Are Your Systems Helping or Hurting Your Business

Systems in your business (processes that you put in place to ensure a consistent experience for the customer/client) are absolutely critical to your success as a leader.  However, we also have to make sure that, as leaders, we review and revise our systems periodically.  It’s easy to get tied up in the day to day grind and forget what hoops our customer/clients are having to jump through because of our systems.

As with all things, there are pluses and minus to systems.plusminus

Case in point:

I’m in the middle of transitioning the phone and internet at job from not only one vendor, but to a whole new technology.  We’re leaving the old world of copper pair PBX and jumping into hosted VOIP for our phones. We’re also changing vendors for the internet from ancient bonded T1’s to fancy 18Mb broadband.

As you might expect, the process is fraught with potential gotcha’s.  With all things technology, the process is a house of cards with many potential points of failure that will cascade throughout the whole operation.

I’m working with a great Business Account Manager with the new vendor.  She’s responsive, courteous, and has in depth knowledge of the offerings available to me.

However, she’s getting hamstrung badly by outdated business ordering systems.  For example: to get an answer to a question, I have to talk to her, then she talks to an in house person, who checks a database, who then has a tech come out to the site.

As you might expect, the process has gone sideways and the product that was supposed to be available to us, is not.  Even though the database said it was, and the in house person said it was, the tech said everything was working, and the Business Account Manager gets to deal with my calls of “Why aren’t we getting the program we were quoted”.

Leaders, my challenge to you today is to follow up with a customer and get feedback on the process of getting your service or product into their hands.  Review your systems internally and talk with the folks who have day to day, hands on experience with the systems and ask for their input on how to improve the systems.

Not only does this invest in your people, but you might just get the best idea to improve your system that you’ve never thought of.

What systems can you improve in the next two weeks?

If you want to stay productive skip the smart watches; or follow this advice.

The tech world is atwitter (and on Twitter) about the forthcoming release of the Apple Watch.  A connected smart watch that promises to provide you with apps galore, keep track of your location, pulse count and give you notifications from your iPhone right on your wrist in an instant.

Yesterday I saw a tweet from Michael Hyatt (whom I respect as a leader and tech user – get connected with him online with stat!), referencing an article by a tech writer about his Apple Watch Nightmare.

It’s not the first smart watch to the market.  Pebble, Android Wear and numerous other devices all promise to take the notifications from our smartphones and place them right at our wrists, without even having to check our phones.

Pebble Steel Watch

Heres the problem though…we’re already a distracted people and these kinds of devices have huge potential to worsen the problem.

In my coaching practice, I work with high level people to help take them to the next level.  Right now, many of my clients state that distraction and time management are the top issues holding them back.

For example: One Executive at the top of his organization is dealing with the massive influx of email, phone calls and his direct reports dropping by his office during business hours. Notifications that he has email, text, or phone calls going right to his wrist is going to reduce his attention span to next to nothing.

Another client, a Vice President with almost 100 people in his division is already struggling with the volume of notifications that he gets on a daily basis. During a time I spent with him, he was on the phone or answering texts/email for all but a few minutes of time. Imagine his chaos of getting notifications to his wrist while he’s on the phone already…

Still yet another client, responsible for a multimillion dollar complex, has a list of projects that is literally in the multiple pages when printed.  The influx of notifications going right to his wrist would be impossible to keep up with during the day.

They are not the only ones, and I suspect that you’re dealing with this tension as well…

So what’s the solution?

I see two approaches that you can take (and I advocate for both positions depending on your personality).

1) Don’t get a smart watch. Very few things in life are important enough that you need instant notification.

2) Turn off all but a few notifications. As a matter of fact, I regularly encourage clients to turn off all notifications on their cell phone, limit their email checking to twice daily, and put their phones on do not disturb for extended periods of time.

Intentional management of your time requires focus, and distraction from daily influx of notifications can really ruin your flow.

You may think that it’s not possible to build in time to be disconnected, but I encourage you to try it.  We never used to be this connected, and by communicating with your clients, coworkers and family what your schedule is, it’s not only doable, but the secret to a successful career.

I’m not all against smart watches. As many of you know, I’m a tech oriented kind of guy.  From network administration, to Ham radio, I love my tech toys.  As a matter of fact, I’m a smart watch user myself with a beautiful Pebble Steel connected to my Android phone.  But I’ve throttled notifications to just text messages from my personal cell number and my calendar alerts.  No email, no text from the business number. I check my various notifications when I intentionally choose to, on my schedule.

The bottom line is that technology can help or dramatically hurt your productivity, and the only way to ensure you are able to succeed is to take ownership of your time and be intentional about your schedule.

How are you dealing with distractions from your devices and daily work life?

Choose You in 2015

So we’re a month into 2015 and you’ve had a few weeks to try out your goals and / or resolutions.

In past years, I’ve had grand goals and plans that would benefit my business, other’s businesses or teams.

This year, it’s the year of John.

I’m going to be focusing on my personal health: mental, physical and spiritual.

If you’re not feeling that those goals you set for 2015 are “making good” on helping you to improve, take the time to change them.

There’s nothing set in stone, and you’re worth it.

Leave Average Behind.

Wrap up 2014 well and clarify 2015 goals

So how was your 2014?

Have you ever taken time to think deeply about how your year went?  It’s something that I was encouraged to do about 4 years ago, and now it’s a vital piece of my growth and perspective each year.

Doing a yearly review and goal setting for the next is critical to me keeping focus and putting the most important things in my life in priority view.

Climb The Peak

I’d like to share my process and encourage you to give it a try this year.

  • Pick a block of time when you’re at your sharpest (early, late, over coffee, whenever you feel at your mental best).
  • Print out your calendar from 2014 and grab a copy of your journal (if you keep one).
  • Have a clean piece of paper or notebook at hand (leave the electronic tools aside, they tend to lead to distraction rather than focus).
  • Split the page down the middle vertically and write good at the top of one side and bad on the other.
  • Look at each month individually and recall what happened that month.
  • Write down what you see jumping out at your as you look at your calendar and journal. If you don’t have a journal (now’s a good time to start one), just let your mind wander through each month and remember what happened.
  • Once you’re done with the year, look back at your lists of good and bad. Be thankful for the good, grieve the bad and then close the year. Take the paper, wad or shred it up and throw it away.

Take a 5 minute break, have a stimulating drink of choice and then grab a new piece of paper.

  • If you could accomplish just three things in 2015 that you know would make a positive impact in your life, what would they be? Wildly important, life changing, dream type goals are what you’re looking for here. Give your 2015 a reason to be great!
  • Write these goals down, with spaces between each for notes later.
  • Why would accomplishing these goals make your 2015 better? Write down the why under each goal. Knowing your why will make it easier to stay on task in June when things are getting hectic (or late January depending on how busy your are).
  • Write out a list of the next little step you could take to make the goal happen. It might be a phone call, schedule a meeting, do a google search, etc.
  • When you get that one task done, write out the next action step you must take.
  • Repeat until you’re done with the goal!

I hope that you’ve had a great 2014 and are looking forward to your 2015! If you ever need an encouragement or challenge, please drop me a line. I’d love to help you move forward and leave average behind!

What are your words saying about you?

A few weeks back I was at a large sporting event with a friend.  We were sitting in the nosebleed seats to help conserve some cash.  Behind us, one row back, was a father and son.  The father was constantly complaining about the game.  Complaining about the officiating, the players, the coaches, the temperature.  Everything was negative in this man’s world.  And the incredibly sad part of this story is that his little guy was chiming in just like dad.  It’s fair to say that not only did this father live a very negative life, but that now he was teaching his son this same outlook.

I’m a huge advocate of the concept that our actions speak louder than our words.  However, it’s also fair to say that our words indicate the state of our hearts.

Listen to what you’re saying on a daily basis.

Do you see a pattern emerging in the words you use to describe the situations around you?

What are your words saying about you?

How Herd Mentality Leads to Average

Back when we were kids (young kids) we dreamed of what we would become.

An astronaut, cowboy, princess, fairy, super hero, fireman, police officer – the possibilities seemed endless.

But somewhere along the way to adulthood, we bought into a lie that leads to mediocrity, of being just average, instead of the vibrant person that we dreamed of.

Herd Mentality

We started to follow the “you should” of the herd. It’s a subtle shift that once started snowballs into a life lived barely alive.

You see, the herd is not comfortable with outliers (those things beyond the norm) because they are different and strange.  So we’re being told to become the most vanilla, bland and ordinary people that society can think of.

The beauty of the strange, the refreshment of the new, and the challenge of the change are ground off by the herd members who want to stay exactly safe, year after year.

According to the herd, you should:

  • Get a new car every two years
  • Get a huge new house
  • Buy an iPhone
  • Buy an Android
  • Buy, Buy, Buy
  • Go to college
  • Get married
  • Have kids
  • Go into debt to get want you want this very instant (waiting is for chumps, you know)
  • Take boner pills
  • Use anti-aging cream
  • Install fake hair on your head
  • Retire when you are old
  • Work for a company that doesn’t care about you
  • Commute every day
  • Try to find God in a church
  • Play sports
  • Watch the news
  • Get cable/satellite
  • Vote Democratic/Republican/Libertarian…blah, blah, blah
  • Suffer along with the rest of the herd

But it’s all a lie! The herd is just trying to get everyone to look like them, and in the process you end up with a lot of unhealthy input.

What if you could choose to become what you wanted to be?

What if you told the herd that is was time to leave average behind, and went out on your own path?

Would it scare you? Does it seem hopeless to even try? Would it really make a difference?

You can leave average behind by defining what your life should look like. You have to create a life plan where you detail what is a priority for you and what is not. It’s a process that my clients find both incredibly hard, and yet immensely satisfying when completed.

You also have to decide which relationships are important and which can be left behind. You have to say goodbye to unhealthy inputs into your life, whether in person or the media (TV, Radio, Social, Internet, Newspaper, etc.) that you are consuming.

The great thing about leaving average behind is that it looks different for every person. What one person is passionate about, another hates. AND THATS GREAT!!!

Do what you’re passionate about.

Make a difference in the world.

Tell the herd goodbye!

What’s one or two areas in your life that you need to tell the herd that you’re leaving average behind?

The Death of the To-Do List.

Seems like every major software player (and many entrepreneur little guys) has a software package that will let you track your to-do list.

In this day and age of over extended, too many choices, can I please just get a break: stress…you’ve really got to have a to-do list.

Whether it’s on paper, your smartphone, tablet, computer or written in ink on your hand, a to-do list is part of the uniform of the US society.

 

Must-Do

However, a to-do list falls very short of actually helping us to get the things done that matter most to us.  We’ll get caught up in adding and then checking off to-do items and pretend that we’re getting things done.

In reality, because we’re not getting the most important things done, it stresses us out.

So today I’ll challenge you to make a separate list with just 5 things on it for this week.

This list is your must-do list.  It should be things that, if done, will make a difference in your life. Important, satisfying differences…

Every must-do list should be updated at the end of the week.  Add 5 new things and then move forward in getting the most important things done in your life.

What’s on your must do list?

Who Are You?

Who are you?

Really?

Not what you do for a paycheck.

Not what other people say you’re talented at.

Not what your spouse expects you to be.

Not how many houses, cars, TV’s, smartphones, etc. that you own.

Not what society tells you to be.

If you took 30 minutes today and sat down to try to define who you really are, what would you discover?

Are you being true to who you really are, or are you living someone else’s life?

Don’t you think it’s time to live the life that only you can live?

Life is short and you have a unique life that can contribute to the world.

We need you to be who you really are.

Leave average behind!

Triggering Stoplights and How to Run a Business

The road out of our neighborhood dumps right into a super busy 5 lane, business laden, artery. Thankfully, there’s a stoplight to let us get across without having to dodge the oncoming 45mph traffic.

But there’s a catch:  Many people don’t understand how to trigger the stoplight and they end up causing a huge problem for themselves and others behind them.

The road is marked well, huge white line that you should stop behind.  It’s set back from the actual artery road by about 10 feet and as a result, folks creep past it for some reason.  Here’s the problem though: in failing to comply with the rules, and a lack of understanding of the process that causing stoplights to change, these folks end up really upset that they can’t get through the light and usually end up running the light.

InductionLoop
I see the same things happening in businesses around the country. Managers and Leaders not following the rules of ethics and interpersonal relationships and a lack of understanding of what causes human motivation end up with employees that are screeching through the intersections of the corporate world causing all kinds of problems.

Sadly, many companies expect that command and control tactics will generate revenue (and while they may to a point, the personnel costs are extraordinarily dangerous) resulting in turnover, lack of loyalty, and a general malaise that is reflected in the lowered bottom line.

We all want to be treated fairly, valued for our contributions, placed in roles that play to our strengths and have peers and leaders who care for us as an individual.

We crave a company that understands what fires our passions and how we can make a contribution that has meaning and value.

When we don’t get those things we end up with a dysfunctional intersection of red lights and people running through them to get where they want to go.

Make an investment today in learning how to motivate and understand your people.  Invest in training in the DISC personality assessments and implementing strengths based roles in your company and watch the change that will happen.

For you strong CS personalities – here are the three major ways to trigger stoplights:

  • Straight timed lights – mostly found in older rural areas with light traffic.  They change on a set schedule…you’ve just got to wait.
  • Induction loop sensor lights – look for a little black or grey box or rectangle in the pavement in front of the white line showing you where to stop (see the picture at the top of this post). The metal in your vehicle will induce an electromagnetic field as it passes over the wires telling the lights you’d like them to change.  (Motorcycle folks take note – you want to be on the middle line right near the top of the box to get best results…trust me on that one!)
  • Motion sensor triggered lights – the cameras mounted on the stop light poles have a fixed field of view that they scan for motion of a car coming to a stop.  When they sense the motion it triggers the light.  During the times the sun is shining in the camera you might need to flash your high beams a few times to produce enough contrast for the sensor to trigger.

Our neighborhood has the induction loop trigger and when you pull past the white line, there’s no way to trigger the light.

You’ll sit there forever wondering why the traffic light is broken, when all you had to do was follow the rules and have a basic understanding of the process.

The Value of Taking a Sabbatical

In early April of this year I was experiencing significant burnout.

My goals, family, current day job and building a client base for Lead Thru Example all took a serious toll on my mental and physical well being.

I’m a driven individual, but I could see that unless I took a significant pause, that I’d be functionally useless in all my roles.

So for the past 2 months I’ve slowed down significantly, taking a “staycation” version of a Sabbatical.

sabbatical

I only allowed myself to do those things that were absolutely necessary to keep the bills paid.  This meant a lot less activity on social media and the blog, letting my coach know that I needed a few months off, and focusing on building enjoyment time into my “must do” calendar.

The results have been very positive!  I’m back to being able to see the joy in what I do and not just the “have to do” side of my life.

I’m a recovering people pleaser, and this time has been spent intentionally focusing on me and saying “No” to those things that aren’t part of my priority list.

If you’re finding yourself in a situation where life has lost all of it’s joy, don’t hesitate to pull out of all but the essential items in your life and re-group.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint (I’ll have to remind myself constantly…).

Have you ever experienced a refreshing time of Sabbatical?