Five Minutes, Live and In-Person, FOMO

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Ninety Days into my new role with Align Technology, and I am loving life.  The joy I get from working with our leadership team, as well as our Early-In-Career group, provides different perspectives on how I can positively impact our future generations.   Each week is different with focused time spent with both groups.  I am fortunate to have a strong group of leaders to work with, learn from, and challenge me daily.  Thank you Joe, Josh, Alex, and Joel for the selfless daily commitment you display to developing others. 

One of the projects we give our Early-In-Career team is to have them conduct a 5 minute Ted Talk on any topic they want and present it back to their peers. This is usually our first chance to see each individual’s baseline presentation skills and how they share information to influence a group setting. There are a lot of nervous feelings before these presentations, and that is common. The current class we have is our 23rd class since this program started, and when I see the talent we have brought in with Classes 21,22, and 23, I know that our future is very bright. The topics consistently change from class to class and here are the topics presented during the most recent Ted Talks and how I left this 90 minutes inspired to be better:

  • Handling Adversity is an essential component of life
  • Overcoming Disappointments – Don’t fear failure; embrace it
  • Eat More Sugar!
  • A 30-minute “Hot Girl Walk” can help you decompress from a hectic day
  • Embrace past experiences, both the happy and sad
  • Self-Care is important
  • The positives of being an organ donor
  • Trying a new hobby like golf made her feel refreshed with early morning weekend tee times
  • Travel Internationally
  • Run towards a storm like the buffalo
  • Need to re-watch Reservoir Dogs
  • Develop a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset
  • Need for commitment and sacrifice – “Things don’t happen to us; they happen for us”
  • Be self-disciplined like Michael Jordan, the best basketball player ever
  • Have Faith that everything is going to work out by taking risks, working hard, and being agile
  • Overcoming Imposter Syndrome which is a collection of feelings of being inadequate despite success
  • Rely on your friends and support network to turn bad habits and depression into great habits and positive outcomes
  • Live in the moment and watch the road

I think we are going to invite more departments into our next Ted Talks session with Class 24.  Hearing this younger generation talk about personal obstacles they have encountered, being open, and presenting authentically with emotion was so refreshing to hear.  It was a great way to end a crazy Thursday. 

It also reinforced to me that this millennial and Gen Z generation has a different mindset at work and at home than what I do.  They are very critical of themselves.  If they accomplish 20 tasks in a day with 19 being positive and 1 being negative, they usually only focus on the negative.  Our job in developing them in their career is to provide them with the knowledge and skills to be successful and to pick them up when they stumble.  We use the mindset of “Never expect to fail but when you do, learn to accept it and learn from it”.  Some of the most important growth in my life occurred when I started a project, and it failed.    

This younger generation is also very open to sharing their personal experiences of success and failure, whereas my generation rarely shared the negatives of life.   My generation viewed these signs of vulnerability as being weak.  This new generation also suffers from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  They want to be involved in everything, and if they miss something, they will quickly conduct a google search or find a youtube video on what they missed.  They understand how to be resourceful in this current digital age and are way more conscious than I was at 22 years old. 

I recently participated in a leadership workshop that started off with the question “what do you fear” or “what are you most scared of”.  It took me a couple of minutes to think through my answer.  I had a tough decision in front of me in how I answered this question.   I decided to follow the lead set by our Early In Career group, and be vulnerable.   My greatest fear is not waking up after falling asleep.  Suffering another seizure is still a possibility after last year, as we are still battling the after-effects of cancer.   The 6,000 grays of radiation I received over 30+ treatments in June/July of 2022 cause me consistent headaches and tremors in my hands.  I am in daily discomfort and have not taken any pain pills since February, yet we continue kicking cancer’s ass, being in remission since October 2021.  I still have an open wound on my forehead with open exposure to the Titanium Mesh plate in my head, which is sort of scary.   I will have another 6-hour surgery in November which will have our surgical team conduct multiple tests on my brain and the radiation necrosis I suffer from as they try to close my head once again.  

I also have a serious case of FOMO if something were to happen to me.   I want to be involved in everything and cannot imagine not being able to see my kids graduate from college or get married.   I cannot imagine not being by my wife’s side as we get older.  We still set short-term goals to make it to the next holiday, birthday or anniversary (Happy 22nd Anniversary to my wife this week).  But I am so happy to be alive today, taking no days for granted.   I love being a part of live and in-person daily interactions at work and even went to my first live and in-person concert in July with Connor and Christy, seeing Whiskey Myers and Shane Smith and the Saints play for three hours on a rainy Saturday night (Picture included in this post).  Being able to attend soccer games for my kids moving forward is also a blessing.  Being back to live and in-person experiences is so great compared to the year of covid and the year of cancer we personally experienced in 2020 and 2021. 

Two closing thoughts for today:

1 – Learning is not about the answers given but about asking the right questions to get to these answers. 

2 – Emotional intelligence says you must find a way to break the habit of making permanent decisions based on temporary emotions.

Well Done > Well Said

-Jimmy

Some Therapists Have Four Legs

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It has been 15 months since my last blog post. One year ago this week, we received the unfortunate news that I had a very rare form of cancer, Eccrine Porocarcinoma (EPC). EPC affects approximately one out of 400,000 people annually in the US, typically in patients much sicker and older than I was. We immediately googled the name EPC as well as what we should experience related to time frames, recovery, treatments, and healing. We found little to no information that set the expectations of what we would go through. With no known treatment protocol and very high mortality rates, we attacked our treatments beginning with an 18-hour surgery on April 27, 2021, to defy the odds and return to some type of normal healthy life. We continue to fight this battle every day.

There have been many more challenging days than positive days. In the last 8 months of 2021, I spent 33 days in an in-patient hospital room and went through six open-head surgeries to heal wounds and fight infections. We also had 32 days of radiation where 6,000 grays of radiation were administered into my newly formed head. While recovering in the hospital, the door to my room was typically closed all the time, and when I received a knock on the door, it typically was a nurse having to administer a painful test or treatment or to bring me hospital food, which was most of the times cold and not good. There were several situations in 2021 my doctors said I should have not survived and I find thanks with every day. I am still walking around with an open wound on my head (covered with a bandage). The shape of my head is still similar to a rhombus and we will have several more surgeries to fix these two final challenges. However, I am back to work and feel better than ever. We have paved the way for others to learn from the treatments we went through and how to set expectations for healing.

There were two scenarios where the knock on the hospital room door would bring a smile to my face. The first scenario was when my wife or kids walked into the room. This was always the highlight of my day. The second scenario was when a volunteer would walk into our room with a therapy dog. We are a dog family and throughout 2021, whenever I would return home from the hospital, our two dogs, Honey and Daisy, would greet me at the door with wagging tails and crazy enthusiasm. The volunteers and companion dogs created an environment of therapy and comfort whenever they walked into the hospital room.

You will hear me discuss a concept called “Post-Traumatic Growth” where a person goes through a very traumatic event in life and commits to helping improve the lives and experiences of others. There are two steps we have started in our Post-Traumatic Growth Journey. The first is that we are training our newest adopted dog, Blanton (Pictured Above) to be a therapy dog where any member of our family can hopefully bring a smile to the face of a child or an adult in a healthcare setting as they are experiencing their own recovery. We want to return the joy brought to us while we fought cancer. Blanton is a Blue Nose Pitbull who is a gentle giant and loved by everyone. His therapy training will take a while to get him certified, but the therapy he brings me every day is amazing.

The second step is more tangible in nature. We wrote a book about our journey to healing, called “We Got This, Leadership Principles Learned and Reinforced Through a Twelve-Month Battle With Cancer”. Our hope with sharing this book is that it will help motivate and inspire others to perform at their best, have a positive mindset when dealing with difficult to impossible situations, especially within the small community of EPC patients, and to live life every day as if it could be their last.

I have learned a lot over the last twelve months about pain, healing, compassion, empathy, and communication. I have learned that people typically fall into one of two categories of thought processes when suffering through a challenging time:

Thought Process #1- “If I had to suffer through it, others should too”

Thought Process #2 – “If I had to suffer through it, I’ll work to make sure those who also go through it will learn from our successes and mistakes”

I choose to be in option #2. Success typically comes to those who are positive, helpful and finish a project in a better place than what they inherited. Very rarely do you hear of successful people with negative outlooks on business or life. We still have a long way to go to be fully healed from the events of 2021 but We Got This!

Well Done > Well Said

-Jimmy

Leadership (and Frozen Custard) is Essential for 2021

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Happy New Year!

The year 2020 was one that challenged us all in ways we could have never imagined or prepared for.  Businesses had to adapt to new tactics mid-year, while shifting their work environments.  Parents had to understand how to be effective at work while also managing to assist their children at school with many students still learning remotely 9 months after the March shutdown.  And we all learned what was “essential” to us individually…whether it was what essentials we needed to shop for at the grocery store, what essentials we needed to get through each day, or what businesses/restaurants were deemed essential in our particular state.

My son works at Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, which has been able to serve their customers throughout these trying times as an essential restaurant with outdoor and to-go offerings for their customers.  Their product is consistently excellent, and their lines continue to be long, as families visit to try and bring some happiness to their lives.  They have done an excellent job of being an essential part of many family’s lives throughout the years, and especially the last several months.  Our family has realized that Frozen Custard from Goodberry’s is now a weekly essential part of our lives. 

The “essential” term has also made many people think about what are the essential traits of leadership, if these leadership pillars have changed in a post-covid world, and how to be the most effective leader possible going into 2021.  Consider these statistics about the current workplace*:

  1. 85% of employees are not engaged in the workplace
  2. 81% of employees would leave their job for the right offer, even if they are not actively looking
  3. Companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable
  4. Good company culture increases revenue by 4X
  5. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, 53% of employees surveyed say they feel more exhausted
  6. A full week of virtual meetings leaves 38% of employees feeling exhausted while 30% felt stressed
  7. 22% of employees say they have a difficult time unplugging after work
  8. During the pandemic, employees worked up to three hours more each day

Understanding your team’s needs and how to productively engage them is ESSENTIAL to success.  Here are five leadership essentials to assist you with leading others in the new year, and beyond.

  1. Focus on PURPOSE and PROCESS: This is a recurring leadership principle and, in challenging times, is even more critical.  If your team understands the “why” and the “how”, obstacles become opportunities.  Your company and team’s purpose needs to be reinforced weekly, and establishing processes and sticking to them (adapting when necessary) will increase your organizations efficiency. Looking back on 2020, the challenging times we faced were typically when we allowed others to circumvent the processes we had established for projects. 
  2. Connecting with people has to be frequent: One of the biggest challenges many leaders face is running teams in a remote environment.  We rely too much on e-mail, text messages, or other messaging tactics, without having a real-time small group discussion.  I have a rule that if there seems to be confusion after 3 e-mails, I pick up the phone, or set up a quick 15 minute zoom meeting to insure alignment.  In addition, your team could be comprised of millennials, Gen Z, and baby boomers, all 3 generations with very different ideas of how they learn and what is important to them.  Understanding what is essential to the individuals on your team will help you drive employee engagement. 
  3. Your attitude can be your passport or your prison:  Before you provide feedback on a situation, ask yourself these three questions:
    • Is your feedback positive?
    • Is your feedback helpful?
    • Is your feedback offering a solution?
  4. Understanding and dealing with stress at home and at work: Stress isn’t all necessarily bad.  Reasonable doses of stress challenge you to rise above and conquer!  Having a job with no stress can cause complacency.  However, understand that your team may be stressed by non-workplace things.  Practice listening and be empathetic to your team.  If you feel a member of your team is stressed, ask what you can do to help and follow through on this.  The most effective leaders manage stress by taking care of both mind and spirit (for the leader as well as influencing their team to do the same), managing time by prioritizing what is important (everything cannot be urgent or a fire drill), and asking for assistance when help is needed, whether in the office or at home. 
  5. Being a Servant Leader and Leading with Humility: Servant leaders put the needs of others first, and, in a work environment, they help people attain their highest performance potential. Instead of people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve their teams.  According to recent workplace statistics, 88% of participants prefer a collaborative work culture, 79% want a manager to serve as a coach or mentor, and that 64% want to help make the world a better place.  In 2021, focus on these ideas to help become a leader others want to work for and follow:
  • leading by example (the higher up you go, the harder and smarter you need to work)
  • creating an environment of safety and support
  • listening without judgement
  • respecting individuals’ abilities
  • removing any obstacles to success
  • helping the team work better together

I read the following quote about understanding relationships with others.  “You can’t just give up on someone because the situation is not ideal.  Great relationships (personal or business) aren’t great because there are not any problems.  They are great because BOTH people care enough about the other person to find a way to make it work.”  Being a leader means you are now an ambassador of your organization’s culture.  Whether you are a small business or a global organization, understanding the essentials of your team will help you thrive in 2021.  And sometimes a Hot Fudge Sundae from Goodberry’s Frozen Custard should be considered essential! 

Well Done > Well Said

* https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know

Your New Normal – What’s Behind You Doesn’t Matter

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Ten years from now, we will look back at the year 2020 and remember many things…most of which have changed the world we live in and our future.  It is safe to say that the world we knew over the previous 5-10 years is long gone, and the term “New Normal” has become commonplace in our daily conversations and interactions.  The most successful companies, individuals, and teams will be the ones who adapt quickest to this new environment and gain inspiration from creating this New Normal.

As a leader, you must also adapt to this New Normal approach.  More than likely, you have to lead your teams remotely.  You are having to manage individuals who are struggling with keeping their households intact, whether it being balancing remote learning for their children or keeping them engaged as extra-curricular activities slowly ramp back up.  School administrators are facing significant challenges with creating a safe environment and rewarding curriculum for their students, our children, and the strain on a work from home parent to help support the teachers will continue to grow in the next 12 months.  Depression and anxiety statistics are also increasing with teens, young adults, and individuals without children or living alone as the ability to socialize with others safely has been compromised with COVID-19.  Balancing the challenges of being a leader within your home while trying to change and succeed in a new work environment is a difficult task for everyone.  Our lives will never return to the way they were before 2020.  How you evolve and adapt will determine your success and happiness, both personally and professionally. 

During my conversations with leaders over the last couple of months, I feel there are five fundamental principles that New Normal Leaders must embody to lead their teams in the coming months successfully:

  1. Understand Priorities: I tell people who I work with that I expect work to be the third priority in their life, behind their family and their faith.  There will be times that business will require an individual to highlight work ahead of these first two priorities. Still, an employee’s personal situation has a significant influence on both the quantity and quality of their work.  Make sure you are asking questions of your team of how they are spending time outside of work.  When they are on vacation or taking time off, respect that time away and do everything possible not to engage them. Before they take time off, have a quick call asking them what you can do to help them while they are away, and take that work off their plate.  Get to know what gets them out of bed in the morning, and talk to your team members about motivating factors outside of work that interests them. 
  2. The Success of The Team Is More Important Than The Success of the Leader: I was talking with a friend of mine recently who joined a sales team where there was a new manager.  The team was told that they would receive leads from the manager and that there would be a sharing of accounts.  Within one year, my friend had received one lead from their manager, which was considered a minor transaction.  The manager had kept all of the good leads and customers for himself and his commissions.  My friend is already looking for another job.  The best leaders hire employees with clear guidelines on what the job entails and ensures the success of their team members, which in turn creates a high performing unit.  Understand each team member’s strengths and celebrate them.  Discuss their development areas honestly.  In a virtual world, your employees must feel valued, respected, and relevant, or they will soon be looking for another job.  If you are more concerned with your individual performance than team performance, maybe leadership is not for you. 
  3. The New Normal Requires Humility:  Everything good in leadership begins with humility!  We have all been humbled by the events in our communities over the last seven months.  Great leaders are humble.  They are willing to serve their teams without authority or ego.  When things go well, they point out the contributions of their team.  When things go wrong, they humbly admit their mistakes and take responsibility.  Humble leaders understand that trust – earning it, giving it, and building it- is the foundation of great leadership.  They treat everyone with respect, regardless of their position, role, or title. 
  4. Great Leaders Display Gratitude: Great leaders take every chance to show how thankful they are.  They understand that the team’s performance creates success.  Gratitude and appreciation travel a long way in successful companies.  Effective leaders take the time to specifically recognize a minimum of one person per day through an email, phone call, text message, hand-written letter, or social media post. I was recently on a call, and a new manager recognized her team for a project well done.  In announcing to the company the great work that was accomplished, the manager stated, “There are so many people to thank, I cannot mention them all here,” and did not mention anyone. When you publicly state you cannot mention everyone and don’t mention anyone, you have missed an excellent opportunity to display specific and genuine gratitude.
  5. Purpose & Process Driven and Outcomes Aware: This is a concept that I have tried to follow for years.  In a virtual working environment, this model is more important than ever.  If your team understands their purpose and creates a process to deliver on that shared purpose, a positive outcome will typically follow.  A virtual organization in the New Normal also should have limited exceptions to the process.  The challenges I have faced over the last couple of months have typically been attributed to either me or someone else going outside of a created process.  And never assume that your purpose is always understood.  Every presentation I deliver starts with our company’s purpose in how our product improves the lives of our customers.  Remember that developmental coaches and leaders help people find their own answers.  Treating people as tools by giving them answers and expecting them to follow your way is becoming an outdated way of leading others. 

Influential leaders challenge their teams without making their jobs more complicated.  Being agile and nimble with your New Normal development can also develop an innovative and enhanced leader for your teams.  I hope this note finds each of you staying healthy and safe, and that no matter how big the challenge you are facing, your comeback will be stronger than the setback!!!

Well Done > Well Said

RESPECT

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What a difference six weeks has made.  What were you doing 45 days ago? Think about that; in less than 45 days, our world has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected every interaction in our lives.  We are working different, exercising different, playing different, leading different…and with each day, a new different seems to be thrust upon us.  This global crisis will be something we all will remember with the impact it has had on our family, our friends, and our society.

Since 2003, I have been fortunate to have worked with two different companies in the medical industry.  Both of these organizations provide products, treatments, and technologies that improve patient lives and clinical outcomes.  I have witnessed many stories from patients who attribute their health and healing to the products we promoted, and I have always felt lucky to have been a small part of their journey.

Please note that I played a small part in their journey, as the products we represented are only as good as the professionals who are treating the patients.  Over these last 17+ years, I have been humbled by the relationships I have built within the healthcare community.  From each level of the multi-disciplinary experience a patient goes through when being treated for a complication or illness, these heroes are trained to deal with unplanned emergencies every day. While this current scenario is new and troubling, it is with no surprise that our medical professionals are beginning to receive the credit and RESPECT they deserve.  In addition, many of the patients I have met have also exuded these same RESPECT qualities.

7 Characteristics the Medical Community Uses to Handle a Crisis with RESPECT: Resilient, Empathy, Simple, Persistent, Empower, Consistent, Team

Resilient: Being resilient is the mental or physical ability to recover quickly from a setback.

Empathy: Recognize another person’s feelings and to respond accordingly

Simple: Make things easy to understand

Persistent: Continuance in a course of action despite difficulty or opposition

Empower: Giving someone the authority to make a decision

Consistent: Behaving in the same way with each interaction

Team: The sum of the group is better than that of an individual

An example: My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer many years ago.  The chances of him surviving six weeks were incredibly slim.  However, my dad and the team who treated him, from the nurses to the surgeons, followed the same example my dad set of being resilient and not accepting the odds of surviving past six weeks.  They showed empathy with our family throughout his treatment, realizing what we were going through, and explained scenarios to my mom in simple terms.  They showed persistence in providing a solution to overcome the tumors that were ravaging his body, and they empowered each other to think of new methods of treatment.  This consistent approach allowed my dad to live 13 years past the original 6-week diagnosis, and he was able to witness weddings, births of his grandchildren, and many other great cherished moments.

7 Ways to Lead with RESPECT in Times of Crisis:

  1. Embody Resiliency: Companies are dealing with situations they have most likely not prepared for. Make sure you are communicating with your teams on your specific plans to recover and set realistic time frames on each project you start. Most importantly, set the expectation of what the future holds.  After getting knocked down, people will get up quickly if they know that good times are ahead. Mistakes will be made in times of crisis…the concept of failing forward and starting over will get you through difficult times.
  2. Lead with Empathy: Your teams are going through a time of uncertainty right now, whether it is working in a new environment, having to help their children learn from home, or the countless other ways that our lives have been affected. And each individual is experiencing these challenges differently.  Conduct a call with the teams you lead with no work agenda…just ask questions and listen to understand versus listening to respond.  Don’t feel you have to offer a solution to every scenario.  Shallow leaders think they need to fix each situation, making it about them.  Often time, just listening and acknowledging is the best course of leading others.
  3. Keep Things Simple: In challenging times, many companies’ over-complicate situations, especially as business needs change and suddenly evolve. Ask these two questions for any solution you are looking to provide: Does this solution provide a positive experience for our customers? Do we have the resources to offer this solution in a timely manner, in addition to supporting this solution?  You have to answer yes to these two questions before investing time and resources.
  4. Be Persistent: Inspire your teams to realize the value your company provides.  Motivation is an internal characteristic that either people have or do not.  If you or your teams are not willing to put in the work to overcome setbacks, then your resilience will suffer as well…persistence and resilience are synonymous with destination companies who evolve with the times.
  5. Empower Your People: Insecure leaders begin to micromanage in times of crisis, continually talking and focusing on their own self-work and importance, and making decisions without involving the teams and others. Successful leaders delegate tasks, even the highest priority ones, and create an environment of development and trust, which leads to an engaged culture. Make sure your teams are involved with all projects, not just the low-visibility ones.  And provide recognition to those who deserve it.  Make a point of recognizing or thanking one person per day (phone call, text message, e-mail) with a specific way they have helped your team.
  6. Stay Consistent: Successful teams usually have a leader who provides consistent messaging and are constant in their day to day operations with their teams.  If your organization is not sure what to expect from their company or their leader from one day to the next, the team environment suffers, and culture eventually is compromised.  Establish a team of peers and ask them for advice on how they are leading with their teams.  Make sure your behaviors are the same in times of prosperity as they are in times of worry.
  7. It Is All About The Team: President Eisenhower said: “Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” Prosperous organizations are comprised of a group of individuals who understand their roles and responsibilities to succeed as a team.  Make sure your team is aligned on what you are looking to accomplish (vision and mission) and know that what you can achieve as a team far exceeds what you can complete as an individual.

Now more than ever, our healthcare professionals deserve our respect.  I have learned so much from people like Dot Weir, John Lantis, Seth Rosenbaum, David Galler, Robin Bethell, and Shannon Carroll, who are just a small sample of the thousands of medical people I have worked with over the years.  They are committed to help others improve their quality of life by providing a level of care that meets all of the above characteristics.  Clinicians are taught to deal with crisis on a patient by patient basis, and I hope this blog post shows my respect for these front-line warriors in our current landscape.  And for my followers, a crisis always ends…while times may be tough now, we will come out stronger and better, having lived through these times of adversity.

 

Be More Like Phyllis

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My wife and I have two children, Connor and Kelcie.  We are proud of both of them and the decisions they are making.  They are active with their school, athletics, and their communities.  Over the years, we have met some incredible family members and team-mates through their sport’s teams and schools who have helped us raise them and be a sounding board to Christy and I when we have questions regarding topics such as curfew, cell phone usage, college prep courses, among others.

One of the most remarkable people we have met is Phyllis.  She is the grandmother of a player my son has played club soccer with over the years.  Phyllis is the kind of person who is always smiling and displays an infectiously positive attitude.  Just being in her presence will lift your spirits, no matter how your day is going.  She videotapes every game her grandson plays, through rain, bitter cold, or ridiculously hot weather, and sends out game highlights to the families of the team.  When my son played in a pretty big high school game earlier this year, with a temperature of 40 degrees, wind, and pouring rain, there was Phyllis, cheering his team on.   She is the epitome of class and someone who I always look forward to seeing at the soccer field or around town.

Several years ago, when our team was driving back to NC from a game out of state, Phyllis was involved in a horrible automobile accident.  The result of this accident saw Phyllis lose her right leg.  Imagine being a grandmother who has always taken great care of herself, who now has to learn how to do everything differently in her life, resulting from a situation she had no control over.  So, how does an amazingly positive person like Phyllis handle the adversity of losing a limb?  Check out this 6-minute video below.

https://youtu.be/zDqntrTafVo

Phyllis’s story is a living example of how to deal with a challenging situation head-on with positivity and turn a negative condition into an opportunity to influence others.  Every single one of us has had to deal with adversity in our personal and business lives, but probably not to the extent of what Phyllis went through.  Being an effective leader requires leading teams through adverse events and recognizing that every setback sets the stage for a comeback.

4 Tips to Handling Adversity as a Leader:

  1. You cannot do it alone: When a challenging situation is presented to a leader, the quicker they involve the team in creating a solution, the better. Problems are almost always solved quicker and easier when multiple people are involved.  Effective teams are developed when each individual contributor is asked for their input…not when the project is half-way completed, but when the problem is first raised.  Accountable leaders will also take responsibility when something went wrong and work with his/her team to set plans in place to avoid the same mistakes again.
  2. Ask the right questions of your team: What caused this challenge to occur? Could we have avoided this setback?  What is the desired outcome we are now looking to accomplish?  Do we have the right resources to address this challenge?  If not, how do we address these gaps?  What type of accountability measures will we need during this project? What will we learn, and how will we grow from this?
  3. Strive to be Positive and Consistent: There are going to be ups and downs when dealing with hardships. There will be times where others will challenge your strength and conviction.  Set a goal to have as many positive days as possible.  This simple emotional intelligence concept sounds elementary but rarely do people self-evaluate their actions.  At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to recount the good and difficult.  With the hectic and crazy schedules we all manage, take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and create a “scorecard” to assess your endeavors.  I love the following quote “My belief is stronger than your doubt.”
  4. Trust in the process your team created: If you bought a ticket for a train and started through a 4-mile dark tunnel, you don’t throw the ticket off and look to hop off during the first ¼ mile of the darkness.  You trust that the train will get through.  The same thing goes through the process of overcoming adverse events.  You created a plan with your team, you asked all the right questions, and you are positively and consistently influencing the plan.  While agility and making changes may be warranted, make sure those modifications are still answering the same initial questions.

Hopefully, every person reading this has a Phyllis in their lives.  She hardly missed any games after the accident, and the emotions we all shared watching her share hugs with the team after her first game back was something we will never forget.  In addition to her stand-up comedy, Phyllis has become an inspirational humorist, performing at churches, clubs, and organizations.  This past November, she spoke at the Durham VA Amputee Support Group. She has also become a Handicapped Accessibility Warrior, working with local school systems and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure accessibility is present and enforced. She literally infuses happiness and laughter into others through the most challenging of circumstances.  We all could learn something from Phyllis and how to handle adversity with a “Healing with Humor” mindset.

Well Done > Well Said

 

Greatest Hits

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About 10 years ago, I was asked to volunteer and assist with several projects at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.  Projects with these MBA candidates range from providing feedback on assignments, mentoring students through experiential projects, and my favorite, mock interview day.  We would work with the students on situational interview Q&A and provide our feedback on areas they did well and ways to improve their responses.  I loved helping out and we were able to hire multiple employees from this program who I still stay in touch with to this day.

During the interviews, we allowed the students to ask us 2-3 questions on any topic they wanted.  Most of the times, the questions asked back to us were very common questions…“tell me about a time where you had to think outside the box” or “what do employers like you look for in a candidate”.  However, there was one student whose question I will never forget.  She asked, “if you could summarize the successes you have had professionally and create a Greatest Hits Album, what would be the 5-8 titles of this album and why”?  She had asked a question that really caused me to think through the response, and allowed us to have a productive conversation on the cause/effect of the things I did well and the mistakes I had made and learned from.

Here is a sampling of what I would consider my greatest hits and an appropriate music genre/potential artist or group I would associate this title with:

People First…Always (80’s Dance Music – Bell Biv Devoe): If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.  It is that simple.  This is not to say that you should make personnel decisions that will negatively impact your business but great leaders put these people decisions into perspective.  Ensuring each member of your team knows their well-being is in your best interest will improve employee engagement and reduce turnover.  Be intentional with your team and their careers and they will be more apt to support your cause through good times and tough times. Assign each high potential member of your team some type of project to develop their skills outside of their current job description.

Experience Does Not Equal Proficiency (Classic Country Music – Hank Williams Jr.): I have played close to 1,000 rounds of golf in my life, and am still not really that good in swinging the golf club.  The same can be said for people in their careers.  Hiring the right person is the most crucial role for any leader.  Make sure that you are accurately describing the position you are hiring for and ensure that the candidate you land on is someone you can learn from.  Steve Jobs said it best when he said “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Selection, Not Elimination (90’s Alternative Grunge – Pearl Jam): This has to do with hiring as well. Hiring managers and recruiters typically spend too much time on eliminating potential candidates versus selecting the right candidates to move forward.  I always looked for employees who left their position in better shape than what they inherited and maybe were not a perfect fit for the role now, but had the determination to succeed if we worked together on developing into the role.  I will likely take a chance on someone who was the right motivational fit for the company and give them an opportunity…however you have to be committed to their development throughout their career and not just in the on-boarding phase. This was an area I was extremely deficient in as a newly promoted manager because I felt I needed a potential new hire to “check all of the boxes” before hiring them.  Companies with poor organizational and developmental cultures also tend to write people off based on one interaction or experience instead of constructively talking to the development areas and investing in their improvement.  Destination companies focus on selecting the right people and tirelessly working to develop their skills.

Purpose and Process (Modern Country Music – Zac Brown Band): The last few blog posts have really tried to position this shift in thinking for teams and leaders. Every member of your team and company should know the purpose of your organization.  From there, you should create processes to allow your company to make the right decisions.  This same concept should also be applied to the meetings you are running.  Over the next 30 days, set a purpose or agenda for every meeting, and while running the meeting, if people start to sway off course, bring them back together around the purpose.

Always Selling and Training (Modern Day Pop – Taylor Swift): Every role I have had required me to be successful in selling and training.  My dad used to tell me that no matter if you were a doctor, a lawyer, a wire lather or janitor, everyone is in sales. Your ability to conduct a job is only as good as your ability to sell and convince others that you could perform the tasks necessary to excel in the position.  I could not agree more with this statement, and will add the component of training as it relates to leadership roles.  Your focus on the training and development of your teams will improve personal and business efficiencies.  And while the methods with which we teach continue to evolve and expand with different generational employees entering the workforce, the foundational principles of what we learn are still the same and should constantly be evaluated and monitored.  I love the Kirkpatrick Model as shown below.  Most companies employ tactics in level 1…Best-In-Class companies measure output in levels 2-4.  If you are conducting training today and not evaluating the change in behavior next week or next month, then the training is a wasted exercise.  

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Humility and Character (70’s Classic Rock Music – John Denver):  This title is non-negotiable for putting on a Greatest Hits compilation.  The most effective leaders I have seen through the years use the term “we” when describing their teams.  A leader’s own importance is secondary to the individuals on their team.   Effective leaders are consistent in their day-to-day interactions and humble in their learnings, understanding that the team is so much more important than the individual leading them.  Successful business character traits including respect and loyalty (character is always earned through actions and never implied) are equally important to be visible from the position of CEO to the people in the trenches.  If one of these traits is compromised, team challenges typically follow.  Leading with humility and character both at work and outside of work will usually lead to success.

Know your Value (Inspirational – MercyMe):  There will be challenges….there will be people who question you, doubt you, and love to feed into a drama filled corporate environment.  Wake up every day convinced that you are making an impact.  When others begin to devalue your role or contributions (and this will happen to everyone), don’t let them bring you down to their level.  No person is perfect 100% of the time so make sure the days you wake up happy to go to work outnumber the days you are dreading going into the office.  Surround yourself with good people, in and out of your company, and gain their advice.  A CEO I know, who was in his new role for less than a year, was promised and told great things by his new employer.  After this short stint in his position where the promises were not coming to fruition, he left this great company feeling he would be happier serving another organization who was more in touch with where he wanted to be.  He knew what he was worth and was not going to let anyone convince him otherwise, which will bring him great respect in his next career choice.

I love working with High School and College students at TCU (Thanks to Ed for this great opportunity).  The excitement and enthusiasm most of them have towards learning is infectious.   I wish that the candidate who had asked me the “Greatest Hits” question years ago was looking to join our field as she is someone I have remembered and felt would make an immediate impact in any company she joined.  She is extremely successful in the finance world and I know she is creating some of her own greatest hits with her team and people she influences.

Well Done > Well Said

Evaluating And Making Decisions Based On The Right Factors

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Recently, I was asked to organize a webinar with some of our company’s most influential customers.  As this was my first introduction to many of them, I wanted to make sure this call went perfect.  Our team put together a great agenda and worked with our logistics partner to review the technical specifics for all attendees.  We setup a meeting the day before the call to run through the details and to practice executing the call which went perfect.

As we all know well, life is not perfect.  We can role play and practice in artificial models or scenarios, but these types of interactions are not what determines success.  Accomplishment is determined by the end result, in this case, the 8:00PM call with our top customers and educators.  We had instructed all of our presenters to login 30 minutes prior to the call starting to make sure we were prepared.  At 7:40, everything went wrong…the slides were not advancing, there was background noise on the phone from one of our presenters, attendees were in-correctly allowed into our presenter “room” and heard us going through solutions to the multitude of technical problems we were experiencing.  Luckily, our team remain composed and we were able to conduct a positive call, overcoming the obstacles we faced.

The reason I share this story with you relates to how you and your team determine success versus failure.  When evaluating the company handling the logistics for this call, the practice call was great, but that was not the performance which mattered.   The only call that mattered was the 8:00PM call and this experience did not meet our expectations.

In running a training department for several years, our team witnessed many people who flourished in a controlled environment, participating well in simulated drills/role plays/testing modules.  Many of them achieved great things after training, yet we also witnessed people whose success in the classroom did not translate to the job they were hired to do.  We also saw people who performed at an average level in the training room but truly excelled in their jobs in front of our customers.  The best employees are the ones who perform on game days, combining the skills they learned in training with the will to succeed when it mattered.  Practice is essential to success, but companies or teams are only judged by their performance after training.  I will take the employee who rates a seven out of ten in the training room and performs at a ten out of ten level when it counts versus the employee who is a ten out of ten in simulated practices but only a seven out of ten when they have to produce.   If your scoreboard is based on practices or simulated exercises and results only, you are setting your teams up for failure.

  1. Make sure you are holding your players accountable to their performance “in games” versus their performance “in practice”. Again, this does not minimize the value of practice.  However, accomplishment is measured by the performance when it matters.   If a person’s success is only seen on the practice field or in the training room and does not translate to the job they were hired to do, then we need to ask if they are the right person for the job.
  2. When determining the right person for a role or job, make sure to gain feedback from others on the decision. Great leaders do not make decisions in a silo.  Listen to what peers and others say about any person you are evaluating for a position.  An example – a couple of years ago, we had a leadership position come available which we had 3 highly qualified people for.  In my mind and the mind of others, there was a clear-cut leader for this promotion, who was the most tenured and we had the most involvement with.  We asked for feedback from many people, especially the direct supervisors and peers of the other two candidates who had applied for this position.  These other two candidates had less tenure with our company and we did not have as many touchpoints or experiences with them.   In the end, we promoted the least tenured person for the position because of what her performance was and for the intangibles she brought to the interview and evaluation process, which we were not initially aware of.  The other two candidates did well in simulations, but when it came to specific performance when it mattered, it was an easy decision.  If we would not have asked for the feedback of her peers and managers, we would not have endorsed the right person.  And this new manager has been crushing it for two straight years in her role.
  3. In training environments, don’t set a goal to be perfect, but to get better. There will be times when your practice is perfect, but it will not be every day.  Work on minimizing mistakes and set a goal of improving on 1-2 things per week.  Very few people in life perform at a 10 out of 10 level in all areas every day (maybe they exist but I have never met them).  We all have strengths and development areas.  Prolific people and teams work to improve on both.

When I was living in Texas, I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast with a Division I college football coach who described the “it” factor he looked for when recruiting players.  He would spend a lot of time watching practices, but the most important metric to his staff was how these recruits performed in games, when the pressure was on and when performance was tested outside of the simulations of drills and practice. While he was talking about players he wanted in his program, he would ask their high school coaches if their player had “it”.  This was defined by intangibles such as leadership, determination, handling of pressure, grit and many times could not be replicated on a practice field.  These “it” factors were important in every interaction every day, but he wanted players on his team who performed most on Saturday game days in front of 60,000 screaming fans and not just on Monday through Friday practice days.  If a player did not have “it” then he would typically pass on them.  Gary Patterson has won 167 games and lost only 63 games in his 19 years as a coach at Texas Christian University because he has recruited players into his program whose performance is analyzed by both practices and games, but most importantly the way they play and win on Saturdays, when it counts.  Successful businesses should do the same!

Well Done > Well Said-

Jimmy

 

St. Peter and The Pearly Gates

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A manager was tragically knocked down by a bus and unfortunately did not survive the crash.  Her soul arrived at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter welcomed her.  “Before you get settled in” St. Peter said, “we have a little problem…you see we have never had a manager like you make it this far and we are not really sure what to do with you.”

“Oh, I see,” said the manager.  “Can you just let me into heaven?”

St. Peter replied “Well I would like to, but I have higher orders.  We are instructed to let you have a day in hell and a day in heaven, and then you are to choose where you’d like to go for all eternity.”

“Actually, I think I would prefer heaven”, said the woman.

St. Peter responded “Sorry, we have to follow the rules”.   St. Peter put the manager into the downward bound elevator.

As the doors opened in hell, the manager stepped out onto a beautiful golf course.  In the distance was a country club; around her were many friends, past fellow executives, all smartly dressed, happy and cheering for her.  They ran up to her with joy and talked about old times.  They played a perfect round of golf and afterwards, went to the country club where the manager and her friends enjoyed the best dinner she had ever tasted.  She met the devil (who was actually very nice to her), and they all had a wonderful night telling jokes and laughing together. Before she knew it, it was time to leave.  Everyone shook her hand and waved good-bye as she stepped onto the elevator back up to heaven.  St. Peter again greeted her at the Pearly Gates and shared “Now, it’s time to spend a day in heaven.”

The manager spent the next 24 hours lounging around the clouds, playing the harp and singing, which was almost as enjoyable as her day in hell.  At the end of the day, St. Peter returned. “You’ve spent a day in hell and a day in heaven’, he said.  “You must now choose between the two.” The manager thought for a second and replied “Well, heaven is certainly lovely, but I actually had a better time in hell.  I choose hell.”

Accordingly, St. Peter took her to the elevator again and she went back down to hell.  When the doors of the elevator opened, she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth.  She saw her friends dressed in dirty clothes, picking up trash and putting it in old sacks.  The devil approached her and put his arm around her, welcoming her to hell.  “I don’t understand”, said the manager, “the other day I was here, and there was a golf course and country club.  Everything was beautiful and I had the best meal I have ever eaten.  All of the people here were so happy.  Now all I see is a dirty wasteland of garbage and everyone looks miserable.  What happened?”

The devil simply looked at her and said “yesterday we were recruiting you…today you’re staff.”

This is a loose adaptation from an HR joke I read years ago.  This story is very relevant for current leaders as many employees today value company culture and developmental opportunities with their jobs more than in the past.   Too many times, managers will tell a candidate what they want to hear during the interview process versus the reality of what working for the company is actually like.  This will lead to higher turnover, increased personnel spend, reduced company productivity and more time for a manager re-recruiting for the same role.

What Leaders Do To Attract and Retain Top Talent:

  • Always interview prospective candidates with other members of your team. Multiple points of view are ideal, especially when you have a number of qualified candidates applying for the same role.  Plus, you could hear a response one way and another person’s point of view may be different.
  • Be flexible and expect the same from your candidates. I’ve interviewed candidates in Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Hotel Lobbies & Baggage Claim areas in Airports, in addition to web-based interviews via Skype or Facetime.   Seeing candidates in multiple settings will sometimes give you a good look on how they respond and react to change.  I always try to interview candidates in different locations then other interviews they have had.
  • Make sure the candidate is providing you specific answers to the questions you are asking, with examples of how they have handled the situations in the past versus what they “would” do in those situations.
  • While application or pre-hire assessments are good tools, they should not be a make or break for a candidate. Use this information wisely and as another source of information to uncover strengths or development areas, as well as if the candidate is an ideal fit for the position.
  • In the course of every interview process, you have to shift from interviewer to recruiter. This could be during the first conversation or the last, but your job is to hire the best talent, and successful leaders make the transition from interviewing candidates to recruiting them to join their team.
  • Be honest with all responses. If someone asks you why the position is open, tell them the truth.  If a candidate asks you about the current state of the team or the position, share with them the realities.  If you hire under false pretenses, the new employee is more likely to be disengaged from the start.  A good sign of a healthy organization making the right decisions in the hiring process is minimal turnover in the first 18 months with their employees.
  • Set a “soft” goal of getting a position filled by a certain time but never settle for hiring someone to meet an internal deadline.  Always say the timeline to hire is when we find the right fit for the position we are interviewing for.  And the fit has to be good for the company with the employee as well as the employee with the company.
  • After 3-6 months into the role, ask the new hire if the job is what you told them it would be? Some managers think they do a good job explaining what the role is, but neglect to ask for feedback from the people they hire.  Thank the employee for sharing their thoughts with you. Being an authentic leader means others will many times have better ideas than your own. Authentic and humble leaders listen to their team’s opinions and take action on their commentary.
  • The best way to work on your interviewing and recruiting skills is to practice them on your current employees. The most effective leaders are ones who are constantly asking questions of their current teams on what they as a leader and their company can improve on.  Don’t take your current employees for granted and make sure you tell and show your people how valuable they are.

As stated in the story above, be honest with each candidate about what your company does well and what gaps you have and how you are working on them.  Candidates today are more informed than ever, and attracting and retaining top talent starts with the trust developed from the first interview to the first month on the job.

Well Done > Well Said

 

 

 

5 Tips To Developing a Culture of Accountability

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“It’s not my fault…I was told I had to do this”

“That is not in my job description…”

“I don’t have the tools to be successful…”

“My job changes every 3-6 months…how can they expect me to be successful”

“My boss does not tell us anything…”

“I can’t help you…figure it out”

These are comments that we hear all too often in our day to day lives.  Last week, I was in a clothing store and listened to a conversation with a manager scolding their employee for not handling their stocking correctly.  When the employee asked a very simple question searching for clear guidance, the manager responded, “they don’t pay me enough to figure that out”.

Accountability is a two-way street.  Accountability is a choice that has to be made by each individual team member versus a directive from their superiors.  Poor managers often think they only should drive accountability downward, forcing accountability on their direct reports and placing blame on their team for poor results.  An example of a poor manager’s comments “your results have to improve and you need to turn this around”.  High performing leaders develop a level of trust and accountability with their teams, setting clear and defined expectations, communicating clearly and often.  A high performing leader says “we need to improve these results, and let’s figure out a plan together to do so”.  Poor managers assign blame…Great leaders share the results and the plan to improve.

5 ways to develop accountability with your teams:

  1. Assign specific tasks to your individual contributors with set completion dates. Try to avoid the individual sharing these assignments with others.  The more tasks are shared with others, the less accountable the individual becomes.  However, encourage cross collaboration and working with others.  Silo driven organizations are usually the ones making excuses vs achieving great things.
  2. Align rewards to performance. Reward people for accomplishing tasks with measurable outcomes versus just getting things done.
  3. Define the purpose of your group. Every member of your team should understand why you do what you do.  Once your team has bought into the purpose (WHY), you can develop the process (WHAT & HOW) to help you achieve your goals.  Every member of your team should understand the benefit of their roles.
  4. Keep tasks clear and simple. We ask people constantly to produce more with less.  The simpler the tasks you assign to your team, the more accountable they become because they know exactly what is expected of them.  And many times, these simple assignments will encourage improvisation outside of the original project scope, which fosters creativity and ownership.
  5. Set up multiple check points throughout each month. The worst managers are the ones who tell you what to do, make promises that they could never keep, then disappear on you (reference the Ghost Manager post from last year). Effective leaders setup check points which are determined by their individual team members and discuss progress updates.  Remember that some people like to have numerous communication check points while others are more comfortable with a less frequent update schedule.  With an accountable team, the quality of the updates is more important than the frequency.

I was recently questioned if I was a leader that I would want to work for?  This poignant question got me thinking about my journey as a leader, what traits and characteristics I possess that hopefully make others want to work with me, and more importantly, what skillsets do I need to work on to improve.  Please ask yourself this same question and write down the things you do well along with the areas that you wish you could develop.  What 1-2 things can you work on in the next 30 days to be better?  We all experience challenges in our careers and being accountable means celebrating the wins when they come and figuring out why we lost when we get knocked down.    A quote I recently enjoyed hearing is “the comeback will be better than the setback”.

I appreciate all of my followers on this site and enjoy the comments shared with me as we celebrate our third year of quarterly leadership posts.

Well Done > Well Said

-Jimmy