All Play and No Work . . .

Okay, let’s face it; the first day back at the office after a nice relaxing vacation can be very challenging. After all, while we were on vacation, we would have taken some time to unwind and refresh and probably slept in and overall we would not have exerted ourselves. Then, the first Monday back to work seems surreal. We are expected to go from a leisurely stroll to a full sprint.

COVID-19 has changed many things but probably the most important thing to notice is our pace at the office. For those of us working in a variable pay environment, we have been forced into a leisurely stroll. Those of us that were not furloughed have had reduced hours, reduced traffic, reduced tasks to be completed and an overall reduction in job related stress. The real danger is settling in and getting used to the results that we are now producing in the slowdown.

Most economists will agree that April was the low point in this economic stand still. Most believe that May will mirror March, and June and July will have a sharp increase, however, even with a sharp increase in June and July, we will be in a recession environment. Not all people furloughed will be asked back to their positions, not all businesses will open back up, and the reality of a long recovery is at hand.

With this said, it is vitally important not to become complacent with reduced hours and production. We live in a capitalistic society that rewards bigger results based on our efforts. It is important to set bigger goals for May than you think are possible and plan for an even bigger June. Do not get lulled to sleep by the March/April business climate. It will only be the new norm if you choose it to be. If you choose it to be, you will be left behind. In fact, for those of us still working, we have people who are depending on us to grow our business back to a resemblance of where it was when they left — and in a short amount of time, so that they can get back to work.

So look back on March and April with gratitude to have been able to hit the pause button in life, which afforded you to be able to smell the roses. But it is now May and we have work to do. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Conversely, all play and no work makes Jack an undisciplined, unproductive member of society. Set your sights high for May and beyond. Reach higher; work harder; FOCUS; stretch; and grow. Learn to have a balance of smelling the roses and being more productive with your time when you are back to work.

Cake, Less Eggs, Ain’t Cake

You have to excuse the grammar; I heard this saying once and it jumped out at me. Building a team in business is like making a cake . . . so to speak. Just the right ingredients mixed just the right way will produce an outstanding cake.

I recently have been interviewing for an open management position I have available, and all of the candidates are good at some things but not good at all things. Some have 20 years worth of experience but their overall automotive IQ doesn’t support it. Others have only a year of experience but have quickly seasoned and have a very high automotive IQ.

Picking the right person for the position can be a challenge as it relates to overall  experience. However, I feel it is even more important is how they fit in with the overall recipe of the store’s culture. Think about it; when you make a cake, you have eggs, flour, sugar, flavoring, butter, and salt. If you put too many eggs in, or not enough sugar, or only use a bowl of flour alone, it will be a cake to forget — if a cake at all. Eggs in and of themselves are not bad at all. But a bowl full of eggs alone will never get you the end result you are looking for, if the end result is a tasty cake.

When I interview, I am asking myself if the candidate will compliment the overall feel (or recipe) of the existing team. I wonder if they will be what we are looking for as we move into the future. I wonder if they will challenge and nudge the team members to be better or will they be argumentative and hostile in general. I am probing to see if I actually like the person, as in, are they kind/well groomed/well spoken/professional/humble/confident. It is even more vital that my existing management team will be assisted to even greater heights by the new hire and not fall into discouragement or worse; discontentment with their position based on the new recruit. It is not always about how many mountains you have moved on your resume or how many awards you have collected. It is also important that the fit is right interpersonally, because when putting a recipe together; cake, less eggs, ain’t cake.

When Discouragement & Disaster Collide

It is bound to happen sooner or later. That is, unless you live in a bubble. There is no such thing as perfection all day, every day. Eventually, the good times pass and disaster strikes in some shape or form. It may come in the form of relationships that have soured. It could come in the form of not getting the promotion, not making the team, or not being included in social situations. It sometimes is related to our health or our finances. Whatever the reason that discouragement comes on so strong, there is a way out; even though we feel it may actually be a disaster.

The first step is to expect it. Just as the daylight comes to end each night and the streak of sunny days is broken by the rain, so shall our smooth sailing be interrupted by a “storm”.

When the discouragement is deep and the disaster grand, the first thing we can do to remedy our situation is to remember that this too shall pass. Good times are not permanent and bad times just the same are only temporary. Even if it feels like a hundred years: it is not.

The next thing is to remember how we felt in the good times. If we can remember how living the “mountaintop” life was fulfilling, then we can have hope to get back there again after climbing our way out of the “valley.” This also gives us strength to get through our current circumstance because we remember just how good it felt to have things going well for us.

Lastly, if we will accept the fact that disappointment and disaster have a way of teaching us, growing us, and making us wiser, then we become open to the bitterness of bad circumstances to be our teacher and ultimately making us greater.

So, the next time discouragement and disaster collide; remember to expect it coming, that it is only temporary, and to learn from the experience.

The Dirty Irish Towns (Make America Clean Again)?

Now that I have your attention; there is nothing further from the truth. After spending a week traveling throughout Ireland, I can’t help myself from continually thinking about a single point. The point is this; there was no trash, or litter, or garbage of any kind — anywhere! Ireland has to be one of the cleanest places on earth. Why? Because the people of Ireland care and take responsibility for their own actions. They do not throw their trash out the window or on the ground assuming “someone else” will take care of it. No, they take responsibility for their own trash and take pride in their land.

Driving on country roads or major highways, you could not spot any litter. Walking the streets of Dublin; same thing — clean. Walking the beach on the Celtic sea, there were plenty of shells and rocks, but no bottles, plastic, fast food bags, etc. Walking through the crowded streets of Galway — spotless.

The point is, when will we as Americans take pride in our country? When will we take ownership of our own trash and actually stoop down to pick up someone else’s forgotten litter? I long for a day where our country is clean and well taken care of — not by the government, the neighbor, the teacher, or someone else — but by each of us the people. Let’s get it together Americans. Make America Clean Again!

When Your Head Sticks Above the Crowd

My colleague was asked by one of his employees, “what do I have to do to get a raise?” This is a very interesting question in general. The mentality that is needed to get ahead at work, in a marriage, in a relationship, financially, spiritually, and more, is — whatever it takes. It is not a simple: do x and y and a raise will follow. It is having a commitment to excellence all day; every day. As it relates to a career, some people seem to need a roadmap, and sometimes they actually want a promotion before they are willing to do more. How can the boss promote someone who has not shown they are capable of operating at the next level? I believe a boss, a manager, partner, share-holder, etc. need to see consistency. Once consistent effort is shown and results are created, it is impossible for someone not to notice and offer you a promotion, or a raise. If you work on commission, your raise will be the additional income you create by doing the right things.

My advice is this; whatever endeavor you are looking to get ahead in, put your head down and work hard. Study your craft, your product, and your competition. Spend time Practicing the things you will need to perform. Desire to grow & learn. And most importantly — don’t stop. A dog is conditioned to performing a trick and then being rewarded. In life, we are not dogs. There is no reward after doing one thing. We must do many things over and over and over again. If there is seemingly no reward; find a way to do it better and do it over and over and over again. Eventually, your head will stick above the crowd and you will be noticed. Just remember it is never a one and done event. It is a life-time commitment to being the best you can be.

Osmosis. It’s an Epidemic.

It has been told that most people learn in one of three ways. First, people learn visually. They need to see it. You can talk to them all day long but if they can’t see something, they are likely to retain nothing. Next, are kinesthetic learners. These are the “feel it, touch it” people (and the highest percentage of people learn this way). Lastly, are auditory learners. You guessed it; they learn from hearing. Auditory learners are only 25% of the population. Coincidently, the other 75% miss the instruction when they are being told what to do.

Many mangers and even some leaders “tell” people what to do and how to do it. Then they become frustrated that the very people they are “telling” over and over, are not learning what they are telling them. Some of their telling often includes specific instructions on how to “do” something. Somehow the managers and leaders feel that if they tell them enough, they will most likely get it. Most likely not.

Attention Managers and leaders–Effective managers and leaders teach the way their people learn. I would venture to say that if only 25% of the people learn by hearing, then we need to begin to teach differently than just lecturing. Show them. Show them what is expected and then ask them to repeat it back. If there is a task involved, ask them to perform the task the way you expect them to perform it. I guarantee that they will not perform it the way you want it done the first time. That will be the indicator for you to continue to work with them until they get it right. Considering most people learn by doing, you will need to make them “do” until you are satisfied that they will bear the result that you desire.

If you are speaking to a few people (or to thousands) with information only, PowerPoint works great because it covers the visual learner, the auditory learners for sure. But if you are in need for people to “do” something, you will need to roll up your sleeves and spend time with each person “doing”. By doing so, you will increase your team’s productivity and they will have more respect for you as a leader or manager. In todays business world, you won’t have much competition. After all, osmosis is an epidemic these days, as leaders and managers only seem to talk, and talk, and talk some more.

Are your people safe?

Probably the safest place for a child is in the womb. The temperature is perfect, there is no separation anxiety, and the child is automatically fed first when the mother eats.

If you are a leader in your career, civic group, church or synagogue, a little league coach, a yoga instructor, or any other type of leader from a vast list, are the people that you lead safe?

Is the temperature perfect? Meaning; are you aware of the climate of the room in regards to relationships? Are you consciously making sure your people feel welcomed? Are you aware of body language? Body language screams a statement. It either states; I am comfortable; I am uncomfortable; I feel left out; or I feel welcomed. It does not matter one bit what you think. Someone else’s perception is reality. Leaders scan the room. Leaders are inclusive. Leaders build others up. Leaders recognize everyone.

Is there separation anxiety in the group that you lead? Or are you are more concerned with how you feel, rather than how your flock feels? What is their body language screaming to you? Are their arms crossed? That usually means “I am blocking you out” or “I disagree with you.” Is there little to no eye contact? That can mean “I do not trust you” or “I feel poorly about something in this setting”. Either way, leaders recognize the concern and then go to work to fix it.

Does the child automatically feed when the leader does? This could be physically and emotionally/spiritually. Physically, do you go last when there is food being served? Do you ensure all of your team has eaten or had a drink before you help yourself? Emotional and spiritually, do you have your team in mind when teaching? Are you concerned for their well-being and growth or only how you feel about the message? Do you follow-up after hearing of a concern? Are you humble enough to create an environment of transparency, even if you do not like the feedback? More over, do you act to change the reality.

Leaders lead. Great leaders ensure their people are safe.