Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I've learned that motivating a group over a long period of time takes a variety of actions.

In the workplace, some people will be motivated by internal competition while others pledge that "we're all in this together" and the only competition is outside of our company. Sellers tend to fall into the prior group while shipping and receiving personnel tend to fall into that latter.

Similarly, some people prefer group recognition, while others prefer individual recognition. Some prefer a very valuable prize (gift card or vacation) for a single recipient, while others prefer a nominal prize for all (pizza party). Some people appreciate a logo'd apparel item while others don't want to be a walking advertisement for the company.

The solution is to try a variety of actions over a period of time. That increases the chances of motivating everyone. It also prevents recognition activities from fading into entitlements.

By the way, a simple and sincere "Thank you" is still appreciated by everyone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your Company's Culture is Built Upon Its Lore

I've learned that a company's culture is based upon its lore. It's lore is the retelling of the times when the rules were bent to do the right thing.

Here's an example. I once inherited a small group of associates, one of whom was a "temp" who had been there for several years. Temporary personel don't receive health benefits, they don't get paid for holidays and they aren't accumulating a pension. Therefore, both parties should expect it to be a short term assignment. If the assignment lasts for years, then a situation is created where a group of people, "the temps", are compensated less equitably than their peers.

Soon after taking the assignment, I told my "temp" that I expected to gain some efficiencies by making several process improvements, and that within 3-6 months I would no longer need her services. When the time came to let her go, I did something unheard of. I gave her two weeks of severence pay. Not only that, I let the other associates know that I was trying to do the right thing by compensating a multi-year associate with a reasonable severance package.

By bending the rules in that manner, I created a story that was told for many years. I had added to the company's lore, which fed the culture that this is a company that cares about their people.

The moral of the story is that a company's culture is based upon the lore that is created when the rules are bent or broken. If a company's culture is to change, it must break some established rules.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Okay, What Shall We Do Next?

I've learned from Nido Qubein that ”Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.

I believe that is true in all aspects of my life. As I try to live in the moment, I try not to languish in the moment. I'm aware of all of the good in my life, and I'm planning for what's next. It's not a matter of wanting more. It's knowing what I want, then pursuing it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Optimism, Perseverance and Pursuing One's Dreams

I've learned that Teddy Roosevelt had a way with words when speaking of optimism, perseverance and pursuing one's dreams.

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." -- Theodore Roosevelt

That's a quote that I need to memorize!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unrecognized Risk of Cell Phone Usage

I've learned research is showing that using a cell phone while driving is a greater distraction than drivers perceive. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of vehicular crashes, or 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year.

“Our nation has reached a point where we estimate more than 100 million people are engaging in this dangerous behavior daily,” NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher said, adding that the issue is not the type of phone a driver uses, rather it is the distraction caused by the conversation. “Hands-free devices do not make cell phones any safer. Several studies indicate that the principle risk is the cognitive distraction. Studies also show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four-times greater crash risk.” 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Motivating People

I've learned that it takes a diverse set of actions to motivate a diverse group of people. I've also learned that an action repeated too frequently can lose its effect and morph into an entitlement. So one must try a variety of actions.

Here is a wide variety of ideas that may cover the spectrum of a diverse workforce.

  1. A hand written thank you note. I keep a few in my desk at all times.
  2. A private or public verbal “Thank you”.
  3. A strong well communicated vision which is in alignment with one’s actions.
  4. Prompt proactive communication, especially in times of turmoil.
  5. Communicating in a variety of formats: bulletin boards, meetings, e-mails, mailings, etc.
  6. Opportunities to bring family to the office: “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”, holiday parties, retirement parties, first aid training.
  7. Big prizes such as a vacation for the top producer of the year.
  8. Small prizes such as T-shirts, gift cards, coffee mugs, and paid time off.
  9. Learning each person’s strengths and interests, and creating opportunities for development.
  10. Creating opportunities to advance in a career.
  11. Deal with unsatisfactory performers promptly and fairly.
  12. Create a safe work environment. “Safe” means the prevention of injury, but it also means the prevention of retaliation. It should be safe for people to present a contrarian point of view to leadership.
  13. Care about your co-workers and demonstrate it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

People want to help

I've learned that people want to help. They may decline a request because they do not have the resources at that moment, but often that only increases their desire to do so. 

I don't have much experience with asking for money. But I've had a lot of experience with asking for an hour of time.

The request might be for business networking. Or it might be for assistance with moving a heavy piece of furniture to another room. Whatever it is, ask. People want to help.

When running a business, it's how business relations are made. When moving to a new town, it's how friends are made.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Personal Growth

I've learned that personal growth is greatest in times of crisis, not it times of ease.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maintain a Networking List

When networking professionally, keep a mental list or a written list of people to whom you would like to get introduced. Then when you are speaking with someone, ask for help in getting an introduction to anyone on your list. You never know who they know until you ask.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Maya Angelou Quotation

"You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better." - Maya Angelou

I found these words to be consoling and, at the same time, inspiring. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

Showing Your Customers How You Can Reduce Costs

I liked this article.

Town Hall for Hope

I attended the Dave Ramsey Town Hall for Hope webcast last night. It was worth watching, and I think it will become available on line at http://www.townhallforhope.com/ .

Dave is a good speaker, and I took away several clever phrases and metaphors such as:

  1. He introduced an extended part of his presentation by saying "Let's begin to unpack this.". It created the image of delving into something, together with the audience, one piece at a time.
  2. When telling a story about talking to the president in the Oval Office, in bring the listeners emotionally along with him, he said "Walk into the Oval Office with me....".
  3. He made the point that without the possibility of failure, there is no motivation to excel. Failure causes suffering. Suffering leads to perseverance. Perseverance leads to success.

Yes, foreclosures are up. But only five states (MI, CA, NV, AR and FL) account for 50+% of foreclosures. 35 counties account for 50+% of foreclosures. So, while foreclosures are up everywhere, the severity is very localized. And homes are a bargain in those places.

His core message was to stop getting caught up in the hysteria. That's only making it worse. We don't need government to bail us out. It will be the American people that will turn this around. For example, we need to not buy things that we can't afford. And we need to have a can-do attitude about customer service.

He wrapped it up by asking people to do these three things if they are struggling with hope.

  1. Do something. Be active. Get up. Get moving. Build a sweat. It's good for you.
  2. Don't participate in loser talk. It will only bring you down.
  3. Learn to give again. Give your time or your money. Serve other people.

That's what it was all about. If you get the opportunity to watch it on line, it's worth watching. If nothing else, you will be sure to laugh at some of his stories. And laughter is always a good thing.

Smile. God's watching you.