Monday, April 7, 2014

Becoming a Personal "Island of Excellence"

 Lesson 23

Becoming a Personal “Island of Excellence”

In many of the keynote speeches and seminars I have done someone will come up to me after my program and say, “Danny, I’m thinking about leaving this company.”

My response is “Why?”

The normal response to my question is that the person says that he or she wants to grow and develop but the levels of management above them are not motivated to grow in their jobs.

At this point, I explain that it’s impossible to manage the managers in the levels above them. So it doesn’t even pay to try.

Then I explain what I learned from an audience member named Joe Topper (yes his real name).  After my talk he came up to me and said that over a year ago he had become bored and disillusioned. His frustration gave birth to creativity. His new idea was to become a personal “Island of Excellence” within his sphere of influence. He would get so good at what he was doing that something great was bound to happen.  And for Joe it’s happened. He is now the General Manager for a large California Resort.

That’s the spirit! That’s what I’m talking about!

This technique above, pays off in two ways. First, you become more valuable to your present company, perhaps even to the point they consider you indispensable. This could lead to promotions, bigger salaries, perks, etc. Keeping that sustained high performance record really builds your equity.

Second the better you get at producing results, the more value you have that is noticed by the competition.  Don’t be surprised if you get a call from your competitor, saying, “Can we have lunch?”

In either of these two scenarios, as you see improvement, your own morale starts up and there is no limit. Just remember that stagnation can happen at any level. Guard against “repeating yesterdays” and keep planning new tomorrows.  It’ll be a bright future for you and your family.

To achieve great things, know more than the average person considers necessary.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Leading Through Change

Lesson 22

There are six fundamental phases required for successful change management:

         1. Education
         2. Participation
         3. Communication
         4. Facilitation
         5. Information
         6. Rededication

In a busy organization, you are probably involved in several new projects at once. These phases of change management will help you and your team make a smooth transition.

The Education Phase:  Inform employees ahead of time change is on the way.  The “head's up” helps the team to develop the sense of confidence in your leadership style.

The Participation Phase:  Encourage input from all employees on planning and implementation.  This bolsters confidence and enthusiasm toward the organization and the project, as well as building inertia for the start up. 

The Communication Phase:  This is the final presentation on how the change is about to be implemented.  A storyboard showing all the final changes can be used in the presentation.

The Facilitation Phase:  The change is under way.  During this phase the leader’s hands on participation brings big benefits.  Communicating and coaching can only go so far.  The leader must get personally involved to demonstrate his or her personal investment in the project. 

The Information Phase: Now the leader truly keeps his or her ear to the ground to determine what is working and what is not working.  Informal, non-threatening encounters with your people will give you most of this critical feedback.  This is when you might learn that proper delegation is not occurring or thinking is still too narrow. 

The Rededication Phase:  Enthusiasm and energy don't last forever.  After the initial hoopla is over, it is important to evaluate and analyze the progress of the new project.  Necessary tune-ups and adjustments are made to improve on the improvement.

These three actions will help you avoid the "Other Shoe Syndrome," which results in cynicism in your team brought on by promoting change and not following through:

·      Focus on how your change initiatives are affecting morale.  Solving one problem can create others.
·      Anticipate doubt.  People have a natural skepticism that often serves a good purpose.
·      Never stop selling.  Your team members take their clues from you.  They watch every day to see if your support and enthusiasm for change has diminished.

"Embrace change.  It's saying ‘yes’ to tomorrow and ‘no’ to repeated yesterdays."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Building a Creative Environment

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  Sylvia Plath

Few people during their lifetime come anywhere close to exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strengths that are never used.

                                                                                 Rear Admiral Richard Byrd

 Lesson 21

To continue to build productivity in the sales district I managed for a large corporation, I developed weekly meetings with my sales managers called “Imaginars.” Naturally where we met was the Imaginar Room.

The room originally had a conference table, which I had moved out immediately. It was replaced with three large couches with a coffee table in front of each. By the way, nothing matched…but it was comfortable.

On one wall there was a large poster that said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” The poster on the opposite wall said, “You may think you are the highest point until you look up.” This reminded them that there is always someone they can learn from.

We used Story Boards in the meeting and in each individual manager’s office during the week. I would assign a common topic so they could all have the same focus. What one thing did they not want bring back to the following weekly meeting?  Yes! An empty storyboard! This pushed them to develop creativity.

The Story Board was a bulletin board that would fit in anyone’s back seat or trunk. The managers also had a supply of 3 x 5 cards and plenty of  “push pins.”

At the following week’s meeting the managers brought their Story Boards in to the Imaginar Room. We went over each board. If there were duplicates we kept only one and put it on a larger board that we kept in the Imaginar Room. Then the idea cards were arranged in a logical order and the weekly project was then evaluated. Additional ideas popped up and were added during this group session.

As a result of this system, many sales records were broken. As a side effect morale and
camaraderie soared.


Final Thoughts:

“The chief function of your body is to carry your brain around.”  Thomas Edison

“Be the tree that escaped from the forest.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

“No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.”  Victor Hugo

“I always say to myself, what is the most important thing I can think about at this extraordinary moment?" Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Developing Your Creativity

Lesson 20

On Creativity

         The man who follows the crowd, will usually get no further than the crowd.  The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.
         Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breed’s contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is when people finally realize you were right; they’ll say it was obvious all along.
         You have two choices in life. You can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different you must strive to be what no one else but you can be.
                                                                         Alan Ashley-Pitt

When I took the beach break to see if I could figure out what had caused the dive of my sales office from #1 to #36, I was at a loss for what to do.  I didn’t have the information then I’m sharing with you now.  Even though I initially stumbled across the correct action to stimulate my creativity, I can now recommend such isolation to anyone who is experiencing major problems.  Most people in the heat of battle will feel they can’t abandon the fight.  Believe me, staying in the struggle with no good ideas or anything else to offer won’t accomplish much.

The fellow I learned some helpful principles from lost his job as a young newspaper reporter because he “lacked good ideas.”  His editor back in Kansas also said that he was “void of creativity.”  Nobody knows the name of that editor.  But, almost everyone in the world associates the young reporter’s name, Walt Disney, with creativity.  In order for anything to become successful (a book, a company, a movie, yes, even leadership style), Walt Disney said that it must have:

1. A uniqueness factor: Why should anybody get excited about something 
    that’s  ordinary? 
2. A word-of-mouth factor: People can't stay quiet about a positive experience.
3. A flair factor: Do it big, do it right, and do it with class.

Characteristics of a creative person:

I think of creativity as the voice beyond silence.  It’s best to isolate yourself to experience a clear mind.  In the silence of isolation will come the voice that is creativity.  Whether or not you are able to induce creativity or it simply happens when the time is right, the following four-step process will help you make the most out of your creative experience:

1.    Preparation: If your intention is to create a new product or method for doing something, it’s important to learn everything you can about that subject. 

2.    Incubation: Don't rush things.  Give a new and creative idea time to cook in the incubator.  Use a kaleidoscope approach.

3.    Insight: That moment in the middle of the night when you sit bolt upright in bed is a moment of insight.  Insight is that glimpse at the suddenly clear and illuminated answer.

4.    Verification: The process of verification brings it all back to reality and begins to establish boundaries. 

  Here are some basic ways to go about becoming more creative:

·      Schedule more uninterrupted private time.
·      Allow yourself to be gullible.
·      Look at illogical thoughts with credibility.

   What stops creativity:

         1.  Habit                                2.  Fear
         3.  Prejudice                          4.  Inertia

"Aim for striking originality. It gets attention"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Time Planning Secret––the Harmony Bath

Lesson 19

Leisure time is very important to me for many reasons, and effective time management improves both the quantity and quality of leisure time.  One of the most beneficial features of leisure time is the opportunity to recharge your batteries.  There is a point of diminishing returns in an overworked individual, and a case of burnout can render a person useless to him or herself and others.  Working oneself to death out of a personal compulsive need is not beneficial to anyone.

To avoid the erosion of morale and a general decrease in effectiveness, I’ve learned to schedule leisure time for both my staff and myself.  Setting a good example when it comes to rest is just as vital as being a good model for proper work habits.  Mental and physical renewal is vital components of a quality work ethic. 

1. Plan some quiet time alone each day. 
2. Break tough jobs down into more easily accomplished tasks. 

End your workday the right way.  The right way is to end on a high note or a point of accomplishment.  Doing so promotes satisfaction, improves the quality of your relaxation time, and helps you return to work the following day more refreshed and eager.  If you must end your day with an unresolved problem, then write down a clear summary of the problem as it stands when you leave it.  Before you leave, clear your desk or work area of clutter and distraction so you can attack the problem when you first walk in the following day.  These preparations will also serve you well before breaking for lunch, so you’ll get back up to speed more quickly and with less effort after your break.  Reorienting yourself after a break requires energy that can be saved with a little forethought before your break.

Work effectively and then take your vacation.  All too often, personal relationships with friends and family suffer because we are simply overloaded at work.  This is too high a price to pay for success. What is it all for anyway?  I used to pride myself in skimpy vacations until a mentor taught me that I was simply demonstrating my own lack of effectiveness in getting my work finished.  Never having time to take vacations is not a badge of honor, as much as it is a mark of ineffective time management.

Take your time and relax.  You’ll be a better worker, and more valuable to yourself and everyone else when you have been recharged.  This also means avoiding the urge to turn leisure time into a mini-military drill.  Relaxing means spending some time alone and engaging in activities that refresh you and recharge your batteries.

Here are some ways to give yourself a harmony bath and actually get more value out of sleeping:

·      Turn off the 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock news, with their, if it bleeds, it leads format. 
·      Spend the last 60 to 90 minutes of the day listening to relaxing music or reading or both. 

“Take a harmony bath at the end of each day.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Low Morale––Causes and Cures

Lesson 18

Detecting the warning signs of low morale is only the beginning.  To fully address the morale issue, an effective leader must understand what causes morale to fall.  Without knowing the causes of low morale, a leader might try in vain to correct the situation and never get to the real issue.  Here are some of the most common causes of low morale:

1.     People’s failure to understand their jobs
2.     Unrealistic or ever-changing goals 
3.     Poor communication that can take the form of:
a.     Constant criticism or Big Brotherism
b.     Inaccessible or absentee management
c.     Erratic and inconsistent discipline
d.     Being thought of as a number
e.     A manager’s lack of growth as a leader
4.     Over-inflated organizational structure
5.     Over-staffing
6.     Misemployment
7.     Poor psychological work environment
8.     Management that is not people-oriented
9.     Lack of performance appraisal and feedback
10.  Continuing education that is dull or nonexistent

These ten elements of a high-morale environment are like primary colors and can be mixed and blended in a variety of shades:

1.     Keep jobs interesting
2.     Welcome new ideas
3.     Foster a sense of accomplishment
4.     Recognize special efforts
5.     Treat people fairly
6.     Be responsible as a leader
7.     Offer fair and appropriate compensation
8.     Support personal growth
9.     Promote a sense of belonging
10.  Provide opportunity

Here are three guiding principles for keeping morale high in your organization:

·      Study the causes of low morale
·      Take immediate action to counteract them
·      Make strategic plans to keep morale from falling

"Team members' morale will never be higher than the leader's morale…for long."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Enemy of Corporate Communications


Lesson 17

"What my boss doesn't know can't hurt me."

- The Filter Builder's Motto

Everyone has a comfort zone.  There is a point at which individuals become nervous and uncertain about the security of their positions.  This is only natural.  Losing a job or a reduction in job status impacts a lot more than someone's pride and ego.  Throughout a person's professional career, she has built a lifestyle that closely reflects her professional success.  The house he lives in, the car she drives, the neighborhood where the kids go to school, the golf or tennis crowd he hangs out with, or the church she attends.  As a leader, you need to understand how much a person's life and lifestyle are tied to his or her position in your organization.
A person tends to become a filter builder over a long period of time with a company, although it can also happen quickly under the right circumstances.  The filter builders know that they can avoid rocking the organizational boat by making sure that the top decision makers don't get upset hearing bad news or by problems they might find disturbing.  If you are a top decision maker, you need to be careful this doesn't happen to you. Make sure that the information you should be receiving from the lower levels of your organization is not being filtered.

Everyone has a bigger fish just one stop up the food chain.  In management situations, everyone has a smaller fish one stop in the other direction.  If true, accurate, and factual information is being filtered or, worse yet, misrepresented, as it makes its way through the ranks, the top leaders are likely to be left in the dark about what's truly going on with their internal and external customers.  How dangerous is this problem?  There are some companies we used to hear a lot about that are now gone.  They were filtered to death.

To be an effective leader you need real information, whether the news is good or bad.  You have the power to fix problems and to help your people grow and develop.  You can't do either of those things if you're operating with limited and/or inaccurate information.  Filter Builders are everywhere, protecting their backsides.  Don't think your organization is immune.  You must identify them and deal with them.  If not, you are putting yourself, your organization, your customers, and all of your stakeholders at risk.

Here are some things you can do to reduce filtered information:

·      Develop a mobile management style of, "Management by Walking Around."
·      Ask all levels of management and team members' questions, act on their ideas, and let them know what you've done.
·      Let everyone on all levels of management know in no uncertain terms that filtering information will not be tolerated.
"Weed out filter builders"