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Archive for the category “Leadership”

You Don’t Make Connections at the Drive-Thru—(Joe Pesci was right)

drivethruYou love coffee, I love coffee, we all love coffee.  As we all know, it tastes a whole lot better when someone else makes it and you sip it as you walk into the office.  But, you must also get your kids to school and be at work by 8:30am.  So, you rush around and get that morning coffee at the Drive-Thru. Oh, the stories and connections you are missing out on.  Joe Pesci had it right in Lethal Weapon 2, but for different reasons.  I promise if you take the extra five minutes and walk into Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks each morning (…and maybe even throw a buck into the tip jar occasionally) you will start your day off on such a higher level.

There is something about “The Law of Familiarity” that makes people friendlier, and like you more each time they see you.  We tend to be attracted to things we are familiar with.  But, here’s the catch.  The key word is “see” you.  Not Facebook…Not a Tweet….And DEFINITELY NOT an Email.  Engage in even a little conversation, and your coffee server can open all kinds of doors for you.  Maybe even an extra espresso shot here and there.

Be seen, be present, make someone smile.  As hard as Facebook tries, they haven’t figured out a way to capture a real smile and a warm “good morning.” (Or an extra shot of espresso)

The Tough Coach

xtechnical-sergeant.png.pagespeed.ic.95J3xuEMawWith Veterans Day on Saturday I thought I would take a moment and call out one of my first bosses in the Air Force.  TSgt Desnoyer was the typical, cigar chopping Sergeant you’ve seen hundreds of times in the movies.  Barely looked at you, grunted a lot, liked to give you funny nick names.  ‘Sink or Swim” being a favorite of his.

In 1987 I was a 20-year-old kid making $250 a week, brand new in the military.  At the time, the Air Force had an incredible program called the Montgomery GI Bill.  The plan was simple back then.  Give the Air Force $100 of your pay back each month for one year, and get  $10,800 to use for education when you get out.  No brainer, right? In my infinite wisdom I declined to be part of the program….That’s until TSgt Desnoyer “coached” me.

After yelling at me about how stupid I was to let free money go to waste, he reasoned with me.  He explained the power of education and how I should always be striving to learn and grow.  He finally got through to me.  Was it his persuasion techniques?  Was it his charm?  Was it his loud voice?  None of the above….It was because I trusted him, and I knew he honestly cared about me.  You can’t hide or fake caring.   You either care or you don’t.  Great coaches care about their team more than their own needs.

I did give the Air Force back $1,200 of my very little take home pay over the next year.  And I took the $10,800 they gave me and ultimately parlayed it into an MBA from Anna Maria College in 1999.  That piece of paper has opened more doors and changed my life in ways I could never pay back.

So, on this Veterans Day I salute all the great coaches in my life.  Especially TSgt Desnoyer for caring about a stupid kid who thought $100 a month was worth more than the 30 years of education that followed.  Happy Veterans Day

LeaderSHIT. 10 ways leaders screw things up

Some mmistake1anagers are great leaders and some aren’t.   The day-to-day of tactics of running a business are a lot different from the broad strategic vision needed to grow a business.

I won’t get into all the differences between managers and leaders.  That subject has been beat to death.  Instead I will give you my top 10 things leaders should strive NOT to do when responsible for tactics and strategies.  We all stumble into these bad habits at times.  Recognize them, and don’t make the same mistake twice.  Learning and growing is where the magic happens.

  1. Hoarding the information and having favorites. Be honest, reward results, and be transparent.  Your people can smell dishonesty and favoritism 10 miles away. HONEST!
  2. Think one size fits all.  You can’t teach a fish to fly (I know, I know—flying fish…Just stay with me please 🙂  People have things they are good at.  Encourage and reward that.  Don’t try to make people something they aren’t.  Everyone has something to offer the team, or they wouldn’t be on the team.  Help enhance their strengths.
  3. Not being consistent. This is the absolutely hardest one to do. As leaders we have to try to be the same coach when we win as we are when we lose.  This is very tough, but the only way to let people feel comfortable enough to take the risks and chances needed to be the best.
  4. Taking the credit. All together now… It’s not about you anymore! It’s about the team.  Give the credit out to the troops and stop being so damn needy for approval.
  5. Being moody. We all can be moody, but nothing destroys trust faster. Not knowing if you will bite off their heads when they ask a question is a great way for you to be left in the dark on the REAL important things.
  6. Not listening. It’s the same with your significant other, your kids, or your best friend. Take a deep breath and REALLY listen.  I know your own voice has magical healing properties, but the next time someone wants to talk to you, don’t think about what you will say next, or that you need to pick up propane for a BBQ this weekend.
  7. Ego. There is some direct connection with the need to be wanted and loved and working your way up the ladder at work. Suck it up, let someone else have the credit, admit when you are wrong, and other smart people exist in the world.  Smarter than you believe it or not.
  8. Gossip. Being part of it, or allowing it to fester. Nothing will kill an organization faster than gossip. It’s negative, most of the time not accurate, and takes the focus off the mission of the team…To win.   Talk about ideas and ways to improve yourself, not if Sally is sleeping with Bob.
  9. Lack of growth/Education. We all should be enhancing our skills and growing daily. That means taking classes, reading books, and being open-minded. You don’t know it all, but you could get better every week. 2% educational growth a week makes you over 100% smarter in a year.
  10. Not taking action. Don’t over think the think, over do the do.  Stop talking about it, researching it, and thinking about it…Just do it!  Take an action and adjust along the way. Just like Patton told us (And kind of won a World War) “A good plan today is worth a perfect plan tomorrow”.

There are a lot more, but those are my top 10.  I struggle with some daily, but I know what to look for, and how to adjust and learn from my mistakes.  Lack of leadership is the top cause in EVERY poor and average team.  Our teams get better when we get better

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back–Weight Loss And Vacations

Life is about consistent forward motion. You probably put 10,000 to 20,000 miles a year on your car over the course of a year. What you don’t do is put all those miles at once. It happens gradually over a long period of time. You prepare for the journey by changing the oil, keeping things tuned up, and having an overall plan.  This logic applies to everything in life, yet we rarely see it that way.

Case in point, vacations and weight loss. If you lose weight gradually over time by eating right and exercising there is a good chance you will keep it off. It becomes a lifestyle. If you were to drop 20 pounds very quickly, you probably will gain all the weight back once you stop being fanatical. In fact, you will probably gain more weight back. So yes, you will end up fatter than if you never dieted at all. That’s the trouble with “all or nothing” plans.

Which leads me to vacations. Vacations are designed to let you recharge, retool, and get away from the office for a bit so you can be more productive upon your return. Guess what? That’s not what actually happens. What happens, is it takes about two days to get out of work mode. By the Wednesday of your vacation week you finally start to relax only to have to start preparing for work mode again. The extra energy it takes to switch gears actually makes you more exhausted. By the time you return to work, you have to power through the giant stack of stuff on your desk, and keep up with the new stuff rolling in. In essence you went on a crash “work” diet for a week, and gained it all back, plus more, when you return.

The only way to really beat the vacation problem is to have a great 2nd in command. The person watching the shop when you’re not around is worth their weight in gold. Pay them what they’re worth. Praise and appreciate them. They are your key to a life of sanity. Leaders need to be able to walk away and trust that the place will run without them. This happens by consistently grooming the people under them to take the reins when needed. An extremely tough task, especially in a workplace that has a “that’s not my job” mentality.

Finding people as passionate and who care as much as you is a big assignment. It can’t be done in a week, a month, or even a year. It takes consistent training, education and a leadership style that allows the troops to see the leader as someone who leads by example. When the boss is viewed as someone with honesty, integrity and an ability to see the big picture, people will respond positively.

You prepare your food for a diet. You prepare a workout log. You prepare your day so you can live a healthier lifestyle. Prepare for everything, than go with the flow. If you don’t the weight will pile back on with a vengeance. The key to success is the proper preparation and consistently following the plan..Have you prepared the person who will lead the charge in your absence?

Now, if you gain weight while on vacation, well, that’s a whole another story to write about.





Knee Jerk Reaction

The world needs jerks. Ok, let me define how I view jerks before anyone gets their undies in a wad. A jerk is someone who makes you follow the rules, tells you the truth when you need to hear it, and most importantly, helps you from crossing over from being a jerk to being a scumbag. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE!

In my mind jerks keep us in line. The teacher who actually makes sure you know the lesson. A coach who takes the time to prepare you to win. You see, that’s the big difference. People who seem like jerks at certain points of our life are ausually  the ones who care the most about us.  Most of the time being strict will get you the jerk classification. That’s ok as long as the jerk doesn’t play favorites, doesn’t back stab, and is completely honest. Actually, this is the most important trait of all. Honest to the point of telling people the cold, hard, truth even when they don’t want to hear it.

Plato said “they deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.” In other words, people think brutally honest folks are/can be jerks. That’s one of the problems of civil society. The scumbag who tells you everything you want to hear, is considered the bell of the ball (until their scumbaggery is discovered–think Eddie Haskell) while the person who gives it to you straight is, well, usually considered a jerk.

The truth always comes out in the end. Usually the smooth talking souls who always say the right thing, and never offend anyone, have ulterior motives on their mind. We need to surround ourselves with people who help make us better. Who help us be the best we can, and who aren’t afraid to give us a dose of reality.

Show me a jerk who really cares about is family, friends and work, and I’ll show you a successful, balanced life.

#Persistent Or Pest?

Everyone loves persistence, but no one loves a pest.  So, how do you remain persistent without becoming like Bill Murray’s character in the movie “What about Bob”?  Well, it takes one word. Most people don’t have it, but the ones that do go onto untold heights. The secret word is passion.

Most sales happen after the fifth sales call, but most salespeople quit after two.  This is because the rep doesn’t want to slip into the “pain in the ass” category.   A good salesman wants to be a resource, an advisor, a confidant…anything but a pest.

When we think of persistence, we like to think of this famous quote….”I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”–Michael Jordan.   Here is a guy unafraid of defeat and at the same time in pursuit of being the absolute best. 

That is where the key lies–Persistence combined with passion is an extremely powerful force.  When you weave passion into the tapestry, people know you believe in what you are doing.  This is when you go from “pest” to professional.

Learn everything you can about your product or service, your industry, your trade, but most importantly, your client.  A salesmen with passion, desire, and drive can change the world.  Look at Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs–They did. 


I Can’t Talk To You While I’m Yelling!

The workplace has a way of reinforcing bad habits. Let me explain.  All leaders and managers, (myself included) have moments where the standard civil approaches at problems don’t work.  I call it the “breakdown of 3”.  Whenever a subordinate does something wrong continuously, the breakdown usually plays out something like this. 

Strike #1: The first incident usually doesn’t go too badly.  Maybe a sarcastic comment or two–The manager hopes that the person is just having a bad day.  “I’ll overlook this one, because Mary is usually such a good worker”.

Strike #2: The 2nd infraction causes the redness under the collar to burn a bit more.   In hopes of keeping harmony in the workplace, the thoughtful and caring leader will bring it up again, but won’t push it too hard.   A pattern is starting to develop, and patience is beginning to run out.  Here is where disaster can be avoided if the leader would take the time to sit down and have a heart to heart with the employee.  This is what should happen, and sometimes it does, but most of the time real dialog doesn’t occur.  Big mistake.  This is the pivotal moment, but because we are all so busy a REAL conversation is put on hold—-UNTIL:

Strike #3: The evil doer pushes the last button.  It always comes at a horrible time when the stress levels are already at a breaking point—Strike 3 is usually the point of no return.  I’ve been there many times, along with every manager I’ve ever worked for–Even the great ones.  So the yelling begins…..AND where life actually gets better in the workplace–For everyone except the manager–You see, the manager feels guilty, horrible, out of control, and like a failure, because they lost their cool.

This is where the meltdown actually creates a pattern where more blowups will occur.  The bad behavior of the leader actually makes things go back to normal–quickly.  All the other workers see how bad you yelled at Mary, so they start going out of their way not to make waves. Mary will hold a grudge if you don’t patch things up, but let’s assume a deep conversation does finally take place—Now Mary never wants it to go into meltdown mode ever again, so her work improves.

A leaders bad behavior is now reinforced. This can quickly turn a leader into a tyrant. In order to break out of the cycle,  dialog has to take place before strike 3.  A leader needs to take time each week to solve problems and have open feedback with everyone on the team.  No favorites, everyone treated equally.  Lack of communication is  the root of all  workplace evil–

And for the record, lack of communication usually happens in companies where communications is the main business–Welcome to radio!

(Gregory Peck knows how to communicate…(Although he does snap at the end of the movie 12 o’clock High)–

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