Are Your Efforts Getting Noticed?

make a differenceAfter a recent meeting, I was coming around the bend to visit a social/athletic club in town when I saw a large group of volunteers from the club picking up trash to keep the neighborhood clean. The group wears red vests and does volunteer work regularly in the community – its all part of being a good neighbor. I asked one of the folks who was volunteering if they thought people in the community know about this effort. He shrugged his shoulders said “not sure” and walked off.

It’s amazing how many people put effort into making the experience of others better with the efforts many times going unnoticed. Sometimes it is because it is the wrong effort and value isn’t being recognized. Other times people just don’t know it is going on. Are your efforts getting the results you expected?


The Song Remembers When

Remember whenMore than 20 years ago, Trisha Yearwood had a popular song that focused on how songs can take you back to a moment in time. I’ve been thinking about it over the last few weeks as situations or phrases have triggered conversations of the past. A chat with a mentor, a key risk in a company that had a big lesson learned and approaches to business that ebb and flow depending upon the time. And while Trisha’s song was about a relationship, the message can be broadly applied – certain situations can quickly take you back in time.

The thing is, many times memories reside with a person. They become embedded in the fabric of their experiences and help shape them into who they are. The challenge in a business context is taking those learnings and embedding them in the fabric of the organization so the business becomes a learning organization and can take those prior experiences and apply them to similar situations today. Companies that do this well create a culture that allows for quick decision-making, but has these experiences in mind. They stay away from heavy bureaucracy and cumbersome processes. How have you created a learning culture in your organization?

Trust, but Verify

trust but verifyThe topic of trust comes up regularly in conversations, usually by someone who feels they don’t have enough latitude or autonomy in their job. Many times the person feels micromanaged. And in speaking with their supervisor, the perspective is the person wants complete autonomy without having to report status of their work. Both are equally valid perspectives. The challenge is finding the balance where both parties feel their needs are being met.

When thinking about this topic, a quick search of the internet revealed the quote was regularly attributed to Reagan when dealing with the Russians during the cold war. Relations at work shouldn’t be as tense as US relations with Russia during the cold war. Finding common ground through conversations about what each person needs and the importance of having free flowing information to manage the business can be enlightening. How do you trust, but verify?

Is finance to blame when a business struggles?

finance problemsWalking around a business can tell you a lot. Are people focused and moving with a sense of urgency? How is the safety record? Are a lot of people getting hurt? Are there clear goals and objectives posted on the walls? Do the operations look efficient or are there a lot of extra steps that don’t seem value added? You don’t have to have a sheet of paper with numbers to know. A strong management team will know if the business is operating at its potential or not.

So, when you hear that the reason a company is doing poorly is because the finance team isn’t functioning properly, it’s time to take out the BS detector and start challenging the excuses.

Yes, finance has a critical role in the success or failure of a company. If it is not functioning well, there are certainly a number of issues being missed in the company. But a poorly run finance department is not the root cause of a business’ problems. Rather, it is a symptom. So when you hear this commentary, dig deeper and find out what is really going on. Bigger problems lie underneath.

Do you have the right mindset?

do you have the right mindset?I love Zumba. People get together to dance, have a great time and get a fantastic workout. But what always intrigues me is the number of folks I hear saying they don’t go because they aren’t a good dancer, are not in good enough shape, etc. In other words, I can’t do it (or don’t want to do it) for a variety of reasons. The irony is the age range is quite wide with people into their 70’s, all body shapes and all levels of fitness and ability to dance. The difference is the people in the room have decided that they are going to have a great time and get a fantastic workout, no matter their age, physical condition or dance abilities. They decided to go in with the mindset of “I can.”

This mindset pervades every area of life, including how work is approached. There are many sayings such as “attitude determines altitude.” And it’s true. I’ve seen people accomplish great things with the mindset of “I can.” How is your mindset? Are you limiting your potential or opening yourself to the potential of having an “I can” mindset?

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?