Friday, May 27, 2011

Life/Work Lessons From The Front Line

A colleague recently shared some remarks made by a career soldier:

1. Remember, if the enemy is in range, then you are too.
2. All cover is temporary.
3. Above all, remember your mission.
4. When in battle, soldiers are less focused on winning for the country than fighting for their buddy/team.

These simple statements hold profound truths that apply to our work - and our personal lives.

1. The closer you get to engaging any activity, the chances of danger/failure goes up. Talking about taking action is risk-free because you aren't really doing anything other than talking. Of course, you gain nothing as well. Real living requires stepping forward and confronting the challenge. Remembering that those situations can "bite back" is critical. Choose wisely.

2. When colleagues/friends offer help, they expect it will be for a specific window of time. No one wants to be left hanging or obligated for long-term support when it should only be a temporary situation. To make the best use of their support - and not wear out your welcome - plan, coordinate and execute accordingly.

3. Life and work are full of distractions. It's easy to get focused on the many micro details and lose track of the macro big picture of why we're doing what we're doing. Reminding ourselves of our ultimate purpose/goal is critical in making the most of our time and resources. It's all about priorities.

4. Workers that are part of an organization aren't necessarily loyal to the company - they are more connected with the people they work closely with inside the company. Anyone who wants to create a culture of loyalty must create an environment that is conducive to people engaging each other at the team level.

As you enjoy this holiday weekend, consider the value these insights provide and thank a veteran for keeping us safe/secure enough to be able to focus on life and career.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Improve With The Right Questions

In the interest of continuous improvement, most people try to engage their customers to discover ways they can improve their experience. Worthy intent, for sure - but most go about this the wrong way.

Typically, well-meaning questions like "How can we improve your experience?" don't get the answers we can easily use. The reason? The customers a.) can't effectively articulate a specific answer to such a broad question and/or b.) they aren't motivated to spend the time/effort to help you improve your operation.

The solution? Ask better questions - such as "Was there anything about your experience that frustrated or disappointed you?" This type of question specifically targets what you want to know: how to improve their experience - by minimizing the obstacles that undermine it being the best it can be. In addition, even those who are upset about having an unsatisfactory experience will take advantage of the opportunity to discuss what disappointed them. Either way, you win because:

  1. you can provide service recovery immediately to those making the suggestions to help make them happier

  2. you can improve with tactical information you can implement

  3. future customers will benefit from the actual improvement
Sometimes, breakthroughs are hidden in subtleties - such as what questions you ask...and acting on the (better) answers you receive.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Create a Win-Win-WIN!

Many of us have heard the phrase "Make it a Win-Win". Simply said, it means "don't agree to anything with someone unless it benefits you both." This approach supports a fair, healthy long-term interactive relationship - as opposed to a one-time only transaction. It's a good place to start, but not the most effective approach to optimizing your relationships. What is even better?

Creating a Win-Win-WIN!

Not only should you focus on benefiting you and your direct business collaborator, but also consider how the ultimate "customers" benefit - your customer, the collaborator's customer, the cause you are working towards, etc. If you both are fully committed to ensuring that ALL people benefit as the agreement radiates out, then you can be sure that it will likely grow/build momentum rather than be a one-time deal. The ultimate goal in business (and in Life!) is to create something of value that is both sustainable and develops perpetual motion (a "life of it's own") that continues adding value to everyone involved.

That's a legacy worth working for.

So...what are you doing that is different and better - for not just you and your immediate colleagues, but for all the "customers" you exist to serve? Create a compelling reason for people to prefer you and your product/services (by adding superior value in exchange for their money, time, and effort) and they will become loyal to you...and want to participate in "spreading the gospel" of your shared cause.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Word "No" Is Your Friend

Colleague Jerry Weintraud once said "Every minute doing one thing is a minute NOT doing something else. Every choice is another choice not made." These two sentences hold a profound truth that we should all apply to our lives.

Most of us say that we have too many responsibilities - too many urgent items on our "to do" list. An overwhelming professional workload that seems impossible to balance with our overwhelming personal workload.

Sound familiar?

Usually, the root problem lies in saying "yes" to the wrong things. As leaders/role models we want to be action-oriented "make it happen" people who take on challenges and get results. Examining the most successful people, we find a counter-intuitive situation: They get more accomplished by saying "no"!

Yes. Saying "no" to the less important tasks (as urgent as they may be) frees up time to invest in the more important tasks.

Clearly identifying your priorities (Values, Vision, etc.) and measuring every request with the questions: "Will this task play a significant role in getting me to my most important goals?" helps spotlight what to start saying "no" to.

Here's an activity I did often with my executives at Disney: Imagine having an 8th day a week - what would you do? (Many responded with "Spend more time with family", "Work out", "Do more strategic planning", "Develop myself & my team", etc.) Then we would do an activity where they prioritize their responsibilities from top most important (not simply urgent) to least important. They were then tasked with delegating or deleting the bottom 15% of their list. THAT became their "extra day of the week". [Trumpets sounded, a shaft of light comes down from the sky onto them, they tingle all over...well, you know what I mean...] They were then guided to filling in that new found time with the wish list they generated earlier.

Try this exercise yourself and start saying "no" to the less important things that steal precious time from you accomplishing your very best.

Think about it. But more importantly, do something about!