Tuesday, October 7, 2014

3 Lessons about teamwork from the Kansas City Royals

The Royals baseball team has invigorated Kansas City! After last night’s victory that takes the team to the pennant race, players were celebrating downtown with their fans. Tweet of gratitude were sent by players, along with the invitation to celebrate at an Irish pub downtown. The players thanked the city and were happy to win for the city.

I went to one home game this season, and it was on September 17, 2014, near the end of the season. The Royals beat the White Sox during that game, but the crowd stood out to me. I can’t judge good technique of a ballplayer, but I can tell when the crowd is electrified. It was different than any game I had been to in KC for the past ten years. I lived in Chicago and went to Cubs games prior to moving back here ten years ago. The KC fans were like the Cubs fans: in love with their team.
What makes this team so special? Why did fans across the city fall in love with this team? Why is this team selling Royals gear to fans across the whole country?

So far, I think it comes down to three things:
  1. There is no one superstar. There is no one trying to make a name for himself or to out-shine the rest of the team. Their egos are in check, and it shows.
  2. The team likes each other. There is a high degree of trust that each person will do his job really well. When they need help, they call on each other and are heard. The camaraderie shows between innings, in the dugout, and during warm-ups. It’s palpable when they celebrate home runs and victories.
  3. They are not insane. Isn’t the definition of insanity when you keep doing the same thing but expect different results? This team changed its strategies. They worked hard on being fast, stealing bases, and putting themselves in the position to score. The hitters aren’t swinging for the fence every time. They work to get on base. The team has focused on small steps that yield points. Oh, but they’ll sure that the homeruns that come!

The Royals are doing what many other successful teams have done: they put the team first, trust each other, and create the opportunity to win. Workplace teams can do those things too. It is time to Be Royal!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The eye of the beholder

How many circles do you see in the photo?

At first glance, it might appear as if there are no circles, prompting some colleagues to think it’s a trick question.
Look again. There are at least sixteen circles.

Anyone see more than sixteen?
It is not a trick, but sometimes what is obvious to some is hidden from others. But, if we keep trying, we can see more than what is perhaps right in front of us.

When I was a kid, we made a banner for school that said, “Bloom where you are planted.” When I went to college, my mom gave me that same saying on a small cross-stitch canvas she made. Today, the same gift hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to look for more than the obvious. It also reminds me of the importance of blooming no matter what the circumstances.
When you choose to look at things in more than one way, instead of just the first way, you will see more. The perspective makes better decisions, attitudes, and behaviors possible.

Here’s another example of perspective: While every media outlet described self-proclaimed bachelor George Clooney’s wedding to an attorney over the weekend, the headline of a woman’s professional site reads, “Internationally acclaimed barrister Amal Alamuddin marries an actor.”

Life is all in the eye of the beholder.


Monday, September 15, 2014


Last night my family and I went to Blue Man Group at Starlight in Kansas City. What an outrageous assault on the senses! I kept thinking, "What is this?" It's not a concert or a magic show or circus…it is all of those and more.

Once the shock and awe wore down, my thoughts turned toward innovation.
Whose brain suddenly went, “Let’s get three guys to do weird stuff like paint with balls in their mouths and stupid stuff like cram cereal in their mouths. And, let’s have them wear blue masks covering their whole faces! And, let’s not let them talk at all! And, let’s get the audience involved! And, let’s charge people money to watch them!”

Really? Who thought of that? How would the conversation go when they tried to gain support? Something like this, perhaps:
“Hey, Clyde, I have this idea for three blue men who perform stunts without talking…”
“Um, yeah, Bonnie, that would never work. Go schedule Kenny G.”
Someone came up with the idea and someone encouraged it.
According to a 2012 Fortune article, an average of 60,000 people a week attend Blue Man Group performances in six cities around the world — not including the touring shows — at an average ticket price of $59, or roughly $3.54 million in revenue a week from sellouts.
What do you think about that? Isn’t that remarkable, considering how hard it is to get people to think outside the box and be creative?
It makes me wonder what if we’re missing in our daily jobs. What if the writers of Blue Man Group came to your workplace? How would they view your organization? As more companies encourage more innovation, let’s get in the habit of thinking about Blue Man Group.
WWBMGD? What Would Blue Man Group Do?
Use the Z Model to encourage innovation. Where are you on the Model? Are you the idea person who sees things differently? Or, are you the one to get others involved on the way to figuring it out? Or, maybe you are the detailed person who likes figuring out how to make things happen? Or, you could be the person who gets it done. Which are you?

If you aren’t the first person, resist the temptation to burst the bubble of an idea. Instead, encourage it to grow. There will be plenty of time to figure out the details and whether the idea could really work or not. But, there’s no chance if our tendency is to stifle creativity right off the bat. Let the creative minds foster ideas.
If you are the first person, resist the temptation to hold on to your ideas too long. You might not be the best person to move an idea forward, so involve others and let them do their part. When the creative thinkers resist the rest of the innovative participants, they stifle themselves.
Someone’s brain came up with Blue Man Group—probably, a team of brains. And, others supported them, and others made it happen. Think about them as you create a culture of innovation at your workplace.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The emotional roller coaster of boarding a plane

Their eyes, mouths, and shoulders revealed their emotions. They were a lonely, pitiful-looking bunch. They were the final ten people boarding a flight: the C boarding group.

As the C group (who knew there was one?!) entered the Southwest airplane in Chicago yesterday, everyone seated could see their emotional highs and lows as they looked for a seat.

They entered with bright eyes and high hopes of finding that one last aisle seat for themselves. As their eyes scanned the first dozen rows of the plane, they realized there would be no aisle seat toward the front. As their eagle eyes scanned further back, it became clear that the chance of a window seat was slim too. With high hopes slightly dimmed, they headed down the long, narrow aisle toward the back of the plane.
If you saw The Green Mile, picture the boarding experience of the C group like the walk in that movie.

One of the ten grabbed an open window seat. Aha! Hopes were high again! “Maybe there is another one just for me!” thought the standing nine passengers.

Their fingers were crossed as they headed further down the aisle searching for an aisle or window seat. All hopes were obliterated when the flight attendant announced only middle seats remained. Eighteen shoulders slumped in sadness as if they had practiced a synchronized routine prior to boarding.

In a matter of minutes, those unfortunate C boarders went from hoping for an aisle or window seat to seeking an open middle seat. Three C fliers grabbed the closest middle seats. The rest were out of luck. The flight attendant had another announcement: the only empty middle seats were near the front of the plane.

Six passengers turned around in unison to walk down the aisle toward the front of the plane. I couldn’t see their feet but started humming “Oeo Oeo” from The Wizard of Oz. Remember the song the wicked soldiers sing as they march? (What are they saying anyway?)
With heads and shoulders collapsed as if they had been defeated worse than the Royals, the final six passengers returned toward the front of the plane.

What happened next surprised me: They were happy to find middle seats! As each person took the first open seat they came to, relief came to their faces. When the last person was settled into row two, the plane erupted in applause for them. (Gee, what kind of person would lead a plane of people in a round of applause?)

The emotional highs and lows those lowly C boarders experienced stuck with me. It really stood out once the plane landed in Kansas City and was parked at the gate. As the two-hundred something passengers prepared to deplane, guess who was among the first to depart? Those lowly C boarders!

They didn’t have to wait for hundreds of people to exit. They didn’t have to wait while people fumbled their gigantic carry-ons. They didn’t have to suffer the 90-degree temperature heating up the plane. It turns out, those pitiful C boarders made it to the destination as exactly the same time as everyone else, and they got to exit sooner than most of them. They were the lucky ones!

It just goes to show a few things…that emotions are temporary, life is all in your perspective, sometimes what seems horrendous at first turns out to be miraculous!


Monday, July 28, 2014

A Perspective on Greatness

What does greatness mean to you? Would greatness mean you are at the top of your field, earning a top income, associating with world renowned people? Have you given much thought to what it would mean to be great? If you have not pondered that in a while, give it a minute right now.

Eleven year old Liang Yaoyi gave it much thought. "There are many people doing great things in the world," Liang Yaoyi said, according to China Daily. "They are great, and I want to be a great kid too."

To Liang, being great meant donating his organs upon his death.

Prior to his death in June of a brain tumor, Liang told his mother he wanted to donate his organs so someone else could live. It was a chance for him to be alive in a different way.

Liang’s perspective deeply touched the physicians, so they bowed to honor him after they removed his liver and kidneys. In the Chinese culture, the deeper the bow, the deeper the respect. As you can see in the photo, the physicians bowed deeply. You can see how touched Liang’s mother is in the background. 

Liang’s selfless act was so great that the bow has garnered the attention of media outlets around the globe. Now, a child who lived only eleven years will impact the world in a greater way than he imagined.
There are many ways to be great, and anyone can be great if they want to be. Most people don’t ponder it much. Most people are wrapped up in the mundaneness of daily life and we miss opportunities for greatness.

This week, slow down and seek those opportunities. They are all around. There are many people doing great things. Do you want to be one?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dog poo in the living room

Every morning at about 6:00, I get the pleasure of taking Miles, the greatest dog in the world out for his “morning constitution.”

As you might expect, there is a routine involved and it is rarely altered. Miles and I go out the front door, down the front walk, around to the back of the house, along the woods, then into the high field where business is done. Miles leaves “pee mail” at various trees and bushes along the way to keep in touch with the other pups and small animals in the area who have a similar routine.
Yesterday began like any other day. Miles led the way out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, but then he froze. He would not go into the field with the high grass. He just looked at me with an expression saying, “I’m not going in there.” Then he turned and walked back to the house the same way we always return.
I knew what threw Miles off his morning routine: deer. A mother deer and her two little ones have been living in the woods behind the house, and they have come out to our yard and into the field back there. Miles had seen them from the deck, so his senses were on high alert.
Miles was calm when we returned to the house. It was 6:30 on Sunday morning, so I went back to bed. About fifteen minutes later, Miles was running through the house. He scampered through each room, up and down the hallway, and all around. Of course, I got up to check on him, but nothing was amiss. He didn’t whimper, there was no thunder, and no one was knocking on the door. I returned to bed for about an hour.

When I got out of bed to start the day, Miles didn’t greet me like he usually does. I knew something was amiss now. When I reached the living room, I could smell something amiss, then I saw the mess. Luckily, the mess was not big and it was easy to clean up. A quick cleaning and the rug was like new. But, Miles felt terrible. He had a guilty look on his face and he clearly felt bad for his unusual behavior.

My husband, Bob, and I spent several minutes reassuring Miles that he was a good boy. We knew he did not need punishment because he had never done this before. He was punishing himself enough. He needed empathy from us. We were happy to offer it. His demeanor returned to normal later in the day, and all was well.

Until this morning.
I awoke around 6:00am to take Miles outside. We followed our traditional routine: out the front door, down the walk, around to the back, along the woods, over to the field. Just like yesterday, Miles stopped. He would not enter the field. I even tried to nudge him in there to take care of business, but he would not go. We had been out for a while, and I had to get ready for work, so we returned back to the house.

But, today, I did not assume Miles was fine. After all, he still had not handled his morning business. Bob took Miles out for a walk in a different area, which is part of their morning routine, and business was handled. When I left for work, the rug was fine. Oh, Miles and Bob were fine too.

What strikes me about the living room poo experience is how routines get altered. Although Miles and I have the same routine each day, we have different experiences in that routine. He was afraid of the deer, I was not. I assumed he would feel the same way I did, and I dismissed his feelings. My assumption contributed to the poo on the rug.
Doesn’t the same thing happen at work? Of course, there’s no poo on the rug here, but there are consequences when we assume things about each other or overlook other’s experiences. Do you ever assume people think the same way you think or feel the same way you do about the same experience? We take each other for granted, then mistakes happen or time-consuming C.Y.A. takes over communication.

One other thought to ponder was the forgiveness for the error. Miles does not poo in the living room all the time, so we did not need to punish him or instill new rules. We needed to learn from the mistake and set him up for success next time. How good are people at doing that for colleagues? Or, are we better at blaming them and holding a grudge?
Pay attention to routines, what alters them, and how others feel about them. And, forgive people when altered routines cause errors. Keep your senses on high alert so you can set people up for success, and you won’t miss the signals that poo is on the way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You can be patient or become one

Raise your hand if you have been advised to develop more patience. [picturing all hands up]

Raise your hand if you heeded the advice. [picturing fewer hands up]
I was advised to do the same earlier in my career, and I recall thinking patient people were just slow, out of touch, and wishy-washy. Why couldn’t they just make a decision, I bemoaned. One of my mottos to this day is, “Let’s go!” which is not really the motto of patient people.

It has taken me a while, but it turns out, those advising of patience knew what they were talking about. I finally have developed patience and have observed five things about it that are worth sharing:
  1. Patience brings perspective. If you slow down to think things through, you are more capable of seeing more to the story of any situation. The newly expanded perspective will enable you to present yourself better to others.
  2. Patience yields better results. When you are calm, cool, and collected, your brain works differently than when it is under duress; therefore, you are able to be more creative and identify better solutions for whatever is causing the impatience.
  3. Patience builds relationships. Our leaders are pressured to improve performance, while staff is pressured to do more with less. Our leaders want to build effective teams, while staff wants decisions made faster. The complexity of business today adds to the pressure everyone feels, and it is testing patience of staff at all levels. Today’s workplace calls for patience, as does the marketplace.
  4. Patience opens eyes and doors. When you are patient with someone who sees things differently than you, you can learn from them. Your openness can lead to more opportunities.
  5. Patience is a mirror. When you get impatient with a colleague (or, child), think about the cause of your impatience. You might discover that you contributed to the cause of your own impatience and frustration. Perhaps you didn’t train the colleague well or were unclear about expectations.
The next time you get impatient with someone, reflect on the bigger picture, potential solutions, your relationship, opportunities, and your contribution to the situation. Your reflection will allow you to see your maturity as a leader and your impact on others. Patience is not about waiting a long time; it is about how one behaves while waiting.

What else have you noticed about patience?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Who is driving?

A chauffeur-driven Town Car sped by me on the way to work today. I wondered who was being driven, where they were going, what filled their day’s agenda, and what their lives were like. I also wondered about the driver: who was he, what was on his day’s agenda, what his life was like. The person who directed where the car goes is in the back, but the person who knows the route to get to the desired destination is driving in the front.
Which of those two jobs is harder?

On most days, it is probably more difficult to be the driver, right? The drive has to:
  • Know route options
  • Anticipate traffic or construction
  • Choose which route is best
  • Reacting when something unexpected happens
  • Keeping the car prepared for the trip
  • Keep all passengers safe
  • Know and follow the laws
  • Be nice to the passengers
The passenger who gives the final location has to:
  • Know where the car should end up
  • Pay the driver’s fee
So, it looks like the driver has the harder job. But, what does it take to know where the car should end up? There’s more behind the scenes for the passenger than randomly picking a location, right? When you think about it, who is driving whom?

Obviously, both roles are important and both people only succeed when they work together. The driver has nothing to do if no one wants to go somewhere. The passenger has no way to get where they want to go if there is no driver. One is not more important than the other. They are just different. They need to respectfully rely on each other.

None of us likes a backseat driver. When you are the passenger, know your destination and let the driver do his job. Micro-managing will not help the driver or your trip. Likewise, passengers do not like a driver who questions, judges, or doubts our destination. Remember, sometimes each of us is a driver and sometimes each is a passenger. Know your role.

What about those solo trips? Sometimes we travel alone and have to know the destination and how to reach it. If we don’t set our own destination and route, we end up following others or roaming aimlessly, which makes accomplishment and any sense of success unlikely.

Whether you are the driver or the passenger, support everyone who’s along for the trip. The mutual support makes the journey more enjoyable and the destination more meaningful.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Which is worse: a loss or tie?

Whether you are a soccer fan or not, by now you have heard that the US team is competing in the World Cup and came within thirty seconds of advancing to the next round yesterday. Yesterday, the US played Portugal. Portugal scored early, but the US scored late and led by one with less than a minute to go. Portugal scored with about thirty seconds remaining, so the match ended in a tie. Either team can advance to the next round, depending on different circumstances.
Every news show is covering the World Cup this year, and if social media is any indication, people are watching. People are really into it. They believe! #IBelieve, the hashtag chosen by the US team, has been trending on Twitter since last week, with 8 million tweets going out worldwide about yesterday’s game alone.
American fans were devastated by yesterday’s tie and expressed their sadness on Twitter and Facebook. Were you watching? Were your social media streams full of emo posts about the outcome? Americans like winners. Our games don’t end in ties. We have overtime and “sudden death” to ensure there is a victor.

It took a while for the dust to clear and for Americans to understand what the tie means to the US team. It means the US plays Germany this Thursday, and if they win, the US advances to the sweet sixteen.
As the news shows covered the World Cup this morning, one of the experts opined that the US should feel great about Sunday’s match, despite the draw. He said that soccer is different from other sports and Americans need to understand how a draw is viewed. In soccer, there is respect for the game and how it is played. The US, the expert said, should feel good about how it played yesterday. (I was getting ready for work and didn’t catch the names of the panelists.)

Others on the news panel disagreed, some even declaring that a loss would have been better than a draw. He especially did not like that the US team let Portugal score, thus damaging their chances to advance, with just thirty seconds left.
Hearing the comments about the draw made me wonder what you think about win, lose, or draw in other areas of life.

Beyond the soccer match, is it better to tie than to lose? Or, are there times when losing would be better? Does a tie lead to “resting on laurels”? Is there ever a time when winning is not the best outcome? What do you think?

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Father’s Day to remember

Father’s Day weekend in 1989 was one of the best. I spent it in Chicago with college friends doing what kids two years out of college do: Cubs game, parties, walking along Lake Michigan, bars, restaurants, etc. I made it home to KCI in time to make it to a work reception at Crown Center that Sunday night.

The work reception included twenty people from around the country who had travelled here for a summit on the new division of Sprint we were developing. The reception went really well. People were nice, energy was high, and everyone was gearing up for a full week of meetings. We were talking, eating, drinking, and getting to know each other. I declined offers of alcoholic beverages (since I’d had my fair share over the weekend) and stuck with water.
Unfortunately the driver of the brand new Ford Eagle did not do the same at his event.

As I left Crown Center on that rainy night, the Eagle sped over the hill and ran directly into me. I remember spinning around the intersection praying, “Please don’t let me hit those cars at the stoplight!” Once I saw the power pole, the prayer became, “Please let me avoid the power pole!” The people and pole were safe, but I sat stuck in my car in the middle of Main Street.
It was obvious the other driver was drunk, or rather, on drugs, because immediately after my car stopped spinning, one of his buddies ran to my car to see if I had any drugs for him to hide. Upon hearing my negative answer, the buddy ran around the corner of a building to hide whatever they had in their car.

After the buddy ran away, one of my coworkers came to my aid. Karla recognized my 1984 Citation in the middle of the road as she left Crown Center. Karla stayed with me until my dad came to the hospital. Luckily, the injuries were relatively minor considering there was no driver’s seat left. Hip, back, shoulder, head—all aches and pains but nothing broken. Since there were no broken bones, and I was adamant about preparing for the work summit, the hospital let me leave. It was about 1:00am when my dad drove me away from the hospital. He drove me to my apartment to gather clothes for the week, then he drove me to work to gather materials needed for the summit. The next day, he drove me to Crown Center and waited until my part in the meeting was completed, then he drove me back to my parents' home. He did the same thing every day that week.
June 11, 1989 comes to mind often for a few reasons.

One, the pain and the hassle caused by the crash, obviously. Two, it is annoying to be a victim of a drunk/drugged driver. He apologized after court a month or so later, but it still chaps my hide that something so unnecessary happened. Three, and most importantly, it was Father’s Day and I had not seen my dad that weekend until he arrived at the hospital. Instead of being home having a burger with my dad, I spent the weekend with friends. But, when I needed my dad, he was there for me, even in the middle of the night on Father’s Day.
As you get ready for Father’s Day weekend, I hope your fond memories of your dad bring you much joy. Dads are there without fanfare, and you never know when one minor incident will stick with someone.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the MRIGlobal dads, granddads, stepdads, people who fill in as dads, and moms who wear the dad hats!
Let's all have a memorable weekend but not as memorable as the one from 1989.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Can you afford baggage fees?

Last week, J.D. Power released the 2014 airline satisfaction survey, which showed a record high for the U.S. industry. Considering how the fees have increased, the survey results surprised me. The biggest surprise was a quote from the head of the division that conducts the survey:
“It isn’t that passengers are satisfied with fees; it’s that they are simply less dissatisfied because they realize that fees have become a way of life with air travel,” said Rick Garlick, head of J.D. Power’s travel and hospitality practice.
So, let me get this straight…
Passengers are not truly more satisfied. They are just less dissatisfied because they are used to the fees?

When it comes to personal baggage, do we feel the same way?

We carry personal baggage about past jobs, bosses, coworkers, and relationships, into every day. Do we care how much it costs to haul that baggage around? Or, are we just used to it so we don’t notice the expense anymore?

When flying, passengers used to be able to carry as much baggage as they wanted for no charge. In life, those are people who never forget or forgive. They want all their baggage with them so they don’t gather more while on life’s journey. But, it is costly in one way or another to haul so much baggage around.

In recent years, airlines adjusted their fees to include $25-$40 for checked baggage and no fee for two carry-on items. In real life, some over-packers realized the cost for so much baggage was not worth it, so they crammed everything into the smaller carry-on sizes. Or, they packed more selectively. That might be like letting go of events from the past, ending one-way relationships, or even forgiving oneself. Downsizing our baggage is always a worthy exercise.

The most recent airline fee changes include charging for carry-ons. Maybe it is time passengers select what they bring carefully, only taking essential items along their journeys. Maybe we need to do that in real life too. Baggage is getting more and more costly. We don’t want to get to the end of our life’s journey and think, “Well, it wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

Social networking is as simple as donuts and pie

The jury may still be out about which social networking method is the best, but it is not out about whether social networking is here to stay. It is. Luckily, social networking has evolved. What used to be for musicians then for self-absorbed teenagers has become available for all.

People, companies, and causes use social networking via social media channels to keep in touch, influence buying decisions, and gain support.

As a lifelong social butterfly, I love social networking as a way to interact with even more people than I ever imagined. My favorites are Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter, but there are many other methods utilized by very successful people in a variety of fields.

There are so many social media sites to choose from, it can be confusing. The photographic description of popular social media channels shows each one as it relates to donuts.

Social networking has evolved further than the donut analogy shows.

It is becoming passé to use social networking to talk about oneself all the time. I love Facebook because I like to know what my friends and long-lost chums are up to, not because I need them to know all about me. On Linked In, I like being connected with experts from a variety of fields because it makes me resourceful. As for Twitter, I like knowing what others are eager to share.

My view of social media is more like the chart on the right, which is less about me and more about others. After all, they are much more interesting!

Social should mean two-way communication; however, advertising traditionalists used to one-way self-promotion are still learning how to capitalize on the interactive opportunities in today’s social networking.

A terrific example of the current use of social networking was exhibited by CNBC, the cable business news television channel. On Tuesday evenings, CNBC shows reruns of another channel’s popular business show, Shark Tank. After two episodes of Shark Tank, CNBC airs one of its own shows, The Profit. I am a big fan of both shows and, as some of you know, I tweet about them on Tuesday nights.

Two weeks ago, CNBC sent me a direct message via Twitter saying they wanted to thank me with a gift for watching The Profit.  Since they had just aired an episode about a candy store and had a bakery episode coming up, I sent my work address right away.

A week later, a pie arrived! The package contained a key lime pie, show t-shirt, and thank you note.

It was yummy! Several of our colleagues enjoyed a slice of pie sent to thank me just for doing what I liked doing anyway. I call that winning, don’t you?

If you want to use social networking well, consider the following tips:
  1. Be selective. Each has different pros/cons, so use only the media you like best.
  2. Be genuine. This is the most important piece of advice I have for all participants. Phoniness is a turnoff.
  3. Interact. This is the second most important advice. Follow others and comment on their posts. One-way communication is out-of-date.
  4. Be useful. People are more interested in a recipe for success than in what you had for lunch.
  5. Be humble. Posting only accomplishments will be as annoying as those braggadocios holiday letters.
As much as I like it, I understand that everyone is not cut out for social networking.

You might have been turned off by social networking, but it’s not your teenager’s network any more. Maybe you got sick of people posting pics of every meal on Facebook, or of every move their kids make, but it’s not used like that by most people any more. Now, you can great groups to include or exclude people who still post that way. Maybe you are introverted and prefer to interact only with a small group of close friends, family, and colleagues.

Whatever your preference, stay updated. Stay informed.

People who think their customers aren’t on social networks or who think social media is a waste of time are dinosaurs. Real relationships begin and build via social channels every day. Social networking is evolving, and people, companies, and causes need to stay updated or they will miss out. It is as simple as that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

This blog brought to you by the letter B: Bacon!

Have you noticed the topic in the news more than anything else the last few years has been bacon? It’s everywhere! Bacon Diet Coke, bandages, mouthwash, candy canes. It’s not just for eating, either, it’s for wearing: shoes, watches, dresses!

What could your company do to gain the favor bacon has gained in recent years?

Why does everyone love bacon? Or, if they don’t love it, why is it socially acceptable to ridicule bacon haters?

What does bacon have that you don’t have? (Yet!)

First of all, it smells good even before you taste it. Does your company pass the bacon test? Are you as appealing to customers throughout your processes even before results? Are you easy to work with or is it time-consuming getting contracts signed, scheduling meetings, reading reports?

Second, bacon is available in small doses. You can cook a few strips of bacon then save the rest for later. (Okay, who really does that? But, we could.) Are you as accessible for customers? Can they rely on you for small projects with quick turnaround times in between the bigger projects? Or do they think you are only good at one thing?

Third, bacon makes everything taste better. It makes salads, burgers, eggs, and Scope taste better. Do you have the same impact on your work? Would your customers say working with you is the best part of their day? Are they jumping at the chance to involve you in even more work? Bacon is in everything because people love it. Can you build the same kind of love?

Oh sure, not everyone loves bacon and not everyone will love your company. But bacon focuses on those who do love it. It’s not trying to win anyone over or convince anyone that it’s great. Be like bacon!

How do you think your company could be like bacon?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is consensus over-rated?

Consensus is great, right? Building consensus leads to better ideas, work efficiencies, and higher morale. Consensus is so important, there are courses taught on the subject and consultants earn big bucks when they facilitate consensus-building sessions for companies across the globe.

When there’s consensus, everyone is happy with the solution or action. Everyone buys in when they have contributed, which leads to higher productivity. Plus, there is a sense of camaraderie as people work together on the shared goal.
But there is a downside to consensus.

The most significant downside to consensus-building is the time it takes. It takes time in meetings, whether one-on-one or with groups, to build consensus. But, even beyond that, keeping the consensus as solutions are implemented is time-consuming. I wonder if too much time is spent here on reaching consensus.
Who says we have to be 100% happy with every solution we have to implement?
Can’t we implement solutions even when they are not our idea or preference? Is the expectation of joy for every minute of our day too high?
When too much time is spent gaining agreement for too many solutions, consensus can prevent accountability.
For example, let’s say two technical staff members explore an idea for a new product your company could offer. They do the relevant market research, calculate forecasts, and build the prototype that gains approval of their director to proceed. If the product fails or succeeds, the buck stops with the two staff members. Accountability doesn’t mean they get fired if it doesn’t work. It means they need to explain where the research and forecasts erred. They don’t get to say, “Well, it failed but Bob approved it!” On the other hand, if the product is a wild success, accountability means they get rewarded for success.
Consensus is not needed for everything it is used for all the time. Don’t use it to get out of making decisions that are your responsibility. Instead, get ideas and input from others, then make the decision. Also, resist the temptation to insist on consensus when you are invited to give input and ideas. Feel free to share then let our colleague decide.
When consensus leads to lack of accountability and to procrastination, the good part of it is lost.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How to cease the sabotage of emergencies and comfort zones

Have you noticed the number of Urgent Care centers popping up around town lately? There are thirty listed in the Kansas City phone directory. Although the first Urgent Care center opened in the 1970s, there numbers have grown widly in the past five years.

The National Center for Health found that 48% of people who went to the Emergency Room did not have real emergencies. They went to the ER because their doctor’s office was not open when they needed care. To ensure proper care for urgent matters and emergencies, patients now have the option of going to an Urgent Care center instead of to the ER. Patients don’t have to treat every health matter as if it were an emergency.

Business professionals don’t have to treat every issue as an emergency either. In fact, doing so can make people look like they are not in control of their work, do not know how to prioritize, and are incapable of making wise decisions. When a manager operates in a state of emergency all the time, it demotivates their teams and causes lack of trust. When everything is an emergency, nothing is.

So, if we are not supposed to make everything an emergency, what’s this sense of urgency people have been talking a lot about?

John Kotter, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School, authored a book that has become the definitive source on urgency (A Sense of Urgency). Kotter says urgency is thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. “It is the thought that there is opportunity out there, feelings of determination to win, and behavior that is hyper alert and committed to movement that wins.”

In the interview John Kotter did for Harvard Business Press, he explains more about urgency:

Urgent people:
  • Pay attention. They are alert and proactive.
  • Seek information. They are on the lookout for external information relevant to success.
  • See opportunities. They see opportunities in challenges and crisis.
  • Move forward. They find ways to launch initiatives, form and motivate teams, and make a difference.
The sense of urgency is not created from feelings of contentment, frustration, anxiety, or anger. It is a sense of determination, strong desire to win. Urgent people realize there are obstacles and challenges—they are not ostriches with their heads in the sand—yet, they are positive and energized by opportunities.

People who live in a constant state of emergency or in their comfort zones tend to focus on trivial issues and on projects with no significant contribution to the organization’s strategy. They are not focused intently on progress but on chaos or status quo.

Kotter explains, “People who are determined to move and win, now, simply do not waste time or add stress by engaging in irrelevant activities. True urgency is not the product of historical successes or current failures but the result of people, up and down the hierarchy, who provide the leadership needed to create and re-create this increasingly important asset.”

The assessment below can help you determine whether complacency or a false sense of urgency are issues for you:

Yes or No
1.Are assignments around critical issues regularly not completed on time or with sufficient quality?
2.Are discussions inward-focused and not about markets, emerging technology, competitors, etc.?
3.Are failures of the past discussed so as not to learn from them, but to stall new initiatives?
4.Are highly selective facts used to shoot down data that suggests there is a big hazard or opportunity?
5.Do meetings on key issues end with no decisions about what must happen immediately (except the scheduling of the next meeting)?
6.Do people have trouble scheduling meetings on important initiatives…
7.Because they are too busy?
8.Do people regularly blame others for problems instead of taking responsibility?
9.Do people run from meeting to meeting exhausting themselves and rarely focusing on the most critical hazards or opportunities?
10.Do people say, “we must act now”, but then don’t act?
11.Do people spend long hours developing power points on almost anything?
12.Is candor lacking in confronting bureaucracy and politics that are slowing things down?

Consider the following nine actions to prevent emergency states or comfort zones from sabotaging your work going forward:
  1. Set reasonable deadlines, keep track of them, and honor the commitments.
  2. Listen to what external resources like customers, new staff members, partners, and suppliers are saying. Understand the truth and anticipate needs.
  3. Listen to external data, in addition to the people.
  4. Identify the opportunities in every challenge and crisis.
  5. Behave urgently daily. Urgency can be developed but if it’s not used all the time, it will diminish. If you only operate urgently every few months, that’s like the college student who crammed for final exams.
  6. Watch out for the No-Nos. The No-Nos kill urgency. They say they are too busy, and they often stretch work out beyond reasonable limits.
  7. Encourage risk by not punishing failure. Fear of failure leads to complacency.
  8. Pursue winning relentlessly. Not to sound like Charlie Sheen, but prioritize actions based on their preparation for victory.
  9. Sustain the sense of urgency with courage. You’ll need courage to ask questions, nudge others forward, and lead the impending changes.
Kotter goes on to say why companies need more urgency, “A real sense of urgency is rare, much rarer than most people seem to think. Yet it is invaluable in a world that will not stand still.”

Are your industry and customers standing still? You cannot afford to function in a state of emergency or in long-held comfort zones. The sense of urgency will propel your organization past this current financial state when you’re all functioning with the same sense.