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…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


The unforgivable sin – guessing with certainty

6 12 2016

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” ~ Bruce Lee

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

All of the leaders on my team know that the one unforgivable sin they can commit is to represent something as truth to me, when they’re guessing.  If I take your “truth” up the chain of command, and get called out for being wrong on it,  we will indeed have a conversation that you will not forget.  Now, if you tell me you are 99% sure of something, or that you’re “almost certain” of something, then I will represent it that way up-hill, and it gives both you and me a way to save face when we are wrong.

There’s no shame in being wrong, but the only way to be forgiven for being wrong is to admit to it, tell what you learned from it, and to internalize the lesson so that it doesn’t happen again.

Speaking of forgiveness…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

30 11 2016

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

There are 3 kinds of decision makers.  First, you have the naval gazers (many of you Googled that last month).  These are the people who are asked to come up with a plan, and then they execute it like the man in the cartoon below.  Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim and they never pull the trigger because they’re worried about either the consequences of failure, or are afraid that they don’t know what they don’t know.  The second are the ones that go off half-cocked (maybe the bully comparison from above works here).  They get started without thinking.  They are more like Ready, Fire, (oh, drat), Aim,  and try to fix their mistake by changing what they executed.  That may mean stopping everything and re-training, or it may be an instant fail, in those situations where you only had one chance to get it right.

Leaders, try being the third type… The corageous ones who go ready, aim carefully, and then fire.  Think about as many consequences and obstacles, have a plan for dealing with them, then pull the trigger.  You may not hit the target on the first try, but you’ll be going in a good enough direction that someone will be able to give you the guidance to shift your aim just a bit closer to success.  A car that is parked can’t get anywhere (the first type) and a car that drives off a bridge can’t get any further (the second type).  A car that drifts a little to the right or the left is much more likely to make it to it’s destination.

Speaking of fire…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Rocking the boat can get you thrown to the sharks

29 11 2016

“The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

You’ve been there.  You and your group are in a crunch-time situation (for example, our current business pilot, and the pressure to hit our numbers), and almost everyone on the team has their head down, rowing aggressively (or in this case, smiling & dialing  🙂 ).  At the same time, someone on the team is checking their selfies on the phone, or shopping for holiday gifts.  They’re basically rocking the boat, by making you work harder than them in order for the team to succeed.

Leaders… Those among you who have a leadership title, or just you line workers who have the respect and admiration of your team.  THIS is the time to step up, and confront the person who is rocking the boat instead of rowing with the rest of the team.   Basically, make it more uncomfortable for them to NOT work than for them to work their butt off.  When they do turn around, don’t forget to praise them.  Positive reinforcement and optimism can be a force multiplier, allowing 10 people to accomplish the work of 15!

Speaking of guys…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

The appalling silence in leadership

22 11 2016

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but he appalling silence of the good people.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many of you know that both of my parents are deaf, and I was raised in a commune-like deaf community, where all of the other deaf parents lived near us, and shared the chores of raising their wild children.  Any of the parents in the group of 4 families (6 adults and 14 children!) could, and would call us out for misbehavior, and what one adult knew, all of them knew.  One unique thing about the deaf community is that while they were silent in their communication, they were NEVER silent when pointing out the good or bad.  Coming home from college, any one of the adults might point out that one of us gained weight, or otherwise say things that many in the less-direct (more polite?) hearing world might not.  People’s “sign names” might be based around a flaw, or unique trait (like a scar, or a white streak in their hair, etc.)  They would talk with each other on topics that were embarrassing or taboo in other cultures.  They called it like they saw it.

Leaders, sometimes it’s difficult to point out some of the more uncomfortable things that you notice at work.  You might have an employee who either calls in sick, or comes in late smelling of alcohol every Monday.  You might have someone wearing inappropriate clothing, and be shy about pointing it out and/or sending them home.  You might have an employee who says inappropriate things, or dances around that line.  Don’t let the tragedy be that you weren’t brave enough to call them on their behavior and discipline them.  If you don’t have the guts to speak up, your appalling silence in leadership might just be what is put on your leadership tombstone.

Speaking of history and tombstones…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Spend as we say, not as we do.

21 11 2016

“A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” ~ William Feather

All of the employees in my company work for a credit counseling organization, and most of us know the basic budgeting concept that we teach to tens of thousands of consumers every year:  Understand how much you make, and set up your life such that your expenses don’t exceed your income.  In other words, live within your means.  I’d also bet that many, if not most of us do carry some debt due to over-extending ourselves.  We may carry a credit card balance, or have bought a car with a loan versus paying cash for one.  In short, most of us probably have more debt than just a mortgage.  So much for living what we teach, right?

Leaders, every budget season, you’ve probably brought the executive team a budget where, after rolling the initial budgets up, you’re then told that you need to either cut more expense than in your first pitch, or you’ll be asked to find more revenue if you need all of your expenses.  Every year we have to make decisions on benefits, and often we have to give up a little bit more.  This isn’t unique to my company… just look at the 26% average increase in health care benefits across Obamacare nationally.  Even the United States, one of the greatest nations on the planet has a budget deficit.  My leadership point is that sometimes you have to make the best choices that you can within the limits of your family, department, company or country’s income.  That might start with having a roof over your head, then food, utilities, etc.  Make your choices with the most important expenses at the top of the list – start with the must have’s and only buy the nice-to-have’s if there’s assets left over.

Speaking of budgets…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Arguing against yourself first

18 11 2016

Alcohol is necessary for a man so he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts.” ~ Findley Peter Dunne

You’ve heard my frequently reported story about a group of MBA candidates being asked to rank themselves, and 80% of them put themselves in the top 20% of the class.  It’s natural to want to fool ourselves by selecting only a section of the facts, or a snippet of data, to prove our point about how good we are, or how successful our initiative is.

Leaders, keep in mind when you’re doing an analysis , or assessing a program.  You may have a bias in your head on how you want the analysis to come out, but do yourself and the team a favor:  Play devil’s advocate to your own program. Think about what someone who would argue against you would ask, and then  see if there’s data there to support THEIR position.  Worst case, you find out that you’re wrong early in the process.  Best case, you have a counter for their argument against you, and have data ready to prove it.

Speaking of alcohol…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.