Posts Tagged ‘success’

On A More Personal Note

It has been a little while since I wrote my last entry, but I promise I have good reason: my family and I have finally moved back to Maryland!  The last year has been absolutely crazy, and while this may not seem like a huge event, for us it is.  My wife is from Maryland, and I lived here for almost 4 years before getting a promotion last year and being moved to Philly.  After losing my job in February and starting my own business in March, things have been very tough on many fronts, so this is a much-needed change back to an area where we want to be.

As I have finally been able to sit and gather my thoughts and think about what my next article should be about, I came upon a blog by Roger O. Crockett called White Executives Should Head to the ‘Hood.  At first glance, this article sounded interesting, potentially politically incorrect, and possibly crazy, but once I read it I really thought about myself and my own experiences.  The premise behind the article was that many more executives should take the time to get out in to the “‘hood” and take some lessons from the people there, as well as use it to help bridge the gap in communication and understanding of others situations.  I can relate, and think about this quite often.

I grew up in a town that had the rural areas, as well as some of the city lifestyle.  My parents separated very early on (before I could remember) which made me somewhat strange in a time when that certainly wasn’t the norm, at least for everyone else.  I had a step-dad who didn’t really want much to do with me because I wasn’t really his child, and he let me know that physically, emotionally, and mentally through degradation and abuse.  We didn’t have a lot of money, and I was always told that if I wanted to go to college I was going to have to figure something out on my own, because we just didn’t have the money and never would.  I was gifted intellectually, but didn’t want to be branded a nerd and get picked on any more than I already did for not having name brand clothes, being a big kid, and being smart.  Because of this, I downplayed my intelligence in school, and did just what I needed to get by.

My Mom owned and ran a print shop where I was fortunate enough to gain quite a bit of business experience, as well as my grandparents owned their own concrete servicing company (building and servicing concrete plants internationally).  Even with all of this going on, I managed to get in to the wrong crowds and spiraled down very quickly from about age 13 to age 21.  I became involved in drugs, drinking, and anything else that I could get in to, simply trying to find my way.  I don’t blame anyone for my mistakes, and know that I have myself to blame for my decisions.  After a failed marriage, receiving an Other Than Honorable discharge from the US Navy, and essentially losing everything that I had gained up until that point, I knew it was time for a change.  At the age of 21 I made the decision that I wanted more than what I had and what I saw myself as ever having on the path that I was on; I knew that I should and could have more.  I left everything I had left, and where I was, and moved back in with family and started over.  That was about 7 years ago.

I still don’t have a college degree, but I have had a tremendous amount of experience over the years, both in business and in life.  I have accumulated education over the years, and look towards the future and getting a formal education, but now it’s because I find what I do interesting and I want to learn as much about it as I possibly can.  So why am I even telling this?  How many people do you think ever ask about, or even care about, my life experience or my intelligence past my formal education?  Believe me when I say very few.  I have had recruiters tell me outright that my resume looks great and my experience is impressive, but I must have a Bachelor’s, no exception.  It makes me wonder how many bright, talented people out there are missing out on opportunities and how many organizations are missing out on their next bright start because of this thought process?

Because of my history, I have an appreciation for everything that I have, and loyalty almost to a fault.  My work ethic is above reprieve and I am proud of that.  My passion for what I do is just about second to none.  I have a diverse understanding and appreciation of life and the people in it.  Those are the good traits.  I also know that because of my history, I am more direct in my communications than most people like, and generally speak matter-of-factly.  I also know that I tend to take on more responsibility than I should at times, and allow myself to get overburdened.  I strive to continuously receive praise and recognition for my work, and to make a real impact.  How many of you would want an employee that exhibits these traits? 

How many companies are missing out on these opportunities?  Which is more important, someone who has the passion and wants to learn and grow and is excited about it or someone who comes in and does the job and has a sense of entitlement, or does it simply because that is what they are “supposed to do”?  I’m not saying that this is specific to any one generation, ethnicity, age, sex, religion, or otherwise; what I’m saying is that organizations need to put more time and effort in to finding the people, like myself, who once given the opportunity can and will strive for excellence and helping the organization that they belong to.  I have seen it time and again, as I am sure that many of you have as well.  As I say many times, everything in your organization is impacted by your human capital; are you diversifying your portfolio enough, or are you playing it safe with degrees and credentials that will get steady results and obedience?  Could your organization use an injection of innovation, creativity, and passion?  I encourage you to give an opportunity to some people whom you might otherwise overlook (a measured risk of course), and see what kinds of results you get.

Is “Monkey Business” a reality in real business?

One of the things that I inevitably find myself drawn to is science of any kind.  I think that’s why I fell in love with cooking; it’s simply a form of chemistry that’s edible (and for those that know me, I LOVE to eat!).  With that in mind I always seem to be reading a new article somewhere about some type of science, which then causes me to make connections and comparisons to things I already know.  In fact, I almost wrote a blog today talking about how we need to challenge what we already know in business and scrap what we thought we knew before based on an article that I read yesterday involving a string theorist who is challenging the concept of gravity(if you’re interested, you can read that article here).  That is, until I read an article that I think really speaks to why we are where we are currently in the business world, and why having an outside perspective can really help in making change.  I think as you read this, you will understand the connection quickly as well as be entertained with the test itself.

First, before you go any further, I want you to take a look at this video:

So how did you do?  It’s really interesting how something so obvious can go unnoticed.  I’m pretty sure that you can already begin to make the same connections that I did.  How often are we told what to focus on in our business life (or any aspect of life for that matter) that we miss something so big, hairy, and conspicuous?  I’m fairly certain that we can all relate to this.  In the business world I think this is where there are many mistakes made, because we’re so focused on expected outcomes, or measurements, or whatever it may be at the time that we fail to see the unexpected things that are happening or could be coming.  That stops us from being able to adjust and be agile enough to meet needs as they happen.

Wouldn’t you think that someone would notice?  This is where I think that it’s important to understand that there are those around you that can see what’s going on, but the question is whether or not you will listen.  Of course, there are also many people who you are surrounded by that are seeing exactly the same thing as you are, because they are as focused and immersed in the situation as you are.  I believe this is part of the reason for the proliferation of consulting.  It’s also the reason that leaders are saying that the number one trait that they are looking for in their senior leadership is innovation, which if we use this study can be primarily described as the ability to identify the unexpected issues as, or before, they happen and then create solutions based on that vision and understanding.  Everyone knows that there are things that they are missing, but just can’t quite seem to grasp.  (It begs the question if this is why MBA’s are beginning to be questioned as the grail of the business world.  That’s not to say that education is bad, but perhaps there needs to be some changes to the program.)

Even with all of the people who are able to see what is going on and being able to discover or create solutions, many business are mired in what they have always been doing or are concentrated on the new hot focus of the moment and miss the opportunity to identify the gorilla in the room.  Just as in the video above, it’s obvious that it doesn’t make you a bad person, or a business a bad business.  But by being so focused on only one thing, you can really lose sight of the things happening around you and the business and the related human capital will suffer because of it.

So now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s try again (don’t read ahead until you watch this!):

Okay, so I’m going to guess that this time you noticed the gorilla…but what about the curtain change and the person leaving?  i will admit, when I watched the second video, I noticed the gorilla and the person leaving, but not the curtain change!  So what does this tell us?  When we are given a suggestion of only one thing to look for or focus on, whether it be directly or indirectly, we can lose focus on other things that are changing around us.  In other words, we need to be able to keep our, and our team’s,  focus broad and be willing to listen to feedback about the changes happening when we get it.  Just because we didn’t or don’t notice it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real, and unfortunately we don’t generally get the opportunity to rewind and see it over again (or at least if we can, by that time it’s too late!).  It’s also important to note here that we need to involve multiple perspectives consistently, so that we can see all angles of a situation, and facilitate proper measures to address, embrace, and capitalize on the changes.  As Dr. Rupert Loyd often talks about in his blog Relational Leadership this is an important concept, albeit a difficult one for many leaders to genuinely accept and utilize.

In conclusion, many of the things that I talk about for change management, organizational development, human performance improvement, and performance consulting as a whole is summarized through these videos and the concept surrounding them.  Utilizing outside perspectives can certainly help, but even more important is to develop your organization and yourself to function in the same manner as a performance consultant: questioning, analyzing, evaluating, gathering input and feedback, looking at things both systemically and systematically to ensure that all pieces fit at all times, and continually looking for ways to improve what is being done.

The original article from which these videos were pulled can be found here.

Engagement by any other name would still show passion!

What is engagement in the workplace, and what does it mean to your organization?  I think about this quite a bit, and probably talk about it with anyone and everyone that I meet more than I should.  It’s a large part of why I do what I do and ultimately it bleeds in to everything that everyone does every day.  This is a missing key to organizations and business today.  Indulge me for a moment as I explain.

Think of your favorite thing to do.  It could be playing golf, online games, fishing, hiking, cooking, reading, knitting, playing competitive sports of any kind, etc.  Now, how much time and effort do you, or would you if you could, put in to that activity?  If you speak to anyone who has a hobby or other passion that they truly enjoy, the answer will more than likely be that they have put many hours of effort and thought in to it.  If we look at sports stars, how many hours of training and practice go in to preparing to play their game of choice?  When you look at a talented musician, how many hours over how many years, did it take for them to get good at playing their instrument?

In a recent article that I read from, called “Presenting Work to Best Advantage” by Janet Howd, I really made some excellent connections, that I believe many leaders are missing today.  In the article she discusses how she observed skateboarder’s practicing techniques over and over again, directly adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall in London, where members of the orchestra practice their instruments.  The comparison in the article is absoultely astounding in it’s simple complexity.  The orchestral members and the skateboarders have many commonalities that most would never connect.  They both constantly and consistently work with their “instrument”, long hours to become as close to perfect as they can at what they do.  They tirelessly learn new things about their passion, and then immediately apply what they have learned, to the point of exhaustion in some cases, in pursuit of memorization and understanding of what they have learned.  This goes on day-in-and-day-out.  Each person is learning from those around them, while continuing to become great themselves and pass along the wisdom that they have gained to those around them.  Everyone in both groups is aware of the others around them and understands that they must be aware of them to avoind injury (in the case of the skateboarders) or sound correct and make beautiful music (in the case of the orchestral members).  This awareness draws them together in a close bond all its own.

So what does this have to do with small-business, medium-business, or ANY business for that matter?  Think about the last time you looked at your organization or any other organization and saw that type of commitment to the job and the company.  How many employees will honestly state that they do what they do simply for a paycheck, and how is this allowed to continue?  What COULD your business be doing if your employees had this type of commitment and engagement?  These are the types of questions that I and my company ask on a daily basis.  We seek to find out what gaps exist in the engagement chain, and how to fill those gaps.  Our purpose for this is the realization that many issues faced in organizations today exist because there is not this type of engagement across the organization at all levels!

Imagine for a minute a workplace where every leader comes in with a true desire to support the team members and the organization, and is constantly looking for ways to improve what they do and what their people do.  Every employee wakes up excited to go to work and genuinely enjoys coming to work, and genuinely strives to see the business succeed because it is something that they believe in and want to succeed.  Everyone equally owns the business, the processes, the outcomes, even if only in spirit.  Everyone works in varied groups surrounded by people who want to see them succeed as much as they want to succeed, and everyone shares their expertise and knowledge to make that happen.  Even when times are tough the members of the organization can understand that there are tough decisions to be made, but that overall the organization cares and values them.  When new skills are learned, they are implemented and practiced immediately with a fervant passion to not only commit the new skill to memory, but to be considered good at it, and this is supported at every level.  There will be failures at times, but it will not stop the members from continuing to try.  Everyone comes up with new ideas for ways to improve the business or change a process, not because they want to get out of doing something, but because they see a way for the organization to improve a service/product, save money and time, or re-allocate efforts from one area to another.  This is the business of the future.

This type of environment is not impossible.  Any business can have this, but you must create the right environment and conditions for success like this to grow and thrive.  When the members of an organization are truly passionate about what they do, they are engaged, and when they are engaged, they and the organization are more likely to succeed!