Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What’s more valuable – Time or Money

Two brothers of about the same age and with many similar interests – one of which is motorcycling. The older brother is recently retired and the other is slightly short of that time.

During the process of installing a new rear tire, brakes and wheel bearings, the older brother emails the younger saying how nice it is to have the time to be able to repair his own motorcycle to which the younger brother replies, “I can’t wait until I have the funds to pay someone else to do it!” 

What a great example of the difference in the value of time and money.  As Daniel Pink points out in “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” we will often do work for ourselves that we will not accept pay for to do for someone else.  The value of time is to do what we want to do.  The interesting thing is we might use it working physically harder than we do at our place of paid employment. 

The challenge for the leader is to connect these dots.  Help your people align their passion with the work that needs to be done. 

How do you help align these priorities for your team?  Can you share an example? 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What’s more important – good processes or people?

It is one of the best problems to solve in business – having too much of it!

You really learn the strength of the team and processes in your organization when you are fortunate enough to win the confidence and business of customers.  After a week helping a client build and deploy the methods, tools and processes to maintain customer expectations, the question seemed very reasonable.  “John, which is more important, having good people or good processes?”  We were so focused on getting the processes right that the question made me sit back and think.

Of course they are both important, but that does not answer the question.  In most organizations, the most talented 5% of the team can accomplish the assignment with no defined process.  They are just so good they develop tools along the way to achieve the task.  The same organizations typically have the other 5% that will not or cannot follow the best defined processes.  Then there is the 90% of the team that really want to do a great job, are fully capable and want to support their teammates.  They want to do the right thing and want to be consistent.  They deserve proper support and direction from leadership.  They want and will follow well thought out and defined processes.  They would like to participate in the development of the processes and will likely make them lean and doable. 

So, assuming your organization has the 90% capable and well intentioned team, well developed processes seem pretty important.  What have you found to be the most important in your organizations?

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Post testing email subscription notifications

Post testing email subscription notifications.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Test Again

Still trying to fix Feebburner.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Soon, Immediately, ASAP or Now?

Which of these would you do first?  What is the difference?

I recently saw these four words on different bullets on the same chart.

As a senior leader, which one do you think I was supposed to react to?  Should I have to assume that “now” is before lunch but “immediately” is sometime afterward?  Or possibly, “ASAP” means today where “soon” is sometime this week?

Communication is hard enough without using words that seem to mean the same thing but don’t.  There is a simple way to avoid this – use a date and/or time.  This is particularly true when you are making commitments, describing risks or asking for help.  Your leaders are pulled in many directions and will react to the requests that are easily understood and input into “their system.”  To be a strong team player, you need to understand the system and fit your needs into it.

Trust me, “soon, immediately, ASAP and now” cannot be calendarized (I did not make up this word, but someone else did).

Do you find yourself or others talking in general terms on exacting topics?  How do you help avoid this pitfall?

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Learning does not have to be Grand

“Are you Catholic?” Bala asked.

Experiences around the globe have taught me the “politically correct” sensitivities of the United States are not universally shared.  Religion is a good example. It is common in many places to ask a person their religion, particularly if you think you might have something in common.

So it was that Bala, the driver, asked me if I was Catholic.  He was a kind man and wanted to share his church if I answered yes.  This was in India mind you and Catholics are far from the majority.  Infant JesusChurch (see photo) was in the village of Emjala in an unmapped area of Hyderabad only 3 kilometers from the plant I was visiting. It was not St. Petersburg cathedral, but very interesting and having Bala explaining the details and what takes place here on Sundays in his broken English made it very worthwhile.

Like all major cities, Hyderabad has it big sites – Chowmahalla Palace, the Golkonda Fort and Charminar among them.  I had been there, done that.  The locals said “you have seen it all Mr. John.” It was not so.  This small side trip shows that cultural awareness and learning takes place with every little exposure and each person you meet when you take the time to understand.

What small things are you exposing your team to help their cultural awareness journey?

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Delaney’s Data

“How do you spell “pierce,” Delaney asked her dad.  Once getting it right, she disappeared.

She is the cutest and smartest seven year old you could possibly meet and I get to call her my niece.  She was contemplating an earlier discussion she had with her mom about the possibility of getting her ears pierced during her next doctor check-up and wanted more data. When she was next found, she was on the internet watching videos of kids getting their ears pierced and tracking how many of the little girls cried versus not.  She had divided a paper into halves and her research data indicated that about half the girls cried.  Ultimately the data did not prove or disprove her intuition.

Leaders need to have great intuition and vision to be successful. They also need a way to test their theories to understand the resulting success probability and/or the nature and difficulty of obstacles they must overcome.  Leaders who master the ability to visualize and test intuitions are likely to increase their chances of success and have the backing of the teams they lead.

Do you have a track record of testing your hypothesis?  How do you do it?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Did I remember to say…

I’m not a big fan of “manufactured holidays” or those so bloated by industry that they lost their original meaning.  But then again, it is SO important to thank the people around us.  This is particularly true of people contribute so much toward our success and get little credit.

Yes, I’m talking about the administrative support we depend so heavily on.  While I would like to think I am good at remembering to thank people, it is probably not likely the case.  We can all be better at it.  A few years ago, I chose to add a new thank you into my tool kit.  Every time things were particularly tense in the office area, I would ask the office manager “Did I remember to tell you how much I appreciate your support lately?”  This little statement of appreciate did wonders for breaking the tension and conveying a message.  You have to mean it if you’re going to say it thou!

Today is Administrative ProfessionalsDay (23 April).  If you are not good at remembering to thank your folks, this is a good reminder.  Thank you again Sandy, Patti, Darleen, Gail and Doris.  You all contributed so much toward the success of so many!

What tools do you have to remember to thank people?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BASKET

For the longest time, I’ve coached and mentored people on the use of the “3E’s” (Education, Experience and Exposure) as the key components for self assessing your career situation.  I learned them from Deane Hislop originally and then saw the CISCO Career Makeover video (quite funny) where it was also used.

An odd coincidence happened as I was on my way to watch the NCAA Final Four basketball games.  I read a career mentoring article (sorry, I cannot find it now to properly credit the source) and their guiding principle was called “BASKET.” While the name might have been what originally caught my attention, I ultimately liked the six elements:

·         Behavior – the way you act (includes verbal and nonverbal communication)
·         Attitude – your internal guidance system (this can make up for less talent)
·         Skills – specific techniques (these are learned through repetition)
·         Knowledge – this would be similar to the Education E (formal education and training)
·         Experience – actual time in position (the opportunity to succeed and fail)
·         Talent – the natural things you are born with (can be a negative if used wrong)

While I like the simplicity of the 3Es, I also love bringing Attitude and Behavior into the discussion.  We have all met very talented people who turn us off!

What do you think of this coaching/mentoring model? Do you think LiaV should transition to using it as the primary model?

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

“Expectations remain the same”

Kansas University basketball coach, Bill Self, said “the faces change, but the expectations remain the same” on a TV advertisement.  At long last I thought I found an analogy where coaching sports did not align with other forms of leadership.

Self was describing how the KU basketball program has certain long term expectations and the players come and go. The longest a player stays is four years.  In business, it is the managers that come and go quickly and the “team” is in place for the long haul.  Each leadership regime comes in with their own set of programs, goals, methods and expectations.  On the surface, it sounds inconsistent.

After more thought, the expectations of the team did not change as much as it might sound.  In the aerospace industry, quality, safety and precision are the foundation and independent of who is the leader. The same concept is true in the customer service, high technology and entertainment industries.  The expectations at the top level remain the same.

Do you ensure your teams understand the top level expectations and create a culture supporting these expectations?

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Monday, March 24, 2014

It’s easy to win - Give credit and take blame

At the risk of piling on, it is March and you all know I’m a hoop fan.

While the emotion and drama of the NCAA tournament are without equal, I look at the character of the participants, particularly the coaches.  Last year we shared the Jimmy Valvano’s 1993  ESPY speech that displayed amazing character in the face of grave adversity.

On a smaller scale, try to watch and listen to the words of the losing coaches in the post game interviews.  See what they say and how they say it in the worst of times. This is when true character comes through.  It is easy to be a winner.  At the youngest of levels, the Boys & Girls Club teaches “Win with character, lose with dignity.”   Listen to the amount of ownership the head coach takes in the loss.  It says a lot. I was taught to “Give credit and take blame.”

How about you as a leader in the work setting?  Do you take ownership of the missed deadlines or failed efforts?

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Does anyone really care what LiaV says?

In the blog world, there are generally three types of readers. All three read the posts.  They differ in how they comment. There are those that are actively engaged and respond often.  Some are topically engaged and comment when a post sparks an emotion. Last, there are “lurkers” who are always reading the posts and never comment.  This diversity makes the Internet interesting.

You might have seen the comment of Anonymous on 10 February.  This reader has commented in the past and appears to be topically charged.  The question posed (Does anyone really care what LiaV says?) seemed worth checking.  I have not gone to Feedburner in a while to check our statistics, so here they are:

754 = Active LiaV email subscribers
515 = Active LiaV RSS feed push subscribers
133 = Active LiaV Blogger site subscribers
117 = Active LiaV Twitter subscribers
200 = Approximate number of site hits per day for over 111,890 total views
United States = Country with the most site hits (with England, Germany, Poland and India next)

Thank you for your engagement and participation. 

Does anyone really care what LiaV says?

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Crush Washers

Returning home from a recent oil change, my wife’s car sat in the garage slowly dripping oil from the drain plug.  This could be the sign of something very minor (tighten the plug) or a big deal (stripped out oil pan). 

Under further investigation, the head of the drain plug snapped off when attempting to loosen it.  The good news was that the additional repair was limited to simply replacing the drain plug and crush washer (less than $10).  Why did the drain plug break?  The crush washer is designed to compact as a mechanic tightens the drain plug.  It actually makes the seal with the oil pan to stop drips.  Once the washer is fully “crashed” it not longer stops the drip and causes too much turque to be placed on the drain plug.  The crush washer costs less than a dollar and should be replaced every oil change.  You can see from the photo that this crush washer is way over crushed and should never have been re-installed (penny wise and dollar foolish). I like to wonder what the mechanic was thinking when they put this washer back in and what the leadership message was at the shop was that allowed him to think it was ok.

It is easy to blame the mechanic.  Leaders must realize that everything they do sends a message to the team.  Did the shop owner rush the mechanic or say that they should save money on parts? Was quality or volume the primary shop philosophy?

Do your leadership messages tell your people to go fast and install bad crush washers or slow down and put in a good one? 

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Over 900 Career Wins

As soon as I returned to Southern California, old friends reached out to jump back into youth basketball coaching. I enjoy teaching young players the fundamentals of basketball, sportsmanship and to respect the game. At the same time, I saw that Coach K at Duke achieved his 900th NCAA career victory.  It made me wonder with our NJB/PCHoops 10 game season how long it would take me to get 900 victories.

Well – let’s just say it is going to be a LONG time! Then a trusted colleague sent me this quote from LSU’s legendary basketball coach Dale Brown.

“The word coach was first used back in the 1500s in England.  A coach was a horse drawn carriage used to transport a person from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be,  needs to be, or ought to be going.
All these years later, that is exactly what coaching should be about, but this is most difficult to follow because of the pressure to win.  Measuring the success of a coach shouldn’t have anything to do with league titles, state championships, national rankings, or national titles.  It should have everything to do with directing a program ethically and making good use of the power coaches have to reach and teach young people about issues and ideas that will carry them not only through a season…but through a lifetime.”  Coach Dale Brown

Sweet – Based on these criteria, I believe I have far more than 900 victories.  All good leaders should measure themselves based on the people they develop rather than the only P&L.

How many victories did you have today? This week? This year?

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wishing you the best for 2014

Greetings from Istanbul.

2013 was a a year full of personal and professional accomplishments.  Many major international projects completed so we made our way back to Southern California to explore and see what next adventure presents itself. 

Thank you for following and participating in LiaV.  Whether you agree or disent, your thoughts and comments always make us think.

Be safe and enjoy the holidays with friends and family. 

John

 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Sharp dressed man

The window guy comes in to bid and he says “you understand how this all works.”  The drywall texture company owner comes in and he references “you look like you know what you’re doing here.”  The stone guy visits and says he’s certain I’ll have the structure in place to hold the granite safely. 

For the last 3 weeks I’ve been working a home construction/renovation project and wearing clothes appropriate for the undertaking (painters pants, sweatshirt and very worn steel toed work boots).  Simply having this “look” gave me credibility with these contractors bidding jobs.  It also drove a slightly lower price.  Nonverbal communication is always important but this was a great reminder how what we wear gives us credibility whether we deserve it or not.  I can remember the opposite happening one time when I was shopping for a suit while wearing shorts, t-shirt and sandals.  No sales person would give me the time of day.

Leaders need to remember that everything they do and say is watched, interpreted and assessed by the team.  Nonverbal communication is often as important as verbal.  Whether it is your office arrangement, desk housekeeping, personal affects or dress code, they all tell a story. 

What nonverbal clues do you send?  Are you managing this or just letting it happen?

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Need a job or want to work here?

The evening ranger program at Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Campground started at 7:30 pm sharp.  Ranger Monica was knowledgeable, energetic, personable and formally educated.  She said as a kid she was so influenced by the park rangers at Glacier that she decided to become one.  She interned at Glacier each summer from college and took a full time position upon graduation. 

A lot of people want and/or need a job.  We try to determine if the fit is right through the interviewing process.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to tell the difference between someone who really wants or needs a job from someone who really wants to work in your organization. The aerospace industry has a distinct advantage.  Most people who study aerospace engineering really want to work for a reputable aerospace firm doing tough stuff.

I always thought Zappos (the on-line shoe folks) were onto something when they offer new employees a “exit-bonus” after only a couple weeks on the job. The idea is that people who really don’t want to be there will take the cash leave.  The result is a group of employees that really want to be in the organization. FYI – I just chatted on-line with Heather at Zappos and in seconds she verified they still have this policy and she did not take the cash offer to leave!

How have you successfully separated the people that just want a job from those that really want to be in your organization?  Has it worked?

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Ti-Anse Team

When McDonnell Douglas and Boeing merged, a Seattle guy explained to me the difference between a “family” and a “team.” I was told a team selects and can remove members.  A family, on the other hand, does not select members and you can never be kicked out.  That made sense at the time, but it made me wonder how a team with the positive attributes of a family would fare.

I got to see those results in practice on my recent Haiti mission.  Our project engineer hand selected very specific people with the skills needed to accomplish the water system and pipeline installation task.  We had an industrial plumber, machine operator, heavy machine mechanic, nurse, interpreter, equipment driver, finance manager, and some strong general helpers.  The team came together during the journey to location (Ti-Anse, Haiti – in the far Northwestern region) and performed their assignments both individually and as a team.  If you were wondering what I brought to the party – it was the ability to organize the group of 64 Haitian laborers and the conditioning to walk 10 miles a day overseeing the pipeline!  Everyone brought something that only they had, but they also acted as a family caring for and helping one another. It was a classic example of putting the task before self.

What are your thoughts on the difference between team and family?  Do you try to merge the tow concepts when you lead?

video
 

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Hotter than Haiti

Sometimes opportunities present themselves that make no sense.  I had no particular desire to visit Haiti and no ties to any mission efforts. 

As often the case, helping others achieve their objectives turns out to be leadership in action.  In this case, my brother was trying to bring water to the village of Ti-Anse in Haiti.  He is a retired facilities project engineer from General Motors with all the right skills to bring this project to life.  I was a guy with some extra time at the moment.  When asked, my immediate reaction was “no”.  Why would I want to do this 10 day trip with no basic comforts?  When I changed the question to, “would I help someone accomplish their objective?”, then answer changed to “yes”.  A very similar situation happened in my career when asked to go to England to complete three MD-11’s in modification. I said no at first and then was instructed to go.  This was the turning point where I worked internationally the rest of my career visiting over 50 countries.

So – as you read this LiaV post, I’m in Haiti and perhaps the 5 miles of pipe, 2 cisterns and distribution system are working.

How has helping someone else achieve their goals caused you to grow and mature as a leader?

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Man Camps (Unintended Consequences)


What if someone told you that your community could have thousands of new jobs, increased home values and lots of tax dollars to build roads and schools?

Heading up Route 85 in North Dakota towards the northern entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we kept seeing what looked like poorly maintained camp grounds.  There were groups of trailers and trucks down dusty driveways with very little shade.  We were also on a camping trip, but these did not look like a place we would stop. 

Talking with the locals, we learned these were the “man camps” for the thousands of oil workers that have arrived in North Dakota since the hydraulic fracturing(“fracking”) industry started.  This is not a blog about the pros or cons of fracking, but of the unintendedconsequences of growth and progress.  ND now sports the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  There are jobs for everyone.  There are also overcrowded roads, massive rent and real estate price increases, law enforcement challenges, crime that was never seen before and the sense of “community” is disappearing.  One law enforcement officer described it as a return to the Wild West – cowboys with money, without wife’s, out doing whatever they want.  Only this time they replaced the horses with new 4X4 pick-up trucks with rifle racks.

Independent of your opinion on fracking, leaders in all situations must try their best to consider the unintended consequences of their decisions.  Benchmarking others is a great way to do this.  It is amazing what can be learned from a simple phone.

What “no brainer” decisions have you reversed once you learned the unintended consequences?

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