Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Daily Read

Brazen Careerist Brazen Career Lessons from Breaking Bad One of the best written shows on television has two shows left.  No one condones Walt’s business, but no one can say that Heisenberg is a bad businessman.  Kelly Gurnett has five Heisenberg qualities that we can all apply to our daily work.  Quality heads the list for a reason:  Without quality output, the rest are not attainable.  

Seth Godin Unreasonable Clients “Who gets your best work?”  We have all worked for the client from hell, who assumes servitude (as opposed to service) is what they bought.  As a one off, it’s workable and also helps to showcase the talents of the team handling that client.  But what do you do about the perennial problem client.  As a 24 year old suddenly thrust into a branch management position, I found myself servicing a problem client who paid far below local minimums and we could not support the position.  We resigned the contract and helped them find a comparable provider, amid the usual “We’ll ruin you” threats.  We refocused on our core clients and restored branch quality and performance.  The problem client?  Two years later we signed a new contract with them at a reasonable rate so that no one lost money, time, or sleep.  My takeway from that almost 30 years ago: You’re assessing the client’s quality at the same time they are assessing your quality as a provider.  Don’t be afraid to NOT bid on bad work, but when you do, bid accurately and wisely.

 

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The Daily Read

Great Leadership The Virtues of New Perspectives Have you ever driven home using a slightly different route and all of a sudden notice something you had never seen before?  Have you ever been frustrated by something, only to put it to the side and then magically have the solution spontaneously occur to you?  Have you ever wished that the shower had waterproof pencils and paper to record all your inspirations?  Beth Armknecht Miller has some real time suggestions to refocus your perspectives.  My big takeway was to refocus and look for the new opportunities that were right in front of you all the time.

Leadership Freak How to Become a Leader Before You Are One Leadership opportunities are available in many places, and the leaders of the future, not even knowing they are leaders, tend to gravitate toward those opportunities.  Dan Rockwell suggests volunteerism as a place to start.  Volunteering at the local church or organization lets you practice your skills and also gives you a great level of satisfaction to see your contributions come to life right in front of you.

 

The Daily Read

Seth Godin The Truth About the War for Talent Seth takes the search for the ideal candidate to one word: Attitude.  “An organization filled with honest, motivated, connected, eager, learning, experimenting, ethical and driven people will always defeat the one that merely has talent. Every time.”  I’ve worked at places that never found this, places that never lost it, and places that discarded it along the way.  Where do you work?

Leadership Freak How to Rise Above I’ll do it Myself I remember how my children insisted on “I do myself” and those first steps toward independence.  It’s a great moment for parent and child.  When you’re the team leader though, do it myself is not always the correct strategy.  Sure, you know you’ll do just the job you want, but how do you allow others to stretch their own abilities and rise to their own challenges?  Let them “do myself” and coach the results.

 

Process and Management in Local Government

I love local politics in my town.  By that I mean that I love to stay away from local politics in my town.  But it also has the same rubbernecking attraction that the accident in the opposite lane does.  So I look and watch and I remain thankful that I have not been drawn to be elected to any office. 

In our small town, there’s eight borough council members and a mayor.  I know four of them personally and are acquainted with two more.  I don’t agree with all they say or do, but they are intelligent and competent and I am more than OK with them being in their positions.  I want to emphasize that point.  These observations are not a direct personal attack on any single person or another.  It’s one person’s look at how the body works as a whole.

The problem is when they all get together for meetings.  All of a sudden, their collective IQ plunges into nearly negative numbers and they are unable to accomplish the simplest of tasks.  I caught about the last two thirds of last nights council meeting and I found myself reflecting on how the lack of process makes things worse. 

The first admission I noted was pretty mundane.  There was a joint school board-borough council meeting a few weeks ago.  The school board committee reps showed up but the borough council reps were a no show.  The official cause was that the school board secretary had not sent out reminder emails to the council members.  Any large committee has various subcommittees and your membership on these subcommittees is not always voluntary or enjoyed.  You can feel like you’re pulled in multiple directions.  Add in the kids, the house, the spouse, the daytime (i.e. my paycheck!) job, and it gets daunting.  The project manager in me knows that reminder emails are an effective tool, but it’s still the responsibility of all of the parties to maintain their own schedule.  Admitting that the school board secretary runs the borough council reminder system suggests that it’s time for the borough to upgrade to Outlook 2007.  At least.

The second point was when the borough solicitor’s answer to two very important questions was very accurate and very unhelpful.  In the borough code, the mayor has ten days to veto ordinances passed by the council.  She vetoed a recent ordinance on day 11.  Case closed, this is a null veto.  Cue the first  “I don’t know.”  Hold on…when did the mayor get the ordinance?   “I don’t know” was the solicitor’s answer again, and that info helps me answer the null veto question.  Really?  In two hundred years of local government here, no one logs in details like this?  In a small town where in person door to door delivery of regular information packets is the standard, no one keeps track?  The recipient doesn’t have to sign a receipt?  When the details start to control the project, it’s time to step back and reassess your processes.  These two points alone leave the public shaking their heads in collective wonderment as they watch.  

As we speak, there is an ongoing investigation into our local police department.  Because it’s an evolving situation, not all of the details are known and those most closely involved don’t comment.  Saying that, it’s clear that the mayor, by PA code, the police “commissioner”, and/or the appropriate council committee(s), did not fully exercise their oversight responsibilities over a period of time.  Here’s where the trolley starts to fully come off the rails.  

Civilian elected official oversight of appointed officials and their functions is a basic responsibility of every elected body.  If the police department is not getting the attention it needs, people start to question where and how oversight is applied in other areas.  That leads to the audit process.  Periodically you need to take a look at your operation and decide if you’re meeting your own SOPs, in this case, the borough code.  Make sure to have an outside disinterested party perform the audit.  You never know what long buried axes are being ground right in front of you.  

The final point is shaping the message.  Every team member has to be reminded that THEY are the face of the group each time they interact with someone else.  The message you leave me with is typically how I will perceive the entire group.  I would challenge each group to stand back for a moment and think about how they portray themselves individually and how they are perceived as a whole.  Day by day solid performance by any group can withstand a severe blow or two, but institutionalized ineffectiveness perpetuates and solidifies the message of incompetence.

The Daily Read

Tonight I’m gonna take that ride. Across the river to the Jersey side. Take my baby to the carnival. And I’ll take her on all the rides
‘Cause down the shore everything’s all right

Please keep the people of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights in your thoughts and prayers.Image

 

 

Seth Godin Edgecraft Instead of Brainstorming So when you brainstorm, you get to go as far as you can.  “No idea is off limits” you’re admonished.  “Interstellar aliens fix the problem” you wish you could say out loud.  Think again…while Mr Scott is not beaming anyone down, going to the edge might just fix a lot more than the problem you’ve already defined.  Are small incremental changes what you need or is that giant leap across the chasm just the prescription?  

Seth Godin Your Alphabet Seth part 2 today challenges us to reinvent with what we already have before we start seeking to accumulate more.  Have you already utilized everything you have to maximum?  Most times, I find that the untapped potential is not utilized until there’s a panic situation.  Imagine combine reorganizing your alphabet and taking it to the edge…

Leadership Freak My Favorite Mistake When I started my new job, my new boss counseled me day after day to be very mindful of the hardest part of my training–UNlearning what I already knew.  We all know she was right.  Learning didn’t stop the day they handed you your diploma, and those who recognize that are the ones who perform best.  Asking questions doesn’t make you a lesser person.  It gives you the ammunition to do your job better.

The Daily Read

Harvard Business Review Nice or Tough: Which Approach Engages Employees Most? A friend of mine is fond of reminding me that people don’t leave jobs.  They leave bosses.  I can’t argue with this as a general guiding principle.  When I think back over the bosses I’ve had, the ones who made the workplace enjoyable and challenged me are the ones I remember as the good examples.  Should you be tough or nice?  This article lays out the case that your answer to that question should be *Yes*.

Herding Cats A Critical Concept in All Discussions of Project Process Improvement Living in a cube farm sometimes removes you from the perspective of the corner office.  You do the work as assigned and move on.  But the view of what *Done!* looks like to you and your various layers of upper supervision are different.  That difference is cost.

Lead Change Group How Important is Employee Satisfaction? Everyone wants to be working at a happy workplace with a successful career trajectory. We all know that the employee has all the responsibility to make this happen, right?  Negative employees make a negative workplace, so cheer up, buddy.  Well, hold on there, because the management also has a key role in making a *good* workplace and just like everything else, its a team effort.  Motivated bosses make motivated employees–and vice versa.  With that successful partnership, it’s time for the next step–making the *good* into *great*.

The Daily Read

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“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Benjamin Franklin 

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”  Thomas Paine

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Marc and Angel Hack Life 7 Miserable Choices You Make Too Often This is one to spend a few moments with and to really reflect on.  We all do all seven of these things at one time or another.  Once you start, do you stop?  Trust me, if you don’t learn how to let go, you will be shown how to and you may not like the lessons or the teacher.

Let’s grow Leaders 5 Reasons to Close Your Open Door You’re in the groove and you’re on schedule.  You’re getting that work done.  And then someone asks, “Do you have a minute?”  Of course you do, but the groove is lost, maybe never to be recovered.  In the typical cube farm, even the doors don’t exist anymore, but the concept is very real and very necessary.  Karin Hurt brings us some insight and a new phrase I will be using: I have an Open Door with Hinges policy.