Friday, November 22, 2013

Posthumous Goal

A commercial on TV: the young boy walked up to home plate on an empty ball field with his bat, a ball, and a smile as he was prattling on about the world's best hitter.

He settles in at the plate and, with one more verse of world's best hitter, tosses the ball into the air. After the swish of a haymaker swing and no thunk of the bat, he looks down to see the ball lying quietly at his feet.

Undaunted, still smiling, the boy again settles at the plate, recites world's best hitter again, tosses up the ball, takes his swing. When he looked down, there's the ball at his feet once again. His smile fading with each attempt, he tries several more times - unsuccessfully - to hit the ball, his world's best hitter becoming less enthusiastic with each miss.

With a 0 for many tries record, the boy's face is set in a frown, clearly disappointed, and his head is hung – then it snaps up, the smile is back, and he steps back up to the plate to take his stance. With a megawatt smile, he tosses the ball up while saying the world's greatest pitcher.

A posthumous goal offers some feel-good for the boy, but it creates a detrimental result in other situations.

A manager says just do your best for the project output but adds 10% more to 'goal' when critiquing the disappointing project results.

Or, a project is due by the end of the week, but at noon on Thursday, the supervisor says he wants it by the end of the day.

A goal communicates intent. What does a posthumous goal accomplish?

The Doer- A Key To Lasting Achievement

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Twenty, Two, and One

We are experiencing a time of change - big change, fast change – in business, employment, markets, government. No new news here.

The nature of a job has changed as well...what do you do each day now?

How about this for a model:

20 sits (meetings) per month – to learn, share, sell, or get;

2 blog posts per week – writing aids learning – publishing increases visibility;

1 anchor event per month – a place to learn, show what you know, get connected, be visible (and available)and hand out nametags, recruit membership, or present.

By the end of each day, make progress on achieving your goals.

Rainmaker – 300 seconds of new possibilities

Friday, November 8, 2013

Self Reliance

The trend toward self reliance is growing in velocity and scope. This post is highlights of the shift that is becoming increasingly clear.

As I recall, we were taught at a young age to rely on others instead of ourselves – back in the old days:
  • parents set our limits and standards
  • teachers enforced the rules – insisted that we color within the lines
  • professors picked what we read, how we interpret it, and what to apply – to get our grade
  • employers specify the 'one right way' – thank you Frederick Taylor
  • community and peers guide how we conduct ourselves, even what we do for leisure activities.

We were indoctrinated to seek 'experts' for many things:
  • web designers for our public face
  • programmers to recreate the paper version in bits and bites
  • mechanic to decode and fix the car
  • doctors to 'fix' our health and ailments.

The paradox is while relying (depending?) on all these external elements, when doing leisure-time projects we benefited so much from hands-on learning and how to do it better from the mistakes.

Experience with my first soapbox derby racer showed me what to do differently next time (and next year's version was better and faster):
  • grease the wheels
  • boxy front is slower (air resistance), raked front cuts through the resistance better
  • adding weight equals slower speed – a steering wheel is cool, but a couple of ropes does the job at a third of the weight.

The experience taught me a process I've relied on since then:
concept > design > build > test > refine > deliver. I also learned to think beyond the specific goal to see how the external elements affect the project.

Individuals have found that large organizations, private and public, are not the safe fortresses we once thought them to be – missions are outdated, size is costly, jobs are replaced by technology, short-term management vision cause long-term negative effects, and many are dying, a shadow of past greatness, or gone – e.g., General Motors and Hostess Brands (twinkies).
If we cannot rely on the stalwarts of the past, what now? Many people have a fragile hope that they can exist in this situation, or could locate a similar role in a different organization. Following this dream is like the watering hole on the plains of Africa during a drought – each day the opportunity shrinks and there's no rain in sight.

More and more individuals are changing their approach, investing greater reliance on themselves instead of external entities. Indicators of the trend and the growing availability of powerful creative tools for individuals to use include:
  • greater involvement in DIY (do it yourself) activities
  • an explosion of entrepreneurs and kitchen-table ventures
  • more individuals working for themselves or collaborating with others
  • greater participation in your healthcare and being responsible for own health
  • chips became more powerful, so doing sophisticated things with your computer, tablet, smartphone became easier (not expert needed) – even 3D printing from your home computer
  • access to knowledge is virtually unlimited from the internet – now we are mastering filtering of information (rather than where to find it) and reading multiple authors with varying viewpoints for validation
  • blogging is personal publishing and has expanded into a living resume for professional individuals
  • Google Plus is a powerful acquisition and communications tool to connect to the world

Not everyone will be a Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), or Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google), but a significant number of people have taken off on their own. The interesting thing is, these self reliant trailblazers have better odds of success than the buyer of a PowerBall ticket has of winning the jackpot.

Want more about the new trend? Read Wikipedia - To Tell The Truth

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Bartender's Lesson In Finance

One of my favorite projects was 3½ months as the general manager of a country club while a search was under way for a new GM.

My goal was to improve the performance of the dining and grill rooms, increase diner volume, and grow revenue from this area of the club.

To record sales, each area had a terminal for the central a point of sale (POS) system. Each night after the club closed, the POS was closed out and reconciled. My first night, the bartender, who typically did the close out, helped me learn the process and printed the tape with details of the close, including the gross receipts for the day.

When we were done, I took the tape and asked his estimate of the gross receipts amount – he said he had no idea. I asked for his best guess – I showed him the amount...he was way off. The next night he was closer and after about a week he was within a few hundred dollars of the actual amount.

The next night, as I was locking up the club, the bartender did the close out and was waiting for me with a Cheshire cat smile – when I went to start the close, he was standing there holding the tape, with a hand over the gross receipts figure. His smile got bigger when he ASKED ME for an estimate of the receipts for the day! After a quick mental review, I told him the figure – it was within $75 of the actual amount.

I told the bartender that having an accurate feel for the receipts is important – the same is true for general costs as well. I gave him an estimate of the daily combined labor cost for servers, cooks, bartenders, and other dining staff – he immediately said – on Tuesday we don't even take in that much.

My turn to have a huge smile as he says that knowing costs and receipts gives him some tools to manage our operations better. How I ask? The bartender, standing a little taller, says we can have fewer staff on hand for the lighter days, or send them home early based on the diner volume – servers, cooks, and others. Also we could do some specials or deals to promote more activity on the light days.

He got it – make adjustments in the cost and revenue sides of the ledger to better balance operating results. By knowing how the receipts and costs relate, and honing his ability to accurately estimate the key figures, he became more valuable to the club.

With his new outlook, the bartender was making a greater impact on the club's bottom line and in a short time was promoted to a more responsible role (and more $$).

A lesson well learned and applied to get positive results.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Power of Appreciation

The other day I realized it is unusual for people to be told they are appreciated.

The revelation came about from my offering a compliment to the person responsible for the logistics of my meetings and events.

The comment was: people do not appreciate the effort required to have a perfect meeting – if it is done well no one notices; however if there's a glitch, it is glaringly obvious – and I thank you for creating perfection.

The recipient immediately sent an urgent response asking what had gone wrong and with assurance that any problem would be corrected immediately and it would not happen again.

Recognition for doing a great job of the logistics was so unusual that she heard the comment as a preamble to a complaint. I quickly said there's no complaint – just the opposite - I appreciated the work your team does to make everything ready before we walk through the door.

The response was memorable - oh, yes it does take a lot of work and care to create an experience that people take for granted, and you make such a good point about folks not taking the time to acknowledge when things go well. We appreciate that you are always complementary and appreciative of our efforts to support your events!

Have you noticed the reaction when you thank someone for their help – a smile; they stand a bit taller; they will replicate that action over and over again. The one I like a lot is the look of surprise followed by a big grin and a wave when I thank the crossing guard near the subway – a painless way to make someone's day.

The same principles apply to the people you work with (or for) and volunteer with as well. Ever tell your boss or your partner you appreciate him/her for _________ (fill in the blank as appropriate) – the reaction is priceless.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs (NCIS) is a master at expressing deserved appreciation – he acknowledges a good job to the individual but does so within earshot of their co-workers. The recipient almost floats off the floor with pride and satisfaction, and gets another good jolt when seeing the reaction of the coworkers. Do you think they are motivated to to do more good work – you bet they are!

Share your appreciation – catching someone doing good is effective mentoring when you shine a spotlight on it.

Give it a try – share what you find.

Rainmaker– 300 seconds of new possibilities

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Contingent Commitment

During the course of a month I go to several meeting and events which require advance registration (RSVP). I usually work the registration desk and find that between 20% to 40% are no shows – registered to come but do not make it.

Several people have shared their disappointment in the number of people who had indicated they were coming to their wedding, but did not show and did not even send a note of apology/explanation for their absence.

In recent post on a blog I follow, a fellow was gnashing his teeth about having taken a new job - he was starting on Monday - but late Friday he got an invitation for a second interview for his 'dream job' – what should I do, he whined.

When I ran the human resource function in my organizations, there was a small but growing trend of individuals who accepted our job offer and agreed to a start date, but did not show up – no call, no explanation – nothing except they did not make it – ever.

What is common in these four stories is that people committed to an action but a notable portion did not follow through on their commitment.

Why does this happen?

Of course there are unforeseen things that pop up last minute – boss calls an instant meeting, car overheats, kid emergency, spouse late to come home - the list goes on... This can certainly account for some of the no shows, but it does not account for the 'radio silence' in not contacting the host – even a “sorry I could not make it, something came up” shows more character than blowing off the failure to attend.

But what's the explanation for the rest to the group who did not have a personal crisis and still did not make it?

Is the idea that 'a person's word is their bond' not as valid or important today - don't make a promise you can't keep and always deliver on your promises is about personal integrity.

There now seems to be the 'contingent commitment' – it looks like a commitment but acts like a maybe. A pledge with an unstated 'except' – yes, I'll attend the event (except if I don't feel like it or something better comes along).

If someone consistently commits but does not follow through, how does that speak about their character? Would you trust them to be a key player on the team working on a high profile or critical project?

My comment back to the guy with a conflict between starting a new job and going to a second 'dream job' interview – “you committed to your new employer – show up to the job unless the employer has unilaterally changed the offer.”

Am I being too idealistic, expecting individuals to honor their word – or revise their commitment - for something as trivial as just another event? Have we gotten so busy and over-scheduled that it is acceptable to be casual about showing up?

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