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.

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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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