Category Archives: change management

Where Should I Live?


Wife and I are always goofing around on facebook – checking the latest newsfeed, playing games, etc. It’s a way that we chillax. People will frequently post links to interesting little survey things – one being – and I will partake. I took the FindYourSpot quiz, which assesses a person’s lifestyle and suggests some top spots where someone might enjoy living. I took the survey and had no huge surprises; my tops were the pacific northwest, the rockies, and Asheville, NC. Duh. I could have told ya that.

However, I think this test is somewhat wrong.

It’s not wrong on the assessment part. I feel it’s wrong on the principle. If we are really leaders, influencers, and people who create our own destinies, does it really matter that much where we live? I like to think that I could move to Atlanta tomorrow (a spot definitely not on my list of results) and find total happiness- based upon my attitude, my outlook, and my ability to shape my surroundings. Sure, it’s nice having mountains, snow, and outdoor opportunities, but isn’t a person’s own attitude and outlook infinitely more important than extrinsic factors?

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A Thought About Undercover Boss


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


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

A Question of Leadership

“People don’t resist change. People resist BEING changed.”

I just found this really interesting Tedx Talk on increasing ownership and reducing resistance in organizations. Check it here:

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December 5, 2013 · 1:12 pm

Millennials and Perfectionism and Depression – and the End of Trading Up

Many thoughtful and interesting articles have recently been written on the state of millennials (30-somethings and younger) and why millennials behave differently than previous generations (check out a good one here and another here). As a member of this group and a person with a psychology, business, and leadership background, I’d like to add my experience to this compelling discussion.

We millennials were brought up with the notion that we could “be anything when we grow up.” I can remember sitting cross-legged in pre-school and my teacher, Ms. Gail, reassuring me of my endless potential on a daily basis. Like many others in my generation, I began to construct dream after dream, each a bit loftier than the previous. One day I was going to be a baseball player; the next I wanted to be a paleontologist studying dinosaurs. Every dream one-upped the previous in some way.

I became obsessed with “trading up.”

This desire affected every aspect of life, not solely my career aspirations. When I’d meet a girl who was cute, I’d be excited for a short time but then begin to wonder if there might be someone better. When I finally became good at baseball after practicing and trying for years, I became more interested in conquering the world of soccer…and then hockey…and then track… and then I wanted to be a rock star.

little kid- baseballlittle kid- soccer matt and todd

In college, I was a psychology major my first year. However, that wasn’t enough, and I picked up a second major…and then a third…and almost got a minor before it was said and done. The cycle continued on through my high school and college years and I found myself regularly looking for more.

I became greedy towards my self-improvement.

With this pattern in place, it is hard to be happy, because nothing is ever good enough. I found this cycle leading me towards moments of depression and disappointment. Nothing ever seemed to satisfy me. I think we can also see this becoming more and more a part of the millennial culture. Think about music: 20 years ago, a single would come out that was amazing and people would listen to that cassette/record/cd over and over again. The top single 20 years ago was Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover,” and it stayed in the #1 spot for more than 2 months – and was all over the radio for years (I can still hear the ear-piercing scream of her voice). However, nowadays, look at how short the longevity of music is: singles come out today, get massive radio play for 2 weeks, and then disappear (how quickly did that awful Harlem Shake appear and disappear?!). Millennials are trading up even in music they listen to and there is a desire for more, newer, faster, now.

After college, I worked at a rapidly growing church in Chicago in a musical role, using all of my talents, passions, and gifts in a relatively satisfying job, but after just a year, I desired something new. Then I landed a cool business management job for over 4 years that paid me well and was enjoyable…but I chose to leave that life to attend graduate school in California. In graduate school, I made a life-altering choice to end this cycle:

I decided to become satisfied.

It sounds simple and it was simple enough… but I had to teach myself that opportunities were not always infinite and I needed to become thankful, content, and joyful in the opportunities I was harnessing. In one of my classes, a student asked a successful guest lecturer what advice he’d give younger people and he replied “Practice satisfaction where you are now because if you don’t, you won’t be satisfied when you get to where you want to be.” He also told us to continue to grow, learn, and better ourselves as well – but to be content and at peace.

I made a decision to pursue joy and happiness in what was already in my life and not in what I didn’t have. And things changed.

I began working part-time for a great retail company that advocates the same values that I believe in wholeheartedly. The job was a blast and I felt at home, satisfied, and grateful. Instead of attempting to find another direction with a direct application of my degree after graduating, I elected to continue down the path with that same retail company. My job made me happy, largely because I recalibrated my lens of satisfaction in a counter-cultural way. Then I was promoted to a managerial role, which made me even happier…but I have continued with that company through thick and thin thus far.

Sure, there are other jobs, other companies, other roles, and other teams that would be fun to be a part of. Sure, I feel tempted like many other millennials to “change it up” every few years. However, instead of longing for something different and continuing to go from job to job, I’ve chosen to be satisfied, grateful, and content with the opportunity I’ve earned and it’s changed my whole life.

I have observed a significant trend with other millennials towards buying into the trading-up idea. I’ve witnessed 20 and 30-somethings working hard to attain a job and once they’re in, they fall into the dissatisfaction/depression of “now what should I do?” Depression, job turnover, divorce, and a sense of entitlement are at all-time highs in the Western world. Careers that our parents’ generation would fight to keep for 30 years and now voluntarily given up after a few years – and that length is continuing to shorten. Our generation is truly the never-satisfied generation.

If you are a fellow millennial, I have a challenge for you: break the temptation to always trade up. This idea is often a greedy and overly idealistic lie – and it harms us on many levels, from broken marriages, unstable social lives, and depression to careers and monetary greed. Don’t mistake this for being a call to stick with a company or job that you absolutely hate – and don’t reject a desire to better yourself in your current job or situation. The real truth is there will always be something bigger, better, sexier, faster, richer, or whatever else… but maybe where you’re at today is also pretty special.

Change doesn’t always equal improvement.

Focus on the wonderful bright spots around you in your life. If you don’t see them, look harder and they will appear.

More often than not, our satisfaction we seek is not going to be found around us but instead from inside of us.

Practice satisfaction where you are now because if don’t, you won’t be satisfied when you get to where you want to be.

To summarize all of this, give this classic Louis CK video a view if you haven’t before. He pretty much nails it.




Filed under change management, communication, motivation, observation, Uncategorized

Using Your Superpowers to Spread Goodness


I have been using a terrible, broken phone for the last 2 years. Well, it actually worked for about 2 months of that 2 years… but, as you may have figured out from that duration, I am now out of my contract and ready to get a new phone, service provider, etc…

Last night at 9pm – on a whim – I decided to get an iPhone 5c. I wasn’t sure what places would have it and who was open. I found myself checking it out on Target’s website because their site features an in-store availability site, whereby I can tell if a store has my item in or not. This feature is all the rage within the brick-and-morter retail world right now. Anyways, as luck would have it, Target’s site told me that my local store has it in stock and ready for my pick-up. Hooray!

Only not hooray.

We got to Target within 10 minutes. I told the sales person that the website said they have an iPhone 5c in blue and green in stock and I want one (wife also wanted one). He looked around and couldn’t find either phone. I said “But your website says you definitely have it in” and he just looked at me dumbfounded. Needless to say, wife and I left disappointed – which brings me to my point today.

This in-store fulfillment tool is all the rage and is wonderful – when it works. Now, perhaps

Tommy Target didn’t know where to look for the iPhones or their inventory was off –  but it turned what should have a positive buying experience for me (and $200+ transaction for them) into a non-buying visit and an overall dumbfounded and unhappy experience. That leads to my final point.

Leaders, think about your talents and skills in the leadership arena; maybe you have the sexy in-store fulfillment equivalent of people skills. Do you know how to use your abilities to create positive change around you? For instance, if you’re familiar with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test, the “WOO” or “Win Others Over” skill is one of the most desirable qualities a person can have. However, if a person has the WOO but are a bad influence on others, having this attribute ends up not being a strength but a detriment. They attract a lot of attention – but not necessarily the good kind.

How are you using your abilities to their full capacity and to produce results? How are you using your superpowers to do good in the world?

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Tying together a diverse workforce


This is part 3, the final part, in a series on how to create the perfect team.

Previously, we’ve visited the needs of an having an emotionally intelligent and intrinsically motivated staff. In this article, we’ll focus on how important it is to have a diverse staff.

One of the major buzz-terms that employers have been focusing on for the last couple decades is diversity. The term “diversity” often inspires images of gender differences, cultural differences, age differences, and lifestyle differences. However, diversity in the workforce also must refer to employing people who are different from each other as far as personality, likes, strengths and weaknesses, passions, and interests. A workplace is like an engine in a car; to accurately work, there need to be different parts. It is imperative that one assemble and develop a team that is composed of people who are introverts and extroverts, have different personalities and varying skillsets. This is where you – the leader – comes in.

There are two ways that you can affect the diversity of your team. First off, hiring. It is important to find the right balance for your team so that your staff reflects who your customers are. The second part, however, is the trickier one and requires savvy. As the leader, it is your responsibility to tie your staff together while honoring and encouraging diversity. Some ways that you can do this:

1. Identify unique attributes and strengths in employees and give them roles that allow these strengths to shine (check out the strengthsfinder test if you haven’t… it should help with this!). If Jimmy is a person who is extremely organized and loves spreadsheets, give him some administrator duties. If Jenny is a person who is a complete social butterfly, make sure she is customer facing.

2. Encourage diverse ideation. Create a way for your employees to contribute ideas for their workplace. Consider having a potluck day once a month where people can bring a food dish that they love to make so that you can celebrate cultural diversity. Perhaps you can have a month per year where you celebrate women in leadership and you can draw attention and awareness of how new this movement still is. Or…you can see what your team submits as ideas 🙂

3. Model. Modeling is the most consistent and practical application for tying diversity together in a workplace. Model tolerance, enthusiasm, respect, empathy, and model inclusion. People want to be included and welcomed into a group. Your employees will be looking at you for how to do this… so set the example.

Our world has never been as diverse as it is today. This is something that ought be embraced and celebrated, as well as utilized in our businesses. When we can harness and honor diversity, we reflect the diversity of our customer base, and our workplaces  profit immensely… so go do it!

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