Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Keeping the rocks out of the river...

When you were a kid during a rain storm, did you ever make a dam with rocks.  It always slowed up the water.  It caused it to pool behind the rocks, but it never stopped the water.  It just slowed it down.

Living life is oftentimes as simple as that, keeping rocks out of the river.

It is avoiding the mistakes in life that derail you.

Some of the most common mistakes we make personally are things like:
  • too little sleep
  • bad diet
  • lying, cheating, stealing
  • laziness
  • not thinking in advance of the consequences
Make these mistakes and you will be unproductive, sick, get fired, and cause harm to you or others.

I used to have a guy that worked for me.  He was incredible.  Great motivator.  Dedicated.  Passionate.  Hard worker.  He did amazing things.  He would kill himself working.  He wouldn't take the time to eat right.  He wouldn't get good rest.  And as you would imagine, he would be out sick for a few days quite often.

I would tell him, I don't need you to kill yourself for me.  Pace yourself.  Live a balanced life.  You might not get the incredible highs of manic work.  But you also won't experience the lows of sickness, missed work.  Not to mention the toll it would take on his family.

What I would always say is, "You want your employees to WANT to have your job."  In his case, NO ONE wanted his job because everyone assumed that is how much you had to work to be successful.

It is the same thing personally as at work.  How many companies have you gone into and something they did negatively turned you off from frequenting their business again.  Perhaps the floors weren't clean.  Maybe they didn't get your order right.

But today, we expect/demand a certain standard of excellence.

So for me, that was what I felt my job was.  I had to keep the rocks out of the river.  I had to make certain that the complaints that we got were fixed.  Not just then, but systematically fixed so that it would not happen again.

Perhaps it was a sales territory that did not grow.  Or maybe it was damages of products to a certain territory.  Once we were getting a bunch of complaints from San Diego.  Come to find out, a driver working for one of our trucking companies was not showing up on time.  And the customer blamed us!  But ultimately it was a reflection on us that we had to fix.

I felt we did not have to be the greatest, fastest, most innovative company.  But we needed to have excellence to the clients every day.

By keeping the rocks out of the river, personally and professionally, you will live a more balanced satisfying life.  What are the rocks in your river that are keeping you from doing YOUR best?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts from one of my old favorites...

Frank Pacetta was a Xerox sales person.  He was very successful.  The company moved him to Cleveland, the companies worst region in the country.  He took over an office that was dead last in sales in the country, and yet none of the sales people were on any formal disciplinary process.

The office that Frank came from was one of the top performing offices in the country and 1/3 of the sales people were on a formal disciplinary review process!

At the time that I read this from the book, Don't Fire 'em, Fire them up, I was in charge of lots of sales people.  We were growing, but not nearly like we could.  It was obvious that I was NOT holding a high standard.  And I was NOT letting those who were under-performing even my low standard know where they stood.

After reading this book, I began shooting higher.  And I began having very frank and honest conversations with my people about what I thought they should be doing.  It was ALWAYS difficult to look someone in the eye and give them bad news about their performance.

The most amazing thing about these conversations was how affected the people.  They didn't like to hear what I had to say.  But it gave them a choice.  They could either improve and keep their job.  Or they could continue as they were and likely get terminated. 

I learned that many of these under-performers actually did reach the new higher standard that I set for them.  Perhaps on their own, they would not have pushed so hard.  But with me as their coach, they did more than they would on their own. 

And of course, there were plenty of conversations that happened that did not change the performance.  They ended up leaving the company.  But in most of those cases, they were not fired.  They realized my expectations.  They realized my time frame.  If they knew they were not going to reach the target, they ended up leaving on their own.

No one wants to get fired.  This allowed them to leave with dignity on their own terms. 

Set high standards.  Coach to that standard.  Have courage to have the hard conversations with those that are not hitting your standard. 

Guess who will thank you?  Your top performers!  They want everyone held to a high standard. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Activities verses Results

Everyone wants to win the game!  There is very few people, if any, that look into the mirror before they go off to work and say "I want to be mediocre today."  No, most people WANT to succeed, they want to win.

The challenge is most people focus most of their time on the prize and not upon the road to the prize.

I want to be rich!  OK, what are the steps you need to take to begin that accomplishment.  It will probably take some education.  It will likely take altering your spending habits.  It will require you to get up early in the morning and devote a large amount of hours each week to your work for many years.

But that is exactly where most people call "foul".

I want to be rich.  But I also want to wear nice clothes.  I want to have the fancy cell phone.  I want to drive a new car.  I like to wake up at 10 AM.  And I really don't want to work more than 40 hours a week.

Guess what, you are on the road to poverty, not riches.

Set a goal for yourself, yes.  But make sure that you focus on the right activities every day to accomplish that goal or it is just a dream.

Then there are leaders.  There are two types of leaders... (reminds me of the joke, there are two kinds of people, those who agree with me and those who are wrong!), those who spend their time focused on results for their people.  How much did you sell today?  Did you get this project done today?

And there are those leaders that keep focused on activities.  What were your activities today?  You didn't hit your goal, tell me what steps you took to accomplish it?

Most people want to believe that they are leaders.  They think they are the 1% who are self motivated, self-starters.  Obviously, that is not true.  So most everyone of us need a coach!  Ideally your coach will talk about the fundamentals of your job.  How you should do each activity, which activities you should engage in.

If this coach will have you focused on the right activities each day, then ultimately, if you actually do the activities, the success or failure will be on your leader's shoulders.

At Mirabella, our Regional Managers each have goals for how much their individual distributors sell.  I could beat them up each day to make certain they sold something today.  Or I could train them that to be successful at this job, you need to visit 3-5 distributor stores and 3-5 existing salons each week.  You need to make sure that 4 weeks in advance, you have scheduled these visits.

The RM says, I am going to be in Kansas City in 4 weeks.  I will call my existing salons and stores to let them know I am coming.  I will also try to visit with the top sales people for the distributor while I am there as well to maximize my time.

We have determined if they do these activities they will touch all of their stores and salons regularly.  Our brand will remain in the top of the mind of these salons and stores, therefore our brand will continue to sell through for them.

At the end of the year, did you hit your goal?  Yes... great.  If the answer is no, did you visit the stores and salons regularly like we prescribed?  If they did and didn't get the results, I am going to travel with them and watch them make those visits.  If they are not having results it is because the activities I asked them to do, they are not doing well!

Great Activities get Great Results!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are you successful because you were born on the right day?

Have you read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell?  You should!  Not only is Malcolm an incredible writer, but what he writes about is amazing. 

In this book, he talks about why people are successful.  One of the surprising research he found was about Canadian born NHL Hockey players.  A huge majority of the hockey players were born in January, February, and March.

Hmm, why would it matter when you were born to make it in Hockey? 

The cut off for pee wee hockey in Canada is January 1.  Kids start playing hockey at 4 and 5 years old.  At that age, kids that are born in January verses born in December are significantly older.  Therefore, these kids are generally a little bigger, a little faster, a little more developed. 

So guess what?  The kids born closer to the cut off get picked for all-star teams.  Therefore, they get better coaching, more attention.  And eventually all this extra attention translates into better success.

Better success means that statistically, Professional Hockey players are born earlier in the year!

So what, you might say.  Well the amazing thing from the book is that this extra attention, extra coaching means greater success. 

In fact they have quantified it to 10,000 hours.  If I spend 10,000 hours or 5 years, 40 hours a week I will be significantly better than you at most things!  Gifting, talent is based more on hard work than God given abilities. 

I am not discounting God given abilities.  A funny phrase people use in judging talent in basketball is you cannot teach size!  My son plays basketball.  He is quite good for a high school player.  But he is 5' 8".  There are not a lot of college basketball programs that are calling recruiting.  

But what about your work?  Have you been at your job for 5 years or more?  You are likely an expert at what you do.  You are likely an expert in your industry.


I have been running Mirabella for the past 2 years.  What a fun and amazing challenge to build a brand!  How exciting to learn how production works, how interesting to learn about marketing and PR.

But am I an expert?  No way!  I spent my whole life running a hair care distributorship.  I know how to do that.  I am good at that.

So if you decide to take your success from one field to another, expect it to take time, like 10,000 hours! 

In the salon industry, stylists would get going as a stylist, then after a few years, get burned out.  They would then move to some other occupation like real estate or dental hygiene.  No surprise, it didn't work out and they were back behind the chair.

Focus on what you are doing.  Become an expert at what you are doing.  Devote 10,000 hours to what you are doing.  And you will likely find your path to success!