Monday, December 30, 2013

C'mon New Year!

2013 is ending like the setting sun, giving way to the rise of 2014.

The new year is where people begin making resolutions that they hope will create positive improvements in their lives.  Although I have a ton to work on, I am choosing to not make a list of resolutions that I know right now I won't be able to maintain.  My focus for this year is to improve my listening, understanding, and inclusion of others perspectives in order to create win-win scenarios for not just myself, but for those around me as well.

As a result, here are my goals for this year.

  1. Self improvement
  2. Home improvement
  3. Financial improvement
  4. Employment improvement
The reason I chose goals like these is that just like the airlines say, first take care of your own oxygen, then help others around you.  If you don't put yourself first, you can't really help others if you are not at 100%.

I look forward to the New Year as I do every year.  I know that while a lot has gone right this past year, I have so much more to work on over the course of the next year.  I know that this year is going to be a year of change, a year of challenge, and a year of collaboration.  But, if I am able to accomplish these goals, it will be a year of growth and success.

Have a great New Year and a more positive and successful 2014!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Do you have Friends who provide you Benefits?

The title is not meant in the "sexual way", but more in how we look at our trusting relationships with others when we enter new environments.

I remember the Doctor Seuss book, Oh, The Places You'll Go!  I received the book as a graduation gift from High School (no it was not an original issue, I'm not that old…).  When you watch the above clip from the movie Friends with Benefits, there is a correlation between the two.

Dr. Seuss encourages the reader to go out and explore and experience new experiences.  In the movie, Justin Timberlake's character has to make a decision to start his life over in new surroundings, or stay with the what is most comfortable for him.  Those decisions are never easy…

We make decisions on a daily basis, some of which may require us to change a job, location, surroundings, etc.  It's important though, when you make a change, no matter how large or small, that you have a proper support system.  Those who you can rely upon for unfiltered advice and those who truly have your best interests in mind.

In the workplace you need to determine who your formal and informal mentors are.  Remember, they don't all need to do the same job you do.  Sometimes being buried in the weeds, will lead to unforeseen results.  Establish a network outside of your workplace that you can bounce thoughts and ideas.

Take chances and remember that everyplace we go can be awfully lonely if we allow it to be so.  Take a chance, make a change if you need to, and don't look back!  It is cool to be part of something that is bigger than yourself and have fun doing it.  You never know who you will impact in the process!

Have a great week!!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nothing's Impossible

Tis the season of hope, of dreams, of compassion, of thinking that things will be better for each of us in the future.  This year, I am seeing things a little differently for no specific reason, but just different.  Maybe it is because I have a senior in HS who will soon be leaving for college, with a sophomore in HS right behind him.  Maybe its the holiday lights, maybe I am just more aware of things this year than in years past.  

I had a conversation with a complete stranger over the phone the other day that gave me an epiphany of sorts.  While we working through some work related issues (she was working on a help desk in a contact center) we began small talking.  I found out the help desk was located in the same city as my beloved college Alma mater, Lawrence Kansas.  I mentioned to her that both my wife and I were alumni and that my oldest son had already been accepted there.  She mentioned to me that she and her husband had their first child who was now 2 years old.  We began talking about Thanksgiving and the holiday season in general.  Then it happened!

We spoke about how my boys had progressed to the age where they understood about Santa and weren't as impressed with all of the lights as they used to be.  She stated that her son was in complete awe of all of the lights and joy of this time of year.  We talked a little more but I had the greatest parenting/leadership lesson I have ever received.  When her son goes somewhere, his innocence and trust is placed with his parents that they will introduce him to positive new experiences.  It's like seeing the warm feelings that come over people the first time they see all the candles on a menorah lit up, or when a trail of lights is seen for the first time, a child is in awe.  As a parent, we often forget that life sometimes has jaded us, and we take for granted life's little experiences.  Our kids lives are full of firsts on a daily basis, especially when they are young.

As a leader, we often find ourselves making decisions but forgetting about the development aspect of a decision.  Critical thinking and evaluation lead to confident, well thought out decisions.  The most critical aspect of thinking and evaluation is experience and the outcomes of past decisions.  Just like a child seeing a holiday light for the first time or receiving a surprise gift, our teams are filled with the same awe when they see the results of their hard work.

For whatever reason, this year is a special year for me personally and professionally.  I have seen my children grow into solid young men; I have seen the team I lead more than double our customer base and become significantly more efficient; I have seen every team member extend and develop in some way.  It has been fun to be able to sit back and watch others talk about what has been developed with appreciation and allow each team member to celebrate their individual accomplishments.

It is easy for us to see how success and failure through our own lenses.  It is far more rewarding to see life through someone else's eyes though.  Be the encourager, the guide, the resource for others and remember it's not all about you.  This is easy to say, harder to do.  If you make the effort everyone wins!

Have a great week and an even better holiday season!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Are you seeing clearly?

Over the past week, many of us have had the opportunity to spend time with friends and family.  Many of us will hear stories of successes and accomplishments that our friends and other family members have had, and as a result be envious to have their success.  What we often don't realize, is that the same people who we are envious of, may actually be trying to compete with us.

Life doesn't need to be a competition, but should rather be enjoyed for the moment that you are in.  Here is a clip that in my opinion illustrates how we can get so caught up in winning and losing that we forget to recognize success and accomplishment.

Take the time to recognize the successes you are having and the impact you have on a daily basis.  If you don't, you may not recognize success when it is right in front of you.

What accomplishments are you going to enjoy this week?  If you think about it, I guarantee that you have had some that you haven't given yourself enough credit for!

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Take a moment for others

In my blog, I rarely bring in my day to day job into the discussion.  Today is an exception.  My primary career is that I manage a contact center in the student loan industry.  Whenever I tell people this, the initial response that I receive is, "Oh, you're one of those people".  My response invariably is, "No, I am one of those individuals with the white hats that can provide people with the best options for their situation." 

While my career has been within several verticals within the debt collections and customer service industries, my current path is one that provides guidance and solutions for individuals who are frustrated by their situation.  The team responsible for providing counseling to the consumer are all focused on one goal, and that is to get it right the first time we speak with an individual so that the consumer is able to make better informed decisions through resources and feedback we are able to provide to them.  We don't collect money and we don't set up payment arrangements.  Simply put, we explore options and solutions with consumers to allow them to successfully manage repayment of their federal student loan debt.

It is amazing how much information is available for consumers that people do not take advantage of.  There are times that bad things happen to good people.  Take for instance the situation of an individual who has become 60 days past due on their student loan pay.  The first thing that needs to be understood is how a person became past due (besides the obvious of not making a payment).  Not making the payment is the result, but getting down to basics and understanding if their were triggering events which caused payments not to be made timely.  In this example, the person had their hours cut 3 months ago, which forced them to make decisions about how their money needed to be spent.  The quick answer would be to choose a discretionary hardship forbearance on this debt.  However, what the consumer may not understand is that this is going to cause capitalized interest to occur as a result of the interest accrual since their last payment was made.  Due to interest capitalization, their principal balance will increase, resulting in a higher monthly payment amount.  By gaining an understanding of their situation, it may be learned that the spouse lost their job during this period for a family of 5.  Again, bad things happen to good people and their are better options than just digging a deeper hole.

As we enter the holiday season, it is important, that we all recognize that bad things happen to good people.  There are some out there that have been through situations that are completely outside of their control, while there are situations that people have made some poor financial decisions.  Most of us have been their at some point in our lives.  These situations cause stress for individuals and their families.  Typically, without intervention, bad decisions lead to worse decisions.

While not everyone will have an opportunity to positively impact a persons financial situation in the way that we are able to in the contact center I'm responsible for, we all have the ability to provide fresh perspective to those around us.  Take the time to be a positive moment to a complete stranger.  Ask a friend or a family member how things are going and if they have a plan.  Bottom line, invest time in others not just during the holiday season, but all the time.

If you are in a bad situation, know there are a myriad of non-profit resources available for you to talk about your situation.  Also, know that bad situations will lead to sacrifice.  Things you were able to do, you may need to give up until things are back in balance.  There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and usually it is not a train coming at you.  Take a step back, breath, re-evaluate, and move forward. 

Situations can change, but only if there is a catalyst for them, and it all starts with us as individuals. 

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah over the course of the next week and remember to have a positive impact on someone this week.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The River of Negativity

Recently, I was asked if I could share my views and feelings on how to counter workplace negativity.  It is a topic that hits home for me.  I have had the fortune of working in environments where there have been very strict rules with very prescriptive consequences, as well as environments where there have been very fluid rules.

As I pondered this, it was apparent that I did not have a magic formula that has led to a lack of negativity in my current environment. I did realize the following though:
  • Change breeds negative thoughts
  • Negativity without a proper outlet festers and becomes a culture
  • Culture determines employee engagement and ultimate satisfaction
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction contributes to customer satisfaction
  • Customer satisfaction is synonymous with the customer experience
  • Customers typically will not speak highly of products and services that they have a negative experience with
  • Organizations lose customers as a result of negative customer experiences
How can negativity in the workplace be combated?   Taking a look at the above simplistic negativity flow, it is easiest to combat negativity before it even is allowed to manifest itself.  As a leader, you have to take negativity out at its knees.  Here are some strategies that have worked.
  • Ensure that change is communicated in a timely manner.
  • Encourage staff to ask questions and follow-up on their concerns.
  • Engage staff where they are, not where you think they are
  • Inspect what you expect, but don't micro-manage
  • Allow for midstream adjustments as not all changes or decisions deploy as envisioned
  • Don't hide from decisions.  Be visible and approachable
  • Provide status updates as to how change is progressing, even acknowledging learning opportunities
  • Recognize staff whenever possible
  • Celebrate milestones and accomplishments, no matter how small
Much of what is mentioned above are things you see talked about in books, articles, training classes, etc.  I can attest from experience that the first list can become your reality, if you don't adopt items from the second list.

What changes do you have planned?  Hopefully this post provides some nuggets to assist you successfully avoid workplace negativity by eliminating it before it has a chance to take hold. If it exists in your environment today, know that the course of negativity can be reversed through focusing on items in the second list, primarily through being visible, approachable, communicating, and taking the time to recognize positive outcomes, no matter how small.  Most importantly, have fun!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

H.A.T.'s off to you!

Around the office, October is annual review time.  It seems that every manager in the organization is scrambling to come up with information about their direct reports that should be included in an annual performance appraisal.  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  I have a general thought, that most leaders truly share, and that performance feedback should be a process, not a form.

As leaders, our direct and indirect reports should have an understanding of how they are performing throughout a review period.  Rather than looking at appraisals as a "have to do", look at this period as a "get to do". 

We all know when we are on our "A" game and when we are performing at a C+ level (at best).  We understand that we all have good days, and bad days.  When it comes to annual performance appraisals, they should not look at singular events, but a body of work in its entirety.  Much like the saying, "You can't judge a book by it's cover", a leader conducting annual appraisals should look at a persons work in context.

I love this time of year for the following reasons, but in all honesty these are conversations that really need to be occurring throughout the year:

  • I get to celebrate successes of my direct reports
  • I get to another opportunity to provide formal feedback on how they have progressed throughout the year
  • I get to speak one on one and discuss an important topic, them
  • I get to learn a little more about what their expectations are of me as a leader
  • I get to provide my direct report focused feedback as to how they are developing and the direction that we mutually agree they want to go
  • I get to recognize the little things that they do that may be "just in a days work" for them, but make a big difference
Appraisals should never be a surprise for the recipient.  Throughout the year, it is important for leaders to provide consistent developmental feedback.  Development needs not be a negative, but rather a way to capitalize on individual accomplishments and continually setting more aggressive goals and challenging where the bar is set.

As a leader, I have been fortunate to be mentored and developed by true leaders who were interested in the development of others.  As a result, I make every attempt to instill this into the cultures I am a part of, and definitely with the teams I am associated with.  Working in a silo stifles vision and innovation.  Create a forward working culture through consistent and appreciative feedback.  When you do, it makes the annual appraisal a much easier process.

H.A.T.'s (Happy Appraisal Time) off to you if you have culture, environment, a style as described above!

Have a great week!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MVP or Great Teammate?

It is that time of year when my beloved Boston Red Sox are back in the World Series!!!  Who'd a thunk it?  A year ago under the leadership of Bobby Valentine, the Sox were Horrible for a number of reasons. This year, the best record in the league! 

Leadership has alot to do with this, but so does the culture of the team.  Nothing sums up the culture of this years team more than a picture posted on Facebook today.  It was a quote from second baseman, Dustin Pedroia that said, "We're trying to win, man. Nobody cares what they do personally. It's all about the team." Powerful stuff!!

In sports, it has been said that there is no bigger accolade a professional ball player can receive than they were a great teammate.  MVP's, batting titles, home runs, strikeouts, all of it does not matter. Were you there to support your team and did you do everything that you could do, selflessly, to ensure a "W"?

In our organizations, we come across people that have their personal agenda's.  We all know who "they" are.  Who are the individuals that are digging in and making sure that the job is getting done better today than what it was the day before?  Are you one of them?

As a leader, it should be our goal to make sure that the team is successful.  As in the case of the Red Sox, current manager John Farrell understands the concept of team.  You don't see him trying to be the center of attention, unlike Bobby Valentine, last years Sox manager.

Are you a leader that is willing to work with the team you have to lead them from worst to first?
Are you creating a culture that puts team ahead of individual?
Are you ensuring that successes are being celebrated, but not dwelled on during the journey to greatness?
Are you able to recognize opportunities for development, and put players in roles that best suit the needs of the team?

If so, you my friend are a strong leader.  Let your legacy tell whether you are a great leader.

Have a great week!  Go SOX!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's really important?

One of the most peaceful places for me is to be at the beach.  I become very introverted and introspective and it is where I can truly clear my head of all the stresses in life.

Living in Texas, there is so much to do, however, due to my fears of jellyfish, rattlesnakes (yes at the beach I have seen warnings for them), sharks, etc. I tend to stay out of the water.  Up until 3 weeks ago, I had never been to Galveston Island.  Over the last three weeks, I have been there twice. 

The first time it was with the family for a baseball tournament that my son's were playing in.  The games were OK, they both played well, but the important piece was the bonding time we had.  My oldest son is a Senior in high school this year, while my youngest son is a Sophomore.  They are the best of friends, period.  After the tournament we went over to the sea wall and the boys decided they wanted to feel the water.  It was really cool to see them really spend some bonding time with each other aside from being at home or on the ball field.  Next year will be hard on both of them.

My second trip to Galveston was for a work conference.  Like I said earlier, I get very introspective at the beach and spent some time on one of the jetty's.  The picture at the top of this post is one that really focused me on our first visit.  The statue is a family holding on to one other, looking for guidance from a higher power.  WOW! 
It is easy to get so focused on the hustle and bustle of daily life, but all of us really need to take that me time to remember what is truly important in our lives. Take the time to seek guidance, but hold on to those values and beliefs that are most important.
Hope this isn't too deep a post.  Usually I draw inspiration for my posts from reading others posts or based upon what is happening in my daily hustle and bustle.  Unfortunately, I have been away from reading and writing for a couple of weeks, but while these thoughts were in my head, I felt it best to share them.
Regardless of your situation, you should never get too busy to get back to the basics.  The basics will vary for each of us, but when you do, you will feel so much better.
Hope you all have a great weekend!  Let me know what getting back to the basics looks like to you.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Thoughtful Place

In the words of Winnie the Pooh, I am in my thoughtful place.  Yes, I am at Starbucks writing this post.  Not only is the location my thoughtful place, but so is where I am mentally right now. 

So, my thoughts for the day revolve around change, and how to move yourself from where you perceive you are, to where you want to be.  This is easier said than done, however, it can be done. 

It is easy to be like the crowd, and live in Negativeville, but it takes effort to move yourself from there.  So, here are a couple of characteristics of Negativeville.

  • Do you find yourself finger pointing and focusing on what others are doing, rather than what you are doing?
  • Do your interactions with others generally focus about you, or your frustrations?
  • You are not able to extract any positives from your day.
So, how do you attach a U-Haul to your tuchus, and move out of Negativeville and land in Pleasant Valley, or Positiveland.  Hint: You don't have to travel through Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.  Here are some perspectives that have helped me in the past. You may recognize some of these perspectives from baseball or other sports movies.
  • Don't think, it only hurts the team. Meaning, the more I over analyze the situation, the more negative energy I am wasting.  Negative energy is draining and unproductive.
  • I don't have to be the center of attention.  I can be a positive influence by working behind the scenes.
  • When someone gives you a gift, thank them. In other words, be sincere and appreciative of the work of others. Whether or not this is reciprocated does not matter. Be true to yourself.
  • Feed the monster! Everyone likes their ego stroked. By taking the time to do so, you ensure your number gets called.
  • The greatest recognition that an athlete can receive is that they are recognized by their peers as great teammate, not that they hit the most home runs, or scored the most goals, etc. Be the great teammate.
In my thoughtful place, I am taking the time to listen and observe others. I keep my focus on what I am doing, not what others are doing. If someone has a perception that I may not agree with, I can't change their perception with words, but I can with positive actions.

No one is perfect, however, if I strive to improve a consistently positive outlook, I may be able to perfect outcomes. If I focus on situational outcomes, results improve.  Once results improve, I am at that point able to unhook that U-Haul from my tuchus and enjoy where I am.

Remember, your positive actions and attitudes can have a far reaching impact on those who you may not even be aware are paying attention to you. No matter how impactful you may perceive you are, I guarantee you are leaving an impression on someone, why not make it a positive one.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Leadership Experience

This past week, I had the privilege of watching a group of leadership program candidates graduate from their experience.  As a Board Member for a local trade association, I was there as this program is a Board sponsored program. 

There were some important lessons that I took away from this dinner, aside from the fact the dinner, was AWESOME!  All of these lessons are more "duh" moments when you sit back and think about it, however, they definitely served as reminders that you have to take the time to get  back to the basics from time to time as leader.

1. Leadership is a journey, not a destination
2. Each person has their individual spin they put on leadership
3. Have a dream; develop a plan; execute on your strategy
4. No two leaders execute in the same manner, nor are their experiences the same
5. Just because leadership styles are different, doesn't mean one is more right than another
6. If you are learning in a homogeneous environment, you lose diversity in thought and experiences
7. Successful leaders are always networking and exchanging ideas
8. Leaders must be open to differing perspectives and allow results to happen as a consequence of execution
9. Leadership is not about the leader
10. Leaders must take the time to "smell the roses" and celebrate the success of their teams and organizations
11. Leaders need to be facilitators for growth and development, not managers of activities
12. Leaders don't need to be the smartest person in the room, but they need to have vision and effective communication skills

These 2013 graduates of The Austin Contact Center Association Service Leadership Academy did a great job in their journey.  Several of the graduates are already on their way to successful adventures inside their organizations, but also outside of their organization.  I don't think that they realize how much they taught this member of the audience.  I hope they do now.

Have a great week!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Sense of Purpose

Today's topic is one that is discussed frequently as a leadership topic, providing a sense of purpose.  I take credit for this not in my workplace, but in the work that my two son's began this weekend. 

Allow me to table set for a moment.  First of all, they are both A students in high school.  One has been accepted to his dream college on early admission, but is keeping his options open as before he fully commits as he has a desire to play baseball at the collegiate level.  My other son is a sophomore who is definitely coming into his own personality and is very focused in his own right.  They are both focused on being successful in school, but at times it seems they are satisfied with doing enough to stay ahead of their peers.

They began assisting a family friend this weekend on a new business venture that they are assisting him with market research on.  What a better source on how social media is influencing people than with a couple of teenagers.  A great idea for my friend, plus it provide some valuable work experience that allows them not to come home covered in hamburger grease.  A win-win in my book.

Here is the leadership lesson.  They came home fired up and motivated to do well (after a 9AM meeting on a Saturday morning), not just because there was money involved, but they were talking about all the potential they saw and wanted to become part of a greater purpose.  They understood the value of what they were doing and the impact it would have on our friends business.

In our own workplace, are including in our day to day activities a way to integrate a sense of purpose into our culture?  While there are may be a variety of roles and responsibilities in our environments, are we taking the time to make sure that our teams and organizations understand the value of each persons contribution to the "why" we are in business.

I am fortunate, I get to share a story of contribution and success with the rest of the organization I work for in the morning.  Daily my team shares encouragement and stories of success with each other.  As a result, the team has a shared sense of purpose and value.  They support and encourage each other and motivate our leadership to want to do more for them on a daily basis.  At the end of the day, having the shared purpose, creates a shared vision of what success looks like, and we work on it daily.

Take a few minutes this week to recognize those you work with.  Tell stories, because you want to, not because you have to.  They will be much more meaningful to the recipient than if you are going through the motions and simply checking a box.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Keep Perspective

Each year Beloit College publishes its Class of XXXX mindset list.  This list is a compilation of the perspectives that each incoming freshman class has.  It is a very intriguing look at how the world we live in has changed over the preceding 18 years.

This morning I had an interesting conversation with my wife on the way to work.  She teaches 7th grade science and raised a very interesting perspective to me.  This years sixth and seventh graders have not known a world where global terrorism has not been a concern.  They don't know about the events leading up to the attacks of 9/11.  The world we live in has changed so much over the past 12 years.

Think about your work.  Are you able to keep perspective of the events going on around you?  It is difficult to do.  Most times, even as professionals, we are so focused on making the decision, we forget about all of the events leading up to the current situation.  We think that every experience we have is one that no one else has been through before.  That simply isn't the case.  We forget that experience is the catalyst for innovation.  Understanding that every situation is a result of a series of decisions and events that brought us to the here and now is very important. 

Keeping perspective on ones mindset allows teams to grow, products to be launched, and businesses to grow and expand.  Think about it for a moment.  Could Benjamin Franklin have developed a cellular telephone?  No chance!  Remember, experience is the catalyst for innovation.  Without Franklin's discovery of electricity, experiences leading to the development of the cellular phone would not have been possible.  For Franklin and his contemporaries, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that some could be walking down the street in Boston, and speaking to someone in Philadelphia or London.  A series of discoveries, experiences, and innovation led to the world we know today.

My boys may not know or understand that when I grew up, there were essentially 3 networks on TV and everyone watched the 6:00 local news, and then the 7:00 national news.  Pong was a cool video game.  Red Dawn was a real concern.  The thought of my beloved Red Sox winning a World Series was a pipe dream, let alone two World Series in three years.  Automatic windows on a car were a luxury.  Going to an Apple store, meant work at the orchard.

Their perspective is that they have communication available at the speed of thought.  Apps are a way of life.  Terrorism is not limited to countries that we just read about. 

Keep perspective of how you got to where you are.  Take time to be self reflective and know that you can change your course if you so choose.  Every morning the sun rises and new beginnings are born.  Take calculated risks and blaze your trail.  Easier said than done, but we crawled before we walked, and walked before we were able to run, and ran before we were able to soar.  Take the first step today.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


WTF???  You can fill in the blanks for what those initials stand for.  However, they are initials for what all of us experience at some point in our day?

  • Another driver cuts your off in an effort to make a yellow light so they can arrive at their destination sooner....  WTF???
  • You are sitting in a meeting and you offer comments that are seemingly ignored.  Then what seems like just seconds later, another participant in the meeting offers the same comment that you had just made and seems to receive praise for their comment...  WTF???
  • You are having a conversation with a person face to face, and a third person approaches the person you are speaking with and interrupts with a question of their own...  WTF???
  • A project is completed in your office that has taken a very long time to complete and has been promised to be the saving grace that all have been waiting for.  When it's rolled out, there are more problems post implementation than there were previously...  WTF???
  • As a parent, you are constantly approached by your child's school for fundraisers, donations, etc., that just seems endless and non-budgeted.  As a parent, you want to participate because you know what non-participation could potentially do for your child socially...  WTF???
All of these situations just are frustrating and we face them on a daily basis.  You spend more time asking yourself WTF?  You expend more negative energy towards getting the answers rather than on just moving forward.  You allow yourself to dwell in a place longer than what it really needs to be.  Is that really solving the problem at hand, probably not. 

Here's an approach for you....  Bank It.  Remember Karma is a bitch!

While you may not be able to change the situation immediately, especially in the workplace, remember that every situation has a result, either positive or negative.  It is easy to become frustrated, all of us have done this, but this could actually be a learning opportunity for ourselves if we look hard enough.

Look at the current situation in its totality and what decisions have occurred to arrive at the present place.  How could better decision making in the future avoid negative consequences in the future.  By taking a step back and becoming an observer, rather than a participant in a situation, can you become a better decision maker?  Just a thought.

This week when you are just thinking to yourself, WTF?  Just document and deposit the situation, and bring it back when the time is more appropriate, not in an "I told you so" moment, but rather in a how do we avoid the same situation from occurring again.

It has been a while since I have posted a blog, so please have a great week and don't dwell in WTF!!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I'm GREAT, Doesn't EVERYONE else know it?

A healthy ego is essential for success in the workplace.  You need to be confident in your own skills, abilities, and experiences as you progress through your career.  That's a no-brainer.  But, what happens when your employer decides that your skills, abilities, and experiences should be shared elsewhere.  What you are left with is your past, and it becomes vitally important that you impart your SAE to a potentially new employer.  You know you are GREAT!  Everyone else should know it and come knocking down your door, right?

Uh...  Not so much. 

In the workforce these days, there are many, many bright and talented individuals that have skills, abilities, and experiences that are not readily seen.  Thus preparing for your next chapter as a job hunter becomes mission critical.

A couple of ideas that I would like to share, most of which are considered "DUH" ideas, but nonetheless, are share worthy.

  • Keep your eyes wide open while currently employed.  New employers/hiring managers have ego's too.  They love the idea of "stealing" talent from another organization, however, are not as boastful if they find a "stray".
  • Research - Social media offers insights into organizations and leaders that 30 years ago were not as easily attained.  Know who you are interviewing with and what that person focuses on.  Understand and use jargon that are hot in your industry now.
  • Plan your behavioral responses, based upon how you utilized your skills and abilities in situations you have been faced with.  How did these contribute as successes and failures to your overall experience for the position.
  • Share openly during the interview, but not too openly.  You don't want to be perceived as condescending, individualistic, or hard to get a long with during the interview.  Be able to share what you learned as a result of the situation you provided as an example.  Negative situations are the best sharing opportunities as they demonstrate your ability to grow personally and professionally.
Remember, you need to be able to sell yourself forward, not reside in your past.  The person interviewing you may not be able to connect the dots with your diverse experiences, and it is up to you to connect those dots for them.  People that don't know me, for instance, are quite surprised when I say that I was a History major in college.  Dot connecting has become common place for me.

You are GREAT!  Plan for where you want to be, not for where you are.  Network, network, network!  Doors will open, and you will be able to walk through them!  Good Luck!!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ever Feel Like a Pigeon Sometimes?

Whether you are in the workplace or in your personal life, do you ever feel like a pigeon sometimes?  What exactly does this mean, you might ask?

If you are an information and knowledge junkie, you probably have an insatiable thirst to know and learn more.  You don't just want to know when decisions are made, but why they are made.  Yes, you probably have your hands in alot of different places, and juggling multiple projects at any one time, but you are never satisfied.

Feeling like a pigeon occurs when you rely on others for the scraps of information that are being thrown down to you, hoping that each morsel will fill you up.  Pigeons will hang out around beings (usually humans) that can satisfy the pigeons need for food, and ultimately satisfaction.  Pigeons, when they can not obtain satisfaction in one location, they move to another location, hoping to have the desires satisfied.

As humans, our morsels of food are the nuggets of "why" things occur.  If you are in an organization where decisions are made by those disconnected from the processes and drivers, you are probably shaking your head thinking, "what were they thinking"?  Sooner or later you either become complacent and settle for mediocrity, or you decide to take action and move locations where hopefully your desires can be satisfied.  The thing about pigeons though, they never stop trying.  They will continue to come around, until a piece of bread is thrown their way.  The human thinks that the pigeon is satisfied, however, the satisfaction is only temporary, the pigeon will undoubtedly return for more.

As leaders, we need to expect that our teams have this desire to know why decisions are made, and it is up to us to keep feeding that need.  Teams and individuals understand confidentiality, they don't understand secrecy. 

Feed the need, and productivity will take seed.  Don't give teams and individuals a reason to look elsewhere for their morsels, because the outcome will usually not be what you ultimately want. 

How about you?  Do you ever feel like a pigeon?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The title of this blog says it all!!  It is what each of us feels at some point in time during the course of our busy days!  However, why do we get to this point?  Here are a few thoughts I have...

  • We think we are on an island in a fast moving stream.  If we dare to upset the the current, we may lose everything that this island provides for us.
  • We believe that no one else wants to hear about what is frustrating us.  That is the furthest from the truth, unless you are an infinite complainer that does not have the capacity to see the positive in any situation and as a result those around you tune you out.  Take time to see the upside in every situation, no matter how challenging it may be.
  • Mediocrity breeds complacency.  If you buy in to the thought "it has always been done that way", you are stifling creativity.  Again, don't upset the apple cart, it is how we are fed.
I am certain that they are other reasons that we get to the point of AAAARRGGGHHHH!!!  It is important that we understand the triggers in ourselves and work to diffuse the situation prior to frustration setting in.  This is easier said than done, but I will tell you, if you provide yourself an outlet (non-habit forming hopefully), you will find that you are in more control of situations than you think you are.  You will find that you will be easier to step back from situations and see them at the 10,000 foot level rather than mired in the weeds, your frustration level will decrease.  This will result in better decisions being made and hopefully a reduction in stress.

I had a post a that discussed how your mountains are others molehills, and vice versa.  If you learn to control what you can control, and engage only when there is a need to engage a situation, you will find your productivity and sanity levels will improve.

It is easy to focus on negativity and continually complain about situations.  However, to be a true professional, leader, and in many cases a friend, it is important to be able to see the positive in every situation.

Turn that frown, upside down and have a great rest of the week! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Reflections...

Mother's Day is a day for children of all ages to give thanks to their Mother's.  I am taking this time as an opportunity to thank those Mother's in the workplace.  Your job is not easy.

For all of those children out there that believe their Mom's have it easy, believe me they don't.  They work their butts off to provide a good life and upbringing for their kids.  What is a Mother?

A Mother is...

A Friend
A Counselor
A Teacher
A Motivator
Your Biggest Fan
A Woman
A Provider
A Supporter
An Accountant
A Veterinarian
A Pediatrician
A Nutritionist
A Banker
A Judge, but never judgmental
Always there for you

There are so many things that a Mom is required to do outside of this list on a daily basis, that we as children forget all the little things our Mom's do.  It is not until we get older, that we truly appreciate all that our Mom's did for us, and unfortunately, for some by that time it is too late.

Never wait another day to tell your Mom you love her, trust me, they really like hearing this!

I would like to especially thank all of the Single Mom's out there who not only have to do the list above but also have to play the role of Dad in their children's life.  Single Mom's never get a break.  For the most part, they are on call 24/7 365 days a year.

I see Single Mom's struggle on a daily basis, and I wish there was more that could be done to assist them.  My hats off to you!!

Take the opportunity to thank a Mom for all they do, whether it is yours or someone else's.  It was amazing how you can turn a frown, upside down when you wish someone a Happy Mother's Day when they are working.  It is an opportunity to show a Mom, you do care about them, something a Mom rarely hears.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Where are you going, and why?

So, you are in transition, but are have you prepared yourself for your next big thing?  Maybe its not a "big" thing, maybe its just your thing.

With graduations occurring over the next couple of months, many students will be asked so what are you going to do now?  Many expect to be making 60K+ because that is a lifestyle they have become used to.  They have become used to their parents lifestyle, but they really don't remember how their parents started off, in most cases.  What is worse, is that many students are entering a world of debt that they are not prepared for. 

There has been much written in blogs, journals, and other publications about the debt that new High School and College Graduates will be saddled with, however, when working adults transition in their lives, are they truly ready and prepared?  Debt is one aspect of transition.  The more important aspect of transition, in my opinion, is how prepared is a person ready for the challenges of their next role?  For some, it is a promotion.  For others, it is a demotion.  For others, it is a total career change.  What people forget is how their experiences in a prior role can translate into a new adventure.

Here is an example.  Working in a contact center is not a lifelong dream of most young people.  Most contact centers, however, are staffed with individuals that bring a unique "flavor" to their employer.  They may have sold insurance; be technically savvy; have a legal background; sales background, etc.  They may have coursework that range from very little to PhD's, those that have college degrees, and others that have GED's.  The main point is that they prepared themselves as a professional in some way that makes them valuable to their employer.

As a person embarks on their next challenge, they need to ask themselves some very simple questions, regardless of the industry they are in.
  • Why am I embarking on this challenge
  • What do I hope to gain from this experience
  • Who will mentor me
  • When will I know if I am successful
  • Where do I see myself in 6 months, a year, five years
  • How is this experience going to allow me to improve or increase the tools in my toolbox
Education is an investment in a persons future, however, education without experience often leads to frustration.  When new college graduates expect to be earning 60K+ directly out of school, they don't realize the importance of experience.  Some are able to land high paying jobs directly out of school with very little experience, however, those are the exceptions.

Education and experience can come from many different places.  Be open to coaching, mentoring, constant development whenever it is offered to you.  This will allow you to become more well rounded as your career evolves.  Understand where you are at currently, know where you want to be, but most importantly know that your path is going to have a myriad of directional changes which will prepare you for the next fork in the road. 

Have a good week!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Formula for Success

Another High School Baseball seasons is drawing to a close.  This is a sure sign that the school year is ending shortly.  As a parent of two high schoolers (both of whom are baseball players), I realize that the end of their high school academic career is also coming to a close (fortunately my boys are a junior and freshman this year).  This post has nothing to do with baseball, however, it does have to do with being prepared for transition.

This spring and summer many graduates will be interviewing for their first "real" job, but are they prepared?  Much like a ball player stepping up his/her game are graduates or job seekers truly ready to step up their game?  What I coach people on is where you are today, should not be where you expect to be tomorrow.  It is important to have a basic formula for success, such as:

Preparation + Opportunity = Success
By looking at this very simple formula, it can lead you in the direction you are seeking. 
Preparation - have you invested in yourself and equiped yourself with knowledge and experience that others will recognize?  What do you know about the path you are choosing and do you understand not just the glitter associated with your choice, but do you also understand how to avoid the quicksand that can derail your journey?
Opportunity - carpe diem!  Seize the moment!  When you are in a position to put all of your preparation to action, do you take advantage of the moment?  Don't be hesitant, just go for it!!
Success - Celebrate your success!!!  Understand what got you to the point and appreciate those who guided, coached, and mentored you through all of your preparation for the moment that you were able to capitalize on. 
Like an athlete moving up levels of competition, it is important to remember where you have been and what brought you to the moment of success that you are in.  Keep preparing for the next level of your career and never stop being a student of not just your trade or vocation, but of life.
Remember P+O=S.
Have a great week!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Schoolhouse Rock Moment...

Just to preface this post, this is post is no way reflective of a political leaning in either direction.  I usually don't discuss politics in this format.  This is instead a reflection of a childhood memory and how it impacts me today.

I remember as a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons.  While some of the cartoon characters stick in my mind, what I remember most are the shorts under the Schoolhouse Rock umbrella.  They were a catchy way to remember english, history, science, and math.  The one that I have been thinking about the most is the short that taught about the formation of our country and the preamble for the United States Constitution.  This is something that I think that politicians these days have really lost sight of.

As a reminder, the preamble says this....

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

In my opinion, the United States was established as a union of colonies that aligned themselves against British rule.  Taxation and religious freedom issues were key issues for early colonists.  Early Statesmen understood that aligning resources towards a common goal was the best recipe for success.  At the end of the day, while there may have been much discussion and dissent they understood that their goal was to "form a more perfect union".  The "how" they would form a more perfect union lay among the rest of the preamble as these were the basics for the remainder of the constitution.  Government's purpose was to:

  • Establish justice
  • Insure domestic tranquility
  • Provide for the common defense
  • promote the general welfare
  • secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves
  • posterity for all colonists
To understand what our forefathers were attempting to establish as their goal was something much different than what was occurring on the European continent.  In Europe, remember that each country could easily be considered a state.  Thus the creation of the United States of America was a union of colonies united together to form that more perfect union of states on the North American continent.

Over the past 224 years since George Washington was first inaugurated as our country's first President government has been transformed based upon interpretations of the constitution.  At the end of the day, what has been at the root cause is the interpretation of states rights versus the role of the Federal government in the lives of the citizenry.  Government in the beginning served to create a common law of the newly formed nation and provide defense against those who threatened the union of states. 

In my opinion, regardless of political affiliation, we as Americans need to get back to the basics of how we came together as the United States of America.  The role of government in the affairs of the citizens needs to be reexamined.  Our government, defined as all three branches of government, are not meeting the constitutional expectations as outlined in the preamble of the constitution.

In business, if organizations are not meeting customer needs, or the needs of their shareholders, leadership changes occur.  In our government, there are far too many in the legislative branch, regardless of party affiliation, who do not have real accountability back to their electorate.

Just some food for thought for the week.... Take look back at the Schoolhouse Rock series.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


What is passion?

The word is used most frequently when one talks of love, or hate.  One definition would say that it is the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm. 

Can you have passion in the workplace?  Most HR professionals would encourage love in the workplace to not occur, however, I would argue that in order for businesses to thrive and grow, you need to have passion.  You need to have a love of what you are doing, just not love those in the workplace as HR would frown upon that.

As a leader, it must be understood that passion for doing the job right got you to where you are today.  Does that same passion or love still exist for you in the job. 

Teachers are a great example of a profession where there are many passionate teachers when they land their first classroom position.  For some, distractions and political agendas replace a love and passion for educating young minds, with a passionate hate for coming to work.  Even the most passionate and energetic educator succumbs to the negativity at some point.  It is those teachers who are able to keep perspective about why they are in the profession that are able to make careers out of the classroom.

Office politics frequently will breed complacency and stifle the innovation and passion of individuals.  Perseverance and vision stimulates the love for the job and allows for positions to develop into careers.  It is important for individuals who lead others to always demonstrate PMA - Positive Mental Attitude.  By doing so as a leader you are rising above the politics and providing vision. 

I am passionate about the work I do.  I wake up each day excited about what the day holds.  I have a vision about how to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.  I understand that politics exist in the workplace, but I also understand that if I don't have a better solution, it is not a hill worth dying on.  Battles must be selective, because once you have become war weary, your passion for the job, turns to a passion for survival.

Some questions to think about...

Is your current position a job or a career?
Why are you in your current position?
Where are you going?
Does your organizations values align with your values?
Would you do your current job if there was no monetary incentive?

If you can answer the last question, the money question, with a "YES", I would argue that you have passion for your position.  I love what I do and understand that what I do adds value to others. 

I haven't written a post in almost 2 months, and I realize that I love writing, but it hadn't become a passion for me...yet. 

Take some time to look introspectively and create a positive direction for yourself, if you are feeling less than satisfied with where you are.

Have a great week!