Leadership and...
Leadership and...

Leadership and Don't ever get "Board"!

Just last week, I was in central Alabama hosting a leadership training session.

On one of our breaks, I ventured inside the main office building and found the bulletin board pictured below.

Leaders, this is a no-brainer.  

You need to look around your office and public spaces and take notice:

 - Are the trash cans neat, clean, and in the correct locations?
 - Are your bulletin boards up to date and uncluttered?
 - Are your public areas and waiting rooms loaded with magazines from 2004?

As leaders, we are judged BOTH by how we treat people, but also by the condition of our physical offices / plants.

Take a look around.  You might be surprised what you see!

Leadership and Spontaneity

It's Saturday morning, and I am taking a shower.

I ask my wife, who is also in the bathroom, what she wants to do today?

"I don't care" is her reply.

"What do you want for dinner?"  I ask.

"It doesn't matter to me."  she states.

"Seriously," I say, "Where do you want to go?"


Long pause...

Even longer pause, and then...

"The Gumbo Shop" is her excited reply.

"OK", I state.

"Seriously?" she says.  Her voice raises in anticipation.
"Sure thing" I say.  "I'll take Logan to baseball practice.  When I return in two hours, let's head down to the Big Easy for dinner." (FYI - Drive time from Birmingham to New Orleans is about 5 hours).

And so began a whirlwind 36 hours.

Although we spent less than 24 hours in New Orleans, we had a great time with the kids.  We ate at Pat O'Brien's, The Gumbo Shop and Cafe Du Monde.  We took a double decker bus tour, rode the St. Charles Streetcar, and walked through the oldest cemetery in New Orleans.  We spent a lot of time in beautiful Jackson Square.

We made memories...

and we did it spontaneously.

Leaders, do you ever act this way at work?

What can you do as a leader that is spontaneous and would assist in worker morale or employee engagement?

"Team, we're closing the office today at 1:00 and all going bowling"

"Team, I'm taking you all to lunch today"

"Team, I was picking up lunch today, and Fried Apple Pies were 2 for $1.00.  I picked up 20 of them for us"

"Team, tomorrow is crazy shirt day.  Wear one if you got one."

Here are 3 great reasons to be spontaneous as a leader:

1. Employees are always looking for reasons to dislike their jobs and their managers.  Why not give them a reason to like them?

2. Leaders are constantly thinking on their feet to help solve a customer issue.  Why not do the same for your 'internal' customers?

3. Spontaneity adds spice to life.  I had no idea when I woke up Saturday morning that I would be in New Orleans later that night.  It created a sense of excitement.  Why wouldn't I want that same excitement in my employees?

As always, all spontaneous moments have to be achievable based on costs, office hours, time, productivity initiatives, deadlines, schedules and so on.

But don't let those be barriers.

Instead, work around them, or use them to your advantage.

Good luck being spontaneous this week!

(and by the way, if your spontaneous action involves hot, fresh beignets, it would be a really good move...)

Leadership and It's Never Too Late!

It's the last day of 2013, and the last day of a Birmingham institution.

Since 1957, Lyric Hot Dogs has been serving up delicious dogs for businessmen, locals and tourists.

I have worked in Downtown Birmingham since April of 2007...and today was my first (and apparently only) trip to the Lyric.

How depressing.  How sad.

The 'special' dogs and fries were awesome.

The decor was perfect!  (Sort of a cross between a old Woolworth's counter and a 50's diner).

The employees were friendly.

But it's too late.  I will not be able to enjoy a 'special' dog there every again.

Let's tie this into leadership.

Have you every taken advantage of an employee who is a great performer?

For example, this employee always works hard, is always on time, and always does whatever you ask of them?

BUT...you take advantage of them!

Do you thank them for their work?  No!

Do you recognize them for their achievements?  No!

Do you help them with their career development?  No!

Then you come in to work one day, and their resignation is on your desk.  They have "closed" for good.  There will be no more 'special' work for them to do for you.

As humans, we tend to take for granted what is right in front of us.  We don't go to the Lyric for hot dogs as it will ALWAYS be there...and we don't thank our high performers because they will ALWAYS be there.

As you say good-bye to 2013 and ring in 2014, make sure you are taking a good look around your office at your staff.  Make it a priority to recognize and encourage them on a daily basis.

Otherwise, you might look up one day and see that a true treasure, which has been there for you all these years, is now gone...

and there is nothing you can do to save it.

Leadership and Create or Dissipate

Most of you know that I had a great 13 year career with The Walt Disney Company, where the concept of creativity spread into everything...from the people to the processes.

Most of you know that I am currently enjoying a 7+ year run with local government, where the concept of creativity, although encouraged, is not always easy to implement.

In fact, just last month, someone mentioned in a leadership training class that "creative leadership simply does not exist where I work."

Fast forward to this week...

I had the pleasure to speak with the HCA Internal Audit group this week at their professional development conference.  On a break, I was walking the halls of the new Music City Center when I saw a mural that described the process of building this beautiful new convention center.

The top of the descriptor read as follows:

"Creativity is present in some form in every individual.  It may manifest it self in the leadership of public officials or through active civic engagement..."

I LOVED seeing that.  

Government employees get a bad rap sometimes, and we are often accused of not being 'creative' people.

I disagree.

I think that, as the sign stated, creativity IS present in all of us.  The challenge for many of us in local government leadership is to allow that creativity to MANIFEST itself.

Leaders (especially those in local government), make sure you are allowing your employees the opportunity to showcase their creativity.

If you don't create, your organization could dissipate!

Leadership and It's not what you Get...It's what you Give!

This weekend is the annual University of Florida Old Buddy Road Trip, or UFOBRT.

For the past 8-10 years, about 6-8 of my best friends from the University of Florida get together and road trip to a Gator Football Game (anywhere but Gainesville, FL).  It's always the same guys...Bill, Sean, Jim, Matt, Ross, Pete, Tim, Todd, Jamie, Rick, and so on.

Some years there are 4 of us.  Other years there are 8 or us.

We've gone to Ole Miss, Tuscaloosa, LSU, and so on.  One year we even went to Chicago (we watched the Gator Game on TV and went to a Cubs game instead...good times!)

This year, for the third year in a row, I will not be attending.  It seems like there is always something that comes up.
  • I have too much work this week
  • I have my son's Little League Game that I have to coach
  • I have to watch my daughters color guard competition
  • I am speaking at a conference
I was telling my new co-worker Drew about how I have not attended this event in the past three years.  I told him that while I miss the guys, I can still connect with them via e-mail, social media, and so on.

He replied with some uncanny wisdom...

"Pete, have you ever thought that these events are not about what you GET out of them.  It's about what you can GIVE to others."

His point was not egocentric.  He was not saying that "It's all about you."  He was stating that when I see my friends, I might be able to share something that one of them may need.
  • Perhaps one of them is having marital issues, and I could have offered a word of comfort.
  • Perhaps one is having job struggles, and I could have offered a listening ear.
  • Perhaps one is challenged with raising their kids, and I could have shared, listened, and encouraged.  
Drew then said, "Any relationship worth keeping is going to require some work.  If you really care about these guys, you need to be there for them at these events."

This is really good advice.  I think the same thing applies to all of us in our daily walk.
  • We don't go to church because we don't think we will get anything out of the sermon, when the reality is that someone there needs us to listen to their struggles.
  • We don't spend time talking with our co-workers because we don't think we can learn anything from them, when the reality is that they need to hear our encouraging words
So guys, I wish I could be there with you in Columbia, Missouri this weekend as you watch the Mighty Gators take on the Missouri Tigers.

I will do everything in my power to be there next year...because that's what friendships and relationships are all about!

Go Gators!

Leadership and The Value of $100

I received another e-mail at work today.

It's the 2nd one of this type in the past three weeks. It read as follows...

"I regret to inform you that [employee's mother] passed away over the weekend.  Please keep [employee] and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Once I receive details regarding the arrangements I will pass them on.  Please see me if you would like to sign the sympathy card or make a contribution toward a group token of condolence.  

Pardon my bluntness, but this happens all the time in my workplace...

  • employee's mother/father/grandparent has passed away
  • employee's child is selling cookies/coupon books/Boston Butt's
  • employee is getting married shower
  • employee is having a baby shower
  • employee is retiring shower
  • employee is running in Race for the Cure
  • employee is running a marathon for Diabetes
...and on and on and on.

It seems like I am constantly being asked to donate money.

BUT here's the catch!!!

I give it every time, and it does not bother me.


Because I expect it, and you should too.

At the beginning of every calendar year, I look at my salary, and automatically subtract $100 from my expected take-home income that year.

I discuss it with my wife, and we agree to it.

This way, when all the events start happening at work, I can "give with a cheerful heart" knowing that I have budgeted for it.

Many of you may not take this same path.  You may not want to give at work.  Here is what I have heard:

"I give my $200 every year to the United Way, so I do not give to other events at work."

"I give at my church, so therefore I don't have to be involved at work."

"If I give to everyone at work who asks me for something, I will go broke."

With all due respect, I'm not buying it.

Giving to your fellow co-workers can have a HUGE impact on you and your workplace.

First, it is the role of a leader to be a Servant Leader.  I constantly preach that the true role of a leader is to serve others. What better way to show it than by compassion when someone needs it, and by joining in giving presents when the time is right.

Second, it's not the amount that you give - it's just that you give something. There are SO many co-workers who do not give at work that you will truly stand out if you do...no matter if you give $5, $50, or $500.

Third, and this may feel selfish, but it is true...There is always the power of reciprocity.  Dr. Robert Cialdini speaks of this principle when it comes to influencing others.  When it comes time that you need a favor, people will feel obligated to assist you because you assisted them during their time of need.

It's not dirty.  It's not quid pro quo.  It's just human nature.

Finally, it's NOT a lot of money.  $100 can go a long way over the course of the year.  $5 for flowers here, $10 for a coupon book there, and so on.  You can adjust the amounts you want to spend as you see fit.

The key is that you have to give to everyone who asks.  You can't cherry-pick and give only to people you like, or to issues that you believe in.

Everyone always tells you to "lead by example."  This is an EASY way to do that, and it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg...

Just a C-note!

Leadership and The Wheels on the Bus Run Over You, Over You, Over You...

Sunday morning I was enjoying a nice breakfast at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in the Southeast.

Everyone ordered breakfast.  My daughter's meal was the only one that was not delivered with the rest of the order.  

The server apologized and said she would go back in the kitchen to see what happened.

She returned about two minutes later, apologized again, and said it would be out very soon.

Then, she threw her teammate under the bus...

and I quote...

"I put the order in correctly!  They just did not cook your order.  I knew it wasn't my fault."

I hear that all the time, both in the private sector and in civil service, and it drives me nuts!

Leaders, you need to make sure that all your employees know they are ONE TEAM, and they should be speaking up for each other, and not breaking each other down.

The key words you are looking for are "we" vs. "they".

Which of the following do you hear at your workplace?
  • "They shouldn't have told you that" or "We shouldn't have told you that"
  • "They gave you the wrong information" or "We gave you the wrong information"
  • "They make a mistake with your breakfast order" or "We made a mistake with your breakfast order."
Until you get your employees to buy-in to the TEAM concept, they will consistently protect their own, cover their backsides, and throw each other under the bus.

If you want your company to be a success, and you want your employees to act like a team, start listening at work.  

The more "we" you hear, the better off you will be!!!

(p.s.  I still love Cracker Barrel.)

Leadership and Pet Peeves...or are they "Pete" Peeves?

I am leading quite a few Customer Service training sessions for a client over the next two weeks, and we are talking about pet peeves from a customer point of view.

You know...things that get you fired up when you are a customer.

 - 25 lanes, and only two open at the store.
 - Servers not writing down your order and then getting it wrong
 - Poor attitudes from the employee

We all have pet peeves as a customer, but what about as a LEADER?

As you lead your employees, there are going to be things that your employees do that drive you nuts!  Examples include...

 - Employees who leave their desks messy all the time
 - Employees who follow the dress code, but it is still not what you would wear
 - Employees who get the job done, but don't do it the way you would do it
 - Employees who get on the elevator first without letting guests off 

So what do you do?  Here are some thoughts!

1.  Is is performance issue or is it just their preference?  My wife LOVES a messy desk, and claims she can find anything at any time.  It drives me nuts, as I love having a clean and organized work space.  If her workspace is in the view of customers, then I think I could coach her up on it.  But if no one goes in her office, then I might have to just let her be messy...

2. Is is affecting productivity?  If their way is driving you nuts, but the work is still completed on time and on budget, then the issue might be with you.  As leaders, our way may not be the best way, although our egos tell us otherwise.

3. Is it a fact or an opinion?  I'm not sure that this is coachable.  Remember that opinions are like belly buttons...everyone has one.  Your opinion of something may be just that...your opinion. 

A healthy leader-employee relationship exists when the leader can have the conversation about the issue with the employee, instead of just letting it fester.  Examples include...

"Sherri, to the outside observer, your desk might seem unorganized.  Can you share with me why you prefer to organize items like this?"

"Ayla, normally we make coffee for our guests 30 minutes before they arrive.  I've noticed you make it about 5 minutes before they get here.  Can you tell me about why that is your preference?"

Sometimes, being a leader just means LETTING IT GO.  It's not hurting anyone...it's just different.

The photo is are my pet peeve.  My kids prefer to notify Sherri that they are almost out of Chips Ahoy.  Sherri will  then buy a new bag of cookies.  When that bag arrives, the kids will open the new one and begin eating those, as they are "fresher" than the other cookies.

The result is the photo above.  FIVE bags of cookies, all still dated fresh, and all opened.  

It used to bother me, and was a BIG pet peeve of mine.

Now, I have learned to let it go!!

(and just blog about it...)

Leadership and EEE-Fish-Cents-See is good!

This past weekend, my family and I had a great day at Six Flags over Georgia.

Most of you know that I am a former Disney employee, and I try NOT to do comparisons.  When I visit other theme parks, I tend to lower my expectations on items like customer service, park cleanliness and so on.

Let me say that I was pleasantly surprised during my visit.  The park was in nice shape and most of the employees seemed to be enjoying their jobs.

BUT (Isn't there always a but)...

I did spend most of my day fuming over the lack of efficiency at just about every attraction.

Background:  Disney Theme Parks have four quality standards, which are Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency.  Efficiency is listed last as it is the one standard that ties the other together.  Without efficiency, the others will suffer.  This concept has always stuck with me.

Disney Theme Parks also pride themselves on something called OHRC, which stands for Operational Hourly Ride Capacity.  For example, if every Space Mountain rocket ship is sent out with the maximum number of guests every time, then the OHRC for Space Mountain might be 1000 guests per hour. (This is a fictional number.  I have no idea what the OHRC is for Space Mountain).

That becomes the standard.

That becomes the benchmark.

That becomes the expectation.

If the OHRC drops to 950 at 9:00am, or 975 at 3:00pm, then management will take a look and try to figure out what is going wrong.  Are the employees not properly trained?  Is one person working that shift that does not know how to load the attraction? Or are there too many distractions in the queue line and the guests are not moving fast enough?

When empty rockets are dispatched out, it leaves angry guests wondering why they are sending out empty rockets when the current wait time is 90 minutes. 

And WELCOME to my Six Flags Experience.

From the Acrophobia to the Dahlonga Mine Train to the Thunder River water ride, I witnessed empty seat after empty seat on every attraction.

Let me be clear...As a customer attending a theme park on a Saturday in the summertime, I DO NOT mind waiting for attractions.

However, I DO MIND waiting when I can see empty seats constantly being sent out on each attraction.

Leaders, take this concept and apply it to your business.

It does not matter if you are in health care, finance, public service, or any line of work.  Your customers want to know that you are doing everything you can to provide an efficient experience for them.

  • Do your employees have a benchmark that they should try and hit?
  • Are employees cross-trained so that they can help get the lines moving faster?
  • Are your employees trained to look for ways to be more efficient?
  • Are there reward structures in place for reaching those benchmarks?
  • Do your customers have a way to share their feedback with you?
While waiting in line for Thunder River, a guest services host was walking the queue line and asking for e-mail addresses for a guest survey.  I kindly gave him mine, and I did fill out the survey this week.

I shared my experiences in the survey, so perhaps next time I will see some changes.

In the meantime, I hope you, the reader, can take a good look at your business and find ways to make the experience more efficient for YOUR customers!

Leadership and Lynn, Lenn, Linn and Leon

Take a look at the above signs - see if you can spot the inconsistency.

Yes, you have to hire the right people.

Yes, you have to train and develop and recognize and motivate.

Yes, you have to pay good salaries and do the right things.

BUT...the small things do matter.

If you can't make sure you get the small things right, then how do I know, as your customer, that you are paying attention to the big things?

Leaders, pay attention to the small things.  They ARE important!

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