customer is "They say I need to follow this procedure, even though it doesn't make sense"  If successful operations must have top to bottom synergy in direction, why would customers receive this response from front line employees.  Has the direction of the organization changed, and the top level management just hasn't caught up or vice-versa?  This is a problem.

How do you know what you want?  What direction do you as a leader want to create?  It is essential to continually be taking temperature checks of the organization both formally and informally to ensure if conditions have changed in the market, that leaders are creating the direction and are being response to the intel provided to them at all levels.  Leaders that dismiss feedback, are doing themselves and their organization a big disservice. 

Once you have created organizational synergy and are providing directional, responsive leadership, you are then able to ensure the organization is being effective and efficient in the execution of the vision and mission of the the organization.  You can get what you want, if you know what you want.  As a leader, you need to invest not only the monetary and intellectual resources to creating organizational direction, but you must invest your human resources for long term organizational success. 

A baseball team would love to have a lineup of all .400 hitters, but what is the cost of doing so, pitching effectiveness, defensive ability.  What's the benefit of scoring 15 runs a game, if you are giving away 16.  Balance and team work are imperative for baseball organizations.

This same balance and team work are imperative in other environments as well.  The difference is the directional leadership that is being provided and if the organization buys into the leaders direction.  You really can get what you want, if you know what you want!

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Spring Time!!!

What a time of year this is!!

It is Spring Time!  Time to make leaps forward and take on new challenges as they are presented to you!  This is such an exciting time of year!

Students graduate, flowers bloom, couples marry, and everyone is coming out of the doldrums of winter!

For students, it is a time to start a new. A new grade, a new school, a new surrounding, a new job.  Spring forward and take every challenge that is presented to you! 

Reading Facebook posts, I see people talking about how they miss their youth, but it is our sons and daughters that energizes each of us and remind us of the experiences of our youth.  They allow us to see new experiences through their eyes, and at times, they ask for advice of their parents and grandparents. 

Spring puts a spring in my step each year!  Seeing the younger generation getting excited about "what's next" is very invigorating!  Change is inevitable and change is exciting!  Remember what it was like on the last day of school and know that you were going to have a later bedtime, swimming, hanging out with your friends, music, and a smile on your face all summer long! 

Get Fired Up!!  Energize yourself with positive thoughts and know that it is Spring Time!  Time to spring towards where you want to be!  Don't stay stagnant, always strive for something new! 

My High School class song was Fleetwood Mac's, "Don't Stop"  When I reflect upon the words there, I get energized and realize it is Spring Time!  "If you wake up and you don't want to smile.  If it takes just a little while.  Open your eyes, and look at the day.  You'll see things in a different way!  Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!"

Get fired up and get ready to do something positive!  Decide where you want to be, and go get it!

Start a new!  Everyday is a new beginning and in the Springtime, it is time to spring!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Leadership Lessons from Mom

On this Mother's Day it is important to remember the CFO's in our lives.  That is Mom, the Chief Family Officer.  I first heard this term on a commercial on the radio, and today on Mother's Day it seems appropriate for remembrance of these unsung hero's.

From the day that each of us are born, typically it is our Mom's that not only provide nurturing, but also provide us guidance through the good times and bad.  When tough decisions need to be made, we turn to Mom.  When financial decisions need to be made, we need Mom's blessings.  Through our years, it is our Mother's that have the hope their development of us will allow us to reach our full potential. 

As a Chief Family Officer, Mom really has final say over Dad, whether he wants to admit it or not.  Dad's will take their direction from Mom and each child understands the hierarchy in the family can make what decisions.  As we progress past High School and into College and the workforce, we translate the understanding of who decision makers are in the workplace.  We gain an understanding that the professional organization, much like a familial organization, must have a person who is truly looking our for the best interests of each individual and the organization as whole.  In most families, Mom is this person.

As each person embarks on their careers, we remember the lessons of our family organization.  How tough decisions are made, how we communicate with one another, when to play, and when to be focused.  The business organization is one that we spend 40+ hours per week at and where we need to effectively communicate, make tough decisions, work hard, and play hard with our professional family.

At the end of the day, we learn more about how to interact with others through watching the interactions of our mother's.  We are successful, as a result of the drive and desire to succeed that our mother's instill in us.  Think about how your first interaction with a CFO was really your mother, the Chief Family Officer.
Today, I leave you with some quotes and thoughts...  Remember your Mother today on this Mother's Day.

Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs... since the payment is pure love. ~Mildred B. Vermont

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. ~Author Unknown

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. ~Abraham Lincoln

Friday, May 11, 2012

Everything Grows...

Everything grows when it rains.

In nature, in order for things to grow, there must be rain.  As I drove past a field that had been scorched a year ago during a wild fire, there is a lush green field now.  As a leader, we are always challenged to take negative situations and turn them into a positive.  If we find ourselves in situations where we have been burned, we need to look for the opportunity to grow again.

Rain can take many forms.  Rain in this discussion is centered more about the decisions we make in the workplace.  All of us at one time or another have made a poor or ill advised decision in the workplace.  It happens to everyone.  We find ourselves in situations that we often aren't thinking clearly, and as a result, end up in a place that we didn't intend to be.

Do you have a reliable weather forecaster, a professional mentor that can guide you through your individual rainstorms?  These mentors are in the places that you least expect them to be and usually the person that you least expect them to be.  Your weather forecaster is someone that you trust to evaluate situations after the fact, and assist you in growing and maturing to not have another negative experience.  They are there to equip you to weather the daily storms that each person encounters.
When looking at rainy periods, it is important for you to understand how the rain developed.  Most of the time it was not El Nino or La Nina, but a series of events that led to a personal setback.  How you weather the storm will determine how sunny the future will be.  At this time, it is critical to spend a few minutes with your weather forecaster, look at the maps (how the situation came from point A to point B) to understand how the series of decisions led to the outcome that occurred.  The growing piece is gaining an understanding of how to avoid bad decisions and make better decisions in the future. 

I had the privilege to attend a panel discussion of senior leaders this week who spoke of having a mentor.  Mentors who would shoot straight with them and encourage them as they developed in their careers.  These mentors are your weather forecasters, the have been there, done that, and earned a t-shirt for the efforts.  Listen to what your forecasters have to say and they will guide you through the juggernaut that is your professional career.  You will have many forecasters throughout your life.  If you tune them out, you will continue to be bitter and scorched, you will never grow.  However, if you reflect on the feedback given to you, and incorporate the feedback to your particular situation, your decisions will be stronger and more decisive as you become more experienced. 

Pay it forward.  Become a forecaster for others and look for opportunities to share your experiences with those who are a little green so that they are able to grow and mature.

In my career, to quote a James Taylor song, "I've seen Fire and I've seen Rain.  I've seen Sunny days that I thought would never end."  Rain is not always bad, and sun is not always good.  The sunny days always follow the rainy days.  Use those sunny days to grow and mature and I guarantee you will have more sun than rain.  Trust your forecaster to guide you.  Don't take anything or anyone for granted.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Connect?

Often times people will say, "I don't want all my business being out there in social media land.  If I want to talk to someone, I will just call them or email them."

That is a great idea, however...  Think about how many people in the course of your professional career and personal life that you have connected with.  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Tens of thousands?  Each person that you had an interaction with has helped shape who you are today.  The important item to remember, is you never know when you will cross paths with those individuals again.  Why not take the time to keep in contact with someone from your past?

Last month, as part of my membership in a local trade organization, we had a speaker at our monthly luncheon that presented a program called the ABC's of networking.  Always Be Connecting is the way I remember because he told a story that was very personal to his family about how having connections literally saved his daughters life.  Without going into details, the power of having resources to draw on throughout your life is invaluable.

Some social media sites allow users to solicit or provide recommendations from their connections.  Other social media sites allow users to become connected to others with similar hobby interests.  These connections are able to help tell the story about YOU. 

Over my career, I have been asked to endorse others for jobs they applied for.  I have also been asked to refer job seekers to potential employers and recruiters.  It is a lot easier to refer people and provide endorsements for those where connections have been maintained.

Social media is difficult for some to embrace because it requires you to put yourself out there for others to interpret.  If you use social media intelligently, you can enhance connections to acquaintances, long lost friends, and potential employers.

Social media is a tool to write your story.  Use it write your truth, not your fiction.  Accept feedback from others, regardless of how critical it may be.  Be positive!  Remember, when you are out there, you are out there for all to see!

Have a great rest of the week!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's a Journey, not a Sprint!

As many high schools, colleges, and universities prepare for commencements over the next month, many students will enter the "real world".  As stated in the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic, "Every new beginning is some other beginnings end."

For students they may enter the workforce, the military, or choose to continue their education at one of this country's institutions of higher education.  When the pomp and circumstance is over, each person will now have to make their individual decisions for the rest of their lives.  Some will make good decisions, others, not so good.

In my house, we have volume's of the "Book of Dumbass" as we affectionately refer to it.  Each day we live, we add another page, each month another chapter, and each year a new volume.  My boys know that each decision they make has a consequence, both positive and negative, and my wife and I hope we have instilled good decision making qualities in both of our sons.  For them making a bad decision is not the end of the world, as we all have made them in our lives.  Life is a journey, not a sprint. 

It is important throughout our careers and our lives that each of us remember that what we do is a journey, not a sprint.  We need to enjoy all that our experiences offer us.  You hear professionals comment all the time how the low points in careers made them stronger and better equipped to make tough decisions, or execute a plan, or a play in the future.  The experiences we all have as professionals and individuals provide us the tools and resources to draw upon to make better future decisions.

As leaders, it is up to us individually to mentor those around us.  Allow others to draw on our experiences, but also allow others to make mistakes as they create their experiences.  Losing or failing should never deter anyone.  Look at Abraham Lincoln.  Business failures, bankruptcy, elections losses, and ultimately became one of the most important figures in American or for that matter World history.  For him, life was a journey, not a sprint.

I had the privilege to coach youth football with someone in Oklahoma.  One of the mantra's of that team was "Never, never quit".  We would chant it before each game.  It instilled an attitude of long term success, even if the short term results were not successful.  Each player that played for him is developing into a winner in their own rights, both on and off the field.

As each person begins their next chapter in life, remember it is a journey, not sprint.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Keep It Simple Stupid!  K.I.S.S.

Those who know me, know that I always have a sports analogy.  I will refer to the movie Bull Durham, again....

"Baseball is a simple game.  You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains."  Those are the basics of the game.

As leaders we are always looking to increase productivity, heighten performance, and get the most with limited resources.  As a result, we tend to move away from the basics that have earned successes.  By using the KISS methodology, we typically will improve performance and productivity that is usually a sustained, not a band-aid improvement.

In my contact center, we have basic rules for the center that cover minimum expectations of employee conduct.  Aside from that, the expectations are simple, we answer the phone, or launch a call, we assist the customer to the best of our ability, and we provide resources for the customer.  It is simple.  The staff understands what the expectations are, as well as what the expectations are of our external customers.  K.I.S.S.

The focus of K.I.S.S. is not just on keeping things basic, but also focuses on culture.  In order for K.I.S.S to be successful, the culture of the organization needs to be focused on making things simpler, not more complex.  This starts from the initial interview and making sure that people that are hired into the organization, division, department, etc., share the same cultural beliefs. 

The culture of the organization needs to be customer focused.  At the end of the day, it is the customer experience that leads to organizational success, not if the organization is always adding bells and whistles that are not need.  If the organization loses touch with what the customer values, then the organization will lose customers.  Invest in keeping things simple for the front line staff, and everyone wins.  K.I.S.S.

Over the next month, take a look at the process and procedures within your organization.  Do they meet the K.I.S.S test?  If not, invest project time in simplifying them.  Your staff will be happier which will lead to improved customer satisfaction.

Remember - Keep It Simple Stupid!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mountains or Molehills

As leaders, we always hear that we need to pick our battles.  The key to being successful, is to know what battles are the ones that need to be fought.

For me, choose to fight those battles that have a direct impact to my team and functional area first, then the ones that impact me second.  The way I look at it, if I have the support of my team and my customers, I will not have to fight as many personal battles. 

There is one belief that I have thought which I follow consistently.  My molehills are others mountains.  In other words, situations that are not that significant to me, may be very significant for others.  As a leader, it is necessary to be a sounding board for others significant issues, even if there is little consequence to me.

Not every discussion needs to be turned into a saga.  Most times, those bringing an issue or a topic up are looking for a sounding board as opposed to receiving a specific action.  It is important that as leaders we provide that sounding feedback and make sure that if we are going to be providing feedback that the person is willing to receive feedback.  Ask permission by saying something like, "If I understand your concern...."  Then follow up by asking, "I have some suggestion on how to handle this, would you like to hear them?"  In doing so, as a leader you have taken the emotion out of the conversation and then are strictly focused on the situation at hand.  Remember, a molehill for you is another persons mountain.

Let your team and your peers know that you are a confidential sounding board for them, and these individuals will move your mountains for you when the time comes.  Remember, your mountains are others molehills.  If you don't have to climb or move a mountain, then don't.  Keeping this in mind will create a more productive, trusting, and loyal environment.  As a leader, you can then spend less time fighting fires and more time on improving processes and products.

Your molehills are others mountains.  Keep this in mind over the next week.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Baseball Season

It is Baseball Season!!!  America's pastime! It is the best time of the year!!

What does baseball mean to me?  It is a time of learning, it is a time for motivation, it is a time of new beginnings!

In the movie "Bull Durham", Kevin Costner is a teacher of the finer points of the game.  The new hot shot pitcher has to learn more about the finer points of the game.  Never throw a punch with your pitching arm, never mess with a streak, and most importantly to trust in your teammates. 

In the movie "The Sandlot", Bennie "The Jet" Rodriquez was born out of his "pickling the beast".  The lesson here is that everyone has their defining moment that will carry them throughout their life.

In the movie, "The Rookie", Dennis Quaids character learns that it is important to recognize when you become a hero or a mentor to others.  As his wife tells him when he is about to quit his dream of making it to the major leagues that his 10 year old son is asleep for the night and that if he thinks about quitting, what kind of message is it sending to his son.  What a powerful message!

At the end of the day, Baseball is a metaphor for life!  To quote Kevin Costner from Bull Durham, "some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains."  In life, we are all going to have our good days and our bad days.  Some days things just don't work out as planned, but we always need to keep our priorities straight.

Those that have played baseball at the highest levels will tell you that the highest compliment that can be paid to a ball player is to be known as a great teammate not to just be the best player.  I have been fortunate to coach my son's when they were younger and humility is a big part of their individual games.  They are known by their peers as a teammate first, and a skilled player second.

In the workplace, individual accolades can be attained, but it should be more important to maintain trusting relationships.  This is the way I play the game, for better or worse!

I look forward each week to my 7 inning vacation for my sons games and look forward to those 9 inning vacations with my family once the professional season starts.

Have a great end of the weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Your Wonderful Life

Everyone has a bad day.  It is easy to get caught up with what isn't going right, however, it takes some real effort to recognize what is right when things seem they are going in the opposite direction. 

Today was my birthday.  I usually don't worry about my birthdays, because they really haven't been that important to me.  I would rather celebrate others, than celebrate myself, that's just the way I am.  I had an epiphinany today when I had over 100 of my friends post on my Facebook wall, text me, or call me directly to wish me a Happy Birthday.  I thought back to one of my favorite movies of all time, "It's A Wonderful Life" and the main character, George Bailey. 

George has many of the same stressors that many of us face on a daily basis.  Financial issues, work issues, regrets, and so on.  George has the perfect storm brewing when all of these stressors hit at one time.  Through his "guardian angel", Clarence he learns that even though things are really bad at that moment, he actually is a positive influence on others around him.  At the end of the movie, after Clarence takes him on a historical journey of his life and the impact that he has had on others, he realizes that his life is meaning. 

Clarence sends him a message at the end of the movie that says, "Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence."  This is a very powerful quote, and one that I remember everyday. 

Whenever you are having a bad day, remember that you truly have A Wonderful Life.  Each of us have guardian angels that we will never see, never know, but have an influence over us.  They help us make good choices each day, if we allow them to.  Just as George Bailey had to allow Clarence to show him he did matter, each of us have to be open to input from others.

I am not a religious person by any means, but I am a believer that everything happens for a reason.  We face situations each day that challenge us in many ways.  Know that you have friends that you may not talk to every day, but friends that truly do care about you and reenter your life at critical moments for a reason.  This was my lesson of the day.  Take the time each day to recognize those who have a positive impact on you.

"Remember no man is a failure who has friends."

By keeping this quote in mind, you can't help but have A Wonderful Life!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Work the Plan

As leaders, we tend to focus on creating great plans that in our estimation will yield great results.  So why do so many leaders become frustrated when our best laid plans yield worse results.  The answer is simple, execution.

As an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to take a religion class.  As a project for this class, I had to attend religious services at a variety of churches.  In one such setting, the Pastor gave a sermon that 20+ years later still has a positive message with me.  The message of the sermon was to not just plan the work, but work the plan.  What a novel idea.  I translated this to the work I was doing at the time and decided it was not about the creation of the plan itself, but more about the execution of the plan.

In sports, teams will go into a game with a game plan.  While fans may be upset about with the officials, the leaders always talk about execution of the plan.  If athletes don't execute, they let the team down and ultimately the team loses the game.  It wasn't the plan that was flawed, it was working of the plan that was flawed.

I worked for a Manager who once told me that I needed to remember the 6P's and an R.  I inquired what he was referring to.  He informed me that it simply meant, "piss poor planning produces piss poor results".  Again, it all goes back to planning and organization.

As leaders, we are expected to do be all, do all, and produce all, with less.  We don't have all the answers, even though frequently our ego's tell us that we do.  Prior to creating a plan, why not ask more questions about execution.  Challenge people to shoot holes in the plan before the plan is finalized.  Once a decision has been made, stay the course.  Don't just plan the work, but work the plan.

Being an effective leader includes creating an effective vision.  Teams need to understand what the goal is.  In sports, the goal is to win the game, win a conference, win a championship.  Chunk down those goals into smaller more achievable milestones and allow for course changes based upon the evaluation of new information.  Include those milestone evaluations into the creation of the plan and continue to ask those self reflective questions to ensure your plan is being executed correctly and that the team is still on board with the vision.

It's not about getting to the destination, its about the journey and the experience learned along the road.  Remember, don't just plan the work, but work the plan.

Plan for tomorrow.  Execute today.  Evaluate progress frequently.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feeling Starbuckian

I have today off as a result of President's Day, but those that know me, know that I rarely take any time off.  So, I decided to clear my mind before working today at a local Starbucks.  Today, I am in a people watching mood.

Sitting at the table next to me, is a gentleman who is very engrossed in his laptop.  Not sure if he is working on a spreadsheet, or a PowerPoint presentation, but I don't believe his eyes have crossed the horizon at the top of his glasses.  I am thinking that he is working on a presentation by the appearance of his brown sport coat and tan shirt, he just looks like a salesperson.

Against the wall are two guys sitting at a small round table with their laptops back to back across from each other as if they were playing a game.  I am waiting for one of them to jump up and yell, "You sunk my Battleship!"  They are appear to be having a strategy discussion as they appear very relaxed, but very focused.  Their conversation seems to related to a business they are in as one of the gentlemen is making emphatic gestures with his hands to make sure his friend understands his point.  Now they are both speaking with their hands.  It's like watching a puppet show.

There are two younger females across the room.  These two are catching up on things.  Their busy schedules haven't allowed them to spend much time talking about their personal life and get advice from one another. 

There is a Dad with his very young daughter, I would say no more than two or three years old.  The daughter is just excited to be able to spend time Daddy-Daughter time and the Dad seems very interested in all of the little girls questions and antics.

Then, my favorite person in Starbucks this morning is the Difference maker.  This guy is strategically positioned in the corner of the store where he can observe all that is going on.  He has the appearance of a musician or songwriter that is trying to make the next big hit.  He is completely focused with his coffee and his water on his table while composing his thoughts.

Why am I writing about this, every now and then it is important to take the time to observe what is going on around you.  It is important that even as adults, you take time to just have a brain download.  Be creative with your thoughts as you did when you were a child and let your imagination go wild.

I have no clue if the descriptions of these people are even close to being accurate, but I am taking the time to let my imagination wander and having a mental defrag while I enjoy my Starbuckian Moment.

Happy President's Day!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Progress, not perfection

Progress, not perfection.

This is a statement that I have learned over the last few years when in coaching and development situations.  I first heard this statement from a good friend that is in an AA program, and it is one that I have been able to transfer to coaching and development.

In my contact center, I have several front line representatives that are very hard on themselves for making an error.  They expressed to me that in other positions, errors were not acceptable and that they could lose their jobs for making mistakes.  My immediate question back to them was, what did you learn from that previous negative experience.  Typically their response was that they needed to slow down and make sure their work was correct the first time.  Interesting.  Slow down and make sure that you don't make the same mistake again. 

What I didn't hear from that interaction was that representative was never coached and developed.  How much effort would it have taken for the supervisor to spend an extra couple of minutes and have a conversation with that employee about their thought process, or what they were looking at when the error occurred.  Getting employee feedback as to the why an error occurred is more important than the error itself.  By doing so, it can lead to identification of process improvements, training gaps, or system enhancements.  At the human level, it can demonstrate to the employee that leadership really does care about them as individuals, not just numbers.

Whenever coaching a manager, supervisor, or front line agent, focus on root cause of the error.  The thought process leading up to the error is more important than the error itself.  Progress, not perfection means to me that errors and mistakes are going to occur.  What is more important though is what an individual learns from the error, and how the individual and organization can develop from the mistake.

Baseball is the best analogy for not being perfect.  What other profession can you be successful 30% of the time and have a 20+ year career and reach your professions Hall of Fame. 

Next time you find yourself with a teachable moment, take the time to remind the person that your expectation is that they are progressing forward, not backward as a trend.  Force them to critically think about what they are doing.  If you do so, you will have a much more engaged organization.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be the Difference!

What if?

In Garth Brooks song, "If Tomorrow Never Comes" he says, "Tell that someone that you love, just what your thinking of, if tomorrow never comes."

This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, both personally and professionally.

What if your business plans had to take an unexpected turn?
What if people that you expected to see each day, were no longer there?
What if skills you took for granted today, did not exist tomorrow?

Is the future of those around you secure?  Have you made sure that those that need to have the answers, actually have them?

I know I have asked a lot of questions, however, are you setting your legacy up properly?

I had the privilege of having a phenomenal leader work with me several years ago who made sure her legacy was a positive one.  She worked hard for her team on a daily basis.  I asked her one time why she put so much effort into what she did.  She replied that at the end of the day, it did not matter what she personally accomplished, but rather that when someone uttered her name many years in the future, that there would be positive thoughts associated with her name.  I can say that all who came in contact with her had both personal and professional respect for her.

Recently there have been several people who I knew personally and professionally that have passed away.  I regret that I did not get to know them better than what I did, because they truly left a positive legacy associated with their name.

As a leader, how are you going to be remembered?  Are your employees going to remember you as someone you genuinely cared about them, or someone that was more focused on achieving a number?  Make sure you have proper lines of communication in place to so that your organization can continue in your absence, or the absence of others.

Take time tonight, tomorrow, this week, next week, and as often as you can and tell people around you that you truly care about them.  I guarantee that it will have as much an uplifting effect on you, as it will on others.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Teachable Moments

Everyday has its teachable moments, it is up to each person as an individual as to whether or not they choose to take advantage of those moments.

In education, it is expected that teachers and administrators are always providing those teachable moments for their students.  In the workplace it is expected that supervisors are always providing those teachable moments.  In sports, it is expected that coaches are providing those teachable moments.  Unfortunately, in all of these scenarios, those teachable moments do not always occur.

The question I pose is why are those teachable moments not acted upon.  There are a myriad of reasons as to why they don't, in my opinion, but at the end of the day it comes down to WIIFM (What's In It For Me).

I have had the privilege of being associated with individuals that thought less about the WIIFM, and more about the impact of not taking advantage of a teachable moment.  As a student, in retrospect, I learned the importance of creating a baseline for future learning.  As a youth sports coach, I learned the importance of setting a high bar, and to focus on fundamentals.  As a rising leader, I learned the importance of controlling what I could control, and not put as much effort into negativity in the workplace.  The important aspect of teachable moments is for leaders to be open to these moments, either as a learner or as a teacher.

If you expect excellence from those around you, you need to demonstrate what excellence looks like.  Take the moments, personally and professionally to not expect A+ efforts, but give people insight as to what A+ effort looks like.  What's in it for you?  A stronger organization, a better way forward, buy in to the vision, commitment.

I saw a great teachable moment by a group of law enforcement officers having lunch together.  Two younger officers were giggling and making comments about a very overweight officer from another department.  The older officer that was with them told them to knock it off and presumably that their behavior was inappropriate.  You could tell that the older officer was very direct as the giggling ceased immediately.  This example is where an experienced professional took advantage of a teachable moment, and hopefully the younger officers will remember their experiences.

Take advantage of teachable moments every chance they arise.  You never know when one of these moments will be life changing for you.  I have had several of these and each one of these A-ha moments has been more valuable than the last

Have a great week!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Get Fired Up!

When you get up each day are you Fired Up?  Do you bring that same passion to the workplace?

Jon Gordon wrote in his book "Soup", that the reason that Grandma's soup tasted better than anything purchased or canned is because of the extra ingredient that Grandma always put in, "Love".  Grandma's soup had purpose and she wanted to make sure that each ladle of her soup was just as good as the ladle before.

In organizations large and small, each leader has their own special ingredient to add to the organization, but at the end of the day it is the love, passion, and vision for achieving results which is a leaders special ingredient.  What happens when plans go awry?  Are leaders willing to mix others ideas into their own organizational soup to change for the better?  Are their obstacles to success that the leader is not seeing that are causing performance shortfalls?

There are leaders in every organization who are considered subject matter experts.  Those experts have demonstrated job knowledge and have experiences that others in the organization may not have.  It is important that leaders recognize these SME's.  Also within organizations are individuals with perspectives and experiences that may lend insight to project and organizational growth.  These individuals should never be discounted.  It is the careful mixing of perspectives and experiences with documented expertise (ingredients) that make the organization as a whole special.

It is important for leaders to take time out of each day to learn of these different perspectives within the organization.  In doing so, the organization becomes stronger.  How does the organization become stronger?  Employees at all levels believe they are connected to decision makers.  By having that connection, the individual does not want to disappoint someone that they feel a connection with.  They feel their perspectives are truly being heard.  The caveat here, leaders must be genuine about their connection building and individuals who have shared with you, also should be followed up with.

If the "Soup" within your organization is not how it should be, as a leader at any level take the time over the next week to reconnect with your team, department, organization.  Start small, but be genuine about this and make sure you understand what has made your organization so appealing to others.  Stir in your passion for excellence and your love for what you do and you will see improvements in areas that you had not seen before.

Ignite the passion in others that you have within yourself for success!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Customer Experience, not Customer Service

Don't focus on customer service!

What would happen if your supervisor told you to not worry about providing customer service?  Would you feel that your supervisor was diving into an illegal stash of something?  I would argue that your supervisor was correct.

Fast food restaurants are great examples of customer service, but few provide the customer experience.  I can go into a local McDonalds for example and I know that the people at the counter will generally be smiling, they will say please and thank you, and they will do their best to make sure your order is correct.  Go down the street to Chick-Fil-A, and customer service is taken to the next level.  It becomes an experience that patrons expect at all of their restaurants.  An example of this is what happens during the lunch hour when the counter comes to the drive thru line.  It could be raining, it could be 115 degrees, it could be freezing cold, and you still get the same level of friendliness, including the customary, "It's my pleasure".

A few years ago, I attended a contact center conference where a Disney trainer was doing a presentation.  One part of the presentation that I remember very vividly was his explanation of the "Tipping the Lamp" philosophy of the Disney Experience.  Essentially what this entailed was every employee, top to bottom, was responsible for the customer experience down to the most basic detail.  For those of us who have had the privilege to spend time in a Disney Park, know that every Disney employee is paying attention to every patron to make sure that their experience meets Disney standards.

Is your organization focused on the customer service, or are you focused on the experience.  How can you tell if you are providing customer service, or are creating an experience for your customers?  Social media can provide you the information you are looking for, if you are looking for it.  Other clues that you are providing a customer experience, you are busy, when others are slow.  Patrons will provide your front line staff with reasons why they are coming in, if you ask them.

Lastly, as leaders, we can impact the customer experience regardless of line of business you are in.  Who are your customers as a leader?  First and foremost, make sure your employees are engaged in meeting the needs of the customer, not just telling the customer what you think they want to hear.

As a leader, I am more concerned about the experience of my customers, not the service.  If we are creating a positive experience and surpassing the customers expectations, then the service aspect takes care of itself.

Have a great rest of the week!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Are you reaching your Nemo?

Are you reaching your Nemo?  You are probably trying to figure out what I am speaking about when I say your "Nemo".

I have had the privilege of working with many very talented individuals in the past.  One such individual made a comment one day about organizations that followed a "Nemo Principle". 

He related to me about the part of the 2003 Disney Movie, Finding Nemo, when Nemo and the other fish were stuck in the net.  All the fish caught in the net were all trying to save themselves by swimming any way they could within the net.  When Nemo suggested that they all start swimming the same direction, the fishing net could not contain the hundreds of fish working in unison for a common goal, freedom.  Eventually, as the fish worked together to reverse the direction of the fishing net.  This resulted in  the net breaking and allowed the fish were to swim free, much to the dismay of the local fishermen. 

What is the organizational lesson here?  When organizations share a common vision, and have aligned goals, that success is inevitable, even against unimaginable odds.

Organizational failure occurs when divisions, departments, and teams are focused on their own survival that they forget about the greater direction of the organization.  When this occurs, the results can be catastrophic for the business. 

The movie, "Finding Nemo" produced a myriad of underlying leadership lessons, many of which you can read about on the internet.  Leaders need to not only have a vision, but also make sure that their vision is in line with organizational goals.  Most importantly, leaders must communicate.  Not every detail needs to be communicated, but enough to motivate and inspire others to follow your vision.

Start working today on reaching your "Nemo". 

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is the Tail wagging the Dog?

Is the tail wagging the dog?  Interesting thought, but what does this mean?

In the workplace, it is important for leaders to be engaged with what motivates their teams.  Leaders are frequently encouraged to have focus groups with their employees, engage them on an interpersonal level, and ensure that your employees have buy in to the corporate vision. 

In my mind, the most important aspect is that the corporation have vision and that there is a top down understanding of what the values are of organization.  A really good example of this I watched on an episode of Undercover Boss.  Each meeting from the corporate level down to the newest franchise started off meetings with reviewing the mission, vision, and values.  That was eye-opening for me.  In organizations that I have worked in people have expressed concern about an understanding of what the mission, vision, and values were, and how they applied to the work they did.  Because there lacked a clear understanding, people at varying levels of the organization made decisions based upon what their interpretation was of the mission, vision, and values.  Thus, the tail started to wag the dog.

If you have ever seen a really excited dog, their tails are moving all over the place seemingly directing the dog.  Eventually the dog starts chasing the tail, and loses total control of their original mission.

Organizations do the same thing.  Things to remember though.  Employee engagement and recognition is paramount to the success of all organizations from small business to large international corporations.  Make decisions and changes that are more incremental and build upon each other, rather ones that create a "shock and awe" effect, although, sometimes "shock and awe" are inevitable because of the changes.

Most importantly, focus on the culture of the organization.  If the right culture is established, alignment of the mission, vision, and values throughout the organization is virtually guaranteed.  I have found that sub-cultures can be created within the department and divisional levels, but ultimately must be those sub-cultures have to align themselves with organization as whole.

Think about your current position.  Does your organization have a tail wagging the dog mentality?  If so, once those are in place, they are like a flea infestation and could take months and years to completely reverse.

Chart your course beginning today, both personally and professionally.  Regain focus and purpose and have a hostile takeover of your life and your organization!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Essence of Positive

Are you ready?  I mean are you ready for tomorrow? 

I am so ready for tomorrow as I am each day!  Do you know why? 

It is because I get to do something each day, that I didn't do the day before!  That excites me!  That invigorates me!  That drives me to get out of bed every day!

If you are a fan of baseball movies, you will remember Dennis Quaid in the movie "The Rookie".  In the movie his character is stuck in AAA ball chasing his dream to make to the Major League team.  One night after talking to his wife about bills, life, etc, walks over to a Little League game and sees the love each young player has to play the game.

The next day he walks into the dugout, and asks one of the other players if he knows why it is a great day?  Without missing a beat Quaid's character pronounces that "We get to play baseball!"

That is the essence of positive!  How many people do you know dread what they do?  They hate getting up in the morning and they suck the life out of everyone around them.  Jon Gordon, in his book, "The Energy Bus, describes these people as Energy Vampires!

Maybe these Energy Vampires just need a hug (although I think most HR departments would frown upon that gesture)!  I look at the Vampires as an opportunity.  How can I make a difference with that person?  What makes that person tick, or rather what has that person "ticked off"? 

Life is full of trials and tribulations.  We can all wallow in the doldrums of what is not right.  As you wake up each day, guess what, you can make a new start each day.  If you are mired in the quicksand of life, find that branch to grab onto an pull yourself up!  Read a book, talk to a friend, coworker, or significant other.  Find your branch to grab on to, it will guide you in the right direction.

I have found myself stuck in the quicksand at times.  It was tough to get out, but each day I woke up, the nights became short and the day became brighter.  Much like a growing toddler that seems to sleep little and wakes up early full of energy and full of wonderment of what new adventures the new day will provide.  Find your inner child!  What is it that gets you all fired up to do more?  Grab onto that thought and use it as your branch from the quicksand and see what you get to do next!

Have a great tomorrow!!  We all get to do something!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Late night ramblings

What is it about Leadership that Leaders are always looking for the Holy Grail?

As a Leader myself, I too am a consumate learner about how to improve and adapt my style.  I read, I watch, I observe. 

I had an "A-ha" moment today.  Effective leadership isn't necessarily about making the decision, it is about being able to effectively relate to those who support you.  Think about it for a moment.
  • Politicians are deemed strong leaders when they are able to effectively relate to their constituents.
  • Businessmen and women are deemed strong leaders when they can effectively relate to members of their team, their department, their division.
  • Sports figures are deemed strong leaders when they can rally individuals towards a common goal.  These figures can be coaches or players.
  • Religious leaders are effective when they can create a belief among their congregations in something larger than individuals.

There is not a Holy Grail to being an effective leader, but rather effective leaders instill confidence, empowerment, and a sense of being among others.  I have had the opportunity to work with many people in many environments that were not in leadership positions.  These individuals never complained about their own role, but rather understood how their role was important to the success of the organization.  Effective leaders are able to translate organizational goals to individual effectiveness.  As a result, each individual feels empowered to make decisions that positively benefit the end goals of the organization.

I have the belief that leaders can be both effective and ineffective based upon situations.  I had the privelege of working in debt collections for an individual who shared that the best collectors are those that have fewer bad days than their peers.  The same holds true for leaders.  Leaders are most effective when they remember where they came from, not where they may be today.

I am a fan of leadership books that tell a story.  They keep me grounded and remind me about times where I have felt similarly to the characters. 

My advice.  Never forget where you come from.  Stay true to who you are.  Overcommunicate to create a common vision.

Thoughts?  Please leave a comment.  It's All Good!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Intro Blog

This is my first blog, so I am sure I will need a lot of feedback from those who read it.

The purpose of this blog is to solicit information about topics that are of interest to me and then create learning opportunities from those interests.  Topics that I think about from time to time range from business topics, family and financial topics, planning topics, or sometimes they will just be about funny things that occur in the normal course of life.

I have been a Contact Center professional for almost 22 years now.  I have heard and seen things over my career that just astound me.  Due to confidentiality, I can speak about few of those in a public forum.

In this first blog, I would like to know what people think about the legacy of sports figures who were legendary and then went from "hero to goat" in a very short period of time.  The most recent one that comes to mind is that of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State coach who passed away today. 

Do you think that the media was fair to Paterno?

Do you think the reaction by the Board of Regents was appropriate?

How do you think the allegations will effect his legacy?

There is a purpose for these questions that talk more about leadership and management, which are topics which I will post most about.

Thank you for reading and providing your comments, positive or negative, IT'S ALL GOOD!