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Monday, April 30, 2012

Motivational Message - Excellence vs. Perfection

Here is my quote for the week...

"Strive for excellence, not perfection." 
    - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Nobody is perfect. Excellence is somewhat subjective and allows enough room for improvement. If I have an excellent performance today, it means that I've poured everything that I have, at that moment, into my performance. There's nothing left in me to give. Given enough time, practice, discipline and focus, my next performance will be better...and even more excellent. Very different from perfect. Perfection means that there is nothing more you can do, say or give to make your performance any better. Ever.

My daughter is an amazing girl. She's a competitive dancer, an outstanding student and until recently a competitive cheerleader. She's only eight years old. Granted, I may be a little biased, but it's my blog so bear with me. She's got more energy, drive and focus than I ever had at that age. With all of her activities, she gets lots of opportunities to perform. It could be the dance floor, the gym floor or the classroom, but she performs often. The one question I have for her is, "Did you do your very best today?"

I'm not concerned about my daughter being perfect. I don't want her to be perfect. I want her to be excellent. I want her to understand that if she gives everything she has to being excellent, there will never be a reason to be ashamed of her performance. She's going to win some. She's going to lose some. Nothing can replace the feeling of knowing that you emptied yourself and put everything you had into a performance. Excellence leaves the door open for a better performance the next time. Perfection is definitive and slams the door shut.

This holds true in work and business as well. There is no perfect employee, much to the chagrin of the hiring managers, recruiters and HR pros out there. Granted, there are some pretty awesome employees, some corporate rock stars, but every employee's got something they need to work on (even Jennifer Aniston). I wouldn't have it any other way. That's why it's called Leadership Development, Talent Development, People Development, etc. 

I'll take excellence over perfection any day of the week.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Motivational Message - The Simplest Definition of Leadership

Here's my quote for the week. I have no idea who to attribute the quote to, but I found it in my fortune cookie last week and I was struck by its simplicity. In my opinion, this sums it all up. This could possibly be the simplest definition of leadership out there on the market today.

I thought about this quote several times over the weekend, as I was in Austin spending time with some guys and an organization that means a great deal to me - the Texas Wranglers. The Texas Wranglers is a student organization dedicated to service in the Austin community and supporting the University of Texas men's basketball team. Every spring the Texas Wrangler Alumni Association puts on a reunion event that typically involves golf, beer, barbecue, 6th Street, impromptu wrestling matches, tall tales, cigars, late nights, a boat, chewing tobacco, Hula Hut, Advil, back-slapping, Lake Austin, campfires, and loud laughs - not necessarily in that order.

We have a lot of fun and we stay out of trouble (for the most part), but there is just one thought that overwhelms me at the end of these weekends - how incredibly fortunate I am to be associated with this group of men. Somehow I always feel inadequate. Please note, "inadequate" does not mean "unsuccessful". I just mean that the rough and tumble life of an HR pro feels inadequate (and somewhat boring) when I compare it to my buddies who are saving lives, directing movies and starting their own non-profit organizations.

When I leave Austin after these reunion weekends, I feel motivated to do more, serve more, learn more, give more, live more and be more. In short, I am surrounded by dozens of "right examples" and they inspire me. Are we perfect? Not even close. Do we make mistakes? You bet. Do we have a few knuckleheads in the group? Yeah...which team/organization doesn't? Do these guys help make me a better person? Without a doubt.

So what kind of example are you setting? Are you inspiring others?

Where are you getting your inspiration from? Who inspires you to be a better person?

The leadership lesson is simple - Set the right example. It will inspire others.

Here endeth the lesson. Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where do you draw the line?

As leaders and managers of people, one of the most difficult things (in my opinion) is knowing where to draw the line between work life and personal life. I'm a big believer in transparency, so I struggle with this one myself. By nature, I'm a very relational kind of guy, so my tendency is to connect with people whenever and however I can. 

One of my favorite movies is "Saving Private Ryan". If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. The story follows a group of Army Rangers who have been selected to focus on one mission and one mission only - find and save Private James Ryan. Ryan is one of four brothers fighting in World War II. When the military brass find out that all three of his brothers have been killed fighting in the war, they are determined to save the final and fourth brother and return him safely to his family. Needless to say, this group of Army Rangers isn't thrilled about the mission and this scene below (apologies for some of the language) highlights their frustration and confusion. 

Captain Miller's reaction is textbook and speaks volumes about how great leaders keep and maintain that separation between themselves and their subordinates. Have you ever had a manager complain to you about their boss? Has he/she ever ranted about the executive team, the C-Suite, the folks in the corner office, the Ivory Tower, the Board, etc? Sure you have. We all have. How did it make you feel? Maybe there was some sense of satisfaction in knowing that you're not alone (after all, those people have no idea what it's like down here in the trenches, right?!), but think about it for a minute. How did it really make you feel? Probably eroded your own faith in your manager, the organization, the mission, and ultimately your capabilities. Captain Miller knows where to draw the line. Gripes go up, not down. He also manages to throw in a crash course on diplomacy to boot.

Now...follow that up another fine example of knowing where to draw the line. Check out this scene below where Private James Ryan is sharing an incredibly personal moment with his superior officer (yes, they found him. Don't let that stop you from watching the movie).

Wow! Captain Miller could have easily gotten caught up in the moment (and who could blame him), but he held his ground and kept his personal life separate from his work life. Some might argue that he's just a private person and prefers to keep his memories of his wife to himself. Perhaps. But I still contend that a true leader possesses the ability and discipline to consciously know when to draw the line. 

How about you? Should leaders share more or less? Does it make them more approachable or more vulnerable? Where do you draw the line?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Motivational Message - The Story of Caine Monroy

Here's my quote for the day...
"You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." - John Wooden
This weekend, I came across the story of Caine Monroy (thanks to this blog post from Seth Godin). If you're not familiar with Caine's story, here's the gist:
"Caine Monroy is a 9-year old boy who spent his summer vacation building an elaborate DIY cardboard arcade in his dad’s used auto parts store.
Caine dreamed of the day he would have lots of customers visit his arcade, and he spent months preparing everything, perfecting the game design, making displays for the prizes, designing elaborate security systems, and hand labeling paper-lunch-gift-bags. However, his dad’s autoparts store (located in an industrial part of East LA) gets almost zero foot traffic, so Caine’s chances of getting a customer were very small, and the few walk in customers that came through were always in too much of a hurry to get their auto part to play Caine’s Arcade. But Caine never gave up..."
If you've got a few minutes, I highly recommend watching the short film below. If nothing else, it might just restore your faith in humanity. In my opinion, there are four heroes (i.e. leaders) in this story. 

Caine - his creativity, enthusiasm, perseverance and infectious optimism are an inspiration and a reminder of everything that is right and good about being a kid. 

Caine's Dad - mad props to the dad who lets his son tinker and "set up shop" in his own workspace, letting the boy's imagination run wild.

The Internet - kudos to the people who took time out of their busy lives to show up at the flash mob, helping to create one of the most meaningful events in Caine's life.

Nirvan Mullick - the quote above says it all.

Caine Monroy is my new hero. Go, Caine go!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are we going to Abilene?

Have you ever taken a trip to Abilene? I'm not asking if you've ever been to Abilene. I'm asking if you've ever taken a trip to Abilene. For those of you outside of the great state of Texas, Abilene is a small city just about smack dab in the center of Texas. The Abilene Paradox (below) is a paradox that illustrates how groups of intelligent (presumably) adults can sometimes make very poor decisions because individually they are hesitant to speak their mind and they default into going along with the group. Some of you may be familiar with this story. If so, jump down to the bottom. If you're not, check it out...
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.
The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
Sound familiar? Now...let me ask you again. Have you ever taken a trip to Abilene? We've all been there, right?! We go there when we don't have the time or the patience to argue about why Johnny is NOT the right candidate for the job, so we give him a "green/thumbs up" during the debrief session with the hiring manager and other interviewers. We go there when the boss asks if there are any questions or concerns about the asinine new policy that he's just put in place that's sure to waste time and company resources. We go there when we agree to unrealistic team goals and objectives without actually initiating a discussion about how those goals are going to be met or what tools we're going to be given to accomplish the goals. Heck, I went there last week when a group of friends couldn't decide on where we wanted to eat dinner, so we ended up at a place that none of us really liked, eating a meal that none of us really enjoyed. Good times, right?

So the real question is...
How do we avoid taking these trips to Abilene? 
Candor is a good place to start, but not every organization has the stomach for it. Pushing back is an option, but maybe we don't want to be seen as a "trouble maker". Is is best to just "go with the flow"? I think not.

What works for you? How do you avoid being sucked in by others? How are you making your voice heard?

Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Welcome to Monday!

It's Monday. 

Mondays may not mean that much to you, but for the last ten years or so, I've been following the same routine every Monday - delivering a motivational message to get the week started off right. It started with a local distribution list of colleagues and business partners when I was working for AT&T Wireless in Chicago. The ground rules were simple. First, if you don't want my message showing up in your Inbox, just let me know and I'll take you off my distribution list. Second, I promise to stay away from two topics - politics and religion. Easy. 

In the early days, my distribution list expanded and contracted quite a bit. Some folks appreciated the notes, but just didn't want the extra e-mail. Some folks didn't appreciate the notes. Some folks left the organization, so they got deleted. Some folks forwarded my notes to others who, in turn, reached out to me directly to get on my list. Sometimes I'd get notes from random people asking to be put on my list because their sister's cousin-in-law from her fourth marriage got this note get the point.

Anyway, it's always amazed me how something so simple and easy (on my part) can impact others. Over the years, I've been encouraged by some of the notes I've received,  letting me know that the message I sent out was just what they needed to hear that day. Better yet, if a few weeks have passed and a weekly message has not gone out (I do take vacations every now and then), I might get someone checking in on me and asking me about my weekly message and if everything is okay. That's pretty cool.

So, when I started this blog last week, I thought it would only make sense to dedicate one blog post a week to my weekly motivational message (sort of kills two birds with one stone). By the way, these quotes are completely random. I get them from various sources (books, movies, Internet, kitchen of a Pizza Hut restaurant, etc.) at very random times. I don't subscribe to one of those daily e-mail deals, as that seems to automated and "cold" to me. This space (my blog) gives me an opportunity to share my weekly message and then drill down a bit more, sharing some of my own thoughts. That being said, here we go.

So, I took this shot a few years ago when I was a field HR guy, working for Pizza Hut. This was posted on top of one of the proofing ovens in the back of a restaurant. I have no idea who the quote is attributed to (nice way to start of my weekly motivational message via blog post, right?) but I love the quote and felt compelled to share it. 

What should be done about those pesky customers? I mean really...who do they think they are coming into my place of work and bothering me, asking me to do something for them?! I'm not sure when the wheels started coming off the track here, but it seems like we've (collectively) lost sight of the customer these days, particularly in the service industry. So, it was refreshing to read this piece last week on Jeff Bezos and his leadership style. There were three points that jumped out at me:
2.“Obsess over customers.”
Early on Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so lieutenants would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that ­surrogate’s role is played by specially trained employees, dubbed “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” When they frown, vice ­presidents tremble.
5. “Determine what your customers need, and work backwards.”
Specs for Amazon’s big new projects such as its Kindle tablets and e-book readers have been defined by customers’ desires rather than engineers’ tastes. If customers don’t want something it’s gone, even if that means breaking apart a once powerful department.
 9. “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”
Complaints can be devastating in the age of viral tweets and blogs. Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers, including ­himself, to ­attend two days of call-center training each year. The payoff: humility and empathy for the customer.
Can I get an amen up in here?! Now THAT is a customer service mindset! I don't know Jeff Bezos and I've never worked for Amazon, so I can't tell you if he really walks the talk on this this stuff or not. However, there are some nuggets in here for all of us, regardless of title, industry, position, tenure, etc. Can you imagine a meeting with an empty chair representing the customer? How would that fly in your workplace? Have you ever worked in a call center? I have and let me tell you, it ain't easy. I found a whole new appreciation for the employees taking calls from our customers day in and day out. Consider this...when is the last time you called Customer Service just to find out how their day's going or pay them a compliment?

We've all got customers. External customers, internal customers, prospective customers, former customers. Customers are everywhere. Let's use our mad people skills to take care of them and thank them for what they are, the lifeline of our businesses.


Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fight On!

Have you ever worked with someone who knows their business cold, consistently achieves great results and has so much passion about their work that they're almost contagious? I have. Meet Jerry Moody. Jerry is a Region Coach for Pizza Hut and he was one of nine Region Coaches (think Director of Operations/Sales) that I had the pleasure of working with when I was a Field HR guy at Pizza Hut. Our paths met in Phoenix, when he replaced the Region Coach I had been partnering with for almost a year. When Jerry arrived in Phoenix, he had already been a Region Coach in San Diego, D.C. and Los Angeles, so he was a seasoned, well-traveled and highly successful operator who's moves had been triggered by company-owned markets being sold to franchisees as Pizza Hut continued to move more towards a franchisor organization. We had spent some time together at various meetings and events, but we had never really worked together and at that point our conversations were centered mostly around college football, Jerry being a die-hard USC Trojans fan and me being a crazy Texas Longhorn fan. (It should be noted that Texas had just recently beat USC for the National Championship. You know the game. The one in which Vince Young put on a clinic at the Rose Bowl. But I digress...)

I'll never forget our first day working together. Jerry and I had been at the office all day in meetings and I had facilitated an assimilation exercise with his new team. After the meeting, he and I agreed to work for another hour or so and grab some dinner. As we were packing up our stuff to leave, he suggested we hit a few restaurants (Pizza Hut) before dinner and do some unannounced/blind visits. Huh?! We had just wrapped up a long day of work, I was spent and this guy wanted to go visit stores! That's when I learned then and there - Jerry's motor doesn't stop running.

I worked with Jerry for about a year, as we partnered together to drive the people/talent agenda in the Phoenix region. At the end of 2008, Jerry and I sat down and created the 2009 People Power Plan (we don't rebuild, we reload!) for the Phoenix Region. Let me repeat - we created the plan. Unlike some business leaders who are content with HR driving the people/talent agenda, Jerry was all in and enjoyed getting his hands dirty. When we had bench meetings each month, he was keeping track of the results of each Area Coach (think Regional Sales Manager) and their performance against our people plan. He was bought in and helping to drive it. To take it a step further, we took a group of Hi Po managers (we called them the A-Team) and carved out dedicated time each month to focus on their development. Jerry would provide book summaries, lead group discussions, lead market visits with the A-Team and create project teams to work on relevant operational issues in the market. He was fully committed to their growth and development. Again, this wasn't something I was driving or prodding him to do. That's just how Jerry is wired up. Jerry is just a natural people developer.

When Pizza Hut launched a new wellness initiative and Phoenix was selected to be one of the pilot markets, guess who stepped up to lead the charge, take on the role of spokesperson, role model the behavior and motivate the troops - you guessed it, Jerry. Jerry is the consummate cheerleader and was an inspiration to the Phoenix Region and all of Pizza Hut. He was featured in one of the videos we created to promote the program and loved every minute of it. Some leaders will take on these roles begrudgingly because they have to or they are coerced, but Jerry truly embraces it and has a way of getting those around him fired up.

As many of you know, Pizza Hut and the Yum! Brands organization has an incredibly rich culture of recognition (see Customer Mania). Every employee is encouraged to create their own personal recognition award. Jerry's award for several years was the "Fight On! Five Star Award", a plaque he created that included a personalized note for each recipient. I still remember getting that award (see below). What an honor! I don't have many of the recognition awards from my days at Pizza Hut (since I left last summer), but this one I kept.

You can see me giving my recognition award (the "Game Ball") to Jerry below.

Since the Phoenix Region was sold, Jerry has since moved to East Pennsylvania, where he supports that market along with the operations that Pizza Hut acquired in West Virginia. He has relocated four times now with Pizza Hut and he has achieved great results in every market that he leads. It seems that every time I check in with him, his team has just broken some sales record and hit some new milestone. Clearly he casts a very long leadership shadow. are my questions and my challenge for you.

Do you have a Jerry in your organization?  If so, what are you doing to keep them motivated and challenged? What can they be doing to inspire, coach and develop others?
Do your leaders have the skill and/or will to develop the Hi Po talent around them? How much time are they investing in emerging leaders?
If you've got a Jerry, actively seek out ways to get them involved in developing the talent in your organization. Allow them to get creative. We started with a one-page slide deck that had the major bullets that we were going to focus on from a people perspective. That morphed into the A-Team, project teams, book summaries, including Hi Pos in field visits., etc.

Here endeth the lesson.

PS - Jerry, if you're reading this, I'll see you in Austin on September 15, 2018 when Texas hosts the Trojans and we beat you. Again. Hook 'em!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

And so it begins...

So a little bit about me and what I'm all about. I'm currently an HR Director for a family-owned, privately-held distributor of wine, beer and spirits based in Dallas, Texas. I've been an HR guy for more than 15 years now, working for companies such as Halliburton, AT&T and Pizza Hut. You may have heard of them. My career started in Houston, moved me to Chicago, moved me to Seattle, moved me to Denver and has led me back to the great state of Texas. Most of my HR career has been spent in an HR Generalist/HR Business Partner capacity, which means that I know enough about stuff like benefits, recruiting, compensation and OD to be dangerous. It also means that I've got some really great employee relations stories and a couple battle scars to show off. You can learn more about my professional background here. On a personal note, I married my high school sweetheart/best friend and we've been blessed with a beautiful, smart and talented daughter who is my pride and joy. She's almost nine-years old and never ceases to amaze me day in and day out. I'm a loud and proud Texas Ex, so there's bound to be some stories I'll share related to the University of Texas. Hook 'em Horns!

I've been noodling the idea of creating my own blog for quite some time now. With the prodding and encouragement of some great people and fellow HR colleagues I finally decided to stop thinking about it and do something about it. Not sure where or how to begin, I began poking around with various blogging tools and finally landed on Blogger. Then I got all wrapped up in formatting, fonts, backgrounds and all of the other stuff that really inhibit the actual work of blogging. Yesterday I had breakfast with a fellow HR blogger (feels good to say that!) and he told me that the only barrier between me and creating my own blog is the work of actually writing the blog post. Profound! Admittedly, I'm one of those people who can get easily hung up on the trivial details at times because I want it to look perfect, sound perfect, be perfect. I need to channel my inner Phil Knight and "just do it"!

So why "Lessons in Leadership"? Here's the deal. I'm a sucker for a great story. Regardless of medium, I am so easily drawn into a good story and I enjoy sharing a good story. There is no shortage of great HR blogs today (you'll see some of my favorites on the right side of the screen here), so I decided to take a little bit different approach to an HR blog. I intend to share real stories of real people facing real challenges, examine them through the lens of an HR pro and explain the WIIFM (What's In It For Me?) with questions like:

How does this apply to me and my work? 
What can my business leaders learn from this? 
What kind of an impact would this have on my employees? 

Make sense? Over time, it would be great to have enough people reading this and engaged in the discussion that they will send me their stories. I can become a curator of leadership lessons, if you will. Please understand, in no way, shape or form am I professing to be a great leader myself. I am just as fallible as the next guy, but I am fascinated by great leaders, their stories, their life experiences, what makes them tick and most importantly, what I can learn from them. 

In closing, I'm a big believer in transparency. I have no idea what this blog will look like next week. I'm sure that it's going to morph, change and hopefully get better with each and every post. I know I'm going to make mistakes, so please bear with me. I have no idea where this journey is going to take me, but I'm buckling up for the ride. I couldn't help but think of the famous line from The Untouchables (great movie, by the way) as I sign off from my first post.  

Here endeth the lesson.