entertainment, sports

VGK Draft Week Excitement

I’ve heard a lot of “stuff” about our pro hockey team – our first major league team, thank you Bill Foley – in the last months. Things locals didn’t like about the name, logo, etc. But I hope we can all appreciate what they did this past week and the time leading up to it.

DRAFT

They hired a boatload of scouts, who worked for a year to get ready for a whirlwind few days. And it appears they did a great job. They were professional, drafted players with character, and found a balance of skills and experience.

Players I spoke with (see below) seemed impressed with the process.

SOCIAL MEDIA

This one is getting national attention. VGK has done an amazing job of building a social profile, their engagement levels are super high (see below, did a great job engaging with fans this past week utilizing the new players) and they have generated significant followings. For example, they added 10,000 twitter followers just in the last week. Now that they have players, and soon when they have a mascot and a dance/ice crew they will have even more engagement opportunities.

PLANNING/PROACTIVE

One of the themes I’ve heard people critique the team for is being reactive versus proactive. But there has been a lot to do in a short time so I think that will take care of itself over time. But this past week, marketed as a “VGK Takeover Week: was well planned, even having to coordinate a large-scale event with the NHL (the combined awards show and draft) and having their entire hockey staff totally hut-of-pocket and then out of town for the entry draft. They were so prepared, that the day after the expansion draft, several players were doing local engagement events (throwing out first pitch, doing youth street hockey clinic, and social engagement activities. I was lucky enough to have dinner with a few of those players, and they couldn’t believe how well planned the time was, and that it wasn’t like anything they had seen before.

RETAIL

They got the team store completed on time, and it looks fabulous and has some great gear. Particularly given the tough circumstance of everyone getting new jerseys from a new provider. Even before this week, I have been impressed about how much gear I see us wearing around town, developing pride with every shirt, hat or car sticker!

SCHEDULE

Having the schedule out is important in a couple of ways. First, the team can now start selling single game tickets and other packages. Second, we saw an instant reaction from out-of-town visitors looking for tickets, rooms, etc. for the times their teams are visiting Las Vegas. I think we have all underestimated the amount of demand there will be for Las Vegas games from tourists traveling to see their team.

In my opinion, the week couldn’t have really gone any better. Hopefully this will just be a launching point for exponential growth in excitement. There is still so much for the team to do (and for all of us to do) in the next 90 days to ensure an awesome first preseason game. But we’ve got some great momentum from this past week.

family, leadership, personal

Joint post from Rick and Joyce – Love Languages

Do you know your love language? If you haven’t heard of the five love languages, see here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ As I’ve discussed with my team at work, it is also a great way to talk about recognition and appreciation in the workplace (understanding that some modifications are needed, like “touch” takes on a different meaning).

We know ours. Joyce likes physical touch, followed by words of affirmation. She couldn’t find a category for “stare at me uncomfortably for several minutes while I smile and ham it up” so we will call that a form of touch…or it could be part of quality time, which is her third love language.

Rick’s is acts of service. If Joyce does a chore at home for me, I feel awesome. If someone at work goes above and beyond on a project, I celebrate that and have big thanks waiting for them. I also like gifts, something Joyce has adapted to – even surprising me (I’m very hard to surprise) with a framed picture of me and my Dad in advance of Father’s Day. She used to not even get me a card for holidays, so luckily I’ve apparently broken her of that by occasionally reminding her of my second love language.

Love languages can come in really handy. When Joyce goes too long without food, and starts to get “hangry” I know I can make her feel better by just holding her. Even though I might want do take out the trash because that would make ME feel better, that is the time to put the chores off for a few minutes and just hold and talk to Joyce.

Sometimes Rick gets too focused on tasks and getting things done, especially around the house (bad combination of anal retentive and OCD). Joyce can take immense weight off of him by chipping in and working on the chores with him. And it’s quality time together, which is Rick’s third love language. Words and touch aren’t his thing, but he is getting to like them more by engaging in those languages with Joyce.

Hopefully, you can improve relationships at home and in other areas of your life by exploring the five love languages.

leisure, personal

Restaurant Review – Other Mama

Other Mama is a Japanese/sushi restaurant near Desert Breeze Park (Durango and Twain, near one of my favorite sushi spots, Sen of Japan). It has been open for a couple of years under the direction of Chef Daniel Krohmer. It is one of several relatively new (post-recession-recovery) restaurants in the west/southwest part of town that are making this area somewhat of a mecca for quality cuisine off the Strip; see for example Pier 215, Andre’s Bistro, DW Bistro, Ohjah Noodle House, Komex Fusion. We have seen this trend in waves before in areas like Green Valley/Anthem and along Spring Mountain Road. I look forward to seeing how this one plays out also.

To summarize my review: I’ve heard and read so many good things about Other Mama that I had pretty high expectations. Other Mama met or exceeded all of them. A truly great dining experience.

Now let’s be clear, it’s not overly fancy – in food or décor. It definitely feels like a neighborhood place, but a hip neighborhood place, I felt vibes of Santa Monica or a place like that. We went with a group of six, and I think it’s definitely one of the new style restaurants that is better with a group so you can order more of the largely sharable dishes.

DRINKS:

Beverages are outstanding, with inventive cocktails like the Svetlana, made with horseradish vodka which I had never tried before. Typical beer and wine selection including sake. And a host of Japanese whiskeys which is always a positive.

FOOD:

Raw options were outstanding. The sashimi is very fresh, well presented. Oysters were lovely and were accompanied by unique sauces along with the traditional cocktail sauce and mignonette. Tuna tartare was very nice, served in a mason jar and waffle fries to spread it on. But the highlight for me was the ceviche, also served in a mason jar, alongside light tarot-type chips. Perfectly refreshing, a bit of spice, and mango for sweetness.

Other small dishes were also good. Chicken wings were flavorful and had the right “snap” to them. Chicken fried lobster was perfectly balanced, the light batter not overwhelming the quality lobster. The kimchi fried rice was outstanding, once you got the egg and poke belly properly mixed into the piping hot rice.

The highlight of the meal for me was the New York steak, served sliced with a miso hollandaise sauce on top and accompanied by more waffle fries. It was like a Japanese version of steak frites and it was sublime. The steak was incredibly tender, the fries the exact right thickness, the perfect amount of sauce.

DESSERT:

Japanese cheesecake was different, not sure I loved it but I liked it. Sort of dry and spongy. Then we had an amazing (literally the best brownie I’ve ever had I think) brownie with ice cream. Our final dessert was a scoop of “Miso Honey” ice cream – fantastic, plus the jokes about its name and a link to a certain rap song from the 1990s lasted well beyond the table that night. All of course were well accompanied by the Japanese whiskey.

I highly encourage you to get to Other Mama for a meal. I think you will find it very satisfying the level of quality a neighborhood restaurant can create.

fun, leisure

Strip photo 1991 – redux

Last time I posted this photo courtesy of @classiclasvegas. The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

strip 1991

My challenge to you was to find/list/share interesting things from the photo. Here are some things I found:

  • The old Dunes golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).
  • There are not one but two temporary outdoor arenas in this photo. The classic Caesars Palace arena where they did major boxing matches and tennis matches. But when The Mirage opened, Steve Wynn had the goal to take a big chunk of that business. The one at Caesars kept getting encroached on by new hotel towers (see next bullet) and larger pools and parking garages. The one at The Mirage got overrun by a bigger convention center.
  • Caesars Palace has evolved so much – even at this point it was much bigger than when it opened; but look at all that has happened since this photo:
    • No more Omnimax (do you remember the Omnimax???), now it’s the Colosseum;
    • I don’t see the Forum Shops in this photo.
    • The Augustus and Octavius towers were both built after this photo.
  • The MGM Grand is not yet a reality. You can see the Marina Hotel in the top left of the photo, which was retained as part of the MGM Grand (the West Wing), and behind that is the old Tropicana golf course. How ironic that after 26 years of development, and a theme park (oh my gosh, we had a real-life theme park in Las Vegas!!), we are back to using that land for golf, in a slightly different form as TopGolf.
  • Look at the median of Las Vegas Boulevard – there were a lot less lanes and much more “stuff” in the median.
  • On the far left you can see the Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts, now the AXIS at Planet Hollywood.
  • Farther south, no Luxor or Mandalay Bay yet.
  • Something is getting built near Harrah’s and the Imperial Palace (now Linq), I’m not sure what it is.

I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, but what a great way to realize how much Las Vegas has grown and adapted over time.

 

fun, personal, travel

Strip photo from 1991 – what do you see?

strip 1991I recently saw this photo on twitter, thanks to the amazing twitter account of @classiclasvegas. If you haven’t seen it, you should follow it on twitter. Especially if you’ve been in Las Vegas for any length of time. Always showing old photos of Strip resorts, does trivia, just a really great twitter account.

The photo is an aerial shot of the Strip, largely the west side of the Strip, from just north of The Mirage. Of course, the Mirage had just opened a couple of years earlier.

My challenge to you – find/list/share the things you find of interest in this photo. There are many obvious ones and some not so obvious. I’ll get you started with some easy ones:

  • There is a golf course where Bellagio, CityCenter, Monte Carlo and T-Mobile Arena are now. That’s the old Dunes golf course.
  • In the very bottom of the photo, there is just a parking lot for The Mirage, where TI (Treasure Island) stands now. I remember parking in that vast lot (which extended past the photo all the way to Spring Mountain Road).

What else do you see? There is so much more!!

family, personal

Three months

It’s been three months since my Dad passed away. I keep believing more and more what a saint he was. My Mom is really struggling, and is frankly hard to deal with – prefers being alone to being with people; hadn’t invested time in relationships with others so doesn’t really have a support system; is pretty stubborn. Which isn’t making it any easier to try to get her to move to Vegas and get the help she needs.

She doesn’t want anyone’s help normally, and she doesn’t think she needs any help now because her ailment isn’t outwardly physical. She probably wouldn’t want much help for a broken leg but would at least relent to a doctor’s care and an x-ray and a cast. Her brain isn’t telling her anything is wrong with itself (why would it) and she can’t remember that she can’t remember…

This has certainly given me the opportunity to self-reflect. It is funny (and not funny) seeing the traits I have that were passed down from her and reflecting on the traits were passed down from my Dad. I am not happy about this idea of not liking help, and I know I’ve suffered from it my whole life. “Letting go” and letting others do things and letting things just happen without being planned – these are not my comfortable places. But similar to some recent posts on leadership behaviors, I am encouraged by the fact that I’ve at least grown through my life; I don’t have to plan every trip anymore, I like surprise gifts, I rely on others to plan events that I used to do all by myself. Things like friends, Joyce, church all help calm me and give me perspective that is focused outwards.

Of course now I’m looking at someone who is going “backwards” in this phase of her life, and all I can seem to do is pray that doesn’t happen to me. My Dad seemed to get more sociable throughout his life, to the point where he was the glue in the neighborhood at the end. I’d like to experience that pattern, not the other way around. He was never the most willing to ask for help, but I saw him “let go” later in life, letting us and others do things for him.

Eventually, I’m going to need to figure out my Mom’s situation. I feel like I’ve not spent enough time mourning my Dad’s death in the last three months because I’ve used all that mental energy on trying to figure out my Mom. I’m hoping I can at least continue focusing on the good things about my Dad, as there were a lot. I want to learn from him: even though he’s not here to teach me anymore he has a lot of lessons to impart just from my memories.

I gave my mom the biggest hug ever this morning when I left to come home. It was more for me than her, she won’t remember it. But I was hoping to give her just a bit more energy and life, because you never know when things will turn around and that energy and life will come in handy. I read a great tweet the other day from Joel Osteen: “You may be facing situations that look like they’ll never change. You don’t see a way. Don’t worry. God has a way.”

business, leadership

Book review – MOVE

“MOVE” is a book by Patty Azzarello. It is essentially a leadership book focused on how to execute. Ostensibly it is related to executing on either a large-scale strategic plan or an organizational transformation (or both). But I believe much of the book is applicable for any major project that has at least a 6-12 month timeline from inception to completion/monitoring stage. That is because the book focuses on the “middle” which is the time between the excitement of the launch and the completion of the strategy/transformation/project (if you are lucky enough to get there). Ultimately the book tries to overcome the natural reaction of most people to any change initiative: “Are we still doing this?”

I found the practical advice to be incredibly appropriate, relevant and easy to understand. I’m not sure yet about ease f implementation since I’ve just completed the book and begun to apply it’s advice. But I know there are whole sections (small and large) that are directly on point for things me and my leadership team struggle with. So much so that I’ve pulled specific passages and sections for some of my leaders – and for me – to refer to and start really working on.

MOVE is an acronym for Middle, Organization, Valor, and Everyone. When discussing the Middle, Patty focuses on a few very practical tips that I know my team has really missed: Control points (key metrics) that drive the right actions, ensuring the team takes action, and assessing the stakeholder landscape. The most poignant and pervasive of these to me is control points. The discussion reminds me in some ways to the points in “Turn the Ship Around” – when everyone understands the RIGHT measures and outcomes, you can micromanage less and it’s easier to hold each other accountable. One of Patty’s key points is to measure outcomes, not activity, because sometimes we can show a lot of activity by simply not fixing root causes of issues. If you can send the time agreeing on key control points, you also save your team from collecting a bunch of data for other metrics that don’t really lead to action.

Organization is about the right structure, and the right people, and then motivating those people to the right actions. The most meaningful elements of this section to me revolved around:1) driving conversation at all levels, to get ground up buy in to strategies; and 2) making “status” meetings more meaningful by getting the tactical and tangible information out of the meeting and into a status document which is a pre-read for a much more robust conversation as a group about where we are struggling, where resources are needed, what we are wasting our time on, etc.

Valor is about having courage and persistence through the long middle. There were several areas that I thought were very applicable to my team and our push to achieve our strategic plan in the face of expanding scope and a highly competitive environment:

  • “Burn the ships at the beach” which means that we aren’t going back, and we can’t let our people revert to the way things were.” And the example provided was eerily on point for us, a software development example where the developers were used to not using process but where process was the key to success. Patty was relentless in forcing the engineers and developers to apply process, regardless of how simple the change or how laborious the process. There was no going back to the old way. Part of the keys to success are to guard those who defend the new way, don’t lose your spine when folks try to go around those people to you, and constantly communicate that you believe in this and this is the way things will be.
  • The importance of prioritization to allow for scale and growth. Find the few things that if you fail at them will cause failure at the larger level, and stick with those. Don’t be reactive, be proactive every day working to prioritize for your team.
  • Don’t get caught up in detail. Move detail down in the organization, never up. Leaders must let go of detail, just ensure you have well-defined control measures that you know are the right ones to drive action and results.
  • Always strive for clarity, by communicating simply and often – don’t let others fill in the gaps of your communication. Ask layers of question to clarify and ensure that everyone actually agrees with the strategy and will take actions that support the strategy.

Everyone is about communication, which leads to empowerment. Patty covers similar change management concepts that you may be familiar with, about communicating multiple times in multiple ways. Again clarity is covered, such that the conversation becomes part of the dialogue at all levels of the organization. She also covers the power of making things visible and using “fables” to extend the message, such as celebrating those who stand up for the new way, creating rituals, and holding contests. She also explains better ways to do to-down communication, like weekly updates (CONSISTENT weekly updates) and tools like blogs, along with ideas for structured communication when multiple groups are involved in a project – structure that may take a bit of time to set up but that can remove all sorts of other communications and provide for greater speed of execution. And she gives great advice on listening, and how to solicit input directly from a variety of sources and give people tools to provide feedback.

I would recommend MOVE to any leader, as I believe in this day and age we all have large-scale initiatives that require massive amounts of change management and fortitude to be successful.