No time for vacation? You’re fired!

25 08 2017

 

“The breaks you take from work pay you back manifold when you return because you come back with a fresher mind and newer thinking.  Some of your best ideas come when you’re on vacation.” ~ Guatam Singhania

It’s that time of year.  Many people take vacations before or after Labor Day.  After that, it’s sending the kids back to school (and the crowd roared!), or just getting back in to your routine for the few months before Thanksgiving and the December Holidays.  Whether you’re taking your vacation this week or not, be sure that you look at your calendar and ensure that you’re taking all of your time off before the end of the year, because usually only a bit can carry over, and everyone can’t have the last week of the year off.  I’ve rarely had to deny time off requests, but the rare times I did, it was when everyone wanted the last week of the year off, and our company still has to be here to change the lives of people in trouble, with at least a skeleton crew, that week.

There’s a famous business school story about Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler.  He was walking a factory floor and introduced himself to one of the floor managers.  After talking to the manager for a while, the manager, in his zealous desire to impress the CEO, told Mr. Iacocca that he never took vacation, because his job was so important to him that he couldn’t leave the floor for a week.  Lee immediately demoted the manager to his old job on the line, explaining that nothing is more important than family time, and if he couldn’t find a way to break away for a week here and there, he didn’t need the stress associated with his promotion, because he didn’t have the time management and delegation skills necessary to succeed in the job.  So folks, take the vacation time that you have.  You earned it!

Speaking of Vacations

staycation

Rubes cartoons used with permission.  www.rubescartoons.com

 

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Learning from failing, not learning to fail

18 08 2017

“There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ~ Colin Powell

I have a philosophy that client satisfaction comes first (i.e. treat every customer like they’re family).  IF, in the course of doing your best to let the client know that you care, are empathetic, and really want to help, you make a tactical mistake, then you and your leader should talk about it and learn from it.  Mistakes, or as the quote says, failure creates experience.  When you make enough mistakes, you will create enough experience to make wisdom.  Wisdom is not much more than learning from mistakes – hopefully not just your mistakes, and sharing your wisdom with others.  Learning from the mistakes of others is a gift that not everyone has.  It’s our job, as leaders, to understand when a mistake happens, and communicate to your team ways to avoid it.  That’s usually in the form of new training materials, e-mails, etc.

Making one honest mistake will rarely get you fired, depending on the cost of that mistake.  I often talk about the $250 “get-out-of-jail-free card” for front line staff.  The dollar amount goes up as you move up through the org chart.  It’s a lot more expensive to replace someone than the cost of the mistake they have on their card, as long as they don’t hide it, and instead learn from it, and communicate it, so that others don’t have to make the same mistake!  So, when you create a little “experience” of your own, through a mistake, please own up to it, and share the wealth of your knowledge.  Mistakes are not always a bad thing, especially if made in the face of enhancing a customer’s experience, and letting them know we care.  Happy customers mean company success!

dinotrophy

Rubes cartoons used with permission.  www.rubescartoons.com





The sadness of “It’s always been done this way.”

18 08 2017

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

I feel like I’m settled in enough into the new job to restart my daily habit of sending out a quote, some leadership story/advice, and a comic at the end so you’ll be motivated to read the 2 short paragraphs in between.  I try to tie the quote to some lesson I’ve learned in leadership, and then the second paragraph is a bit more general, and hopefully you’ll find something useful in it at least once in a while.

During my side-by-sides and in other meetings at the new job, I have asked “Why?” when told something that doesn’t make sense.  Sometimes I get a good answer, but often I got “No idea, it’s always been done this way.”  Those words are the death of innovation and creativity.  Every time I hear them, I get a little sadder.  It’s true, though, with the nationwide push to do more with less, many people don’t know why something is done.  So I always ask for forgiveness when I meet with different team members, and try to get to 5 levels of “Why?” (asking why until the root cause is uncovered)  If, after all the digging, there’s still nobody here who knows why we do a repetitive, tedious task, I may ask one person to stop doing it, and see what happens.  If nothing bad happens, then “the way we’ve always done it” will likely be changing for the better.  More to come as I dig around in our processes.  Please enjoy the comic from my friend, Leigh Rubin.

Speaking of responsibility…

Blamenose

Rubes cartoons used with permission.  www.rubescartoons.com





When to step over the line.

14 12 2016

“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.  The obedient must be slaves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

If you don’t know about Thoreau, Google him someday.  He seems to me to have been way ahead of his time, in that  he was a lifelong abolitionist and environmentalist, who died in 1862, at the young age of 44.  His philosophy influenced greats like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  I wonder how much better our world might be today had he lived longer.  He is sometimes referred to as an anarchist, but he really didn’t want to destroy institutions, he just wanted to intelligently improve them, with common sense and simplicity.  Those that know my thoughts on simplicity can see why he’d be a man that I admire.

Leaders, we all are expected to follow rules, norms, rituals, and traditions in life.  It’s easy to “go along to get along”, by following in the ruts that are in the road ahead of us.  Nobody is going to be popular, and succeed by spurning every one of these things that are “the way we’ve always done it” – disagreement on a few points is OK, but turns into Rebellion when you just stop following all of the rules.  But know your heart, and know when the opportunity arises in some situations, you can and should stand up and say “No, not this thing.  I can’t do it this way”.  If you communicate your disagreement respectfully, you shouldn’t fear taking that position, no matter how hard it may be to make that stand.”

Speaking of disobedience…

disobedience-dog

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com





Falling through the cloud floor

13 12 2016

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A neurotic is a man who builds a castle in the air.  A psychotic is the man who lives in it.  A psychiatrist is the man who collects the rent.” – Jerome Lawrence

This set of quotes leaves me scratching my head.  Is it aspirational to build a castle in the clouds, or are you a lunatic to even try?  I’ll leave it up to your own leadership style to decide the right answer.

Leaders who dream can, and have turned “chicken droppings” into chicken salad (I took a little creative license with the old saying to use appropriate languages).  They’ve been given a loser of a product/service/project, and succeeded where nobody ever thought it would work.  Others have been asked to do the impossible, and said “no thank you”, and didn’t take the job, as only a crazy person would try do build (or live in) a castle in the sky.  Pick and choose your castle projects wisely, leaders!

Speaking of …

castleinair

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com





Don’t shatter the glass balls

12 12 2016

“We are always balancing work, life, home, etc.  It’s important to know that while juggling rubber balls, and glass balls, the former may bounce back when you miss, but the glass balls will crack if you let them fall.  So prioritize, prioritize, prioritize.” ~ Nita Ambani

I like the idea of tasks that need to be done, but if  you miss a deadline, or do them a little wrong, there’s little harm.  They can bounce back pretty well, and business can go on.  If EOM reports run a day late because someone is out sick, or if approving an invoice takes an extra day or 2 to get to, because you’re working on one of the “glass ball” tasks, that’s a smart use of your time.  Note: most of the glass-ball tasks are at home, not work.  That said, work ones will run the spectrum from super-bouncy-balls to crystal Faberge’ eggs.

The critical, fragile, breakable projects are the ones that you need to focus your time and attention on doing right, getting them done on time, and otherwise doing your best to ensure the success of the initiative.  IF these are one of the tasks that you delegated, then your focus as a leader needs to be in giving the resources, attention, and support to your trusted team member.  Because if you give them a glass-ball task, and don’t give them the rest of the support they’ll need, then someone’s going to be cleaning up a glass-mess on the floor.

Speaking of juggling…

juggggling

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com





Connecting and Performing Uniquely

9 12 2016

“In general, fashion is decorative, it’s protective, it acknowledges that the world does involve conflict, and you might be attacked by assumptions, presumptions, and attitudes.” ~ Margo Jefferson

On this casual Friday, I hope you are wearing your favorite fashions, representing your sports teams, or whatever it is that, during the “business casual” week, might not represent your personality as much as Fridays allow you to.  Don’t be afraid to use your fashion to tell a story, as long as it’s within dress code.  Sure, someone might attack you with assumptions (for example, a Ravens fan might chide at a co-worker in Steelers gear).  Others who are more conservative might make presumptions on more progressive fashion choices.

The point, leaders, is that people are all unique.  Your challenge is to find whatever it is in them that motivates them and that they get energized by.  Use that connection to make their workday better.  Maybe it’s asking about their child.  Maybe it’s congratulating them on their favorite team winning over the weekend.  It could be that you see their car in the parking lot, and it’s looking sparkly after a good detail job – and you know they’re a “car person”.  Whatever it is, they very likely won’t make you have to guess.  They’ll show you pictures of their kid, wear a sports jersey proudly, or otherwise let their passions leak into their conversations.  Listen, note, and get back to it when you get a chance.  That connection will make them pull harder with you when you need that extra effort.

Speaking of decorative stuff…

spoonsforks

Rubes cartoons used with permission. www.rubescartoons.com