Sunday, March 22, 2015

How do you treat the insignificant?

Disclaimer: the insignificant in this post refers to those that have little meaning or influence in your own life.
We were at an outdoor event, a server carrying a tray full of wine was surprised by a gust of wind that pushed three of the glasses off of the tray.  One of the guests ended up wearing the contents of one of those glasses (fortunately it was white wine – not red). 
Before I tell the rest of the story, how we treat the insignificant - such as a server at a party whom we have never seen before and will most likely never see again - reveals a great deal about our character.  The two extremes:
·         Thoughtful and caring who treats everyone with respect and dignity regardless of his or her position, title or personal wealth.
·         Ignorant and condescending who makes others feel worthless and demoralized.
My story has a great ending, not only did this individual take the accident in stride, she reassured that server that it was not her fault and that she was not upset before leaving to go clean up.
I believe that people can generally be separated into either of the two camps outlined above. 
Which one (type) would you rather work for? 
Which one would you prefer to have working on your team?


Saturday, October 18, 2014


We all have the same amount of time – 24 hours a day.  No one has less or more time than anyone else.   Each of us ultimately decides on how we use our time. 
Our use of time can be productive, neutral / un-productive, or our use of time can be negative / destructive.
To say, “I don’t have time,” is not an entirely accurate statement.  The fact is that we choose to spend our time on what we feel is important, our priorities.  When we decide not to devote time to something, in reality the reason is because [that], whatever issue is vying for our time, is simply not important - not a priority.
Perhaps, if one is honest with them self, it may help to change their priorities.  For example: If one could admit that they don’t exercise because it is not as important as watching three hours of television each night, maybe this candour could cause them to make a change.  I don’t think anyone would tell their kids that the reason they don’t have time for them is because everything else - shopping, golf, work, any hobby - is more important. 
There is only one person that controls your time - you.  You might now be thinking to yourself, “Try telling that to my boss.”  Do you choose to work or, do you have to work?  Two different mindsets.  Work should be a productive use of time, but I know many people that feel they need to put in more time than is expected to get the job done while others are doing the same job in regular time.  Work does fill the time allotted.   Are you putting in time or, working to accomplish an objective?  Again, two different mindsets, but our mindset - the way that we think - ultimately controls how we do our job, our time and . . . our life.
Instead of using the excuse of “no time,” just be honest and say: “I have more important things to do.”  This may help realign your priorities.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is made by boiling the sap from maple trees until it is reduced to a very concentrated sweet syrup.   The reduction in liquid is as high as 50 litres of sap down to 1 litre of syrup.  At the end of the process you get the good stuff.
When communicating, please do everyone a favour and provide only pure maple syrup vs. a bunch of sap, can you imagine eating maple tree sap to get the enjoyment of maple syrup?  Please stop feeding it [sap] to others.
Communication, verbal and written, should be as succinct and as tight as possible.  Use the least amount of words to get your point across.  After you have written something, review it and reduce it.  Challenge yourself to shorten every sentence and every thought down to simple, direct and concise language.
Just the good stuff please.

Hope I made my point (153 words).


Friday, September 26, 2014


Most of us have had the experience of taking part in a group discussion in which an opinion is asked in a round table fashion and coincidentally everyone’s opinion matches that of the first person to speak.
In 2005 in Turkey, 450 sheep perished when 1500 sheep followed each other off a cliff.  Why did only 450 die?  Apparently, hundreds of sheep lying dead at the bottom of a cliff make for a nice cushion that saved the lives of others.  Sheep will follow other sheep relentlessly even if they walk off a cliff.
In a sense, many people are just like sheep: they believe everything they hear, they never question and are afraid to disagree.  The problem with the “yes” people described in the previous sentence is that they cause problems for the rest of us.  When people always agree and go along to get along, those whom they agree with think that they are right and continue on the course they are on, even if it leads to the edge of a cliff.   Money is wasted.  Businesses fail.  Lives are wasted.  Bad governments are elected.
Please have an opinion.  Share it.   Discuss and debate vigorously.  Or, just follow the others: there is a decent chance that you may be saved by the pile of the ones that have perished before you.

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." - George S. Patton 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Less is better

The best smorgasbords are those with the most variety, increasing the number and variety of dishes improves the consumer's perception of the offering. While more is better when it comes to smorgasbords, this is not the case with respect to politics or business initiatives: schemes, ideas, plans, proposals, programs, laws, legislation, etc.

Well-meaning legislators across the globe continue to propose and pass laws that over complicate the ability for citizens to live and conduct business every day. Much of modern legislation focuses on changing behaviour vs. outcome; a prime example would be that of the former New York mayor wanting to ban the sale of large soft drinks in an attempt to reduce obesity. Contrary to popular belief and victim thinking, obesity is not due to large soft drinks or any particular food but rather personal choice – period. A more beneficial approach to the problem of obesity would be to make those who are obese pay more for health care according to their BMI index, this is moving from behaviour (how) to result (what). Warning: since the last statement will probably offend some, please read this first.
Most organizations fall into this same trap thinking that more initiatives, programs, process will improve results. This overcomplicates the business, teams become overwhelmed with busy work and results decline. The legislators (managers) push harder on enforcing their pet laws (programs) on how to do stuff, but it is like trying to push a wet rope uphill. 
The good news is that it is very simple to determine how many initiatives are enough, to find the sweet spot or top of the inverted bell curve, ready for this . . . it is very profound: you get results! Therefore if your new initiative does not improve results – throw it away, put it on the stop doing list. Unfortunately, this does not usually happen, someone spent time and energy on that scheme and we don't want to hurt their feelings, do we? 
If the obese are not getting thinner, your attempt at legislation didn't work, focus on the result and the individual will find a way to get there that best suits them.

Tell the people what to do and not how to do it and let them surprise you with their ingenuity; G.S. Patton.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Set yourself up to leave

Every time your phone rings, each question or problem that comes your way, ask yourself, "how can I empower someone else to answer that question / solve that problem in the future?" Then do it empower someone else.

The real test, of course, is after you leave, and . . . everyone eventually leaves: did the organization, which you left behind, flourish? Great leaders who are confident in themselves will be proud to see their former team continue to achieve increasing success. However, there is a selfish goal to this as well: when a leader continues to empower others, hand over increasing responsibility, their job gets easier and easier. This leader can spend their time on providing well-deserved recognition, challenging the status quo, and looking for new and creative ways to achieve better results. This leader has time they are not overwhelmed with firefighting dealing with the urgent and unimportant activities. 

A wise mentor once said to me, "your job is to empower everyone in your organization to the point where you have nothing to do yourself, except drink coffee and relax all day." So that is what I do . . . empower others so that I can become irrelevant.

Have you ever drunk coffee all day? Hard to sleep at night.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

You are partially to blame

Those that have to terminate / fire someone must share some . . . perhaps all the blame.

Good leaders set others up for success - they make it easy - they make it possible. In fact, they make it almost impossible to fail. Rules are clear and effectively communicated. Expectations are vividly clear.

Why would an individual need to be terminated?
  1. Not performing / not doing what is expected of them.
  2. Violation of policy (theft, serious policy violation)

1) Poor performance
Either the expectations were not clear or not communicated sufficiently. When expectations are clear and the leader appropriately addresses shortfalls through coaching and if necessary performance management, an employee will almost always self select, meaning: they choose to leave on their own. People will sign up and commit themselves to giving full effort to a well-defined goal or objective. Almost any individual is capable of great work under great leadership. If a poor hiring decision was made in the first place, who is to blame for that?

2) Violation of policy
This is a tough one to swallow at first: If the rules and the consequences of not following the rules are clear and there is strong awareness that systems and processes exist to immediately detect if the rules are broken, the vast majority of people will never violate the rules. Using theft or fraud as an example: within any group of people, there are those that will never commit a crime against your organization, but there are also a significant number who given an opportunity and believe they have a good chance of getting away with it, might. These are not bad people: but rather good people who succumb to temptation. If you left a $20 bill on the table in your staff lounge, how long would it remain? Most would turn it in, but some would take it.

The question we must ask ourselves if we are forced to terminate for theft, fraud or a serious violation of policy; was the policy clear enough? Where the consequences clear enough? Were the processes to detect such a problem known to exist? In many cases the answer to one or more of these questions is "no."

If we approach leadership with this perspective, we will communicate and apply accountability to our expectations well enough that we will almost never have to terminate anyone. Of course, this benefit [never have to terminate] is minor compared to the resulting success that the team will achieve.