Tuesday, April 14, 2015

While We're Young

It was early on a Friday morning and a fresh faced young lady sat next to me in the coffee shop pounding away on her Mac. She seemed to have a delighted spirit. Was she on Facebook? Had she been up all night popping Molly? Of course not! She was working, she was in the flow and she was loving it. Awesome!

Gradually another 5 young people trickled in to join her. They shared concepts, talked about their customers and gave each other pointers on how to navigate the organization. My heart swelled with pride. How wonderful to be in the presence of people who loved their work and were optimistic about their future.

Then one fair haired gentleman uttered: "Oh Shit"!

Across the yard stomped their boss. She bolted in and immediately instructed each of them what they "needed to do" for the day. What were smiles and salutations turned into slouched shoulders and uncertain expressions. They were sequestered to a table to take additional beatings. Instructions that came with finger pointing and accusations. Their motivation was destroyed......

What struck me was that despite the seemingly intolerable bravado of their "leader" these people still seemed to love their job....? Did they have no other options or was the company a pretty great place overall? Here we are with the leaders of tomorrow engaged as they could be, their only deterrent to success is the one person who should care about them more than any other.

What has become of our workforce journey? Is the power shift from one generation to another so obvious that Baby Boomers will do anything to keep their kids from succeeding? I see no validation in the stereotypes that Generation Y has had to carry since they were in high school. More so, I see middle managers of elder generations destroying motivation for the sake of their own preservation.

If you do not understand that it is better to give than receive you probably haven't achieved much. Those with hands out and ears shut will never achieve success. Success should be characterized by the influence you spawn... your personal accolades are secondary.

Maybe the grown ups need to grow up, maybe we all need to adjust to the times or maybe when we were born is meaningless in the grand motivational scheme of things. What IS important is that young people possess an optimism that is the groundwork for a brighter future... and yet we discourage it. We tell young people to lose their optimism and get real, we poo poo engagement for the sake of accountability and we tell those who are capable of achieving what we have not that life is unfair.

Your legacy, if not shared, is simply an untold story gathering dust!

Don't cover your ass! Protect the dream!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lessons From a Coffee Table

I got a frantic call from a young entrepreneur I know.... he wanted to give up. I offered to meet him for coffee very early the following morning. He looked warn out, confused, and uninspired. For over two years he had been building a company based on his super human product development skill. He built an amazing product, got financing and opened a small operation. Along with his success came one BIG problem.... people.

This guy had a knack for programming with whiplash efficiency for extended periods of time. When he took off the headphones he was (by his own admission) "socially retarded". So, a few years back he came to me to ask for help in engaging humans.

Just when it seemed things were well on their way the ever-dynamic challenges of interacting with his employees had flattened his spirit. People wanted to be recognized for their effort, to know where they stood in the organizational hierarchy, their share of profits and the ability to take on new responsibilities. They did it all with "their hands out". He gave and gave and it never seemed to be enough.

Studies on employee engagement usually involve deep dives into large, complex, Global organizations. Turns out, a company with 5 employees faces similar challenges.... because complexity and human beings are evil running mates!

My advice to my friend with the ever-furrowed brow?

Inspire Trust
Most immature leaders still believe their titles entitle them to dictatorship. I've said it time and time again but employees just don't stand for order taking with an accountability clause any more. Contrary to fear mongering skewed studies, people have far too many options to take shit from someone who is not invested in their future.

People want someone to follow. People want to be lead and to be part of something they believe in. As leaders, we have to ask ourselves:
- What inspired people to join our organization in the first place?
- What unique power do we possess that cannot be found anywhere else?

No one ever motivated an employee by talking down or shouting orders. If you lead by example... they will follow.

Don't pretend to be a motivational speaker or hide your passion in politically correct executive speak. Wear your passion on your sleeve! If you are frustrated, share it and get help figuring it out! If you are inspired, share it and help others understand the way to elevate the cause!      

Find New Gears
The one thing I know is that every day presents frustration. No company is perfect, people will let you down, products will fail and you will feel as though you are helpless. Perseverance is so vitally important.

- If the night finds you tossing and turning, get up and get a head start on the day.
- When you've exhausted your mind and soul, take a break to decompress.
- Always look for people with new ideas to inspire you.

Stay Out of The Black Hole
One need not look far for that person who will validate your complaints. The world is full of people who have tried and failed and they love sharing their sob stories. Fuck em!

The worst thing you can do is give in to negativity. Each day you will have to remind yourself of the perils of success. With every achievement the world gets more complex, not easier, and this is why people give up.

You cannot pretend problems do not exist, you have to fix them. People will not allow interpersonal grievances to sit idle. It feels a lot better when you put your differences to rest.

This  is certain: there will always be discomfort in dealing with people and you cannot succeed without them. So you might as well accept the inevitable pain of human interaction and get good at getting through to people.

Our future Zuckerberg left unsettled in my advice but he had a clearer picture of what had to be done. I could have told him everything was going to be OK and to fire those who disrupted his vision, but that would have dispelled one problem to create another.

Progress cannot be made by ignoring the problems created before us.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, April 3, 2015


"...Lost in Fog and Love and Faithless Fear... I've Had Kisses That Make Judas Seem Sincere..."
- Craig Finn

The world of Big Data has made cynics of us all. We want validation for our every action. We search for proof before we act. How one spends his/her time makes all the difference in success. But, some times you have to throw logic to the wind and take action toward that which you believe in. The sure thing may provide validation, but is simply being validated actually winning?

There cannot be progress without innovation and no one ever created something inspiring by doing the safe thing.

Be A Person of Interest
The best conversationalists I know ask great questions and invest their interest in the responses. It is very easy to discern passion from bullshit by the degree in which a person collaborates.

Do you fear delegation because someone can do it better than you?
Are you so afraid to fail that you trust no one to assist you?
Would admitting a need for help make you appear weak?

Every day is an opportunity to learn: read, strike up a conversation, take a break and take a walk.

Beat Up The Bullies
When I say the word Faith what do you think of.....?

Religion? I believe Faith and Religion are separate concepts. You can dismiss God and still have faith. There are many religious types who have no faith at all.

If you believe in something with all of your heart and soul, you will achieve your goals. No One who has totally committed themselves to something ever fails. Lack of validation has simply become a very easy way to dismiss our ambition.

What Keeps You Up At Night?
Why do we toss and turn at night over life's uncertainties? Why does our worry control our mind frame? Why can't we spend our restless hours thinking about all of the magnificent things we can achieve in our lives.

If you are motivated by fear you allow your critics to succeed.

Stop doing the safe thing. Remember what you truly believe in and let that lead. At the very least... remember that only you control your place in this world. Stop trying to impress others! Stop playing by their rules and create your own!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Happy Birthday Marley

Hi Mar Mar -
I can't believe you are 7 years old...? The days sometimes seem long but the years go by quickly. It's been a lot of fun being your Dad, we've achieved so much together. You are a superb soccer and softball player, more importantly, you are a thoughtful little person. I like your hair and your eyes and the way you talk. I know at some point your little foot will get too big to hold in my hand, you may not want to play catch with me any more, and you may even think I'm weird. That's OK. I look forward to seeing you develop as a person, so far so good!

Years from now you might read this and it will remind you of how simple life used to be. I'd like for you to know that sometimes we over-complicate things and that the things we stress over seldom manifest themselves. I'm sure you will be a great person because of the foundation we have built together. You try hard, you care a lot and your good-hearted nature is transparent.

I'm so proud to be your Dad!

By now, you've heard my advice a thousand times but I'd like to remind you of a few things:

Don't allow the details to distract you from your greater goals. The flies always fly away but elephants are difficult to move. Be a person that has a variety of friends. Be willing to meet new people every day and don't judge people by the clothes they wear. Be nice to your Brother and your Mom. Know that if I seem mean it's only because I don't want you to turn out to be a person who is not thoughtful. Don't attempt to win over anyone who doesn't respect you. Always be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Know that people will let you down and there will always be someone available to talk to when you are having a difficult day.... Me! Be weird but not crazy. Be funny but not at the expense of others. It's OK to cry but you will be astonished how little you care about the things that bring you tears even one year from now. Respect your elders but don't take their word as gospel. Be Creative.... that is the most important thing! Devise seemingly impossible goals and achieve them. Take the hard classes and get A's. Play in the toughest league and win. Be willing to fail for the benefit of improving your skills. Never lose on purpose even if it's to make someone feel better. Be graceful in victory and accountable in defeat. Have Fun! Laugh every day. Ignore people who are negative. Embrace people who are positive. Never Give Up!

I Love You Marmalade! Happy Birthday!


Friday, March 20, 2015

Human Advancement

A particularly lively Next Chat discussion erupted this week when we arrived at the simple conclusion that Employee Engagement resides in opportunity and transparency. Can we not discard the rewards for showing up, training that distracts us from production and uncomfortable company parties...? We cannot compliment people who suck at what they do into productivity. We can't conceptualize results. We probably would not choose to hang out with our co-workers after hours if we were given the choice.

In the same way, we've created terms and manufactured rewards to engage employees, we've come up with titles to commodify our employees.

Recognizing your employees is acknowledging their existence. Engaging your employees is getting their attention. Now that they are engaged, we've got to help them climb the ladder.

Think about how happy you would be at your job if you knew where you stood every day:

  • Uncertainty Diffused
  • Tools in Place to Succeed
  • Your Progress Unprotected

Be Boldly Transparent
With the shift in organizational dynamics, managers are now more under the microscope than the employees they lead. There is no longer an opportunity to hide your people from the organization.

Allow your best people access to other organizational leaders to retain their excellence and challenge their desire to diversify their skill set. Give your worst people access to others so they may find other avenues to rekindle their flame.

Everyone Knows Now
The days of annual performance reviews from Manager to Employee are over. No longer can we pretend to admonish people who are more skilled than we are.

Technology has created social applications, leaderboards and badges to display talent in a snap shot... do these bells and whistles tell the whole story? No, but if a member of your team is at the top of a leaderboard based in their skill set and has badges to prove their need to be challenged, you better have the skills to challenge them! There is a difference between challenging with success in mind and challenging to demoralize.

The Tables Have Turned
A fraternal organization was recently broadcast to the world for their ignorance. This seems to be the only time these organizations are recognized.

In reality, the youth of today are far more educated in race relations, sensitive to the bully mentality and forthright in their efforts to expand awareness. 

Tradition is great when it is grounded in values that govern appropriate decision making. Thought technology cannot be crowded by stubborn inability to evolve.

The world is changing! 

People want the opportunity to help others, to win by besting their opponent in fair competition and to provide services that mean something to other human beings.

The popularity contests are over. We are embarrassed to be recognized for achievements not rooted in measurement of progress. We want to compete with others to better their skills as we expand ours.

"We've always done it this way" is dead language. Inability to change is no longer voluntary.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Photo Albums

Ever notice how people can create a life for themselves in social media that may not exactly be the genuine article? Most facebook posts are composed of smiles and glad tidings. When you pick up an old photo album you seldom see a frown. Keeping a time capsule of only the good things is perfectly OK.

We want to look back and remember the good stuff. So, why do we seem to reflect only upon the regrets, missteps and failures? The attics of our lives should be filled with roses.

There are those who say we may be through with the past but the past isn't through with us. I'd like to think that when we leave the world our regrets will be released like balloons.

"You keep scratching at the old paint but the wood is still there and the room is still there" - John Roderick

Why concentrate on what is not working? We over-use the term accountability. We look for a stump upon which to stand simply to look down on others.

We cannot use the virtues of progress as the rights of indignity. One's achievements do not make them more important than a person with an empty trophy case. Most people I know who have achieved the seemingly impossible can't wait to share their experiences.

If I were to do it over again, I might advise my younger self accordingly:

Never assume anything you achieve puts you in a position to judge others. If you use religion to judge others, you don't believe in God. Your mistakes are revealed the moment you pretend you've never made a mistake. There are 2 sides to every story and popular opinion is often wrong. Your reaction to a loss is more important than your reaction to a victory. When you win, act like you've been there before. When you lose, allow yourself to be upset. Learn from your mistakes but ensure the virtues of your victories become the fuel for your existence. Girls like it when you buy them a coffee far more than when you buy them a beer. Men love it when you forgive them. The rain on your back can be as refreshing as the sun on your face. The only judge and jury to which you are beholden are those that stare back at you in the mirror. When you have fallen short, and have reset your strategy, find a way to laugh again. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, March 9, 2015

When The Wave Breaks

It seems as though we have been atop the crest of a wave in workforce planning for quite some time now. Today, we question the inevitable....

When Will The Wave Break?

Baby Boomers have long since reached the legal retirement age but are not retiring, Gen X-ers remain in the the wings seemingly content in doing so and Millennials can't go anywhere without being stereotyped out of even submitting an opinion. We remain in our generational silos, waiting to phase each other out, ignoring the opportunity to collaborate. Do our insecurities keep us from helping one another? Would admitting the need for help mark the end of our relevance?

One thing is sure: at some point the wave will break and everything will change.

Bureaucracy will vanish, no scandal will go unnoticed, women will earn as much as men, those motivated will climb the ladder and those who don't care will find a way to get by. Life goes on and in the middle of it all is a thing called......... work!

My friend Brian hammered this point home in a recent post that blamed lack of Employee Engagement on stifled organizational adaptation. "we've always done it this way" need not be passed along... We have to consider if the legacies built are worth protecting...?

Unconventional Visionaries
Mark Gonzales is a vandal and a criminal... he is also the most creative athlete of all time. Rachel Ray did not go to a French Culinary Institute... she cooked at a New York Pub. Ben Folds was a drummer who became a piano player.

The little boxes through which we seek life's answers are empty. You have to define for yourself who you are before you decide who you want to be.

Progress Eats Confrontation for Lunch
There are a thousand aging managers who still think they can bully their employees.

Their time is up....

The Danger of Protecting Incompetence
Early is my career I was devastated by my company's lack of faith in my leadership ability. I did everything right... I was the first to complete every initiative, nailed every core competency and had a network of admirers. I was also a disaster of a person, full of entitlement, under the impression I was responsible enough to lead.

In corporate America there are rules. Companies keep their doors open by avoiding lawsuits. If you prop up leaders too soon, you may compromise your future. If you are protecting corporate bullies, promotion of such incompetence can be equally destructive.

Transparent social networking, creative design and consultative business development win the day. Stuffy meetings in boardrooms are replaced by whiteboarding sessions, margin-built business models have been trumped by one-of-a-kind solutions and overcoming objections are replaced by validating concerns (and fixing them).

The end of an Era is fast approaching... and no one will even notice. To make an impact you have to care for people. No one ever got to heaven through following the orders of the less than well intended.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Life In The Moment

The extraordinary Richard Linklater had a vision... to spend 12 years making a film that would navigate the trials and tribulations of growing up. His vision has been realized with phenomenal success. With each new scene we progress through the lives of children and parents alike all within a seamless progression.

The most impressive development of this project is how well-adjusted the films subject seems to emerge. We start with a child and end up with a man, so much time caught in a snap shot.

What are you going to be doing 12 years from now?

...it doesn't matter....

The encapsulation of a life in a few hours time highlights one ultimate truth:

Live In The Moment!

How much time do we spend beating up on ourselves? Are your regrets an albatross around your neck? Do you agonize over failures? Do you miss the one who got away? Do you wish you could have tried harder? Have your regrettable actions kept you from acting?

Forget all of that. You have to learn to give people who hurt you the benefit of the doubt (including yourself). Most of the actions we regret are not intended... that's why we regret them. Don't let your regrets turn into desperation by not learning from your mistakes.

Life is full of romance... you can find it in the glow of the jukebox, on a mountain top or on the sidelines of a sporting event. When you find someone to spend your life with they will remind you that romance exists, they will also provide a rudder for your ship. He/She with whom you share your life may not always tell you things are going to be OK. One might say it is the obligation of your significant other to hold you accountable instead of enabling your self-destruction.

As we progress through life we find the moments of elation come with greater magnitude. You'll cry in the movies, at sporting events and in the arms of your friends. The unexpected moments in time that catch us off guard are those that remind us we don't have it all figured out... and that there is something kinda wonderful about that.

There will be mornings under regrets that hang like chandeliers. There will be evenings with only your self pity. There will be afternoons when you are reminded that the sun exists.

You will fail. You will hurt people you love. You will come to understand that there is nothing that cannot be forgiven. People want to forgive you, you just have to admit you were wrong.

Don't allow your ego to keep you from your life's truest friend. Don't forget to tell those you love that you love them. Don't ever pass up an opportunity to laugh at yourself.

Live In The Moment!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Underdog

My friend Charlie has donated some fantastic knowledge to the blogosphere as of late. I share his sentiment that the best professionals share a distinct common characteristic:

The Underdog Mentality

People who are great at what they do listen to every criticism and compliment. While we would like to tell ourselves the insults do not effect us, they do. While we would like to say we don't need recognition, we do. If success is in your DNA you work hard, have an inherent ability to learn from your mistakes and put your victories in a very small corner of your mental trophy case.

Doubt is Fuel
My dad hired thousands of people. The proudest professional achievements of his 50+ year career are supplanted in the times when he took a chance on the less-obvious choice. He will admit that those who were under-qualified were more motivated and possessed a greater sense of hubris. Which is why they exceeded expectations without entitlement.

If you are smart and you work hard at some point some one will give you a shot... then it's your turn to score!

An Inability To Stop Caring
The strange thing about possessing underdog mentality is that the input of the less-talented still gets under your skin. No matter the intent or credential... you take opposing viewpoints to heart and grow from them.

The underdog also has the ability to recognize other underdogs and as they hit their stride they will invite strays into the pack.

Act Like You've Been Here Before
Most people hire the candidate who is more qualified on paper. That way, if your hire fails, you can cover your ass....!

The moment you begin to settle, you lose the underdog mentality. Experts are often wrong, the safe choice is never the right choice and predictability is the kiss of death.

I have won more than I have lost in my life. I've earned every victory and I was seldom the favorite in any fight. I am very proud of that. I'd like to think that each time I defied the odds, I disqualified my opponent from a life of presumption.... and helped them rediscover their underdog mentality!

"Your playing small does not serve the world...There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you" - Marianne Williamson

"You've got no fear of the underdog that's why you will not survive" - Britt Daniel

"Be Humble in Victory and Accountable in Defeat" - Me

There is someone out there who cannot live without you. Don't compromise until you find them.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More Bad Advice

I had recently told a group of students that validation in life is not always vocalized so one cannot wait for applause. It seems those at the beginning and end of their careers might need confirmation of effort more than others. One will ponder if they are aligning themselves with the right people, if they are displaying their commitment through sacrifice and/or if their effort has been validated with results.

A person who I looked up to once gave 3 points of advice for career advancement:
1. Always Hit Your Number
2. Be Willing To Relocate
3. Align Yourself With People (who are climbing the ladder)

I'm here to tell you why the aforementioned 3 points are the WORST advice I have ever received!

Numbers Lie!
Any sales organization will tell you to call the #1 Sales Person to get advice on how to get to where he/she might be. Terrible Advice!

Top sales people are extremely busy, totally focused on their personal goals and unable to articulate the front end precision of the sales trade.

No matter what you do in life, hitting your number is the expectation. There will never be a time when you raise your hand to offer an idea that will not be dove tailed by a survey of where you are on the ranking report. The best sales people I know have never been the #1 sales rep in their organization...some of the worst people I know... have!

The best in any profession are those who you remember after one conversation (in a good way). They have an ability to convey their investment without knowing a ton about you. Unfortunately, most people are faking it.... which is why we all hate sales people.

Do You Really Think I Have No Options?
At this point in time in professional history, first year employees have far more opportunity than middle managers and executives!

Yes, your chances of advancement as a 23 year old are far better than those of your father!

Yet and still, middle managers and CEO's still think they can rule with an iron fist. It is as thrilling to see Millennials take power as it is to see a bully get punched in the face.

The Last 90 Days!
A long time ago it was brought to my attention that a guy wrote a book about how to act during the first 90 days on the job. The suggestions are in step with the 3 points above and equally as ineffective.

Do your fighting in the ring! NO ONE appreciates a new employee who speaks too soon, seeks to align themselves with leaders and/or asks questions in group settings (only to display that they know the answer to said question).

Ease your way in. Let your results speak for themselves.

People are remembered not by how they start the game but by how it is finished.

The best example of making a first impression was conveyed to a group by my friend Kevin Costello on his first day on the job....

"I am not naive enough to think I can succeed without the help of others. So I will be reaching out to you for advice."

Those who are remarkable professionals are remarkable people. They are vulnerable, receptive to advice and always willing to laugh at themselves.

Our legacy is determined by the times we've dried the eyes of our employees and the promotions we have passed up so our daughters could continue their soccer careers with their friends.

Technology has it's limits and advice from management is always mired in corporate neutering.

The bully will only believe that she is still in charge if you feed the ego that keeps her alive.

Don't Forget to Remember!