Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's Really Important?

We have a crazy guy in North Korea that wants to "test" ballistic missiles aimed at Hawaii. Another crazy dude in Iran who insists that the elections were fair and wants the President of the United States to butt the hell out.

Not to mention the trillions of dollars being proposed to cover everything from healthcare to corporate bailouts.

And what are we concerned with. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died. I'm sympathetic. I grew up with both of them. I even had posters. But seriously folks...

Does our news really need to be consumed with "pop stars"? Isn't there anything more important going on?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What are You Going to do Today

What's your goal for today? Say it to yourself. Ready? One, two, three, go!

Now, if you had a goal for yourself today, that would have been easy. If you didn't, you probably sat there stammering like an idiot. And that's not a good thing! Unless you're Lee, in which case your goal is to stammer like an idiot.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests.

Today, I am going to tell you the secret to not just having goals but to actually achieve them. If you start applying what I introduce to you today, you can start seeing changes in your life immediately.

In order to be able to set a goal, you have to have a vision. You have to know where you're going.

An expedition was underway in a dense forest. The manager of the expedition had everything in place. He had crews set up to blaze a trail, keep the machetes sharpened, allow time to eat and rest, and then rotated the crews through each phase. They were blazing away! And they kept blazing away hour after hour, day after day. They were making phenomenal progress. Finally, the manager stopped the expedition and had one of his people climb to the top of the tallest tree to see where they were. As he got to the top of the tree and surveyed the massive canopy in front of him, he called back down to the manager, "Wrong forest!!!"

If you're in the wrong forest you'll just keep spinning your wheels. You may achieve some goals, but they won't be doing anything for you. You have to know where you're going.

Once you have that vision, now you can set goals to get you there. But you can't just make a statement and call it a goal. How many of you have ever set a weight loss goal? Did it sound something like this, "I'm going to lose 20 pounds?" And how did you do? Still have the same goal, don't you?

You have to set SMART goals. Specific-Measurable-Attainable-Relevant-Time Bound

They have to be specific. "I need to lose weight," is vague and general. "I need to lose 20 pounds," is specific.

They need to be measurable. I can get on a scale and measure my weight loss.

The goal must be attainable. This one can be tricky. You need to make sure it's something you can accomplish, but not so easy as to offer you no challenge. In either case, you'll have no motivation to actually attempt to reach the goal.

Is the goal relevant? Does it help you achieve your vision?

And it needs to be time-bound. When will you accomplish this goal?

Being SMART, let's rewrite that weight loss goal. "I will lose 20 pounds in the next 3 months." Specific, measurable, attainable (2 lbs/week, 12 weeks), it's relevant to my vision, and it's time-bound, I have 3 months.

Once you have that SMART goal, write it down. I did. That weight loss goal was exactly what my goal was not too long ago. And I wrote it down. I put it on the bathroom mirror. I put it on the dashboard of my car. I even put it on my computer monitor so that I was reminded of my goal all day long. And do you know what the result was after those 3 months? I gained 3 pounds.

You see, I missed the most important part of setting goals. And this is the key to being able to achieve all of your goals. You have to set a goal for yourself everyday that focuses on the behavior you need to change in order to realize your goal.

Those SMART goals we set for ourselves are outcome based. While they are important, I contend that they tell us nothing about how to achieve them. I think most of us are probably pretty good at setting outcome based goals. We set SMART goals and we think that's enough. I'm sorry, but that's only the beginning.

If you really want to achieve your goals, you need to focus on your behaviors every day! Who's in sales? Do you have sales goals? Do those goals tell you anything about how to be a better salesperson in order to achieve those targets?

Focus on behaviors that will make you a better salesperson every day. "My goal today is to call 5 new leads." "My goal today is to make follow-up calls to these 3 customers." "My goal today is to send a Thank You note to my last 10 customers."

We heard a speech a couple of weeks ago called "One Foot in Front of Another." In that speech, Laura encouraged us to get off of the couch and start running. The part of that speech that stuck with me the most is when she told us not to think about how many miles we're running, just get out and run for a certain amount of time. What's the difference between running 3 miles and running for 30 minutes? Three miles focuses on an outcome. 30-minutes focuses on a behavior.

My vision is to be a great public speaker. My goal is to achieve my Competent Communicator award by the end of the year. But, most importantly, my goal today was to rehearse my speech 2 more times this morning, out loud. And to come to this meeting today and deliver the best speech I possibly could. That's what my goal today was.

What's your goal for today? Ready? 1, 2, 3 Go!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lead the Way!


How do you become a leader? Is it the fancy office and the title? No, having an office and a title no more makes you a leader as standing in the garage calling yourself a Chevrolet makes you a car. Best you get with that is "Manager". Many organizations confuse those two terms and definitely confuse the concept. Then what is being a leader?

Simply put a leader is someone that people choose to follow. Why do organizations continue to try and give people a title and expect them to be leaders? Because that's the way it's always been done! Ugh!

Mr Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests.

What, then, makes a good leader?

Leaders face the same problems everyone else faces; but rather than get paralyzed by their problems, leaders immediately commit themselves to finding a solution. Leaders know where they want to go. They may not know how to get there, put they have a vision and they share that vision. They find other people that believe in that vision and can help them achieve it.

My son is a boy scout. We talked the other night about his new Senior Patrol Leader. (Another boy in the troop that is voted on by the other boys to be in charge of the troop.) I asked my son what he thought about his new leader and, based on how he led, what is the leader's job? He said it was to tell people what to do. While there are plenty of "leaders" that behave that way, a good leader doesn't have to tell people what to do. He inspires them to take the initiative and do what needs to be done to achieve the vision.

The job of leaders is not to create more followers, it is to create more leaders. True leaders aren't afraid to hire people that are better than they are. In fact, the best leaders aren't the people that were best in their field. Only in business do we promote the best performer to the role of leadership. The best sales person to the head of sales, the best accountant to the head of accounting, the best trainer to the head of the training department. The person that should be promoted in every case is the person that is the best at leading.

Being a leader doesn't mean you have all the answers.

If you don't know the game, don't know the rulebook, don't even know the field you're on, then in the immortal words of my father, "Don't just stand there, do something."

I know, it's cliché. But what it means is that when you have no idea what's going on, stop thinking, it won't do you any good. Try something and see what happens.

You can never be satisfied with the way things are. In fact, you should be downright mad about it.

Leaders are angry! Completely dissatisfied with the status quo and want to do something about it RIGHT NOW!

Never promote unangry people to positions of leadership. In fact, the ideal job candidate is the person that walks in, looks you in the eye and says, "I can't believe how screwed up this place is. But I'm willing to take a chance as long as I think I have a good chance at changing it."

How do you change it?

Leaders know it's all sales all the time. Don't think so, ask George W. Bush. Ask Barak Obama. Ask the project manager of the 6 person project team that completely overhauled your company's collaboration systems.

If you don't like sales, find a different job. Leadership isn't for you.

Good leaders have to make decisions.

A CIA Director once commented that if a terrorist walked into his office and tossed a grenade in, every person in there would jump on that grenade and sacrifice themselves for their fellow agents. If someone ran in and shouted, "I need a decision and I need it right now. If it's wrong it could mean the end of your career, but right or wrong, I need a decision now!" Everyone would be running for the door.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

Good leaders want to do stuff that matters. What are people going to say about you when you've gone? Leaders care about that legacy.

Good leaders are open and dedicated to lifelong learning. They seek to continually improve their organizations and themselves. They ask "why?" They ask it about everything. Even the most trivial aspects. Why? Why do we have this process or that procedure? "Hey, because that's the way it's always been done." -- And I think you all know what I think about that.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

That’s the Way It’s Always Been Done

Start by trying to open a banana from the stem end. Place banana aside at podium

I guess lunch should probably wait until after I speak, shouldn't it? But the banana does remind me of an experiment that was done with monkeys.

5 Monkeys were placed in a cage. A banana was dangled from the top of the cage and a set of stairs was placed underneath it. As soon as a monkey went to get the banana the other monkeys were all sprayed with cold water. This was done every time a monkey went for a banana, all of the others were sprayed with cold water. It didn't take long for the monkey's to physically restrain any monkey that went for the banana.

Then one of the original monkeys was removed and a new one placed in the cage. The new one, seeing the banana, went after it and was immediately attacked and restrained by the others.

Again, one of the original monkeys was removed and replaced with a new monkey. When it went for the banana all of the monkeys, including the other new one, attacked and restrained the monkey.

This was repeated until all of the original monkeys had been replaced. So now you have 5 monkeys, none of which have ever suffered being sprayed with cold water, all afraid to go get the banana because they know they would be attacked and stopped by the others. Why? Well, because that's the way it's always been done.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests.

We are in a time of constant change. If you are not constantly looking at and modifying and changing your processes and moving them forward, you are falling behind.

General Shinseki , former US Army Chief of Staff said, "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

How many of you have heard these phrases:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Let's stick with what works.

Let's not reinvent the wheel.

It's change for the sake of change.

And, of course,

That's the way it's always been done.

These phrases can kill your organization. Technology is changing. New and better methods are discovered every day. If you are still using the same process you were using 3 years ago, I'm sorry, but it's broke.

If we never invented the wheel our cars would still be rolling around on round rocks.

Am I saying we need to change things for the sake of changing things? You're damn right I am!!

But don't throw everything out. It was the right thing at one point. Look at what works, learn from it, improve other things and evolve your process and do it continually. If you don't, your competitor will. And eventually, you'll become irrelevant.

"That's the way it's always been done."

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That is an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that is the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US railroads. Why did the English build them like that?

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre railroad tramways, and that is the gauge they used. Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used the same wheel spacing.

Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for (or by) Imperial Rome, they all had the same wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

Specifications and bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horses butt came up with it, you may be exactly right. This is because the Imperial Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war-horses.

Now, the twist to the story...

There is an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. "Thiokol" makes the SRBs at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by a horse's ass.

Just because you learned one way to do something does not mean it's the best way or the only way. If you let go of all of those preconceived notions and keep your eyes open for a better way to do something, you might just find something that works.

Close with how to open a banana from the other end.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lack of End User Training is a Large and Growing Threat to IT Security, CompTIA Study Finds

Too many times have I seen this experience. You can't roll out new tools or new technologies and not show people how to use them, or, how NOT to use them.

Lack of End User Training is a Large and Growing Threat to IT Security, CompTIA Study Finds

People in many manufacturing jobs have to be through training and checked-off on a piece of equipment before using it. Safety comes first. Well, the security of your info is pretty important too, but no one makes sure the users are checked off on that equipment.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Know Your Stuff!

You have to know what you're talking about. Remember, Power Point is a visual aid. Look at your slides and ask yourself, is the slide for me, or is it for my audience? If it's for you, get rid of it.

10 - 20 – 30 Rule. I like it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Herb Kelleher Quotes - Famous-Entrepreneurs - Herb Kelleher

Herb Kelleher Quotes - Famous-Entrepreneurs - Herb Kelleher: "We have a People Dept. That’s what it deals with, so don’t call it Human Resources – that sounds like something from a Stalin five-year plan. You know, how much coal you can mine. We say everybody is a leader, no matter what your job is. We want you to focus on customer service - and not just to the outside world - customer service to the inside world. If [employees] pollute our other people internally and they in turn savage the people who are doing the work outside, the whole company has just rotted."

How many other HR departments out there act this way? A "People Dept." Because it's not about resources. Those are the things that Operations and Engineerning and IT go out and buy. People don't depreciate. Not if they're treated right anyway. Train them, encourage them, give them the ability to grow and enhance themselves, and they will alway appreciate. They will just get better over time.

It's all about service today. What kind of service do you provide?

Speech I’m Delivering Tomorrow

Do Something

Monday, May 04, 2009

7:40 PM

Thomas Edison tried and failed to create a lightbulb some 10,000 times before he got it right. Do you know what he said about that failure? He said, "I didn't fail, I simply found 10,000 ways that don't work." And it's a good thing he kept trying or else you would all be having a much harder time reading at night.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests…

He kept trying. Because he kept trying, he kept learning. And eventually, he got it right. Imagine if he was working for some Company XYZ today. And time after time he kept coming back saying that the way he just tried didn't work. How long would have taken before his boss completely scrapped that project if not just flat out fired poor Tom?

There are 2 main factors at work here. One, you have to DO Something. At some point you have to take all of the meetings, and all the research, and all the different decisions that have been made and actually try some stuff and see what happens.

I'm not saying you have to go run out and try stuff without thinking. There's definitely a place for planning and strategizing. But you can only research and plan for so long. Eventually you have to just try something and see what happens.

Enlightened trial-and-error outperforms the planning of flawless intellects. The faster you try and fail the faster you learn. The bigger you try and fail the bigger your learning.

At my company right now we're working on completely moving a bunch of our applications from one development platform to another. A daunting task, to say the least. Fortunately, there are several tools on the market that can help us with this migration task. We have one guy who's been running lead on looking into these different tools. The other day, he sent out his recommendation on which tool we should use. Now, there's another guy in our group is fairly familiar with some of the different companies and their tools and he was wondering what led to this decision. So, he decided to ask. That's when I over heard this comment; "Have you actually tried any of these tools out yet?" Each and everyone of them offers a free trial. But a decision was being made on research and speculation. At some point you have to TRY something.

Everyone always wonders about decisions. Did we make the right one? Could we have made better one if we had more information?

A decision doesn't change anything until you implement it!!!!!

Doing= Making Mistakes = Learning.

That leads us to the second factor in our equation. Are you allowed to learn? Are you allowed to screw-up?

Everyone talks about wanting to have a learning organization. But no one wants anyone to actually learn anything. Because that means you have to tolerate failures and inefficiencies.

Organizations focus on accountability. They want to know who does what and if something doesn't work who's at fault.

American Airlines has a system of accountability right down to the individual. If a plane is late they want to know whose fault it was. So, what do AA Employees do? They look at who they can blame. This is the same cover-your-ass culture that exists in far too many organizations.

Southwest Airlines, by contrast, doesn't worry about blame, they worry about getting the plane in the air and making sure it doesn't happen next time.

Southwest's strategic plan: It's called doing things.

Doing= Making Mistakes = Learning.

Steve Mariucci, former NFL head coach said he doesn't wear a watch because he always knows it's now. And now is when you should do it.

Richard Marcinko, the Rogue Warrior, founder of the US's first counter-terrorism unit, SEAL Team 6, sums it up nicely, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, the path to glory is littered with [screw]-ups." You can't screw up if you don't DO something. Think about that! Go talk about that. I've got stuff to do.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

At Some Point You Have to Act!

My team is currently looking at completely overhauling our development environment. One of our tasks is to evaluate some tools that may help us convert some things from one platform to the other. There's one guy on the team who has been taking the lead on this part of the project and sent out his recommendation the other day. Someone else on the team is actually quite familiar with some of the different tools available and was really wondering what it was about this particular tool the made it the recommended choice. That's when I heard this;

"I was just wondering, have you actually tried any of these tools out yet?"

You can do all the research and read all the studies and recommendations and reviews you want. At some point, though, you have to try something. Most all of these tools offer a 30-day trial download. Pick one, download it, and see if it works. Then do it with another one. Then another one.

We have been so conditioned that if you try something and you fail, then you must be a failure. Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way. If you truly want to be successful, truly want to innovate and create, you have to try, fail, try, fail, and keep trying until you get it right. Richard Marcinko, the Rogue Warrior, said, "Don't be afraid to make mistakes, the path to glory is littered with fuck-ups!" Think about it. He's absolutely right.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Finding What You Need to Learn

Every job, from garbage collector, to accountant, to professional football player, entails a certain set of skills that need to be learned. That's just the basics. To get really good at your job you have to work on those skills and take them to a whole new level. In sports even professional athletes run through drills to continually practice, and improve, even the most basic skills. In business, those drills are missing.

In the military, units will go through complete missions in real-time just to make sure they have it down. And they should. Lives are at stake. How often does your sales force practice their presentations with a hostile audience? When was the last time your IT department simulated a complete catastrophe to test your disaster recovery plan? So, how do you know if it's actually going to work? The time to find out is not when it happens. In fact, you should be training your staff so that the real thing seems like a walk in the park! How many people have quit your company because your training program is too hard? Why not?

Every job has a certain set of skills that are required to do that job. Identify those skills and then drill them into you and your staff. Find a coach. You need to get instant feedback to know what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong and what you need to do to fix it. Training should not be a one week a year endeavor. Training should be going on daily.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics Michael Phelps was only in the water for 24:50.18. That's the total time he was in the water, preliminary heats, semi-finals and finals. It took him less than half an hour to win 8 Gold Medals. It took very little time for the payoff. Now, go look at his training schedule…Do you even remotely train that hard for your job?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Training?

I've always been fascinated by training. Every time I go to a class or learn about something new, I immediately want to teach it to someone else. You would think that would have obviously led to a career in teaching or training or some related field. I'm an Application Developer. A computer geek. I write code for a living. So how does a guy who loves being in front of a group talking, teaching and coaching wind up in a job where he sits in a cube writing code?

Jessica, over at Fistful of Talent, has a posting today about "falling into HR". Well, that's exactly how I wound up in IT. I started working as a Rate Analyst for an HMO a couple years after graduating from college. Within the first week my boss handed me a disk with an Excel spreadsheet that was a rate model used to rate small business used various brokers. He asked me to go through it and update it with rates for the new year and make sure that it was secure and locked down. Having very little experience with Excel, I went through that spreadsheet cell-by-cell to figure out what it was doing. The rest is history. I've now been doing application development for nearly 13 years.

The one thing I've done in every job since is find a way to stay in front of a group providing training. I teach first aid/CPR for the Red Cross and have offered up that skill set to my employers to provide training. I've offered to provide basic user training for the various software applications used within the companies. I even wrote a monthly newsletter column for one company. I love training! And it doesn't happen enough. Imagine if the only time your favorite professional football team ever got together was on Game Day. What kind of record do you think they'd have? So why do we do it in business?

Everyone one of us has gone through some form of schooling, training or coaching to get where we are. When was the last time you went back and read those old college text books to reinforce that basic training you had back then? In business we tend to believe that once we've had training we've learned it all. We don't reinforce that training by revisiting it day after day. We did it once, why do we need to do it again. It's like thinking, "I learned how to read a balance sheet in my college accounting class, so I know how to read a balance sheet." That kind of thinking is no different than if Peyton Manning decided that since he knows how to throw a pass, he doesn't have to throw any during workouts. He can just walk out there on Game Day and do what he needs to do.

How did you get where you are? When was the last time you went back to the basics of what you do and relearned it all again? Now, do that daily. That's training!