Season of Giving

December 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tis the season when people give gifts.  Too many times the gifts are given for the wrong reasons: (1) to keep up with Joneses, (2) hope the gift will heighten a relationship, and (3) unintentionally reward others for bad behavior.

Similarly in business, leaders give raises for the wrong reasons: (1) we feel like it must be done because a performance evaluation is being done, (2) we assume the person will work harder or be more loyal as a result, or (3) we are afraid the person will not like us anymore. 

The positive feeling from a pay increase lasts for only a few weeks. Then the person tends to go back feeling the same way they did before the raise.  It is not the money that tends to be at the top of people’s list that will make them feel better about their job or their life.  It tends to be non-monetary things like public praise, training, better title, new equipment, upgraded software, and clear communication.

Be thoughtful. Be creative. During this season of giving…raises for next year…when deciding to give an employee something for a job well done, be creative. Dont assume that money motivates everyone.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

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

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I’ve Fallen and I CAN Get Up – Part 2

October 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

In our current political environment, I could easily write about the candidates that are falling. But I don’t think I want to go there right now.

About a month ago, I published Part 1 of this series. It was inspired by a Sanchin Ryu karate workout where we learned to fall. Falling is something that will likely happen if someone is attacked and forced to defend themselves. Since it is inevitable, we wanted to learn how to properly fall so we could make getting back up as quickly and easily as possible. But what if you cannot immediately get back up? What if you are surrounded by “bad guys”? You are on your stomach or your back. All of the “dark temple” stuff may not be effective. In our Sanchin Ryu class this week, we worked on going back to the basics in order to defend ourselves while we are on the ground. These simple, but devastating punches, elbows and kicks provide us with a plan to defend ourselves while on the ground.

Many times in our professional lives we fall and Part 1 of this series describes what we can do to lessen the blow. But what happens when we are on the ground from the fall? Many of us have been there. The stress is ultra high and we are at a low point. You don’t know how to deal with it. I can tell you from experience there is only one thing you should NOT do…that is nothing. Doing nothing never makes your situation better, whether you are in an altercation and forced to defend yourself or you are at your maximum stress level. And staying stressed out is not good either. When we fall, we must do SOMETHING to get ourselves back up on our feet.

I spoke with four separate people over the past week that have been stressed due to various reasons. With each, I encouraged them in different ways and always came to the same approach – go back to the basics. In one case, we talked in detail about the frustration. I asked him to identify the root cause of the frustration. After identifying it and talking through it, he now has a plan to deal with the root causes. His stress level almost immediately went down after developing his plan to deal with the issue and he was able to start picking himself up off the ground.

In another case I was talking to someone about the large personal debt load they had. It was lurking over their head and causing a lot of stress because it was a large number and they did not know what to do first. We talked about going back to the basics. I asked, what is the worst thing that could happen in this situation. The answer was they would have to sell some of their possessions to pay off the loan. Now they had a plan for the worst possible scenario. Anything else that happens will be easier to deal with. Immediately they felt better and were able start getting off the ground.

A plan leading to a solution is such an important step, it cannot be overemphasized. Once the plan is in place, you will immediately begin your assent to a better place.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Sensei Scott.

Teach or Learn? Why Not Both?

October 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Recently I had a conversation with Josette Rider, Executive Director & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. We talked about the inefficiecy in the constant exchange of emails back and forth between others in the office – sometimes people who work just a few feet away from each other. People rely on email too much for communication and dont simply talk to others. Why do people constantly email instead of getting up out of their chair and talking to the person or picking up the phone and calling the person?

Talking to people who communicate mostly with email and describing the inefficiencies is a good start. Inevitably, they have a laundry list of reasons why they should send emails out instead of talking. Since people do not develop habits overnight, they will also not get rid of those habits overnight. One conversation will probably not change behavior. It will likely take two or more conversations to change behavior, unless…they TEACH.

Josette had a brilliant idea that I have seen work in other scenarios, but never connected it to this one. It was to ask one of her managers (one that is a heavy email user) to present and instruct ways to reduce email and improve verbal communications to the other managers at the agency. To help this instruction, I sent Josette a blog post from Seth Godin that was posted on June 9, 2011. It is titled “Email checklist (maybe this time it will work)” and addresses this same email problem in a humorous, yet insightfull way.

The brillance in this coaching action lies in the fact that teaching reinforces the topic that is being shared, probably more so for the instructor than for those being taught. In fact, it reinforces what is already familiar and forces the instructor to work through the topics of uncertainty. 

There are many areas I have experienced where it is understood that learning will happen when we teach or instruct. In Sanchin Ryu karate, the leader of a small workout group often reinforces in his own mind the strikes he or she shows the group. Managers in business often have to think through a concept or topic before leading a meeting about the topic. As a CPA, I have also discovered that instructors of Continuing Professional Education courses receive credits for the time instructing as does those CPAs that are listening to the instruction.

When you are asked to lead a discussion or to train a group, it will be difficult to say yes due to nerves or uncertainty, but always remember…it will likely beneift you more than anyone else.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Josette Rider, Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

I’ve Fallen and I CAN Get Up – Part 1

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have all fallen before. We fell off our skateboards as kids and we have even fallen over the stray household item that was never put away. It is going to happen, right? It’s inevitable. In a Sanchin-Ryu karate workout, the Sensei had us work on falling. Strange huh? Many of us wondered why we would work on something like falling. As I said before and as Sensei reminded us: falling is inevitable.

If we get into an altercation, the chances are pretty good we are going to fall. If that is the case, we are better off if we shorten our fall. That is what we worked on. We shortened our fall by bending our knees. This simple reaction brings you closer to the ground so the fall is not as great and the impact is softened. This was the key to making the fall a little easier on all of us.

Thinking about my professional career, there have been many times where I have “fallen”. In fact, many of us have “fallen” at some point in our professional lives. In other words, we have made a mistake, screwed up or failed at a task.  You know what?  All of this, including failing, is OK.

Too often failing is considered taboo and as a consequence avoided at all costs. When we fail or make a mistake we learn something from it. That new nugget of knowledge, no matter how tiny or monumental, is what makes failing valuable and worth allowing to happen.

The most important part of failing is to “bend our knees” to shorten the fall. In other words, you need to realize that a mistake has been made and realize it quickly. It could be a new IT project that did not deliver the intended results or an idea on a new product that ended up being a bust. Realizing the failure allows you to learn what you need to learn and correct the mistake. Realizing it quickly, minimizes the impact of the mistake and allows for a fast correction.

Always remember, when you begin to stumble, bend your knees to shorten your fall.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from Sensei Scott.

What’s in a Name?

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Curse is a bar on Clark Street in Chicago that is looking for a new name. I learned this in July 2011 when I was in Wrigleyville for a Cubs game with my friend Brian.

Ater the game, we walked by the bar and noticed they were playing some ’70s disco & funk music. We decided to give it a try. Shortly after getting our beer, the waitress told us they wanted to change their name. I asked why. She asked what their name, The Curse, meant to me. I told her when I saw the name I thought it would be a grunge or goth bar. She looked at me disappointingly.

The waitress informed us the name is a reference to The Curse of the Billy Goat. The Billy Goat curse was supposedly placed on the Cubs in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at the Cubs’ home ground of Wrigley Field because his pet goat’s odor was bothering other fans. He was outraged and declared, “Them Cubs, they aren’t gonna win no more,”

The waitress went on to say she always has to explain the name to people and this is why they are looking for a new name. We declared “we will have a new name for you after we finish this beer!”

After talking to the waitress about their preferred customers, normal atmosphere in the bar and any future changes they plan to make, Brian and I began to brainstorm on a new name. It didn’t take long. Brian remembered the music that drew us to the bar in the first place. He said the new name should be Funk & Curse. I thought it was a brilliant idea. It retained the sports reference, described the music atmoshphere we heard and if the name is said quickly, it could be a fun play on the words by making it sound like a phrase said by someone frustrated by the Billy Goat Curse.

We shared our brilliant idea with the waitress. When we told her the new name, you would have thought nothing could have repulsed her more.

This is usually where I share my wisdom and insight in choosing a new business name. Instead , I would enjoy hearing from anyone and everyone reading this blog. Leave your comments. So I ask you, what’s in a name?

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from Brian and the waitress we talked to at The Curse. Wouldn’t it be fun and funny to walk into the Funk & Curse to celebrate a win next season?

Unwritten Rules

August 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

“That is one of those unwritten rules”. How many times have you heard a former Major League player and current announcer make this claim? As many people know, baseball has dozens of unwritten rules, maybe even hundreds. Don’t admire your home run shot too long. You can slide in hard to second base to break up a double play, but don’t go in with your cleats up. And my favorite, non pitchers cannot walk across the pitchers mound. All of these unwritten rules make the play unclear to some on the field and most off the field.

If you want people to perform at a very high level, whether it is on the baseball field or at your organization, rules cannot be “unwritten”. “Unwritten Rules” tend to be very vague and unclear. Clarity is paramount. How many times have directions been given and the person goes off and does something completely different? The most likely reason is due to unclear directions.

Be clear. Be concise. Repeat.

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I was inspired by a blog post from Marlon Byrd, center fielder for the Chicago Cubs, about the unwritten rules of baseball.

It’s All About The Delivery

August 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Pitchers in baseball spend years perfecting their delivery.  The smallest tweak in the delivery can make a huge impact, both positive and negative, in the pitcher’s success. Most changes are intentional.  For example, Ryan Dempster, pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, developed a “tell” in his delivery.  Something that he was doing in his delivery told the batter the pitch he was going to throw.  In 2008 he changed his delivery to eliminate the tell.  That season, he went on to have the best record and ERA of his career.

The same inverse impact (small tweak makes a huge impact) can happen in business on any given day. The reaction and response from whom you communicate with can be drastically altered depending on the delivery of your communication.

I experience this at least on a weekly basis.  Someone will talk to me venting about something someone else said.  When I hear the story, it is usually not the words that peaked the ire of the person on the receiving end of the communication, but the tone, body language, enthusiasm (or lack of) or even the word or words that were emphasized in the communication that seem to have caused the problems.  In other words, the delivery.

It is hard to do, but we must think about how our communications will be received or interpreted before they are delivered. Email communication is a bit easier to proof-read and revise if need be.  Verbal conversation is much more difficult and yet much more important.  I am not saying you need to be nice all the time.  Instead, be intentional.  Be intentional in your tone, in your word choice, in your strength and your choice of method (email,  verbal or something else).  Be in control and never out of control of your communication delivery.  If you intend to be nice in your communication, great.  But if the situation calls for stern, hard or aggressive, the delivery of the communication needs to intentionally reflect that.

Think before you speak.  Proof-read before you send.  Using these two simple ideas will help you get the intended reactions from those with whom you communicate.

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from many of my associates at Group Delphi and others in the business community in Fort Wayne with whom I speak periodically about business management challenges.