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.

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.

 

leadership, personal

Squeezing Problems

I saw and heard a great message last week in church, about the paradox when we try harder to “fix” our problems, they don’t get fixed and can get worse.

My pastor used a bar of soap as a prop. He related the soap to our problems, and the harder you try to squeeze the soap (control the problem), the harder it is to hold the soap. The problem gets worse, not better.

If you are wondering the religious connection, the message is to hold your problems loosely in the palm of your hand, hold them up to God and say, “God, I give this to you, it’s bigger than me and I trust you to work in my life.” Randomly I saw a tweet that captured the idea in the past week since I heard the message: “Try to stop stressing, overthinking, trying to control. Know that He has got this, he’s got you, release the grip and breathe.”

If you don’t prefer the religious connotation, I think you can easily relate to the idea of understanding that there is a bigger world out there than ourselves and the things we can reasonably influence, and things aren’t always in our control, so we sometimes have to let things take their course, do our best in the situation, and let come what may. We might describe either the religious or non-religious approach to this as “having perspective.”

I have always been a problem fixer, and don’t like to feel like there isn’t a plan – in other words, I prefer controlled situations. This makes me squeeze the bar of soap.

I feel lucky that I have recognized this in the past and have adapted. I have been able to move past certain constraints and issues, have been able to “let go” of certain things. But as life goes, there are always new challenges ahead that you have to overcome, new issues to address. Some examples:

  • Have you ever played golf with someone who throws their clubs, or curses themselves out when they don’t hit a good shot. That was me 20 years ago. Then I somehow realized that all that action and energy wasn’t going to fix the problem. I learned to have perspective, a view of the situation bigger than the situation itself. Putting things into perspective always seems easy when you aren’t in the situation (imagine a poker hand where two other people are playing and it seems obvious to you what both players have). But when you are in it, it becomes more difficult. In this case, I was able to realize that I would never be a professional golfer and I was missing the best parts – precious time in fresh air and precious time with my friends.
  • I recall a time several years ago when I was starting out in a new job role that had a lot of interaction with other departments. Our company culture also wasn’t as mature as it is now, and I saw folks putting other departments down to gain advantages, and I followed that behavior; demeaning other departments in public settings/meetings where they weren’t there. Once a mentor pointed the behavior out and we discussed it, I made a commitment to never do that again and I believe to this day I have not. I also made it a team effort, setting the expectation for my entire team that we would be the “bigger” person. The perspective was again obvious later – we get much more out of life (and in this case work) when we put our effort into building others up; it takes a long-term perspective, because in the near term maybe our team didn’t get as many resources or were viewed less positively by senior management. But in the long run, we built better relationships and achieved more of our objectives by building bridges.

A common theme again about having perspective. I read an article recently about Steve Kerr, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Among other great leadership attributes and behaviors, Steve always tries to have a bigger perspective than the “thing” itself. He puts his job and his “industry” into a larger perspective, understanding how lucky he is by considering others’ situations and realizing that as important as some make the NBA out to be, it is infinitesimal compared to other aspects of life.

Today, I am dealing with things I haven’t dealt with before. A parent passes away unexpectedly. My other parent is losing her brain health seemingly before my eyes, and I am not sure what to do. It has affected my personal relationships – I have yelled at my wife twice in the last few months (and for petty things); something I literally hadn’t done once in our four years together. We have talked about it, and it is clear why I did it, and it is also clear the solution – don’t squeeze the soap. Be willing to accept that I can’t “fix” my mom’s brain, or bring my dad back to take care of her. Understand that life is going to take its own course. I can do the best I can but the situation is bigger than me. There is a bigger life at play (perspective) of which my wife is an absolute critical part. So let her help you and bring her closer, don’t isolate myself and push her away by reacting negatively to little things.

I haven’t been the leader I want to be at work either. Ironically, given the magnitude of personal issues one might assume that I would be much more “forgiving” and relaxed about issues at work. Phrases like “we’re not curing cancer” and “this isn’t rocket science’ come to mind. You might think I would have been able to find perspective. So a minor delay on a project should be met with a soft reaction, given how insignificant that is compared to losing a loved one. Unfortunately, human nature is difficult to fight, and if a bar of soap in your personal life squirts away, it can be common to squeeze a different bar of soap – in other words, we take out our frustrations and sorrows on others, in this case those at work.

Part of the perspective here is time – as I come to grips with the personal issues, my leadership behavior would likely modulate back to a “center.” Part of the perspective is leaning on those who want to help instead of pushing them away or hiding from them – trying to “fix my problems” on my own – see above re: wife. Part of the perspective is that those who I am hurting are going through issues of their own, and instead of taking my frustration out on them, I should embrace them and we could support each other. Then I could actually let go of the little things we all mess up sometimes, given they pale in comparison to “real” life problems.

So I am working on getting my perspective straight. I believe in myself to get the right perspective given my past examples. I believe in the last week I’ve done well in several key areas for me (supportive tone, ask questions instead of giving answers, respecting input). I want to build trust in those around me to know that I have that perspective. I want to bring them closer not push them away. If I continue to learn not to squeeze the soap, I will be more at peace with myself. Then my energy and passion can lift others up, not bring them down.

I’ve written before about talking to each other, working together on leadership development. I will be seeking a lot of guidance to accomplish the above changes and will be asking many folks for some forgiveness, some support, some straight talk, some regular feedback. This is how it gets done if you want to be a better person. It starts today, and the same thing will be true for every today to come.

leadership, personal

Get feedback, and talk to each other

Thank goodness for people giving me feedback. I am surrounded by team members who are not shy about telling me when they see me making strides in my leadership plan and doing good things, and also not shy about letting me know when I don’t do so well.

Recently one of my team members let me know that I’ve got to address an issue between me and someone else in our group. I am not reacting right to address their growth opportunities, and need to just sit down and talk to that person and start a positive path to a better relationship, their growth, my growth, and our team’s results.

I recently took out some frustration on my wife, yelling about something stupid for no reason associated with that stupid thing. Rather, I was just feeling “lost” bout my mom’s situation and instead of asking for help or explaining how I felt, I lashed out. Keeping things in for the short term never works, it comes out eventually and usually not how you want it.

I expressed frustration in email, about the speed of a process and my perception of my team members’ lack of ownership of the process. And I violated a key rule of feedback by not “praising publicly and giving critical feedback privately.”

So I spent this week and will spend the coming weeks “talking it out,” using the great people around me at work and at home in a more productive and collaborative way. We are so much better that way, but sometimes we forget – for me I have to stop when it happens so I don’t “spiral” into solitude and silence. Me alone is not my best, I am my best self when I am working WITH others and focusing on lifting them up. My leadership coach gave me a great tip about how to think about using phone calls to trusted advisors in these situations, as well as a tip on how to leverage my team instead of getting into the weeds – so I can be a “leader” not a “manager.”

The root of this goes back to the beginning of the post – feedback. We are not going to be our best selves every day, or every week, and sometimes we have seasons where we just aren’t our best. Get input from others so you can course-correct early and often and get back on the path you want for yourself.

 

leadership, personal

Philanthropy

Philanthropy is on my mind for a few reasons lately. For one, I just got back from our annual strategic retreat for the UNLV Alumni Association. Also, I was the Honorary Chair of our annual leadership auction for the MGM Foundation this year, which just happened this week. Lastly, we attended the Power of Love gala for the Lou Ruvo Brain Center last week, one of the biggest charitable events of the year.

I always think the key to philanthropy is passion. Like I always say you should try to work in a job/profession/field that you are passionate about (but knowing it isn’t always that easy), it is even more important to align yourself with charitable causes that you have a strong association with and can rally yourself and others around. This is largely because it is voluntary, so requires much more self-discipline than work.

I get jazzed by the notion that I and others with similar interests can accomplish more together than alone, and we can do it for those who most have written off or don’t think can be helped. Even at UNLV, my alma mater, I always feel like we are the underdogs so I want to try to make a difference in the lives of alumni and students.

For me, there are a couple of ways of participating that particularly inspire me to be philanthropic. For you it may be different; but if you know what it is for you, then you should focus your energy on causes that hit those marks, because you will bring much more to the table. I find that I am inspired by my friends, such that if they are involved with something I will want to help them out. And if there are events involved that my friends can come to, I will work my butt off to make a great event. Speaking of events, I really enjoy organizing and “producing” events, versus other ways of contributing. I find pride and pleasure in seeing the outcome, and I really enjoy the process of working with others to make an event come to life.

Philanthropy doesn’t just mean giving money. Most of you know that, but also worry about trying to give time, since we all seem to have none of that either. But you can contribute no matter what – your ideas, your moral support, your participation in events (like fun runs, etc.); these are all so meaningful to not-for-profits.

My request to all of us would be to just “give’ a little more than we do now, and if we all do that we can make a huge difference.

 

leadership

Leadership Scorecard – 3/19/17

First week back after the loss of my Dad. I spent a lot of time with other people, but also had some long stretches of being able to focus, particularly on my strategic initiative (which not so coincidentally is “leadership Development”).

Had several interactions outside of my area, and on reflection I think they were all directionally good. I went in to all of them thinking about the other folks, what I know about them, what will resonate. I checked my pace and tone well. I mostly waited for others to give input. Can still ask more questions.

Speaking of asking questions, I did better in that with my own team. I spent lots of time with the broader team this week, as we had a quarterly all hands staff meeting and quarterly session on our strategic plan, s about 20 of us discussing status, opportunities, challenges. Capped off with fun at TopGolf to celebrate and acknowledge the hard work they’ve put in. Definitely in line with what we are trying to do on the nurturing side of things. I also had a coffee chat this week, great interaction with the team at all levels, this time we discussed deadlines, time management, and priorities. The one thing we know for sure is we could talk about those topics for well more than one hour!

I received some news that one of our initiatives was going to have to take a different turn – my initiative, and we had to change course on how to provide leadership coaching to the team. I managed through the “negative” emotions quickly (well, quickly relative to me – most of you would likely have gone even faster to alternate solutions), and partnered with the messenger to a new approach. Maybe some perspective gained from my recent loss. We’re not curing cancer or preventing heart attacks) here, so roll with the punches a bit, there is always a way to manage through issues if you just think about them with a clear head.

 

leadership

Book review – The Dream Manager

“The Dream Manager” is a book written as a fable; similar to “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. Its author is Matthew Kelly.

I wonder if fable-type books resonate with everyone, or if it’s more of a love it or hate it thing. I like them because it keeps you moving at pace by following the characters, plus it’s easier to identify your own traits if you see them in a real person or character versus an “academic” type of book Maybe a good topic for a future post.

The Dream Manager shines the light on an often overlooked part of leadership and company success: that you can only succeed if your employees succeed. Often when we do spend time on our leadership skills and our growth, we are focused too inwardly. Leadership moments where you teach others are often the times you learn the most yourself, and they are highly rewarding (in other words, it makes you feel like you did something good, because you did!).

So the key premise I’m focusing on in this article is helping your employees to succeed. And inherent in our employers’ success is the requirement to fulfill their needs and wants. And shockingly, the “dreams” aren’t often much more than ensuring someone’s basic needs are met. In the book, Kelly uses a janitorial company, and the leaders of the company are surprised when the number one issue when they first asked their employees what could be better was as simple as ensuring they had a ride to work. And when they were first asked about their dreams, many dreams revolved around vacations and owning their own home. Things many of might take for granted.

To reiterate, the leadership lesson is simple – if you want to be a successful leader, find ways for your employees to succeed.

The book also reminds us to keep dreaming, whether we are an “employee” or a “leader” we need to have dreams to ignite our passion for work or family or hobbies – really our passion for life. The book even gives us a structured process to ensure we are thinking about dreams, which by definition pulls us up and out of our current mindset or situation. We are forced to look to the future, like the running tip that says look to the horizon, only looking down in front of you periodically to check for issues.

A couple of other tidbit lessons from the book:

  • When something is really important to your company or your team, you need to dedicate human resources to it. The company in the book hires a “dream manager” who meets with the employees, determines their dreams, comes up with action plans, and tracks progress. That all can’t happen without it being someone’s job and you better hire someone who is really passionate about it. The same goes for really any project you think is important, even ones that are “intangible” like culture.
  • Having said that, the paradox is that it can’t just be one person’s job, everyone (especially the leaders) must buy in to the process or project. In the book, the main way of accomplishing this was to roll out simple pieces of the overall program as pilots and measure success to convince everyone that it works, and then go for a bigger program.

 

I feel like the biggest value of “The Dream Manager” could be to use it as a team building tool. I feel the same way about the “Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and have successfully used that book with two teams in the past. I may integrate “The Dream Manager” into our strategic retreat this year. The process is pretty simple – everyone reads the book, you discuss each main point, and try to create action steps for your team that will enhance your relationships within the team and move your whole organization forward.