Category Archives: business

Arrows

Being a gigantic sports fan, I’m constantly making connections between sports ideas and everything else I’m passionate about… especially leadership.

Ryan Pace is the Chicago Bears’ general manager. This means that he evaluates personnel, signs/hires/fires, and is fully responsible for assembling and developing the best team possible. Sound familiar? At the heart of everything Pace does, he is a team developer… and of course the best teams will bring in the most profit and generate the most positive brand possible.

Something he recently chatted about stuck out to me and it’s transformed a lot of how I view performance and goals in general. When evaluating his roster, Pace claimed to focus less on statistics and more on “whether a player’s arrow is pointing up or down.” I think this is a remarkably keen insight on Pace’s part. I think it would be really easy to focus on “player X didn’t score enough touchdowns” or “player Y didn’t get enough interceptions” – and that wouldn’t necessarily be useless info – but it also wouldn’t lend itself to how the team was developing. Instead, Pace (mostly) focuses on getting people who are going to be constantly improving together – as a team – and trusts that the team’s result will be one of victory and excellence.

Now let’s look at what we do as leaders and business managers. It’s easy to focus on certain employees not converting on certain opportunities or hitting a certain KPI – and just like Da Bears, that is part of the story. However, I think it’s easy for this approach to overtake our focus on analyzing each person’s trajectory. Instead, I would highly recommend balancing the two worlds by asking some pointed questions:

-What would it take to activate a person so that their arrow is always pointing up (they’re always improving)?

-What KPI’s (key performance indicators) have been established to help verify a person’s improvement or there lack of? (Remember – once a person is improving and the metrics validate that trajectory, you can use that information to spur on that positive growth curve!).

-What great things could your team accomplish if everybody was constantly unlocking their potential to become a better version of themselves?

Let yourself dream – ideate – the many possibilities of what can be accomplished collectively when you and your entire team work together!

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Filed under business, motivation, team building

Becoming Superfluous

We’re leaders. We’re used to – well – leading our teams and other leaders. That’s sort of our thing.

Being leaders, we’re used to calling the shots, making the hard decisions, and spearheading positivity from the front. But what if we were present with our teams but unable to do most of that when it mattered most?

This was my last two weeks.

In retail, the holiday season is gigantic. Come November, one half of our being is spent focusing on the normal job stuff but the other half is spent preparing for the last two weeks of December. I am no different here. However, around December 15th, something unexpected happened: I lost my voice. When I say “lost,” I mean straight up “lost.” We’re not talking Joan Rivers voice or Dom DeLuise. We’re talking whispering as best case scenario but even then it felt like broken glass in my throat. What’s more is that it was almost totally gone up until today, December 26th. What the heck?

I am a firm believer in the value of learning in every moment. It really bugged me that I was stuck stocking or doing office stuff when I wanted to be sweating and laughing alongside my team amidst the holiday shopping frenzy…but it didn’t take long to realize that I was largely not needed… and that is awesome.

It showed me that I have outstanding leaders just waiting to take flight, waiting for their chance to step up and shine. Everything I’d invested in my people could now be put on display…and did they ever shine!

Customers were happy. The sales floor looked awesome. Morale was great. Numbers were fine. No disasters happened. Everything was awesome.

How often do we stand in the way of our leaders, even when it is well intentioned?

How many people are ready to jump up to the next level and take our place of leading leaders?

So here is my challenge to you: Get the heck out of the way. Let your leaders lead and be awesome. Even if it is uncomfortable – and it should be uncomfortable – trust your leaders to learn on the fly, lead their teams confidently, make some mistakes, and make some awesome decisions. Give them feedback and create factors in the environment that will allow your leaders to grow through that process. It may surprise you who steps up and how they step up.

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December 26, 2016 · 8:14 am

Fuel the Fire

Being a manager, in it’s essence, involves a tesselation between deconstructing what is ineffective and reconstructing/rebuilding what can be most effective. Many managers are known for doing the former well, whereas others are known for doing the latter. The key is being balanced and doing both effectively.

Recently, a person close to me and I were talking about how to build others up and elevate others. There are many answers and approaches to this. I appreciated hers.

“I find what my people are most passionate about…and I provide fuel for their fire… and then I teach them how to fuel their own fire.”

Simple but extremely insightful…and something we all can contribute to in some fashion. So, here’s my challenge to you (and myself for that matter): Find 3 people today that you know relatively well. Identify their biggest passion around contributing to your organization or business. And fuel it. Find ways for them to use that skill more. Give them recognition for being awesome. Fuel the fire.

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Filed under business, leadership, motivation

Not enough brainpower for everything

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Recently CNN posted an interesting article that looked at why certain successful entrepreneurs (eg Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs) choose to only have one outfit. In their article, East and Tinker more or less cite efficiency of brain power as the reason. The more brain power we use on decisions that are irrelevant or less significant, the less brain power we have for more significant and impactful decisions. Information overload can harm productivity. It’s a good article and covers more than a couple topics.

My brain is a muscle and I want to make sure I am using it but not over-using it. This article inspired me to spend time examining my priorities: what are they and what should they not be? I’ve personally made an increase/reduce table and it goes a bit like this:

Increase (decisions for higher impact):

-Spending more time managing relationships proactively

-Intentionally focusing more on the immediate environment/present

-Spending more energy on assessing my own physical and emotional well-being

Reduce (decisions that are lower impact):

-Trivial decisions energy (where to eat, what to eat, exercise questions, being rushed/hurrying to appointments, etc…) through better planning ahead of time

-The noise around me (radio, podcasts…) to lessen some of the overstimulus in life

-Making things more complex than necessary

Brainpower and decisions are currency; We only have so much and we should be smart about how we invest. What do you need to increase or reduce in order to manage your brainpower better?

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Filed under business, observation

You CAN’T be anything you want to be

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If you’re a fellow millennial, this subject probably just offended you incredibly…and there’s a definite reason why.

I’ve been studying up on the different generations of workforce. Honestly, I’m fascinated and blown away. I could write an entirely new blog on all that I’m learning but put easily, as influenced by Brad Karsh’s book “Manager 3.0”:

Baby Boomers – born 1946-64 – idealistic, competitive, smart, collaborative – if they were in a fight at school, they’d be grounded and held responsible.

Generation X – born 1965-1980 – independent, creative, fighters – if they were in a fight at school, they’d train and learn to improve so that they could win the fight next time.

Millennials – born 1981-2000 – endless potential – if they were in a fight at school, there would be a conversation about the school not being a good fit, a teacher not doing their part to foster better communication methods, etc…

Karsh makes some awesome points about millennials, including that they (we) were conditioned to believe in endless potential and a huge sense of idealism. I can remember growing up and hearing over and over again that I could do anything. Heck, I got trophies just for signing up and showing up in every sport league I was in – even if I was awful. Because of this, my dream career changed on a monthly basis. What’s funny is that I’m now 32 and still battle this conditioned response. I find that I have to remind myself regularly that I’m actually 32 and not 14; I won’t be a professional athlete when I grow up or a this or that… but I am grown up now. There’s been such a focus on what will happen someday instead of what actually is happening – the real now. Potential starts to shrink over time and its just a law of nature. It doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy about that – I’m actually really happy in my current job – but it does mean that I need to begin to look at things through a long-haul perspective.

Karsh also includes an awesome chart in his book that rings very very true to me and likely many other millenials:

Assets of employing a millennial – they’re goal-oriented, have positive attitudes, tech savvy, collaborative

Liabilities of employing a millenial – distaste for menial work, lack skills for dealing with difficult people, lack of experience, and confidence extends beyond ability

As a futurist, I have to wonder what will the next generation of workers be like? Are we still conditioning an “endless potential” mindset? Are we still sheltering our kids, over-emphasizing the cerebralness of learning, and over-stressing team-based learning? Or has the pendulum begun to swing the other way, towards the Gen X side of things where individualism is again being stressed?

This is a very interesting time to be alive and I’m genuinely excited to be a part of shaping tomorrow’s workers.

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Filed under business, communication, observation

A Thought About Undercover Boss

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This year I’ve come to enjoy the show Undercover Boss (thanks Netflix!!!). Perhaps I’m late to the party – since its been on for a few years – but it has a lot of relevancy towards leadership and management.

If you haven’t seen this reality show, the plotline is usually very similar: A CEO puts on a disguise and works for a week in the different entry level positions in their company. There will often be a similar collection of examples they’ll encounter: an employee overcoming hardship, an epiphany of a thing or person who shouldn’t be in the position they’re in, and some positive employees working to further the brand of their company. It’s pretty entertaining and I’d recommend it, even if it does feel a little propaganda-ish sometimes.

I was thinking about it today and I realized something: Each of these CEO’s are well-intentioned and probably good people, but they’re disconnected. It’ s not any mystery why; these high-ranking leaders control so many things at once on a daily basis and their responsibilities are plentiful. Being as extremely solution-oriented as I am, I began to ask the question “what can I do to ensure I do not become disconnected, especially as I am in my management job longer – or find myself in an even higher level position in the future?” I came up with a few ideas:

1. Engagement is a daily walk, not a monthly check-in. I need to be present in the lives of those around me, present in their careers, and to let them be present in my life as well.

2. When I am in a position where there are just too many people to know everything about, I will need to ensure my leaders beneath me can be my hands and feet, living out these engagement principles and communicating with me regularly.

3. The focus of any business or role I am ever involved in always must be largely people-based. Whether I’m selling tents at REI or stickers at my previous job at Graphicsland, everything comes back to people. As long as I am genuinely committed to facilitating a culture of excellence in everyone around me, customers will come, sales will be made, and employees will be productive and connected to the business purpose.

These 3 things I pledge. Let this be my contract 🙂

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Filed under business, change management, leadership, observation

Learning How To Learn What to Learn

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Last week, work was busy. Heck, I’m working retail during the holiday season, so it should be!

There was a rare afternoon semi-lull, however, and as is my responsibility as a manager, I did a couple rounds of the store to survey my surroundings to ensure my team was still productive. There were good things to report: every employee was engaged with customers, the store looked well organized and put together, and nothing really required my immediate attention. In fact, the store was running autonomously, which is my goal as a manager, right?

This moment of success birthed a rare conundrum for me: what the heck should I be doing now? Everything that needed to be stocked out had been. My back office stuff was already taken care of. My team was engaged with customers so it wouldn’t be smart to walk around distracting my employees with other conversations outside of their customers.

I eventually found some things that I could improve and shortly after that, more customers came in and I was once again needed on the floor. This caused me to internally evaluate myself, however: how do I identify areas within myself that need to improve? As a leader, I get direction every once in awhile from a superior on what to do better or more or what-not… but most of the time I am responsible for self-evaluating myself, performance, and overall being. This is an absolutely necessary ability and skill for an independent leader to hold.

Sometimes I find that I simply learn things about myself organically. Other times, events will happen around me and I’ll realize that I didn’t deal with them as well as I ought to have – so I should improve that respective skill. My question that I’d love some input on is: how have you grown your ability to self-evaluate yourself in order to figure out what to improve? Is this even happening? How have you encouraged this spirit of development in others around you?

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Filed under business, change management, leadership, observation