How safe are you?

how safe are youThere it was, rolling down the freeway on the top of a flatbed truck. A silver, concave hunk of metal that used to be a minivan. The wheels were turned in and the driver’s door and seat were pushed in to the middle of the vehicle. Whatever happened, it was clearly serious and hopefully one that the passengers survived.

This sight was still in my mind a few days later when speaking with someone about driving and the illusion of control. As much as you do to be safe, at times it is impossible to avoid the unsafe impact of others.

In business safety, programs are designed so that all people are focused on being safe, not only individually, but collectively. The hallmark of a truly successful program is creating a culture that stays with people not only at work, but at home. How are you creating an environment that creates a culture of safety?

You can’t fix accountability issues with technology

you can't fix accountability with technologyIt’s the classic mistake. Things aren’t going well for one reason or another. As discussions start happening, the easy answer comes around – we can just make this change in the system and all of our problems will be solved. The only thing is, it wasn’t a system issue in the first place. Someone wasn’t doing their job, but either the manager didn’t want to hold the offending individual accountable, or more frequently, the company culture allows for poor performance without consequences. As a result, problems grow in magnitude and the miracle system fix gets recommended, and as a result typically creates more problems. So what should happen? Understand and address the root cause. The process only works when everyone is pulling on the same rope.

How do your experiences shape you?

experience shapes youToday was a fascinating day of conversations with people about significant events in their life that shaped their perspectives. The experiences caused them to develop a deep appreciation for the people and circumstances that are their reality today. In one case, a woman shared her early years living in Vietnam at the time of the conflict. She witnessed multiple helicopter evacuations, including her own. Years later, she returned and found people had so little food they looked skeletal. Out of her experience, she gained a deep appreciation for the freedoms we have and access to the basics. Another woman shared a significant health challenge that lasted years, leaving her significantly incapacitated during much of it. While she has fully recovered, her husband went over and above in helping her through a very traumatic time. Their relationship today is deep and profound.

Companies are no different than people. The experiences in their past shape how they operate today. Experiences over time form the culture and how situations are addressed. I’m always amazed at how innovative people are and the persistence that has gone into getting the business to where it is today. How have experiences shaped your company?

Are you showing your best people out the door?

showing people the doorOver the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of people who are the highest producing, highest performing people in their organizations. In each case, the individuals are at or nearing the point of leaving their organization. Why? They are not supported in what they do day to day and do not feel appreciated for their contributions, and do not feel heard.

Unfortunately, these situations are common in business and result in the loss of good people. Many times the leaders in these organizations don’t realize the extent of the issue and mistake the reason the person left for something other than what it is.

How are you engaging your people and making sure you aren’t showing them out the door?

Learning to Learn

learning to learnAfter Zumba (a dance exercise class) today, I got into a conversation with a woman who had a great workout, but struggled a bit to learn the songs. While she had great fun, she remarked that it was hard to pick up the routines. She comes regularly, but not to that particular instructor.

There are a number of “regulars” in Zumba. Each time a new routine is introduced, they have it down by the second or third time the song is played. They have learned how to learn quickly. They know that certain moves repeat each chorus and have figured out the pattern of repetitive steps. While the teachers may vary, there are always basics that hold from teacher to teacher and once you figure them out, you can pick up most songs pretty quickly.

Zumba is no different than business. In business, there are sets of norms and practices in each function, area, industry, etc. Once you figure out how to learn, the pace of business can quickly increase and staying on top of trends and changes can become much more easy and digestible. How are you learning to learn?

Information is Asymmetric

information is asymmetricOver the few weeks I’ve been in a series of meetings and conversations where a decision was being pursued or communication was seen as lacking. In all cases, it was clear that a significant level of discussion was ongoing. The challenge was that key information was not being distributed evenly. In other words, some people had a lot of information on the topic and others had very little. Or, there was an even level of information, but the information was different. As a result, getting to a desired conclusion was difficult. People walked out of the meetings and into side discussions feeling frustrated and unclear as to what was trying to be accomplished. The reason – information is asymmetric.

These situations occur regularly in business. Being clear with the desired outcomes and decisions needed in the meeting, communicating key information ahead and making sure the right people are in the room can help get to the desired outcome. Most importantly, don’t assume people know the background information. Recap it quickly or in detail depending upon the circumstances. Information is asymmetric. How are you keeping that front of mind when trying to move forward?

A Lasting Impression

make a lasting impressionNine years ago, I was working on my MBA. The mergers and acquisitions class was about to start and we were all excited because a classmate was able to convince the CEO of his company to teach the class. This was the CEO of a public company, on boards of other public companies and was on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In addition, he was involved in several ongoing mergers and acquisitions. Not a busy guy at all!

As each of us walked into the room for our first class, he greeted us by name. All 50 of us. There were no nametags, no name cards. He had clearly taken the time to look at the class photo book and learned each of our names and faces. I was impressed!

It has been nearly a decade and that experience is a hallmark for me in the impression and impact simply learning a name can have on the receiving end. While I aspire to be as good with names as Jim Hackett, I have a long way to go. What kind of impression do you want to make with others?

Never Assume Anything

don't assumeOver the weekend, we got together for a very special event – the funeral of a family member. Everyone was under the impression there would be a chaplain, a nice but brief service, and then a get together to celebrate the life of the family member. To our great surprise, there was no chaplain, no words spoken – only a moment of silence, and then interment. The whole thing was less than five minutes. Looking around, everyone was surprised but didn’t know what to say. The discussion later indicated that everyone made the same assumptions about the service, except the person organizing it. Assumptions happen all the time. Are you making assumptions explicit so you don’t have important misses?

Perspectives – Seeing through the eyes of others

it is all about perspectiveA conversation recently took an interesting turn when it came to a space that had just been remodeled. And by remodeled, it was really only a change in the flooring. The interesting thing about this change was the amount of discussion it generated. For some, the focus was on the floor – by going to a lighter color, the room seemed larger. For others there was discussion about the clash of colors with the existing furniture and the new flooring. Depending upon the perspective, people either really liked the change or really didn’t. It was all a matter of perspective.

Situations like this take place in business every day, only the stakes are much higher. Depending upon the perspective of the people, differences in perspective if not discussed can create conflict in an organization. Creating an environment where people can openly discuss their perspectives can lead to creative and innovative growth in the organization. Is your company culture supportive of discussions about perspectives?

You caught my attention. Now what?

you got my attentionAs I was walking my dog through the nearby university campus, a young man crossed our path. He wore a large hat – almost a foot tall, had a beard, and was wearing a coat and tie. He had a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. My mind immediately went wandering. Was he giving a talk on leadership? Did he intend to dress like Abe Lincoln or was it just a coincidence? And just then he jumped up on a short wall and then right back off. My dog let out one loud bark as if to say: “You got my attention”. And just as fast, he was gone leaving me to wonder.

How often do you grab the attention of others in your business? Are potential customers intrigued by you, but left to wonder now what? How can you translate those moments into business?