Start with the Big Stuff

October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Teacher fills a container with large rocks and asks the class if they think the container is full.  The class says “yes, its full”.  Teacher starts adding smaller rocks by shaking the container until no more small rocks fit. He then asks the students again if the container is full.  Again the class answers in the affirmative.  One more time, the teacher proves them wrong by adding sand to the container.

When I think about this story I think about the container being my time. Too often I fill my time with small stuff (sand) like TV.  Then I wonder why I don’t have time to read or write a blog post.  I made this sculpture (I guess I can call it a sculpture, right?) and put it on my desk at work to remind me that I need to add the big things first before I add the sand.

How about you?  Do you start with sand or with rocks?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Sensei Krebs who was the first person to tell me this story. He also continuously encourages all of us to start with the big stuff.

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Chiefs vs Indians

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

How many times do you see this? You are at your son’s or daughter’s soccer game and the “sideline dad” is constantly yelling at his kid. He thinks he is coaching and helping. Wow, how far from the truth could it be? The team coach is coaching. When Sideline Dad tries to coach too, the kids get frustrated and not sure what to do. When there is one coach, everyone knows who to listen to and take direction from. When there is more than one coach, no one knows who to listen to.

We see this all the time. Not just in the sporting events of our children, but also in our professional career. It is usually well understood that each organization needs a leader – a President or CEO – but what about a project leader?

Projects need someone in charge for the same reason companies do:

Everyone needs to know their role. Who is the leader and who is the follower (or in my example above, who is the coach and who is the spectator)? People must be clear on their roles in order for them to perform at maximum efficiency.  If you simply form a project team and don’t put anyone in charge, the project is doomed to fail or at best the completion will be filled with challenges and will be delayed beyond expectations.

I would love to hear some examples of project team makeup and the resulting success or failure.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by “Sideline Dad” at my kids’ soccer game.

What Have YOU Learned from the Incredible Hulk?

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

I watched The Avengers with my son. After the movie we talked about different scenes on the drive home. (ATTENTION: Spoiler Alert!) The scene that caused the most curiousity was toward the end where the Avengers were fighting the alien army of flying Goblin-link machines and their flying giant eel-like machine companions. A giant eel was flying down the streets of New York directly at the Avenger team when Dr Bruce Banner started running directly toward it. Captain American called out, “Dr Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry.” Dr Banner turned around and said, “that is my secrect. I am always angry!” and he immediately turned into the Hulk and kicked the giant eel machine’s mechanical ass! Great movie!

My son and I wondered how Dr Banner was unable to control turning into the Hulk when he got mad and then when was not mad, he could Hulk-up on command. After we talked about this phenominon, we realized the same thing happens too often to people every day.

How often have you known people in business to lose control when something upsets them? Or send a scathing email without thinking of the fall-out? Too often I must say. It is OK to be forceful, firm, or even yell. The key with communicating this way is doing it because you intend to, not because you lost control and you had no choice.

The Incredible Hulk is my new favorite hero.  So, which one describes you? Are you another Incredible Hulk or are you unable to control your emotional reactions?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by a The Avengers movie. 

Out With The Old & In With The New…Perspective

June 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

As a Cubs fan, we get attached to veteran players. In fact, that could be said about most baseball fans. This year is no different for me. I was very disappointed to see Marlon Byrd get traded. I love his work ethic, hustle and obvious love for the game. The chatter on the Internet is the Cubs are waiting to call up the center field phenom, Brett Jackson, from the Iowa Cubs. In the meantime, Tony Campana has been given a great opportunity to prove himself. While Tony is not Marlon, he has done a great job bringing a different approach and different style to Center Field.

In business, it is always difficult to lose a great employee. But instead of focusing on the loss, think of it as an opportunity to hire a great new addition to the team.

Anytime a great person is hired, they bring an advantage that no other person on the team can bring: a new perspective. Don’t squander the opportunity. Take advantage of it. Once a new person gets acclimated to the company, I always encourage the manager to ask the person, “what do you see that you would change or that doesn’t make sense”. Their fresh perspective and new set of eyes is invaluable.

Are there any success stories where this new perspective has had an impact on your organization?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by a couple of articles in Vine Line magazine. 

Are You In Control?

March 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

In all areas of our lives, both personal and professional, it is very important to retain control. When people say things they don’t intend, they have lost control. 

I tend to think less about being in control and more about being intentional. There are situations where it is important to be pleasant and other situations where it is important to be firm. Knowing when to use the correct emotion and response is being intentional. Actually using the intended emotion and response is retaining control.
 
Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by a LinkedIn Group post from Chris Tompkins, CEO at Go! Media International.

Season of Giving – Part 2

December 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about giving compensation increases for the wrong reasons. It is very easy to get sucked into doing this because that is the way it has always been done. That said, I neglected to talk about positive, meaningful and motivating variations for compensation increases.  This takes more creativity and a deeper understanding of each employee and what motivates them.

Typically, acceptance of additional responsibilities and/or significant improvements with current responsibilities are the primary positive and meaningful reasons raises are given. Some people want more responsibility and love to be rewarded when a job is well done. For some, this is all it takes for motivation.

But as I stated in Part 1, one-time pay increases tend to bring euphoria for a short period of time, but then dwindles fairly quickly in most people.  For these people, try a variable component to the compensation package.  Examples could be quarterly bonuses for meeting specific company financial goals. Another variation is to award individuals for completing a specific project that brings value to the company. Goals should be clearly defined for the award and payment given promptly after goals are met.

Regardless of the compensation plan, heed my advise. Completely think through what people are being incentivized to do.  People tend to literally do what you pay them to do. Keep compensation plans simple. Try to think about what people might do, both intentionally and unintentionally, to achieve the payments. For example, if some is paid to increase profitability, quality may be sacrificed in order to meet the profitability goals and obtain the award.

Be creative. Be motivating. Be simple. Dont give in to the easy way out.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was continued inspiration from Sunny Taylor.  She is an inspiration to my daughter and to me. Thank you Sunny for all you do.

Miss Impatient or The Amazing Race Contestant?

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

While my kids were on Fall Break in October, we went to Turkey Run State Park outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. By the way, what is the purpose of fall break? I suppose that rant is for another post.

Turkey Run State Park is an amazing park to hike. I never thought Indiana had such rugged and picturesque areas anywhere. A few trails could have been used to film the scene from Jurassic Park II where the “research” team first gets to the Site B island, Isla Sorna, and they are looking for another research scientist in the plush, jungle-like ravine when a herd of stegosaurs come walking through. Turkey Run is exactly like that, well except for the stegosaurs.

We were walking along one of these streams when the bank on one side became impassable. We were approaching people coming from the other direction so we stopped and waited for them pass. At this time, a woman and her daughter (probably around 8-10 years old) came up behind us and barged her way through making everyone wait. While this was irritating, I was glad they were in front of us and not behind us.

The stream and the trail ended at a waterfall. In order to continue, ladders had to be climbed up the side of the ravine to get to the top. Miss Impatient was waiting at the base of the ladder because there were 10-15 people coming down the ladder. I could see she was getting anxious and antsy. She kept whispering something to her daughter. As a steady stream of people kept coming down the ladder, her daughter started up the ladder (at the direction of Miss Impatient I am sure). People on the ladder were startled to see someone come up when they were already on their way down. My wife and I mentioned this was unsafe with no response. Others on the ladder also commented on it as unsafe, but the daughter of Miss Impatient continued to climb. Finally, she got what she wanted. The people at the top stopped and let the daughter and Miss Impatient up the ladder. The only thing that made sense was she was on a Speed Bump leg of the Amazing Race and needed to get through quickly to catch up with everyone else. Or maybe she was rude and impatient. I am not sure which scenario is more likely.

Beyond being rude, Miss Impatient also seemed to be missing everything around her. The scenery was amazing. The opportunities to talk to her daughter about the natural world around her – the water erosion, rock formations, the history of time gone by and the hollowed out trees where the chipmunks lived – were unlimited.

There are many times where we are trying to hurry through our professional lives, whether it is a large project or small assignment. Problems and errors are inevitable to arise and when we are “barging through” to get to the end, it is very difficult to see the answers to those problems and to pick out the errors in the first place.

As leaders in business, we always need to slow down a bit. When problems arise, many leaders react by trying to solve the problem right away. Instead, it is more important for leaders to ask questions of the people working on the problem.  As a leader, you will likely not always know the answer, but you should always know the questions to ask that helps to figure out the answers.

This approach may take more time. It may even be frustrating for the people hurrying through their projects, but in the end, instead of only learning the answer, the person may also learn a way to figure out a similar problem the next time.

Giving the answer and getting to the finish line quickly works well for a short-term benefit. But by slowing down the process, helping people figure out the answers to their own problems, while it is certainly more time-consuming, the long-term benefits are tremendous.  Not to mention it is much more enjoyable to witness. Enjoyable like slow leisure hike through Turkey Run State Park.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I was encouraged to write this blog by my wife. I was inspired to write this blog by Miss Impatient. I do hope she slows down to enjoy life…or wins the million dollars.