Friday, November 21, 2014

The Giving Tree

A long time ago I worked at a Gas Station in Bellevue, Michigan. During a particularly boring graveyard shift a man came in looking for a cup of coffee. He looked a bit agitated. I told him we didn't have any coffee. He looked at the pot behind the counter inquisitively? I meandered over to see the pot. I opened a cabinet below, looked at the various tools to assemble a cup of Joe, and then stepped back. I heard the man say, "you've never made a cup of coffee have you?". What ensued next was an unexpected glory!

The man stepped behind the counter with me and showed me how to make a cup of coffee. He laughed as I poured the grains into the filter and we talked about life while the coffee brewed. Just two guys in the middle of the night talking over coffee. The guy chuckled with delight as I fumbled through the process and left with what he proclaimed the greatest cup of coffee he had ever tasted. It seemed he was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach someone something (he may not have had the opportunity to do that for a while). His agitation had subsided and he walked out whistling.

We always examine what engages people. Is it money, rewards, technology...? The example above reveals that people have a mutual appreciation for one another. Too often our predisposed frustration replaces teaching opportunities with confrontation.

People want to learn and to teach and to be given an opportunity to grow.

Last week we discussed the possibility that our character may be revealed through that which we are willing to do for free. Life is full of necessary evils (things we have to do). But, what do you want to do, and why not go do it?

By the virtue of the above mind frame, can engagement not be defined by the opportunity to give? Isn't there something pretty wonderful about that? 

Don't give me a catalog of outdated gifts in reward of my achievements. Give me the opportunity to conduct a class for the organization on the sociological significance of The Streets album "A Grand Don't Come For Free".

If I have 10 calls today that are creating opportunities and driving meaningful objectives, I am not only engaged but energized! I don't need a ping pong table or an espresso machine or to take a walk or even to eat. Give me a purpose and the tools to amplify its meaning and I will teach others to engage in it.

Now engagement has become advocacy!

We don't want gifts or more money. We want to be part of something we believe in and the trust to bring it to others.

~ Know what your employees need to succeed.
~ Design a program that helps them measure progress every day.
~ Reward achievement with new opportunities.
~ Never run our of new opportunities.

Have we forgotten how easy it is to help others??? 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Passing Time

I would venture to guess that our true character is measured by the things we do for free. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have with people that start with a raised eye brow. People simply cannot believe that a salesman would help someone without asking for something in return. I do it a lot.

My profession is only a part of my existence: I coach youth sports, help college kids get jobs, conduct Human Resources training and occasionally provide advice when asked... I've never been paid for any of it.

Long ago, I worked at a booth at a prominent Human Resources annual conference. I far prefer being a conference attendee and/or volunteer. In my sales career I have done everything I can to be viewed as a peer to my buyer. It takes research, listening skills and empathy. I understand why people don't like sales people; I don't either.

The only thing I dislike more than sales people are people without sales training trying to sell something. Everyone is trying to sell something.

What do you do for free? Are people surprised when you offer to help without holding your hand out?

Time Spent
I feel at this point in my life the most valuable asset I possess is time. The recognition of time as a valued asset provokes a study in what (and to whom) one devotes their time.

Are you chasing that big deal simply because the pay off would be huge? Do you pursue certain business partnerships with the knowledge that they will never happen? Why bother! Your time is as valuable as any CEO's. Use it wisely.

I See Your Cards
I sat next to a person in the press room at a conference. This person exclaimed, "I'm not going to a presentation, I'm here to sell something". So dangerously mislead! If you are not willing to invest in your buyer's mind frame, you will never provide value to them.

I was interviewed by a person recently for a radio show. Every question asked was accompanied by five comments before I could even answer. Don't pretend to be interested in me if all you are really here to do is hear yourself talk.

The social space is full of hacks! People who pretend to possess what all of us can get for free.

You would drop everything for your kids. You would quit your job if your spouse got ill. You wouldn't ask for compensation for coaching your kid's team.

Think About It!

The things you do for free are rooted in your life's true passion. If you are truly passionate you should share what you know to allow what you care about to germinate. Your ideas are not sacred. Everything has been thought of.... how you carry those ideas into the world is what matters.

Regrets surface when you are unwilling to put the work into something you believe in with all your heart. Regrets hang like ugly chandeliers... you cannot face a day without walking under them!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


One part of qualifying candidates for sales jobs today is their number of "connections" on LinkedIn (and other social networks). One's presence in the social space can be a game changer.... it's also really easy to game the system. You might have 1,500 connections on LinkedIn but how many of them would drop everything to meet with you? How many people in your network have any relevance to your occupational development? If you contacted your LinkedIn connections one-by-one how many would reply, "how do I know you"......?

A Rolodex is one thing. Genuine connections are something completely different. The only thing worst than a sales person is a person who has no sales training trying to sell someone something. Long ago, Keith Ferrazzi introduced vulnerability and generosity as concepts of genuine connection in the social space, he nailed it! Having been in sales for nearly 20 years, I can identify an impostor from a mile away (most of them are not in sales). 

It is not the number of contacts you have in your network, it is how you utilize your privilege to interact. Most people are surprised if you are able to network without asking for something. 

Got Hugs?
Want to identify the real difference between a business relationship and a true partnership.... when you meet your contact in the lobby do they hug or shake hands?

It matters... The greatest contacts I have in business have been in the trenches with me: I have held their hand in an airport bar when they found out their wife had cancer, I have put my hand on their shoulder when their son failed to report to court (again), I've buried my head in their shoulder to hide my tears when I found out my mom had cancer (again). That's the real stuff, most of us can hide it, when we don't feel obligated to hide... we are home!

How many genuine connections do you make each day? Not friends added to your network but genuinely human interactions. Will he or she with whom you meet be willing to share a personal detail with you? Would they explain their lack of concentration on their failing marriage (and ask for your advice)? 

It is easy to watch your top performer succeed... It is far more difficult to make an ugly duckling a swan. Most leaders bank their points with their top performers and give up on the ugly ducklings only to dismiss their responsibility to their failure. 

You hire people, and when you do, you take responsibility for their livelihood. If your employees fail, it is your fault! The good lord gave us all free will, most people will abuse it if you give them too much rope. 

Priorities and Privileges matter. Your job should be your #1 priority.... raising your children is a privilege. Let's not confuse the two. 

Your measure of success are the lost souls whom you have given a home, the ship to which you have affixed a rudder, and the number of hugs you receive every day!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rowing The Doldrums

Life has it's fair share of unfortunate set backs: people get fired from their jobs, athletes get injured, people fall out of love and with every triumph there is a failure. The victories are often met with a sigh of relief while the losses bring upon a pondering of our possible misplacement in this world. Winning is glorious, losing sucks, but our greatest misfortune is to be ignorant of either.

I have the unfair self-inflicted lot in life of being incapable of accepting failure while being unable to give myself too much credit for my successes. Frustration, sleepless nights, and intense self-analysis are all bed fellows in the mind of a perfectionist... the lack of ease a vestal to continual progress.

It is too often that we put too much emphasis on the little things and fail to celebrate life's simple beauties. If your job was lost what would you do? If an injury ended your sports career what lessons from the field could you relay to other elements in your life? You can spend 20 years perfecting a craft and an unfortunate accident can take it away from you. Some times a little luck trumps years of preparation. With all this in mind there is only one thing left to do...


Some of our prayers are unanswered, certain goals are not met, and there are times when we feel we are out of options. More often than not the bad things do not happen. There are times to pray, times to cry, and some times you just have to pull up your boot straps and move on.

Joy is a Strategy
I enjoyed reading INC's listing of the 10 greatest sales people of all time. Most of them were not the obvious choice and the characteristics they shared were not slick talk or negotiation tactics. The people who are best at what they do are so because they love what they do.

Great Chefs can make me care about the culinary arts, amazing designers can make me look at fashion in a different light, if you believe in a cause with unflappable commitment... I will join you.

Bounce Out!
Lack of certainty makes our failures harder to accept, relationships harder to mend, and grows greater distance to our goals. Far better than tossing and turning in your bed is to get up and find the solution.

Most people who are unhappy are so because they failed to try. The fear of risk can marginalize us all into a life of compromise. There is no joy in compromise and no glory in settling for second best. If you are not pursuing your every activity with your fullest effort you are wasting your time. Our time here is fleeting and too precious to be a vestal to tears and complaints.

Opportunity Doesn't Knock
There are two types of people in this world: those who seek progress and those who are content with being just OK. There are people who devote 10,000 hours to building a skill that never get promoted. There are others who have had countless opportunities that they squandered because they were unable to get up when they first fell.

Nothing will be handed to you, you have to find it. Challenges will come upon you and if you are not totally dedicated to your craft, you will fail. If you cannot accept failure your misfortunes will overwhelm you. Then you stop trying... and life sucks!

Every day should be accepted as a gift. We should take on every challenge knowing we have as much a chance of failure as we do victory. We should have a system to plug into that will ensure our chances for success exceed those of failure. We should be willing to try hard enough to win and then we should try even harder.

Put yourself out there! With every victory comes the confidence to know you can. If you win over and over the habit becomes a skill.

"everybody's gotta learn some time" - Beck 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, October 20, 2014

A Scarf For The Winter

There is no silver bullet for performance management: not an app, platform or systematic flow chart. It turns our that managing performance is as much about knowing your people as it is knowing the metrics of their performance. So, how can we engage a variety of personalities in one scaled process? Let's review the SCARF formula for employee motivation:


... it's pretty simple, if you understand which of the above mentioned characteristics are of the greatest (and least) priority to each of your employees, your line of vision into their motivation will be greatly enhanced. Have your employees stack rank what matters most to them and manage accordingly.

Some employees are seeking a promotion (status). Be proud enough to help your best performers get to the next level in the organization and they will stay forever. Some people just need to know that their job is important (certainty). Great mangers help their employees understand that their achievements benefit the organizational mission. Some people just want to be left alone (autonomy). If you've given them the tools to succeed you can leave them to their own devices and they will perform....over and over again. There are people for whom work is an extension of their social network (relatedness). Loving the people with whom you serve make the hard times a little easier and the victories that much sweeter. There are those who want to know that the playing field is level (fairness). You can dispel water cooler banter by proving that each person has the same opportunity to accelerate to greatness.

What Are You Fighting For....?
Managers get a lot of shit! Certain vendors think starting an employee revolution is the key to employee engagement... the SCARF method rivals that formula for disaster with strategic certainty.

So then, it is time for employees to make some decisions:
What Can You Do At Your Organization That You Cannot Do Anywhere Else?

If you cannot answer the question above, you should quit your job! If you don't believe that the company you are currently working for can help you do more than anywhere else... you are wasting your life!

Are pats on the back important to you? Do you really value trophies? Do you want to stand in front of a bunch of people to be praised for your excellence?

If you know you are performing to the peak of your ability you do not need a trophy, public praise, or validation. Get a pair! Own your actions and fear not failure!

You should be driven by the knowledge that you are capable of achieving what no other person ever has. If you are concerned with what the past has deemed possible, you are probably not all that capable. Those who suck at their job are those who need to be validated at every turn in the road. It's a job, diffuse the emotion and get to work!

Managers cannot manage if their employees refuse to believe that everyone is working for a common cause. We are all in equal parts responsible for our engagement at work. Some times we need a hug and some times we need to bite our tongue and get to work.

Let's Go To Work!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Art of Growing Old

There has been so much debate about the generational divide in today's workforce. Fingers are being pointed at who is entitled and who is irrelevant.

I work with 70 Year Old HR Professionals, College Men and Six Year Old Female Soccer Stars; each holds their brilliance...when they were born has nothing to do with it. We tend to think that getting old sucks but I am here to assure you that it is not necessarily true. With each day we get a little smarter, a little more aware of ourselves, and a little more appreciative of the time we have left. Its all pretty wonderful!

Get Smart
The worst advice I have been given in my career is not to get too close to those whom I manage. The reality is that being an effective leader is based firmly in the viewpoint that opposes the aforementioned advice. If you do not have the courage to trust your people, you should not be a manager.

Experiences matter most! Not years on the job but the places you have traveled, the people you have met, and the stories they help you create. Passion is fueled by experience and everyone is inspired to follow those who are impassioned in their mission. If you stop experiencing all that life has to offer, you slam your life into neutral. If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.

Be Aware
The world is full of (excuse the term) socially retarded people. I know so many people who are incredibly smart but cannot get out of their own way. To have an opinion is a virtue, to be too opinionated is a burden. Are you aware of yourself? Do you say things you shouldn't? Does your non-verbal communication reveal your lack of life experience?

In interacting with others it is wise to consider their point of view before submitting your own. Never mention religion or politics and leave your phone in your pocket. It is vitally important to be a good listener. Your advice is better delivered if it is concise, well founded, and spoken as if you possess the unconscious voice of Johnny Cash.

Cherish Everything
I just heard the Great Neil Young say that life at this point is driven by his ability to cherish the weather. He defines the weather as the state of things and the channel toward wonderment. When you get older you cherish the moments-in-between far more than the well publicized events.

Your friends will let you down, your co-workers will fuck up, and your kids will drive you bonkers. Hug them all and love them all equally.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Folded Pictures

"you should know compared to people on a Global scale our kind has had it relatively easy" 
- Jason Isbell

What are the complaints of the day? If we really concentrate on the things that have derailed our progress are they genuinely significant? Are you impatient with those who seek to learn? Are you unwilling to adapt for fear of revealing that you don't know everything?

I heard musing on a time when a whole lot of workers lost their jobs. It was everything they had known: their skill set, their friends, their culture.... and then it was taken away. The only skill they had was to serve a purpose that no longer had a purpose. It was unfair.... but what were they going to do about it?

What's Your Back Up Plan?
My father worked for the same company for 37 years. He was loyal to his company and his company was loyal to him. As far as I knew that was the way the work world worked. You showed up first, left last, and were celebrated accordingly. Man was I wrong.

When I discovered the landscape of how companies honor their employees had changed it was too late. I had worked nearly a decade for a company I loved and after being passed up for yet another promotion I knew the balloon had hit the ceiling. The worst mistake I have made in my career is giving the current state of my career too much credit. Things change quickly. I thought my leaving the aforementioned company would put a dent in their universe, they hardly noticed I had ever worked there at all.

If your company went out of business, if your job was off-shored, if your husband got sick... what would your next move be?

It is not disloyal to have a back up plan. All you need is the ability to tap into people who care and to impress upon them your greatness.

I care, I'll help anyone.

"the worst part of a good day is hearing yourself say goodbye to one more possibility day" 
- Adam Duritz

We have 29,200 days on this earth. I'm on the back nine of that scale. I remember sitting with my sweetheart at dinner on my birthday and realizing that it was possible that I had lived more days than I had left. I admitted that I loved this sad and beautiful place far too much to leave it.

So when it is your time to go. How do you know you'll be ready to go?

Well, you can savor every moment....

Stop listening to people who complain. Recognize that the people who love you know when you are not fully utilizing your greatness and that they feel it their duty to hold you accountable to that. You should hold your child's foot in your hand as long as it fits... and then you should let them run. You should hug people. You should be totally unwilling to accept people who try too little and ask too much... and you should not feel bad for calling out their ignorance.

We are far too caught up in the now and far too unwilling to live in the moment. There is a difference. Stress is build upon pressure that is often a landfill of hatred. There are a lot of people in positions of power who have forgot that love is at the center of everything. There is also a time to use your brain and let your heart rest.

People will let you down. The person who you live with most is yourself. If you let yourself down more than you let anyone else down that simply means that you have high standards and a good heart.

People need help and that requires giving them the benefit of the doubt. Be patient, learn to forgive and know that people will always be more accountable to themselves than they will to you.... and that letting oneself down is the hardest task any of us can face.

Call your mom, write your wife a note, and tell your kids that they are greater than anyone; this will fill your heart. Then enter the workplace with your heart full.... and every day will be a victory.

Don't forget about the pictures in your back pocket... they are what brought you here... and what will bring you home.

I promise you... we can do this!!!!!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Built To Spill Milk

I was amused by a post created by Bruce Kasanoff on LinkedIn this week. I believe his intent was to be critical of Good Ol' Boys Executive speak. There was, however, an undertow that seemed to dismiss the motivational relevance of competition. It seemed to read that anyone who had ever competed in sports is a meat head, my daughter was offended.

I am an advocate of employee engagement and an opponent of marginalized middle management. I absolutely agree that results should drive promotion and bravado should be eliminated. It is no secret that some Baby Boomers are protecting their post. It should be admitted that happiness is not a strategy. Culture may eat strategy for breakfast but if we tune in, turn on, and drop out at every corporate campus in America; our children will work on chain gangs.

I see people who's drive is determined by their insecurity... that is no way to live. I also see people who were picked last... so they quit trying and sequestered themselves to their self pity. Knowledge is power. Courage is driven by one's ability to see a challenge, accept it, and seek to conquer the seemingly impossible. To run from adversity only to frame yourself as intellectually superior does not prove your enlightenment... it proves you fear your potential!

We want to allow happiness to drive our benefits strategy, we want to socialize work, we want free beer... 3 hour work days.... and quarterly meetings in Bora Bora. That will work....

Playing for Draft Picks...?
I am an Oakland Raiders fan. The Raiders have sucked the big one for more than 12 seasons. Each year, the ignorantly optimistic make the inference that there is no need to win any more games so the Raiders can secure the top draft pick. The unfortunate thing is that the Raiders also suck at identifying talent through the draft.

Two lessons here:
Never Give Up
Sucking is An Organizational Disease

I never agreed with teams resting their best players for the last month of the season to prepare for the playoffs. It is ridiculous to think that allowing your players not to try would inspire them to do better... later.

Organizational culture is created by the sum of its parts and the vision of its leaders. If your leaders give the aforementioned Executive speak without igniting a personal conviction... a lack of authenticity is certain. If you inspire people to do more, they will. If you regulate ingenuity and seek to control motivation; the culture will eat itself.

Fantasy Football is Stupid!  
I recently watched a young man cheer for both teams on the field during the same play because he had players from both squads on his fantasy team. That contradicts the essence of sports.

I believe fans of sports should be loyal to their team and unwilling to break bread with the opponent. You can express sportsmanship and win gracefully without ignoring the fact that your competitor is intent upon stealing your children's food.

Why is it OK to give up trying and pat our opponent on the back? Why would you cheer for individuals instead of the team? What gives one the right to write about sports if he has never had the will to compete?

The grandstands are full of naysayers. Those who have had the ability and fortitude to play the game are few and far between. It will remain this way because those who have tried and failed have a thousand venues to dismiss competition in an effort to excuse their inability.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Greatness Defined

Derek Jeter has had a majestic conclusion to his storied career. This is not an act of fate or the consequence of luck but the result of a lot of hard work. Mr. Jeter has never been the fastest or strongest, he just showed up first and left last... and in-between he tried his ass off!

Those who have earned a spot on the De La Salle football team create commitment cards. In simple context: you define your goals and pass your card to another to ensure you are accountable.

We want to imagine that those who have achieved more than others were blessed with a special talent or that they found more luck than others. In reality, they just tried harder.

All of us have achieved great things. Turning great achievements into a legacy of greatness takes preparation, perception and perseverance. Where (or to whom) you were born makes little difference. Bar stools are warmed by former Friday Night Quarterbacks every evening.

In my professional life I can define one certainty to success:
Be the first to show up and the last to leave. 

It's hard enough to do this for a week straight... try to do it for 30 years, this is the difference between achieving great things and establishing a legacy of greatness.

If you are still standing at the end of practice, you haven't practiced hard enough
The opportunity lost and found is filled with broken dreams, moments of submission, and a whole lot of spilled milk.

Your perception and attitude determine your fate....each and every day. Most people who are great at what they do have more challenges than victories. If development is at the heart of each and every interaction, victory in inevitable.

Reminder: if you think today will suck, it will!

Be humble in victory and accountable in defeat. Recognize in public and discipline in private.

Training is one thing... application is something completely different. Anyone can read a book, take a test, and assume a skill. When your audience is not just a scantron, you are called upon to interact. A tutor can teach you to play violin but if you are too shy to perform in front of others have you really applied a skill? You can be taught to juggle a soccer ball but if you cannot charge the goal you are a jester more than a champion.

For as long as I can remember Derek Jeter has been playing baseball. I remember how hard he hit the ball and how hard he tried to catch it.

That's a pretty damn good way to be remembered. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, September 22, 2014

It Takes A Village

Social Media - you wear me out... everyone has ideas, theories, and personal experiences. The best of us have strong opinions and those with opinions can be easily characterized as bullies. It is a conundrum: those strong enough to participate challenge one another to create compelling content while those we wish to intrigue often roll their eyes at our sarcasm.

The Heart Matters More!
I left the surgery room at 1 am having seen my son endure the most painful day of his life to find 2 nurses having a moment of personal enjoyment. Children were hurting all around them and they had the nerve to laugh... damn right they did!

The young men and women who save lives every day do so not because they know they will get a gift card but because they cherish the little wins.

The Losses Hurt More!

"I hate losing more than I love winning" - Billy Beane

We grit our teeth and pretend our jobs are important but we will instantly forget who we work for when our child is in the hospital. Those nurses have earned the right to laugh for a moment. It's hard to quantify what genuinely matters until we are faced with the fact that our life leading up to a certain moment has been insignificant. An emphasis on the mundane has no place outside of a wood paneled room where ideas go to die.

If you think it is OK to be just OK, it will catch up with you! You don't have to be an asshole to instill in people that the spirit of winning is important... it makes everyone better...

You Should Stop Stopping Yourself
Only you spend the day with you every day. Your first reaction to failure is usually to find someone who will confirm that you are great in-spite of your lack of results.

Don't kid yourself... it is not the fault of your boss or your company that you have failed. You failed because you chose to believe that you didn't have to try hard to win... and then those who you underestimated kicked your ass!

Probably better to overcome adversity than to pretend you are better than anyone else. It's an even better idea to try, fail, and learn to forgive yourself!

Don't Forget to Remember!