Why Being FIRST Sometimes Makes You Best

copyHollywood seems to be in full-bore reboot and sequel mode.  Where Summer and Thanksgiving used to be the launch of the big blockbusters, now they seem to be nothing more than a couple of new ideas but many more sequels and more recently, the reboot – a remake of a remake…of sometimes another remake.

Up until just about 10 years ago, there was the Batman movies which built on the original TV series from the 1960s with Adam West (with several different actors) and the Superman movies (with Christopher Reeve).  Then came The Hulk and Spiderman.  Then nothing.  Then of course came the multiple other superhero movies and then the phenomena of multiple Hulk movies (reboots) and to date, two more Spiderman reboots, another Batman reboot, and then of course Batman vs. Superman.

It’s not just superheroes.  Since the original Jaws movie in 1975, there have been four sequels and several other killer (really insane killer) sharks in movies.  Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the water…

What does this all have to do with you?  Well, how original are you?  How groundbreaking are your ideas?

There is a risk with being first and with being original.  You could of course be wildly successful.  That’s what happened with the original Jaws movie.  Even though the shark looked fake, the terror kept people in real life off the beach.  Sequels tried to recapture that same magic but aside from more realistic sharks and bloodier human feedings, they just didn’t have the same effect.  There was always a comparison to the original.

On the other hand, you might fail.  It’s possible.  But here’s the thing.  Even if it failed, you were the first to try.  Even if someone builds and perfects your idea, they still keep YOU in the conversation.  Someone else is trying to improve what YOU started.  YOU started.  You’re still memorable.

Hollywood seems to have lost its creativity.  And the more it happens, the more we think about and miss Adam West, Christopher Reeve, and the robotic fake shark Bruce.  The more you copy the original, the more the original shines.

What new idea have you been thinking about proposing?  What new direction have you been contemplating in your current career path?  Instead of waiting for affirmation from what’s already been tried, why not be the pioneer that will be remembered for no other reason maybe than it was simply the first…

 

 

Unleash Your Inner Ninja Warrior

ninjatrainingThe other night while flipping channels on the TV, I happened to come across the American Ninja Warrior TV show. If you’ve not seen it before it involves some very physically fit individuals who run on a timed obstacle course. The course requires balance, stamina, and most of all upper body strength. I was amazed at watching some of these people and then even a 65-year-old who managed to finish several of the obstacles before falling off and losing his dentures in the water. I thought about what it would be like to be on this program but at my age and with my hip replacements and bad back, just bending over to tie my shoe is enough of a warrior challenge.

For all of us who are not athletes, I believe there still are some Ninja challenges we can do when it comes to our professional development.  It’s easy to admire of those in our field who are committed to excellence, who managed to give great presentations, do amazing analytical work, or solve complicated problems. The good news is that all of us have the potential to be in that class. It simply involves your commitment to personal and professional development.

I don’t know what these Ninja athletes do but I can imagine it involves several types of training, many of which are not directly related to the obstacles they must overcome in the challenge. What that means is that not only do they need to know how to climb on parallel bars, they need to develop the upper body strength and the hand strength to hold their grip. It doesn’t always involve just cardio as we might think about it via long distance running, it might be short interval sprints. This means that transferable physical strength and agility must be made to be the focus competitive strength and agility.  In other words, you have to train for more than just the actual competition.

We need to do the same in our professional lives too. While we might be really good at our jobs, there are some ancillary skills we might not be good at. I must admit I’m pretty good at what I do in organizational and management development consulting, but where I come up very short as in sales. That may not seem like a logical business skill for me to have but if I can’t sell what I do then I won’t be able to do it. With that in mind I’ve spent much of the last year and a half reading and studying everything I can get my hands on about sales. That is an additional skill that will help me be more successful.

But what about you? Right now are there other skills that would help you be more successful? You might be good at making a presentation but how are you and navigating the politics of your organization? You might be great at solving a complicated problem but how good are you at actually preventing that problem in the first place? All of us have a responsibility to be the best in our field. Since only a few of us can be an elite athlete, why not be excellent in the everyday playing field that is our professional lives?

 

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Child wearing grown up hospital scrubs, glasses and a stethoscopeWhen I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to be the guy at the garbage dump that pointed you where to park and unload.

I’m not sure how they felt about that at the time.  After all, most kids my age wanted to be doctors or athletes or something significant.  The guy at the dump probably made minimum wage which, back in 1972 was probably miniscule.

For me, the job looked like a lot of fun.  I love digging through trash looking for treasure.  But what I really thought was cool was the stick he carried and used to direct traffic.  Of course my dream career never happened.

Recently I was contracted to teach a workshop on career development.  One question I always ask in the introductions is what each attendee wanted to be when they grew up.  The client was uncomfortable with that question so I was forced to explain.  The explanation is useful for all of us.

As adults, we are bound by a sense of duty, responsibility, and conformance.  For most of us, we have constraints around us that require us to follow the path in life that is usually chosen for us.  In a sense, our destiny is chosen for us.  We rarely choose.

But that isn’t often the case when we’re kids.  Which is why we look at careers that don’t often make sense financially or are even achievable.  The key though is to identify, with our adult eyes and minds, what drew us to that career choice all those years ago.

For me, it was being able to hunt for treasure and tell people what to do.  The treasure part might make a good hobby now, but the need for power has never gone away.  For the first eight years of my Navy career, I was not in a supervisory role.  I was told what to do and how to do it.  That wasn’t a good fit.  Even from year nine to 15, I still had people above me dictating how to supervise.  When I got out and went to work at my first few jobs, that problem was still there, even though by then I had two college degrees.  So in 2004 I quit bosses altogether and started out my own.  In retrospect, it’s probably the need for power that’s driving me.

But that’s me.  What about you?  What were your aspirations as a child?  Can you now, with the benefit of time, see what your motivators were?  If so, do they still exist today, maybe hidden and yet still impacting you?  If you had the need for power back then do you still have that sense of rebellion?  If it was to be seen as the smartest kid in the world, do you find yourself frustrated when someone challenges your judgement?

Career happiness is a right, but a right that needs to be earned.  The earning starts when you identify those underlying motives.  This week, revisit that inner 7-year-old you still carry around.  Are you living the life you wanted back then?  If not, why not take some steps to find it?

The Simple Secret to Providing a Great Customer Experience

eyesI always find it interesting that when I drive my truck down the two-lane back roads near my house and a vehicle passes me, 99% of the time that driver raises a pointed index (index, not middle!) finger off the steering wheel in simple acknowledgement. It took a while for me to get used to it, but now I do the same thing.

Satisfying customers is a never-ending task that seems to be focused on an ever-moving target. I’ve created and facilitated programs for multiple industries and they are all different and special in their own way. However there is ONE THING you can do that guarantees a better customer experience for your customers. Do this ONE THING and the rest of the experience will be much better. What’s the ONE THING? Read on…

Recently I went to a pool and spa store to buy some chemicals and test strips. The counter was busy with clerks running around, bumping into each other. Customers were waiting in line and the scene was pretty chaotic. Finally I was next in line. I put the products on the counter and waited. And waited.  And waited some more. Until I got tired of waiting and walked out of the store, pulled up my Amazon app and ordered the same chemicals and test strips at a slightly higher price with free shipping and drove off. The problem? Nobody acknowledged I was standing there at the counter. For 10 minutes!

Now before you call me an arrogant, entitled SOB, keep in mind I didn’t yell at anyone. I stood there patiently waiting. Nobody looked at me and said, “We’ll be with you in just a moment.” That’s what I was looking for. Just SEE me.

So, fresh off that experience I drove down to our dry cleaners to pick up my daughter’s bed spread. When I walked in, I saw the clerk was doing a fitting on a customer. I was in a hurry and figured this was going to be another long wait. THEN, the Korean guy who was ironing in the back of the shop saw me and ran, RAN up to the counter to tell me they would be right with me. I waited maybe 3 minutes and then the clerk handed me the bed spread and I was on my way, ironically to teach a customer service workshop at a local health care organization.

In my experience, what separates great organizations like Southwest Airlines, National Car Rental, Hilton Hotels, and the local dry cleaner in Clarksville, TN from losers like United Airlines, Enterprise Car Rental, and the DMV is the simple act of acknowledging the customer. Everything else springs from that event. Whether you can or can’t help the customer, that initial acknowledgement sets the tone for what happens next.

Just like that simple raising of the index finger on the steering wheel, acknowledging someone lets them know that you, at a minimum, value them as a fellow member of the human race. Imagine if you went out of your way to make that customer feel like they’ve been SEEN?

This week, make an effort to acknowledge your fellow humans, especially the ones you call your customers. I know it will make a difference.

How to Implement A Successful Strategic Management Development Initiative

Effective managers are key to any organization succeeding.  If you are looking to bring a strategic edge to your organization, training and developing those managers is a key component.  This presentation will show the importance of balancing performance management, strategic goals and initiatives, wants and needs of employees and managers, and tight budgets while working to implement a culture of learning.  The outcome will be managers who are more effective and a workforce that is motivated, educated, and turns over infrequently.

In this session, participants will learn to proactively initiate (or adeptly respond to a request for) a “management training program.”  Specifically, they will learn techniques to identify need, gather relevant data, leverage performance management, and communicate findings to senior management. They will also learn how to keep a program energized and permanently ingrain it into the organization’s culture, all the while communicating its success in the language of business.

Date: September 19, 2017
Event: 2017 Utah HR Crossroads Conference
Venue: Utah Valley Convention Center
Location: Provo, UT

Peak Early…AND Often!

 

success bikeI believe all of us have potential for greatness.  In some way, shape, or form.  Not all the same either.  That’s not some motivational Tony Robbins fire-walking fluff either.  I just think it’s true.

Some don’t live up to their full potential.  It may be because of a lack of resources or encouragement or time or opportunity.  My dad was in this category.  He was full of great ideas but could never seem to pull the trigger on any of them.  I wish I could have met him at my current age, when he was 30.  He could have been the 1970s equivalent of Elon Musk.

Others reach their potential early but never seem to surpass or repeat it.

During my daughter’s senior year in high school, she was surprised to see some of the most popular seniors from the previous year come back to high school during their college spring break and actually sit in some classes!  One individual, a popular guy in his senior year but now a freshman at a prestigious college on the West Coast, asked one of my daughter’s classmates to ask HIM to the prom.  And she did.  And he went to the prom.  Again.

You probably know someone who fits into one or both categories.  I’m sure you don’t want to end up in either one.  How do you maintain peak performance so that we achieve success AND don’t have to always bring up our greatest hits from the past?  Here are five suggestions.

  1. Define Success.  It’s different for everyone but only you know what it is for you.  Think beyond wealth and status.  Make sure it’s tangible and achievable.  If you see success as being a brain surgeon but you faint at the site of blood and your hands shake when you get nervous, keep looking.
  2. Develop a Path to Success with Measurable Milestones.  Think of it as climbing a mountain using a series of diagonal switchbacks.  Your progress may be slow but if it’s heading upwards, you’re on the right path.
  3. Make Good Choices.  If you’re on the path to success, make sure whatever choices you make elevate you upward, not laterally or down.  Don’t let money or an unrelated success take you off the path to get the success you really want.
  4. Keep a Visual Record of Your Journey.  The reason fundraisers use the big thermometer to show donations is to have a visual to encourage people to help out.  You need a visual to remind yourself each day that you have a plan, and work to do to achieve it.
  5. After Achieving Success, Keep Going.  If you accomplish wins, you should now know the formula.  Why stop there?  Don’t be the 19-year-old who comes back to the prom to relive old glory.

All of us have a finite amount of time on this planet.  Why not use every last bit of it to achieve continual success?  It’s your choice.

I guess it comes down to a simple choice really.  Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’

– Andy Dufresne.  The Shawshank Redemption

 

 

 

 

Stop Taking “NO” for an Answer

Businessman holding paperMany years ago, while in the Navy stationed overseas, I remember what it was like any time you needed paperwork approved by our personnel support detachment (PSD), the equivalent of the HR department.  PSD was managed by a guy named John Clark.  No matter what you asked for, the answer was always a resounding “NO” without any explanation.  It might be because he outranked most of us, or maybe he was just a crotchety old-timer, but dealing with him and PSD was the nearest equivalent to going to the DMV.  I never forgot that.

Fast forward to today.  I do some work with a local company that complains incessantly they can’t seem to get into a nearby large organization in order to market to them.  It seems was an incident a few years ago and this company was banned from entering the premises to do business.  Unfortunate since the employees of this large organization are the perfect target audience for my client.  Nobody can tell me exactly what happened or where this ban notice is written, but they are all paralyzed by it.

Last week I attended a networking meeting and lo and behold I ran into the person from this large organization and I flat-out asked her what the deal was.  She told me it was a federal regulation that stated one part of my client’s services were not able to be promoted, but there was no official ban and they even looked forward to having this client get involved.  The regulation made sense to me and of course this is good news for the client.  If only they had simply asked after being told “NO” they could have been active and successful with this organization.

Our inability to move past “NO” is probably grounded in childhood.  We are all born naturally curious.  We ask lots of questions.  Finally, our exasperated parents tell us to quit asking questions.  Most of us stopped being curious then, but those who persisted began to encounter “NO” on a regular basis.  This culled the curious herd even more.  Now, just a few of us are left as adults to keep pushing when they hear “NO”.

It can be problematic to push past “NO” and it got me into a lot of trouble in the Navy and even in my first two jobs when I got out.  Today though, it’s the secret to getting business that others won’t ever get close to.  What’s the secret to pushing past “NO” without getting into trouble?

  1. Don’t push it when the “NO” is a safety issue. (i.e. “No Swimming in the Lagoon after Dusk Due to Alligators”)
  2. Don’t push it when addressing company policy that has a purpose.  (i.e. “Who are you to tell me I can’t wear jeans on Friday?” when working for a bank or financial institution)
  3. Don’t push it just to be a pain in the A**. (i.e. “This policy makes no sense.  I don’t care about it but I just feel like being an A**H*** today” – this was my first LPO in the Navy)

BUT, when the “NO” you consistently hear is preventing you from career or business success and you can’t get a clear answer as to why, then feel free to push back a little.

None of us wants to hear that we’re being held back by something that has no business doing it to us.  Pick your battles carefully and work diligently in the pursuit of “NO”.

How to Get Your Managers to Take the Lead in Performance Management

If you are looking to improve employee and managerial accountability in your workplace it is critical that you start by improving the level of personal responsibility in each of your team members. It is only after your employees, managers, and leaders take full responsibility for the results they achieve that your organization will begin to achieve the results it is truly capable of.

This highly interactive training program will provide HR professionals with the tools they need to train, coach, and guide their managers through a more effective performance management process. Through video vignettes, case studies, real life application and action planning, participants will learn to view performance management as an ongoing process for achieving personal effectiveness.   The tools and techniques in this workshop will dovetail into any performance management system already in place.

Date: May 25, 2017
Time: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Event: Wisconsin Medical Group Management Association
Topic: How to Develop a Successful Strategic Management Development Initiative
Sponsor: WMGMA
Venue: The Osthoff Resort
Location: 101 Osthoff Avenue
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin 53020

How to Get Your Managers to Take the Lead in Performance Management

If you are looking to improve employee and managerial accountability in your workplace it is critical that you start by improving the level of personal responsibility in each of your team members. It is only after your employees, managers, and leaders take full responsibility for the results they achieve that your organization will begin to achieve the results it is truly capable of.

This highly interactive training program will provide HR professionals with the tools they need to train, coach, and guide their managers through a more effective performance management process. Through video vignettes, case studies, real life application and action planning, participants will learn to view performance management as an ongoing process for achieving personal effectiveness.   The tools and techniques in this workshop will dovetail into any performance management system already in place.

Date: September 21, 2017
Time: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m.
Event: 2017 Pennsylvania SHRM State Conference
Sponsor: PA SHRM
Venue: The Penn Stater Conference Center
Location: 215 Innovation Boulevard
State College, PA

How to Avoid “Ending Up”:  10 Steps to Professional Success

In this session, management and career development expert Mack Munro will show you how to you how to take both an inward and outward look at your personal career plans.  Specifically, you’ll learn techniques to self-assess strengths and weaknesses.  By leveraging the former and minimizing the latter, you’ll present yourself as more confident, capable, and credible.  This will enable you to get the respect that you and your profession deserve.

At the end of this presentation, you will be able to:

  • Define personal mastery and its importance to career development.
  • Describe how goal identification and strategic goal pursuits make a building manager more valuable.
  • Develop the skills and ability to set a strategic plan for career success in the building management profession and demonstrate those skills as you reinvent your current role.

Personal and professional development is critical for your long-term success and viability in this field.  Attend this presentation and get started on your journey immediately!

Date: June 26, 2017
Time: 3:15-5:00 p.m.
Event: Building Owners and Managers Association Annual Conference
Topic: How to Avoid "Ending Up"
Sponsor: BOMA
Venue: Music City Center
Location: Nashville, TN