Are your days overflowing with firefighting, reacting to interruptions, and a lot of drama?
… As Charlie Brown would say, “AAUGH!”
When our lives are like this, time passes quickly. Opportunities are lost.
It was 2008 at a Big Ten indoor track event. Heather Dorniden, now Heather Kampf, was the favorite in her 600-meter race.
The race was three laps around an indoor track. As she moved into first place towards the end of the second lap, her heel got clipped by the runner she was overtaking and she fell.
Do you want a real assessment of your performance?
Here is a simple exercise to get a glimpse of your current leadership strengths, weaknesses, and impact of your company culture. It takes less than 5 minutes.
For decades millions of Americans have lamented the Republican and Democratic candidates in our presidential election forced us to choose between the lesser of two bad options. This is a classic Fool’s Choice.
A Fool’s Choice is when we mistakenly think there are only two options, when in reality there are more.
Leaders ask great questions, but are also careful listeners.
This is a skill we need to teach our employees. Our Leadership Essentials Academy has Dave's Charm School (and other team members) training to develop questioning and listening skills. However not all of you are members.
It’s the end of 2018. Did you achieve all of your objectives this year professionally and personally? Did you even have objectives for 2018? If you are honest with yourself, the likely answer is no.
The good news is, you get another chance in 2019.
The bad news is, your unproductive habits are ready to sabotage 2019.
In the book, Flawless Execution, author and former U.S. Air Force pilot James Murphy describes how the Air Force uses a continuous improvement process to reduce errors, casualties, and losses.
Two of his recommendations struck me – how the Air Force prepares for missions, and how they learn from them – the debrief. I think the debrief is a serious weakness in most companies.
What happens to the taste of a stew when you add something fiery hot, meaty, and so overpowering that it can stand on its own?
Last Spring the Golden State Warriors, winners of 3 of the last 4 NBA Championships, announced they had acquired free agent DeMarcus Cousins.
It was the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The American men's 400-meter relay team was in contention for the gold medal. Superstar sprinter Tyson Gay reached back to grab the baton on the final handoff in their preliminary race, "and there was nothing."
The American women's 400-meter relay teams also misconnected on the final handoff in their preliminary race, mirroring the men's shocking defeat. For the first time in Summer Games history, the U.S. left an Olympics 0-for-6 in the sprint races: both men's and women's 100s, 200s and 400 relays. (ESPN)
Have you ever "passed someone the baton" and your "race" was not the winner you expected?
Translation: Have you ever delegated responsibility to someone and the results were less than you expected?
Delegation. The dreaded "D" word.
Stunning setbacks can be a motivator for GREAT Leaders to review and improve their process for delegating work.
Delegation takes Systematic Power, the first strand of 3strands LEADERSHIP. Delegating work is a system, not just a quick directive with assumptions from a superior. Effective delegation is based on a process of transferring responsibilities between capable team members to achieve mutually agreed upon results by following your organization's best practices.
And... best practices take practice and systems, or your baton drops.
Take a moment to assess where there may be a baton drop in your delegating. Are you delegating enough? Are you delegating effectively? Or are you avoiding delegating because it's just easier to do something yourself? (Bad choice)
Here are the 7 steps of effective delegation I teach in our Certified LEADER course:
You are the delegator. The person or people receiving the task are the delegatee.
Step #1 of 7: The Mutual Objective
Step #2 of 7: The Problem
Step #3 of 7: The Team
Step #4 of 7: Authority & Expectations
Step #5 of 7: Resources Required
Step #6 of 7: Communication
Step #7 of 7: Deadlines
This may seem like a lot, but once you get it in place it flows easily. Learn how to delegate effectively. Put the Systematic Power of process in place. Test, refine, improve your delegation systems. Teach them and grow.
One of my favorite movies is Hoosiers. The movie told a story that took place in 1951 in the rural southeast Indiana town of Hickory. Norman Dale drove into town to replace a revered high school basketball coach who had died. He was hired by Cletus Summers, the principal and a longtime friend, to coach the team and teach classes.
Earlier in life Dale had been a champion collegiate coach until he punched one of his players. That got him barred from coaching college ball. For many years he had hidden in the Navy. Now he had been honorably discharged.
The coaching position in Hickory was a last chance for Norman Dale, who is played by Gene Hackman.
How about you? Have you made some mistakes?
Have you made a BIG mistake?
It may surprise you, but my experience is most people have made at least one BIG mistake.
For those of us who recover and rebuild, by grace our legacy is typically not the mistake. Instead, we are judged by how we apply what we've learned to more positively impact the lives of others.
The journey is long. The battles can be ongoing. At least for a time...
In Hoosiers, Coach Dale had to battle the disbelief of a teacher who was the guardian of the town's best high school basketball player, Jimmy Chitwood. Jimmy had decided not to play due to grief over the death of the prior coach. He refused to even speak a word to the new coach, even when Dale patiently tried to talk with him.
Coach Dale also had the burden of establishing boundaries and discipline for a basketball team of unruly high school boys. The situation is further complicated by the fact it initially only has five players after two quit. They didn't care to behave and show the coach respect. A father brings one of them back, which brings the team to six players.
It was a small town. The high school only had 161 students. However, basketball was their passion. A number of the men in the community felt firmly established as armchair coaches of the high school boys' basketball team.
As Coach Dale tried to get his team in sync, they question his every thought, word, and action.
Even the student body chanted to have Jimmy Chitwood return to the team rather than cheer the players who were doing their best to represent the school.
It was Norman Dale's last chance.
If he failed, then he would never get another opportunity to coach the game he loved.
He had the knowledge, experience, and skill to be a championship coach. But his BIG mistake had detoured him into a tiny Indiana town that did not like him.
So what did he do?
He had the grit to stick to what he knew was right, admitted his mistake of the past when it came up, and kept pushing forward day by day. He invested his life in the boys on that team.
If the story stopped there, it would be logical. However it did not.
Hoosiers lets you see the humility of a tough warrior. Without saying it specifically, Norman Dale was thankful for the grace his friend, Cletus, had shown him. He extends grace to others. You can see it by how he treats others. He decided that someone needed to help a man who had fallen into the deep pit of alcohol.
The opportunity comes about when Cletus, acting as an assistant coach, had chest pains after an angry Coach Dale got ejected from another of their early season games.
Dale needed a replacement assistant coach. He decided to invite knowledgeable local former star basketball player Wilbur "Shooter" Flatch. Shooter was the father of one of the players, Everett. He was also the town drunk. Even Everett was disgusted with him and would have nothing to do with his father.
Coach Dale put boundaries on Shooter, just like he did with the boys, although different. Shooter had to be sober, on time, and dressed in a suit to coach with him.
Yet the team still struggled.
Coach Dale bet it all. He was teaching the young men basketball. More than that, he taught them integrity, reminded them of the value of hard work, and tried to give a hand up to a man who was in a deeper pit than himself.
Yet all appeared lost. He started to lose his grip on the opportunity.
After just a few games the armchair coaches of the town called an emergency meeting to vote on whether Dale should be dismissed. It looked bleak, but the coach held his ground. He said he was proud of the boys on the team and he would not change anything he had done.
As the vote was being counted Jimmy walked in and announced he figures it's time for him to start playing ball. The crowd erupted in cheers. However, Jimmy had one boundary: He would play only if Coach Dale stayed. If the coach left, then he would not play.
Coach Dale won the vote.
Remember the importance of boundaries.
Did the team start winning? Did Shooter stay sober? Did Shooter and his son reconcile? What happened to the other relationships in town?
You have to watch the movie.
I SUGGEST 3 LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
First, a hero cannot do everything or save everyone.
Are you trying to do too much today?
Second, our lives are blessed when we extend the grace we have received to others.
Sometimes it is our turn to help. A kind word. A listening ear. A smile. Sometimes more.
Choose carefully. Once you choose help someone or a cause, then set boundaries. Hold tight. Stay true to the grace you are extending and the boundaries you establish.
The person you try to help may not make it all the way up on to their feet. Your role may be just to get them out of the pit.
Consider the risk to your opportunity, your life, and the people depending on you. Gamble only what you are willing to lose.
Norman Dale was willing to lose it all because he believed he was doing the right thing.
There is the story I heard years ago of a well-off couple who went on a mission trip. They were so touched by the needs of the people that they gave, and gave, and gave... until they had no more. But it wasn't enough. The poor were still poor, but now the couple had joined them in poverty.
It is rare that is the best decision.
Good intentions cannot be the only criteria behind your decision to risk what you have to help others. Balance your heart with sincere consideration of how a loss would affect people who depend on you, such as your family or employees.
Grace can be extended in small doses and still improve the lives of others.
Practice grace with boundaries.
Third, last week I encouraged you to embrace 2017 as your comeback year. This begs the question: What's the one thing you will do this year that will make everything else easier?
You cannot be a hero to everyone or do everything.
However, there is one thing you can do, and do with excellence!
Identify that one thing and do something. You will be glad you did.
Start with humility and grace.
If you have the time, watch the movie Hoosiers.
It's a fun story. Unfortunately it is not true. The real story of a small Indiana town's high school basketball team actually has some special gems of its own. Click here to learn what really happened.
Let me paraphrase an old teaching. Then I can apply it specifically to leadership:
Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...
The phrase, “wash your hands,” jumped off the page at me late last week. I had to pause and let it sink in.
When faced with “dirty hands” – a problem - “Bad Bosses” too often procrastinate, avoid the issue, blame someone else, and/or take shortcuts.
UNITERS must make a different choice, and develop better habits.
Everyone can be a leader who seeks to UNITE people. However, this requires us to “wash our hands” by ethically engaging our team to resolve problems in ways that make the issue unlikely to return.
Working with and/or directing others to resolve problems is more short-term work, but less long-term pain. My theme this month is being a UNITER, not a Divider.
Which type of person, or leader, are you? The first takes intentional effort. The latter comes naturally to everyone in varying degrees.
Washing hands is not my problem. (My Dad was a cleanliness freak and a great guy.) Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...
The next command, however, is deeper. Purify your heart is an ongoing issue because I am not flawless. My thoughts are not always the best. I make mistakes.
I am struck by the need to first “purify” our hearts rather than judge others. When we do not hold ourselves accountable first, then we typically go straight to double standards. That is not a UNITER discipline.
For instance, remember that person who was… Racing up the freeway and following your car so close that they were almost in your back seat? Why was that jerk in such a hurry? It was stressful and made you mad.
BUT, what about your behavior days before that when you were in a hurry driving?
Remember that person who was… late delivering on their commitment to get you something? That really messes you up! How could they do that? Don’t they have any integrity?
BUT, what about the deadline you missed recently, asked for an extension, and got it? (Was that from the same person?)
Remember that boss, other employee, peer who is not treating you the way you want. It can hurt your feelings, or maybe even make you mad. Why do they have to be such a jerk? Or so lazy? Or whatever…?
BUT, what about when your tone of voice recently was sharp, condescending, or otherwise unpleasant? When did you last say something negative about someone else in your workplace, and/or fail to compliment someone?
Your lack of appreciation triggered natural reciprocity. This is the natural tendency to match someone else’s behavior. (We teach this in our Workplace Drama course of Dave’s Charm School.)
This is just three examples. I bet you have more.
Wash your hands, you fools, and purify your hearts, you leaders with double standards...
What could this ancient exhortation mean for leaders today? I suggest one application is the following: Commit to be a humble person of integrity who is a consistent role model for your company values and standards. This is a UNITER.
Here are 7 steps to “wash your hands:”
When making decisions, discern if the true sense of your heart, emotions you feel, the words you will speak, and the actions you will take, fully demonstrate your company values and standards. Submit your desires to, and unite others through the higher purpose of your organization.
Know the triggers to your bad habits. Do not be tempted into emotion or shortcuts. Recognize when something motivates you to react in a selfish way. Stop. Breathe. Respond by choosing a healthier path. Resist the reaction. Choose the higher ground. Unite by intentionally responding, not instinctively reacting.
Take full responsibility for your portion of mistakes. (Don't accept blame on behalf of others.) Work to develop new, more powerful habits to avoid those mistakes in the future. Accept your part in the problem, at times without requiring others to do the same. Unite by reconciling with a positive spirit.
Don't be afraid to express sincere sorrow for your mistakes. Remove the burden of guilt from your heart... and your legacy. Apologize respectfully so you can move forward with greater freedom. Unite by building bridges.
5. Be humble
Avoid double standards. Hold yourself accountable to your company values and standards first. Do it even when others are not. Consider the life wounds of the other party, the facts, and the solution more than the comparatively brief impact of the problem or the pain of their disrespect. Unite with humility.
Enforce and/or encourage accountability with employees / coworkers. Do this by reminding people of your company values, standards, and the expectations of others. Remind yourself and others that, "This is the way we behave in our family." Ask questions and be open to ideas with integrity. Be firm on what boundaries cannot be crossed. Unite with encouragement and your example.
7. Be Thankful
Express sincere gratitude for your blessings and what you want to encourage in others. It may be something small. Do not let a person's mistakes block their positive traits from your consideration. Unite with sincere gratitude.
Wash your hands often. It removes possible disease. It also is a visual reminder of a higher calling to cleanse ourselves of our weaknesses first, develop the strengths of others second, and always be actively uniting our people in meaningful work.
Good intentions do not always make good law, policy, or even words or actions. Sometimes good intentions can lead to bad decisions, like going down a roller coaster without being fully secured in your seat.
Example: Airbnb is demanding their hosts and renters give up their First Amendment rights, or be dropped from membership.
On Saturday, October 29, 2016 at 8:37 a.m. PST, I received the following email from Airbnb.
The Airbnb Community Commitment
Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.
What is the Community Commitment?
You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.
How do I accept the commitment?
On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.
What if I decline the commitment?
If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.
What if I have feedback about the commitment?
The Airbnb Team
Sent with ♥ from Airbnb
WHAT DID I DO?
Here was my reply via email to Airbnb on Sunday, October 30 at 12:15 pm:
I fully support your desire for people to “respect” one another. However, your demand that all hosts and renters “…treat everyone… without judgment or bias” is illogical, unreasonable, and unrealistic. It also violates America’s First Amendment free speech rights.
FOOTNOTE: Please be leaders who bring people together in work that is both collectively and individually meaningful. Be careful to avoid Airbnb’s mistake. Never divide people based on a lie, even if your intentions are good. Only demand a standard when it is necessary, and your standards are based on truth.
In reality, Airbnb could have achieved its sincere objective with the word “respect.”
Yesterday I talked with Stuart Crawford (@Ulistic) about the power of company culture. Stuart is the CEO of Ulistic, a company that provides marketing and consulting services to managed services providers.
More money is lost in the I.T. services industry from poor company culture than any other reason. From my experience with helping leaders of these organizations, it is absolutely crucial to have a positive, productive company culture.
Consider what we have to say based on a combined 59 years of experience in the industry. I think you will be challenged by this conversation.
Jeff suggested I give you a taste of the Communications 101 course by sharing (my) Dave's Dirty Doesn't Email Rules. Even if not every one of these rules work for you, it is a lot easier to edit my list than to start with a blank piece of paper to define some email standards or best practices in your organization.
1. Communicate based on their preferred style.
Adjust your writing style to the way the recipient of your email prefers to receive information. If you don't know what that is, figure it out in advance. (Our Clients confirm preferred communication styles using our MANAGEtoWIN Talent Assessments.)
2. No hiding – speak, do not write negatives.
If you have an issue with someone then talk with them in-person or by phone. No flaming emails. When we are experiencing difficulty with others there is a high sensitivity to written words. Therefore verbal conversations are best. If necessary, follow-up after the verbal conversation with a brief, respectful email to confirm key points.
3. Subject line – clear; update it; does it need to be a “hook?”
Be brief. Be clear. Motivate. The subject line of your email can determine whether or not your communication is read at all. Do you need it to be a hook to motivate someone to open your email? As you go back and forth with someone and the length of the email gets longer and longer… update the subject line as the focus of your comments change.
4. Copies, blind copies, delegation, and sharing.
Only copy people on emails who absolutely need to be informed. Blind copies can come back to bite you, so use the BCC option discriminately. Forward emails to others only when appropriate and you would be comfortable if they were doing the same thing with your communications. Consider the cost of a BCC becoming public.
5. Be brief.
Be brief. Be bright. Be gone. Use attachments and links to limit the length of email body copy. Have verbal discussion when interaction is needed. Use email for notes, and or confirmation of details, action items, and agreement.
6. Format information for scanning, not reading.
There is too much to do and not enough time. Design your communication to be scanned rather than read. This will take you longer to compose your email, but demonstrate respect to the recipient, increase response, and improve productivity.
7. Taking action should be easy – links…
If you want someone to do something online or download data, it is your responsibility to take the time to provide accurate links for them to consider the information. Check your links before sending.
NOTE: If you are slightly OCD… after you check the link the color of the text for the link may change the purple. Does this bug you? You can select the words again, click to enter a hyperlink, and simply click Save / OK to refresh the links in your email in blue-colored type.
8. Never say anything you do not want in the newspaper & “complete delete.”
Email never dies, unless managed by an unethical politician. Choose your words cautiously. As my eighth grade English teacher used to say, "Peruse your verbatim carefully” before clicking the Send button. A wise person chooses to avoid risk and save some comments for a verbal conversation at another time, if at all.
9. Use drafts, proofread, and auto spell/grammar check.
Draft important emails and then set them aside for at least 30 minutes, if not overnight. Proofread several times. Do a spelling and grammar check. If you sense that someone else should proofread the email for you, but you do not want to take the time or have another excuse... If there is not a risk for that person to advise you, take the time to get their opinion. Usually that voice encouraging you to get their opinion is trying to save you from unnecessary drama.
10. Professional signature.
Have a consistent professional signature for everyone in your organization. There are many ways to do this. We recently started testing Calendly to help automate the process of setting appointments. (I often have to edit that line of my signature.) We used to have a legal disclaimer at the bottom, but dropped it. Here is an example of my signature (not formatted well due to this app):
11. Schedule time to do email.
I turned-off notifications of every email coming into my Inbox years ago. I now limit my time each day to consider email, although at times I will pop-in in for brief bursts of Inbox review in-between meetings.
How do I have time in-between meetings to do this?
In our Charm School course on Time Management, I teach you to schedule your meetings to end 10-15 minutes before the hour. Finish your meetings on time. Then you have space to check email, grab something to eat, visit the restroom, or do something else before starting your next activity.
12. Respond quickly – clear Inbox daily.
The goal each day is to clear your Inbox. I use folders to save emails for future reference. Quick, brief responses are fine. Sometimes your quick reply may be only to commit to get something done in a later time.
No response is UNACCEPTABLE if the email is from someone you know.
Of course, I could go on. However, this should give you plenty to consider. I hope you found these tips helpful and can apply them to save time, avoid drama, and improve relationships moving forward.
Consider these three things today:
Are you debating whether to promote an existing employee or hire someone from the outside (a new employee)? Consider my column released today at Continuum's site:
In 2013, Rex Frank of Sea Level Ops gave one of the most insightful talks in the managed services industry during a MANAGEtoWIN webinar - The Top 5 MSP Operational Mistakes. Last week I invited him to share his wisdom again. So, after 3 years, Rex is back with information you need to know...
REGISTER NOW for Rex's new webinar at 1:00 PM PST on Wednesday, Sept 7, 2016:
Sea-Level's 4 Levers of Service Margin
This is a MUST-ATTEND webinar from Sea Level Ops and MANAGEtoWIN. I invited Rex Frank to share these insights because they are critical to the success of any MSP.
Service Delivery is all about Service Gross Margin. There are 4 factors that you manage that dictate the margin your company produces. Each of these levers relate to each other, if you move one lever without moving the others, your margin will be affected (good or bad, usually bad).
This webinar shares specifically the relationship of each lever and their ultimate effect on Service Gross Margin. Don't miss it.
Rex and I were talking about his webinar. We agreed that you can have the greatest plan in place to improve margins and it can fail.
Because your employees do not know how to behave like professionals. This makes Clients upset, less loyal, and a flight risk.
Therefore, Rex and I are returning two weeks later to explain how to develop your people into a magnet for Client retention and profitability.
REGISTER NOW for our second webinar at 11:00 AM PST on Tuesday, September 20, 2016:
Your People's Soft Skills Are WEAK - and what you can do about it.
The primary cause of customer complaints and employee issues is not technical skills. When your people perform poorly, it is because they lack soft skills. And it is killing your company's profitability.
According to Salesforce.com, 77% of employers say soft skills are just as important as hard (technical) skills.
Soft skills training is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. It involves knowledge transfer, habit development, and accountability. It is not only crucial to attain high profitability, but important for new employee recruitment, sales prospecting, and client retention.
In this webinar you will learn the 14 key soft skills that should be trained, the process of employee development of these crucial skills, and what you have to do as a leader to make certain your people's soft skills are competitive, effective, and sincere. Avoid creating unhappy clients.
Don't miss this webinar to learn how better soft skills can help your organization grow more rapidly... and profitably!
During this Summer of Discontent, why not start working on your company culture and/or develop your leadership skills? If you have some gaps with your people, leadership systems, and/or culture, then reach out to us!
We can have a conversation about what's going on in your life. No cost. No meter will be ticking. We just have a conversation focused on your hurdles, and how to get over them.