Baseball Season

It is Baseball Season!!!  America’s pastime! It is the best time of the year!!

What does baseball mean to me?  It is a time of learning, it is a time for motivation, it is a time of new beginnings!

In the movie “Bull Durham”, Kevin Costner is a teacher of the finer points of the game.  The new hot shot pitcher has to learn more about the finer points of the game.  Never throw a punch with your pitching arm, never mess with a streak, and most importantly to trust in your teammates. 

In the movie “The Sandlot”, Bennie “The Jet” Rodriquez was born out of his “pickling the beast”.  The lesson here is that everyone has their defining moment that will carry them throughout their life.

In the movie, “The Rookie”, Dennis Quaids character learns that it is important to recognize when you become a hero or a mentor to others.  As his wife tells him when he is about to quit his dream of making it to the major leagues that his 10 year old son is asleep for the night and that if he thinks about quitting, what kind of message is it sending to his son.  What a powerful message!

At the end of the day, Baseball is a metaphor for life!  To quote Kevin Costner from Bull Durham, “some days you win, some days you lose, and some days it rains.”  In life, we are all going to have our good days and our bad days.  Some days things just don’t work out as planned, but we always need to keep our priorities straight.

Those that have played baseball at the highest levels will tell you that the highest compliment that can be paid to a ball player is to be known as a great teammate not to just be the best player.  I have been fortunate to coach my son’s when they were younger and humility is a big part of their individual games.  They are known by their peers as a teammate first, and a skilled player second.

In the workplace, individual accolades can be attained, but it should be more important to maintain trusting relationships.  This is the way I play the game, for better or worse!

I look forward each week to my 7 inning vacation for my sons games and look forward to those 9 inning vacations with my family once the professional season starts.

Have a great end of the weekend!

Your Wonderful Life

Everyone has a bad day.  It is easy to get caught up with what isn’t going right, however, it takes some real effort to recognize what is right when things seem they are going in the opposite direction. 

Today was my birthday.  I usually don’t worry about my birthdays, because they really haven’t been that important to me.  I would rather celebrate others, than celebrate myself, that’s just the way I am.  I had an epiphinany today when I had over 100 of my friends post on my Facebook wall, text me, or call me directly to wish me a Happy Birthday.  I thought back to one of my favorite movies of all time, “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the main character, George Bailey. 

George has many of the same stressors that many of us face on a daily basis.  Financial issues, work issues, regrets, and so on.  George has the perfect storm brewing when all of these stressors hit at one time.  Through his “guardian angel”, Clarence he learns that even though things are really bad at that moment, he actually is a positive influence on others around him.  At the end of the movie, after Clarence takes him on a historical journey of his life and the impact that he has had on others, he realizes that his life is meaning. 

Clarence sends him a message at the end of the movie that says, “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.”  This is a very powerful quote, and one that I remember everyday. 

Whenever you are having a bad day, remember that you truly have A Wonderful Life.  Each of us have guardian angels that we will never see, never know, but have an influence over us.  They help us make good choices each day, if we allow them to.  Just as George Bailey had to allow Clarence to show him he did matter, each of us have to be open to input from others.

I am not a religious person by any means, but I am a believer that everything happens for a reason.  We face situations each day that challenge us in many ways.  Know that you have friends that you may not talk to every day, but friends that truly do care about you and reenter your life at critical moments for a reason.  This was my lesson of the day.  Take the time each day to recognize those who have a positive impact on you.

“Remember no man is a failure who has friends.”

By keeping this quote in mind, you can’t help but have A Wonderful Life!

Work the Plan

As leaders, we tend to focus on creating great plans that in our estimation will yield great results.  So why do so many leaders become frustrated when our best laid plans yield worse results.  The answer is simple, execution.

As an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to take a religion class.  As a project for this class, I had to attend religious services at a variety of churches.  In one such setting, the Pastor gave a sermon that 20+ years later still has a positive message with me.  The message of the sermon was to not just plan the work, but work the plan.  What a novel idea.  I translated this to the work I was doing at the time and decided it was not about the creation of the plan itself, but more about the execution of the plan.

In sports, teams will go into a game with a game plan.  While fans may be upset about with the officials, the leaders always talk about execution of the plan.  If athletes don’t execute, they let the team down and ultimately the team loses the game.  It wasn’t the plan that was flawed, it was working of the plan that was flawed.

I worked for a Manager who once told me that I needed to remember the 6P’s and an R.  I inquired what he was referring to.  He informed me that it simply meant, “piss poor planning produces piss poor results”.  Again, it all goes back to planning and organization.

As leaders, we are expected to do be all, do all, and produce all, with less.  We don’t have all the answers, even though frequently our ego’s tell us that we do.  Prior to creating a plan, why not ask more questions about execution.  Challenge people to shoot holes in the plan before the plan is finalized.  Once a decision has been made, stay the course.  Don’t just plan the work, but work the plan.

Being an effective leader includes creating an effective vision.  Teams need to understand what the goal is.  In sports, the goal is to win the game, win a conference, win a championship.  Chunk down those goals into smaller more achievable milestones and allow for course changes based upon the evaluation of new information.  Include those milestone evaluations into the creation of the plan and continue to ask those self reflective questions to ensure your plan is being executed correctly and that the team is still on board with the vision.

It’s not about getting to the destination, its about the journey and the experience learned along the road.  Remember, don’t just plan the work, but work the plan.

Plan for tomorrow.  Execute today.  Evaluate progress frequently.

Feeling Starbuckian

I have today off as a result of President’s Day, but those that know me, know that I rarely take any time off.  So, I decided to clear my mind before working today at a local Starbucks.  Today, I am in a people watching mood.

Sitting at the table next to me, is a gentleman who is very engrossed in his laptop.  Not sure if he is working on a spreadsheet, or a PowerPoint presentation, but I don’t believe his eyes have crossed the horizon at the top of his glasses.  I am thinking that he is working on a presentation by the appearance of his brown sport coat and tan shirt, he just looks like a salesperson.

Against the wall are two guys sitting at a small round table with their laptops back to back across from each other as if they were playing a game.  I am waiting for one of them to jump up and yell, “You sunk my Battleship!”  They are appear to be having a strategy discussion as they appear very relaxed, but very focused.  Their conversation seems to related to a business they are in as one of the gentlemen is making emphatic gestures with his hands to make sure his friend understands his point.  Now they are both speaking with their hands.  It’s like watching a puppet show.

There are two younger females across the room.  These two are catching up on things.  Their busy schedules haven’t allowed them to spend much time talking about their personal life and get advice from one another. 

There is a Dad with his very young daughter, I would say no more than two or three years old.  The daughter is just excited to be able to spend time Daddy-Daughter time and the Dad seems very interested in all of the little girls questions and antics.

Then, my favorite person in Starbucks this morning is the Difference maker.  This guy is strategically positioned in the corner of the store where he can observe all that is going on.  He has the appearance of a musician or songwriter that is trying to make the next big hit.  He is completely focused with his coffee and his water on his table while composing his thoughts.

Why am I writing about this, every now and then it is important to take the time to observe what is going on around you.  It is important that even as adults, you take time to just have a brain download.  Be creative with your thoughts as you did when you were a child and let your imagination go wild.

I have no clue if the descriptions of these people are even close to being accurate, but I am taking the time to let my imagination wander and having a mental defrag while I enjoy my Starbuckian Moment.

Happy President’s Day!

Progress, not perfection

Progress, not perfection.

This is a statement that I have learned over the last few years when in coaching and development situations.  I first heard this statement from a good friend that is in an AA program, and it is one that I have been able to transfer to coaching and development.

In my contact center, I have several front line representatives that are very hard on themselves for making an error.  They expressed to me that in other positions, errors were not acceptable and that they could lose their jobs for making mistakes.  My immediate question back to them was, what did you learn from that previous negative experience.  Typically their response was that they needed to slow down and make sure their work was correct the first time.  Interesting.  Slow down and make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. 

What I didn’t hear from that interaction was that representative was never coached and developed.  How much effort would it have taken for the supervisor to spend an extra couple of minutes and have a conversation with that employee about their thought process, or what they were looking at when the error occurred.  Getting employee feedback as to the why an error occurred is more important than the error itself.  By doing so, it can lead to identification of process improvements, training gaps, or system enhancements.  At the human level, it can demonstrate to the employee that leadership really does care about them as individuals, not just numbers.

Whenever coaching a manager, supervisor, or front line agent, focus on root cause of the error.  The thought process leading up to the error is more important than the error itself.  Progress, not perfection means to me that errors and mistakes are going to occur.  What is more important though is what an individual learns from the error, and how the individual and organization can develop from the mistake.

Baseball is the best analogy for not being perfect.  What other profession can you be successful 30% of the time and have a 20+ year career and reach your professions Hall of Fame. 

Next time you find yourself with a teachable moment, take the time to remind the person that your expectation is that they are progressing forward, not backward as a trend.  Force them to critically think about what they are doing.  If you do so, you will have a much more engaged organization.

Have a great weekend!

Be the Difference!

What if?

In Garth Brooks song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” he says, “Tell that someone that you love, just what your thinking of, if tomorrow never comes.”

This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, both personally and professionally.

What if your business plans had to take an unexpected turn?
What if people that you expected to see each day, were no longer there?
What if skills you took for granted today, did not exist tomorrow?

Is the future of those around you secure?  Have you made sure that those that need to have the answers, actually have them?

I know I have asked a lot of questions, however, are you setting your legacy up properly?

I had the privilege of having a phenomenal leader work with me several years ago who made sure her legacy was a positive one.  She worked hard for her team on a daily basis.  I asked her one time why she put so much effort into what she did.  She replied that at the end of the day, it did not matter what she personally accomplished, but rather that when someone uttered her name many years in the future, that there would be positive thoughts associated with her name.  I can say that all who came in contact with her had both personal and professional respect for her.

Recently there have been several people who I knew personally and professionally that have passed away.  I regret that I did not get to know them better than what I did, because they truly left a positive legacy associated with their name.

As a leader, how are you going to be remembered?  Are your employees going to remember you as someone you genuinely cared about them, or someone that was more focused on achieving a number?  Make sure you have proper lines of communication in place to so that your organization can continue in your absence, or the absence of others.

Take time tonight, tomorrow, this week, next week, and as often as you can and tell people around you that you truly care about them.  I guarantee that it will have as much an uplifting effect on you, as it will on others.

Teachable Moments

Everyday has its teachable moments, it is up to each person as an individual as to whether or not they choose to take advantage of those moments.

In education, it is expected that teachers and administrators are always providing those teachable moments for their students.  In the workplace it is expected that supervisors are always providing those teachable moments.  In sports, it is expected that coaches are providing those teachable moments.  Unfortunately, in all of these scenarios, those teachable moments do not always occur.

The question I pose is why are those teachable moments not acted upon.  There are a myriad of reasons as to why they don’t, in my opinion, but at the end of the day it comes down to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).

I have had the privilege of being associated with individuals that thought less about the WIIFM, and more about the impact of not taking advantage of a teachable moment.  As a student, in retrospect, I learned the importance of creating a baseline for future learning.  As a youth sports coach, I learned the importance of setting a high bar, and to focus on fundamentals.  As a rising leader, I learned the importance of controlling what I could control, and not put as much effort into negativity in the workplace.  The important aspect of teachable moments is for leaders to be open to these moments, either as a learner or as a teacher.

If you expect excellence from those around you, you need to demonstrate what excellence looks like.  Take the moments, personally and professionally to not expect A+ efforts, but give people insight as to what A+ effort looks like.  What’s in it for you?  A stronger organization, a better way forward, buy in to the vision, commitment.

I saw a great teachable moment by a group of law enforcement officers having lunch together.  Two younger officers were giggling and making comments about a very overweight officer from another department.  The older officer that was with them told them to knock it off and presumably that their behavior was inappropriate.  You could tell that the older officer was very direct as the giggling ceased immediately.  This example is where an experienced professional took advantage of a teachable moment, and hopefully the younger officers will remember their experiences.

Take advantage of teachable moments every chance they arise.  You never know when one of these moments will be life changing for you.  I have had several of these and each one of these A-ha moments has been more valuable than the last

Have a great week!