Don’t take the easy way out. Here is a lesson from history!

This is a very hard lesson for people to learn.  Society has made it so easy for people to take the easy road these days.  Parents, do yourselves a favor and do not give your kids the easy way out, teach them that hard work does pay off.  The world is a tough place, accept it and work to reach goals!  A lot of you out there know that I was a history major so I like to use it as a tool for coaching.

I believe history can teach us a lot. Throughout history, there are those who made good decisions and those who made bad ones. The former reaped the rewards and the latter suffered the consequences. In any case, there are useful lessons that we can learn from their experiences.

titleI will share with you a lesson I learned from the story of Alexander Severus, a Roman emperor from 222 to 235.  I became interested in this particular emperor because his assassination started the Crisis of the Third Century.

As it turned out, he was assassinated by his own troops. But how could that happen? Why did the troops kill their own emperor? Well, the short answer is that the emperor chose the easy way and his troops didn’t like it.

Germanic tribes invaded the Roman Empire during the time Severus was emperor. The emperor marched out his troops to meet the invaders. The troops were ready to fight and defend their land. But what happened? When they were near the enemy, the emperor chose to bribe the enemy instead. He tried to buy them off using the empire’s wealth. Instead of facing the challenge, the emperor chose the easy way.

The troops didn’t like it. In fact, they were angered by it. They looked down on him and eventually decided to kill him.

It’s tragic, but it also contains a profound lesson: don’t take the easy way. Don’t take shortcuts when you face a problem. It may look easy and attractive, but it’s not without its danger. What you should do instead is face the challenge and do the right thing. It might be painful and take a long time, but the reward makes it worth it. Here are two kinds of reward that you will get if you do the right thing:

1. Lasting success

By taking the easy way, you might seem to achieve your goal (peace, in the case of the emperor), but it won’t last for long. Since taking the easy way means you never solve the root of the problem, the problem could resurface at any time. On the other hand, if you take the more difficult route and solve the root of the problem, you will get success that lasts.

2. The respect of others

When those around you see the way you handle your situation, they will respect you. They will look at you as someone to learn from. You might even become an inspiration to them.

Doing the right thing is easier said than done, but it’s something we can all learn to do. Remember the story of the emperor: don’t take the easy way. March into your battles courageously and solve the root of each problem.

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OFFICE PERKS ARE STUPID! Yes, I said STUPID!

Ok CEO’s, enough is enough.  You are not the next Google, you are not “cool” and “trendy” you are just being stupid.

The Ping-Pong and Pool Tables are insulting to the intelligence of employees.  We all want to be happy at work, us Americans spend a huge portion of our lives there, but employees aren’t dumb.  We know that the Ping-Pong and Pool tables don’t make work fun or fulfilling.  It is certainly not a replacement for a decent paycheck.

These perks are signifiers, a way for organizations to express their commitment to a laid-back corporate culture and, at some companies, a consolation price for a lower salary and boring work assignments. The trend can be traced back to Google and Zappos.  They are both huge successes and they defined their workplace cultures with beanbag chairs.  Perks have since proliferated at startups, media organizations, and tech companies hoping a more comfortable environment will motivate employees and lead to Google sized profits.  Come on people, pull your heads out of your butt.

Having a barista or beer, and my personal favorite the Ping-Pong table will not help you retain young talent, if it does, it is only temporary.  Having an engaging management team, room for growth within the organization are the two best tools to hang on to young talent.  The perks are all surface level, remember that.

The benefits that matter most aren’t foosball tables. People want health insurance, paid vacation, and sick days, the potential for performance bonuses, and a company-matched 401(k) plan.

 

Why taking risks comes with huge rewards!

I had a great 1.2.1. meeting this morning with a young member of our staff and the topic or risk came up….and no not the board game.

If you ever want to achieve the life you’ve always dreamed of, you will have to start taking positive, calculated risks.  It is a must to take chances to achieve anything great in life, however many are scared to take the initial leap.

As with any risk, there is always something at stake.  In most cases, when it comes to your business, you stand to lose money, time, and your reputation.  On the flip side those are the very same things that you stand to gain, right!??  The benefits of taking risks will enrich your life and your business or career much more rewarding.

One of my very good friends and clients worked for the county for almost 10 years before deciding to start his own business.  I helped him pinpoint his true passions and create a plan to profit from them.  After moving to a new state, instead of searching for another civil servant position, he took his skills and experience of being an urban planner and translated them into a viable business for himself. Nervous about launching out on his own, he expressed this was the biggest risk he had ever taken and worried about where the income and clients would come from. However, after being in business for one year, he has already landed multiple contracts and generated a six-figure income. After taking the risk of quitting his job and launching his own firm, he’s much happier and experiencing life on a new level.

 

THE BENEFITS OF TAKING RISKS.

    1. Taking risks opens you up to new challenges and opportunities. Push yourself to learn a new skill, such as public speaking, which comes in handy as a business owner.
  • Taking risks empowers you to establish new limits in your mind. We all have boundaries or a comfort zone where we’d like to stay and many have misconstrued visions of what we think we deserve or are capable of accomplishing. When you take risks, you can eradicate that thinking, establish new boundaries, improve your outlook on life and your ability to achieve on high levels.
  • Taking risks can cause you to become more creative. When you put yourself out on a limb, with a no-excuse approach, your natural problem-solving skills kick in and you’re open to new ideas and are willing to try something new.
  • Taking risks can result in a positive outcome. Not every life step can be carefully planned out. You’ll never know if you can succeed unless you venture out into new territory. Is there a risk involved to do something totally new? Sure. But the reward is there too. When you give it your best shot and put all that you can into achieving the goal, you are more likely to make it happen.
  • Taking risks help you to clearly define what you really want. Calculated risks are taken with careful thought. Yet the fact that you are taking a risk pushes you to make things work. Surely you will first have to determine if the reward is something you really want enough to take the chance. If it is, then move ahead and don’t look back.

 

  • Once you have become accustomed to taking risks, you break free from the average way of living and thinking. Instead of fighting to stay safe you gain the momentum and confidence needed to welcome new opportunities in your career or business. Risks build your self-confidence and self-respect, empowering you to feel stronger and more confident in taking on new endeavors. When you are open to new challenges you position yourself to profit a whole lot more than you would just staying the same.

Taking chances requires some blind trust in most cases. Nothing is really guaranteed. However, you have to trust your instincts. Sometimes your gut is leading you down an unknown path but inside you know that something big is on the other side. Go for it, you’ll never know what all you can accomplish until you do something you’ve never done. Take the risk you’ll step into some of your biggest rewards.

Crap, I hired the wrong person!

I woke up this morning to a 6AM voicemail from a great client of mine with the following message, “FUCK MIKE!  I hired the wrong person, call me to discuss, I need help fixing this!”

This is a painful situation for a CEO. You’ve had a gigantic gap in your executive team, and you find someone you think is the answer to all of your problems – and then it hits you: You realize the person you’ve hired isn’t who you thought he was.  Now what the hell do you do?

Your new-hire does not posses the skills you thought. Perhaps he came from a larger company, and you thought he was capable of adjusting to your small business. Sometimes you may find the person isn’t a good culture fit, while other times they are just downright toxic to your company.

So, what happened? How did you miss the red flags during the interviews and ‘dating stage’?  Did you fail or did you choose to ignore certain things?

How do you find the right fit?

In order to avoid getting stuck with the wrong employee, you must interview the right way. I’ve seen executives (Yes I am talking about you)  glance over a resume five minutes beforehand, and ask questions solely based on the job description. You just set yourself up for disaster.

Instead, you need to put time and effort into devising questions that will help your company in finding the right personnel fit.  Take the focus away from work and education history.  Resumes list the previous jobs and education, and are usually written to show the best of each area.  Spend little time on the resume, that was the ticket into the door, now find answers to the following questions:

  • Does this candidate fit in with your company culture? – Write down or give the candidate your company’s core values. Ask the prospect how he exhibited one of your core values at a previous job.
  • What exactly does your company need the candidate to do? –Tell them to increase throughput by 10%, Improve OTD from 95% to 98%. Get specific, and make your goals measurable.
  • What has the candidate done in the past that can apply to the job today? – Get specific, and go deep! Ask the candidate what has she done that’s comparable to the work expected of her. Then, find out what her role was within the project: Did she come up with the idea? Was she the team lead? Did she perform the work? Don’t stop digging until you have specific answers.  The resume will state. “Increased throughput by 40% by implementing this that or the other.”  By digging deep you will find that they don’t know what the throughput calculation was before and that the 40% was a made up number.  That they weren’t really involved in the process, maybe they just oversaw that person.  Digging deep, gets you the information that you need.

You can listen to his thought processes during the interview and determine if the candidate would be a right fit for your team. If you don’t consider how he plays a role in the bigger picture and how he will interact with your current team, then you could end up with an employee who feels like a stranger.

The interview is just the beginning. You should also have an efficient onboarding process. Keep your eyes and ears open to see how the new-hire interacts with you and other colleagues. If you discover he’s not the right fit, at least you know immediately, and not months or years down the road.

The old adage for small businesses holds true: Hire slowly, and fire quickly. Small business CEOs/ owners can’t afford the luxury of carrying dead weight.

Give toxic employees the boot, quickly!

I’ve worked with a few CEOs who have fired people a few days into the job. One CEO shared a story on how a new-hire lied about meeting with a prospect the first week on the job. The new-hire was unaware the prospect was a good friend of the CEO, who informed the CEO the meeting never happened. A little white lie during the first week of employment violated the company’s core value of trust. Needless to say, the new-hire was terminated immediately.

Hiring mistakes do happen, even when you follow a good interview process. You can minimize a bad hire by asking questions related to your core values, and making sure the candidate understands performance expectations.

Dig deep in your questions to ensure your candidate has performed expected tasks in the past – or at the very least is able to articulate how she would handle similar situations she will encounter at your company. Hopefully, this will mitigate the chances of you asking her later on, “Who Are You?”

What should I ask my new boss?

New boss coming to town?  Don’t freak out, don’t start thinking of new ways to kiss his or her ass, that never works.

Before you can know what questions to ask, you need to ask yourself what you want to know. Barring urgent projects that can’t wait, keep your questions basic and to the point. You’ll show you value the company’s time and your own.

How many relationships end because of poor communication? One of the most important things to find out is how your new manager communicates.  Everyone has his or her own style, and this person is no different. Most likely, you’ll be the one who has to adapt. Does your boss prefer e-mail or phone? Is he or she crazy about department meetings? It’s as simple as asking about the preferred method. Working with his or her communication style will most likely save you and your boss some frustration and resentment.

Almost as important as communication is learning about your new boss’s expectations. Your boss may not expect you to take out the trash or walk the dog, but just like at home, on-the-job expectations need to be managed. This is impossible unless you actually know what those expectations are. During your meeting, find out things like how and when reports should be produced. Where does he or she see the department going? What are the roles for people in your department?

Be honest and direct, but don’t pile on flattery to ingratiate yourself. You’ll be spotted a mile away, and it usually backfires.

Listen carefully to the answers. Entire books have been written on how to read facial expressions. You probably don’t need to go to those lengths, but watch your manager’s mannerisms — tone of voice and how things are phrased — in addition to what’s actually being said. All of this will help you gauge this person’s attitude, priorities and even potential pitfalls. Think about what opportunities your new boss presents for you in the organization.

Your main goal in the first formal meeting is start building your work relationship. Don’t try to accomplish everything all at once. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. Once you learn the basics, it’s time to think about any changes you might need to make.

Part of adapting to a new boss is making a good impression. Coming in a little early and working the extra mile will get you noticed and could go a long way toward helping you and your new boss hit it off.

Even with that, odds are you’re going to have to be willing to try things a new way.  Your new manager came into this position with ideas of how the department should be run. At least at first, expect to follow your new leader. Remember that your co-workers are likely to be doing the same thing you are, and a smart manager will let everything sink in before taking your advice completely to heart.

Adaptation is one of humanity’s greatest traits. Switching from e-mail to phone calls for communication ranks low on the difficulty scale. But if your previous boss was a hands-off type who let you get your job done your way, and your new one is a micromanager who insists everything must be done his or her way, that gets a little more difficult. Micromanaging is a serious issue, resulting from either a lack of trust or a need for control. If you think it’s a lack of trust, try to earn that trust by showing how good your work is. If it’s a control situation, it’s likely that person is insecure and not capable of any fundamental change. In that case, you should either seek a transfer within your organization or find a different employer.

If you find yourself reporting to a former co-worker (even a friend), know that your old relationship will necessarily change. Reporting to friends can be just as tricky as managing them, so learn the boundaries between your personal relationship and the organization’s needs, recognizing that your friend now has responsibility for your performance, as well.

Sometimes, managers are hired or promoted because they impressed someone in a position of power. But what if it’s painfully obvious they’re in way over their heads? Don’t take action right away, but if you believe this will be a problem, start documenting instances where their lack of qualifications is costing the company. Only when you have documentation substantiating your claim should you bring it to management.

In most cases, dealing with new bosses presents more promise than anguish. If they’re reasonable and you’re willing to adapt to the new situation, there’s no reason the new department culture can’t do as well as, or better than, the previous one.

It’s rare for anyone who’s worked for more than a few years to not have their share of bosses, and I’m no exception. This article was informed both by lots of research and personal experience. Personal experience gave me a pretty good idea of the types of bosses out there, from laid back but inspirational to micro-managers who probably have no business being in charge of anybody.

The research gave me a better ideas about how to deal with these people, who are usually just trying to do their best in a new situation.

It’s Not My Responsibility!

When I am going to facilitate a meeting or a training session, I arrive nice and early to set up the conference room to create a positive environment for all of the participants.  At the conclusion of the day, I make sure the room is tidy for the next facilitator.  However, even if I use the same conference room multiple times a week, each time I show up, the room is a disaster.  Why does this keep happening?  Simple answer is: Because no one person is in charge.

When an organization does not take the time to identify and assign responsibility for every task, right down to the details such as who is in charge of the conference room cleanliness or putting the office supplies away, it wastes time and creates confusion and frustration for its employees.  Communication is the key to undoing all of this confusion.  Communicate clearly and clarify roles and responsibilities for everything; and yes I do mean everything.  Here are some examples where time can be wasted when the responsibilities are not crystal clear.  This should help get you and your organization started.

  1. A task will not get done if two people think that the other is responsible for doing the task. To ensure there is clarity, check with the other person to confirm that he/she is responsible for the task. Better yet, management needs to communicate the responsibility and clarify this directly with the person(s) to whom they have delegated the task.
  2. If two people think they’re both responsible for a task, the task will get done twice (or perhaps not at all). As in example 1 above, communication is the key to ensuring that this timewaster does not occur.
  3. If one person is assigned a task, but others who need to involved in the task are not aware of this assignment, the others may not cooperate. Think about projects. If resources are assigned to projects, but those resources (employees) are not aware they are to complete tasks on the project, the tasks will not get done. Again, communication is key. Assemble all those who need to be involved in the work and communicate and delegate responsibilities. Then clarify directly with the resources that they understand and will undertake their responsibilities.
  4. What occurs when more than one person is in charge? Confusion and, perhaps, conflicting instructions. This is similar to example 2 except that in this case, the task may get done differently twice.

If the above situations sound familiar, then get clarity about your role and what responsibility and authority you have for a given task. Never assume that someone else is in charge or that you are in charge. Overlapping or confused responsibilities serve only to waste time.

Do not let your employees say. “It is not my responsibility!”  If they do, FIRE THEM.  It starts with you as a leader.  Lead by example.

What a mentor can do for you…

The word “mentor” has its roots in Greek mythology—Homer’s Odyssey to be exact—but the importance of this concept to career success is no myth. An experienced colleague, known as a mentor, can provide invaluable help to you as you begin your career and advance in it.

When you are starting out you obviously know very little. Don’t be offended it is nothing personal. It’s not you, just your lack of experience. You’ll probably make a lot of mistakes and you may miss out on many opportunities, but you can limit how often this happens by finding yourself a good mentor.

You have a lot to gain by developing a relationship with a seasoned colleague who is willing to share his or her wisdom with a protégé (that would be you). A mentor can guide you through tricky situations and can provide helpful advice about growing your career. And don’t worry about this relationship being too one-sided. Your mentor will hone his leadership skills by helping you.

What Can Your Mentor Do for You?

 

  • Your mentor can help you navigate tricky situations you may encounter at work and can help you figure out what to do about them. Whatever you’re going through, there’s a good chance he/she has been through the same thing or knows someone who has.
  • He/She can help you score coveted invitations to industry events and introduce you to influential people in your field.  I find this to be one of the best upsides to having a mentor.  Networking is key!
  • Your mentor can alert you to new job opportunities that only those in his/her position may be privy to.  If your mentor consults for major companies, or is in a top leadership position, they may just offer you the position knowing that you are working towards growth and are hungry for a better opportunity.
  • He/She will know what skills will help you do your job better and can tell you how to acquire them.
  • If you are offered a promotion within the same company or a new job at another, your mentor can help you decide whether or not to accept it.
  • He/She can help you decide when to ask for a raise and then give you advice about how to do it properly.  Everybody wants to make more money, right?!?

How to Find a Mentor

Now that you’ve learned about what a mentor can do for you, you probably want to find one as soon as possible. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that has a formal mentoring program, you might be matched with someone when you start your job. Some companies that have such programs don’t make these matches automatically, so if you aren’t introduced to someone shortly after your first day, inquire about whether such a program exists.

If the organization you work for doesn’t have a formal program, then you will have to look for a mentor on your own.  At MCDA we have top consultants from all types of industries that are willing to mentor the right people.  We have leaders from Aerospace, Agriculture, Business Development, Sales, Medical, Hospitality, etc.  Call us today and we can pair you up with the right person for YOU.

Tips for Having a Successful Mentor – Protégé Relationship

  • Choose a mentor whose goals are similar to your own.
  • Find someone who is in the same career as you.
  • Make sure your mentor has an adequate amount of time to give to this relationship. Can he/she meet with you on a regular basis? Is he/she receptive to answering questions or helping with issues as they arise.
  • Take the initial step in establishing contact with a potential mentor since you are the one who will benefit the most from the relationship.
  • You must find the time to participate in the relationship with your mentor. For example if your mentor wants to meet with you before or after work, don’t make excuses about not having enough time. Make time.

Eventually you will be in a position to give advice to someone who is just starting out. Honor your mentor by paying it forward and doing for another person what he or she did for you.