The Fred Factor - How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary

I recently read an article about how a flight attendant for Delta Airlines provided extraordinary service to a young unattended minor who is deaf. I have the privilege to work with a number of people who are consistently going beyond their job expectations to provide great service to our clients and to each other. Every time I go Into a Chick-fil-a, I am greeted with a smile and focused attention. These are just a few examples of people who have a passion for their work and life. Can you think of some others that you have experienced?

In The Fred Factor, the reader is introduced to a USPS postal carrier by the name of Fred Shea. Fred is portrayed in the book as a someone who take great pleasure and pride in his work. He cares for the people he serves. He knows how to develop friendship and seeks to provide service that is beyond the scope of his job. Fred notices the little things and does something to make a big difference. One example that Mark Sanborn provides is that Fred will pay attention to when a mailbox is filling up, and will note that a resident must be out of town. Fred will then bundle up the existing mail and hold new mail, until the resident has returned home. This way it is less evident that the person has a vacant home, making it less vulnerable to theft.

It does not take an exceptional amount of effort to do the little things which make a big difference. How tough is it to have a brief, friendly chat just before starting a meeting? Have you noticed the affect you can have on others if you seek to just listen to them and not focus on preparing you rebuttal? When you make it a practice to hold the door for others, have you notice that can often elicit a smile and words of “thank you”? Seeking to provide extraordinary service at work, in the community, or at home does not need to take great effort, but rather to have simple habits of showing your care for others in little ways.

This book is geared towards working professionals, but The Fred Factor concepts apply to everything in life. It is not a complex book, but if you put the ideas into action it will have a profound influence on your life and the effect you have on those around you.

Leaders Eat Last - Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

Simon Sinek pulls together some significant insight into successful, long-term leadership ideas and principles. He encourages the reader to build a legacy that will live on with those in your charge, well beyond your direct influence in their lives.

Simon pulls in and focuses on this idea of a Circle of Trust. He points out that great leaders provide a work environment where communication and interaction with the CEO is open, honest, and bi-directional. There is a level of trust that great leaders inspire by being visible and receptive to feedback from individuals in all areas within their company. Front-line employees, those responsible for the daily operations, need to know that they can trust that their leadership team truly cares about them.

Once an atmosphere of concern for one’s job becomes a daily reality, that Circle of Trust shrinks or breaks apart and people tend to focus only on how to keep their job. This can lead to some cut-throat attitudes that are a poison to a working environment.

Simon also emphasizes the influence of naturally occurring hormones within our bodies (like oxytocin, endorphins, cortisol, etc.) , and how they are triggered. These hormones can be influenced by leaders, the policies they introduce, and their actions in how the company is led.

During part of the book, Simon gets into political positioning and economic principles. Whether you agree or disagree with Simon’s opinions here, there are some good thoughts and ideas worth considering. I would suggest, that no reader will completely agree with an author on topics that involve “soft-skills” like leadership. Knowing this, it is still important to consider the author’s point of view while ensuring you are thinking clearly when developing your own.

Subscribed - Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company's Future - and What to Do About It

How many of you have a digital or physical monthly subscription to goods or services? Haven’t subscriptions been around for decades or even centuries? Newspapers and other physical subscriptions of the 20th Century seem to now be dying a slow death and some may argue that they have become a business model that loses money. In the 21st Century, new companies have emerged to help us to rethink how subscriptions services and models can still work.

In a world where we now have Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Pandora, Black Rifle Coffee Company, Amazon Prime, Beauty Box, Stitch Fix, etc. a subscription models fulfill business and personal needs in a whole new way. Companies like Salesforce.com have led the charge into new business model thinking, revenue streams, financial forecasting. As a culture, individuals are also rethinking priorities on how their money is spent.

Perhaps you live in a large metropolis and do not have an every-day need for a vehicle. However, once or twice a month you want to spend the weekend at the beach or visiting family in the mountains; you can subscribe to a service where you can schedule the use of a car for just such an occasion. While we are on the subject of the automotive industry, some car manufacturers are working through a subscription means to drive vehicles from a fleet that is maintained and managed by the manufacturer or an automobile dealership. A subscriber can simply take the car they are driving and turn it in when it needs maintenance, and switch out for another vehicle in the available subscription fleet.

Remember when Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were running an incredible, booming business? Then came Netflix and completely up-ended that business model. Now how many Blockbuster or Hollywood Video stores do you see in your town now?

Tien Tzuo, the author of Subscribed is clear to state that there are no indications that subscription services are going to force all “Brick and Mortar” business to go bankrupt or out of business. However, it has forced many to adjust their business model, accommodating a more customer-centric set of needs. Many of us live in an area where we can now go to the local grocer or department store’s website, provide a list of what we want to buy from their in-store stock, and have it brought out to your car when you arrive; or better yet have it delivered right to your front door.

Back to the subscription model for the 21st Century. How is it different than the Columbia House cassette or CD subscriptions of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s? Well, one major difference is that in today’s subscription model the consumer can cancel at almost any time they want. There is no long-term commitment. That means that the businesses have to be creative in how they appeal to their target audience. The savvy subscription business is constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the options they offer. It is critical that they keep an eye on “Churn”. Churn is the volume of subscribers that they loose over a given time. They also need to know the difference between churn and when a subscriber chooses one of their alternative subscription offerings. There are people who are now employed to understand the reasons for churn and/or changes to existing subscriptions, so that these companies can ensure they are truly reaching their target market with the greatest effectiveness.

Take the time to read this book. It is insightful, informative, and eye-opening. I want to thank John Bassett and the rest of the owners at GSI for encouraging me to read this book. It has brought a whole new way of thinking about business into my mindset.

Happy Mother's Day - 2019!

Picture of me with my mom, when I was 3 months old. Thank you mom, for everything!

Picture of me with my mom, when I was 3 months old. Thank you mom, for everything!

You may have heard the saying, “the only things guaranteed in life is death and taxes”. Well, I would like to add to that guarantee. You are all guaranteed to have had a mother.. No two mothers are the same, nor do siblings have the same experiences with their mom. Let me peel back a layer in my life and take a moment to honor my mom, and other moms whom I know.

There is one person, throughout my life, to whom I can point and say that they were my rock. Without my mom’s love and guidance I know that I would be less of a person. Not once, did she utter a disparaging word to me, about anything I shared with her. She sometimes disagreed with me, my motivation, and my intent…but she was a source of encouragement…always!

You may have noticed that I am referring to my mom in the past-tense. This is the third Mother’s Day since my mom died. Some days, when I think of her, I feel as though a piece of me is missing…but then I remember all of the late-night conversations, weekend adventures, laughs over playing card games…and I realize she has never really left me.

There are other moms, who have allowed me to peer into their lives. There is a special bond between these mothers and their child(ren). Being a mother is not for the faint of heart, and these moms are often burdened by guilt of missing out on something in the life of their child(ren). I can tell each of these moms, that they are truly gifts to their child(ren). Are you perfect in every way, perhaps not…but you are the perfect mother for your child(ren). I would like to encourage these mom’s to stop doubting and feeling guilty about what they may have missed or gotten wrong with their child(ren). Do not let disparaging thoughts take control of your mind and emotions. You are all God’s gift to your child(ren)!

Then there are those moms who welcome other children into their heart. They allow themselves to get emotionally attached to step-children, the best friends of their own child(ren), or someone who has lost their mom in some way. There is no matching the connection, wisdom, insight, and care of a mother! If you have lost your mother, here on Earth, allow yourself to make a connection with someone who will lovingly share with you, their own motherly advise and care. You will be richer for that experience and she will treasure the times she can show her care for you!

To mothers everywhere on this great planet, Happy Mother’s Day!

The One Thing - The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

There is a significant difference between being busy and being productive. How often, at the end of the day are we amazed at how exhausted we are and how little we accomplished? Now, can you imagine how much more vitalized, energized, and enthusiastic we would be if we ended the day exhausted, but could look back and see at least one major accomplishment completed? How much more motivated and excited would you be for the next day ahead of you?

Multiple psychological studies have been done over the years, to understand the value of and insight into “multi-tasking”. The studies show what wise men and women have been telling us over the centuries. There is a Russian proverb that tells, “If you chase two rabbits…you will catch neither one.” Circus lion tamers know this secret as well. Why do you think they go into the ring/cage with a chair pointed at the lion? Well, the lion is force to account for all four legs of the chair pointing at them, and thus they are more sedate as they cannot figure out which one to attack.

In this book, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan help the readers lean the value of and how to help direct your work in a more focused manner so that you can learn to accomplish great things. The concepts and ideas are simple, but putting them into practice takes self-discipline. We live in a world where most work environments throw multiple tasks, duties, and responsibilities at each of us. We are often bombarded with email, phone calls, instant messages…all seemingly demanding our immediate attention. When we are pulled away from fruitful tasks, it takes time to re-gain focus and make progress towards the items that are really important.

No matter your profession or station in life, the ideas and concepts in this book are helpful. Read the book, learn, absorb, and put it into practice. You will not be disappointed.

Extreme Ownership - How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership  - How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership - How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win

Okay, so, I bought this book six months ago…and I let it sit on my night-stand gathering dust. I was concerned that if I read the book, it would cause such great conviction of my missteps in learning and practicing leadership that I would disappointed in myself and my weaknesses. In reality, after reading the book, I can say it has the complete opposite affect. The way Jocko Willink and Leif Babin take the reader through their experiences and how those experiences apply in our lives outside of the SEALS Teams, makes the book very relate-able.

The stories shared show an unmistakably humble and teachable attitude from both of these men! The have a way of connecting, encouraging, and helping the reader find their own drive, determination, and discipline. Concepts like “Commander’s Intent”, “Decentralized Command”, “Keep things Simple”, and of course, “Extreme Ownership” are clearly explained, fleshed-out, and coached within the pages of this book.

These authors recently published a follow-up book called, “The Dichotomy of Leadership”, which is now on my shopping list as the next book to acquire. Also, Jocko Willink has a podcast where he takes the listeners through stories and personal accounts of many who have served in various militia over the years. This podcast has been among the top influences in my life over the past year. I would recommend both books and the podcast to anyone who is interested in understanding the simplicity, yet difficulties of great leadership.

Are you a Generous Leader?

Image from  Generosity Quotes  page on Pinterest

Image from Generosity Quotes page on Pinterest

Generosity comes in many forms. You can be generous with money, time, talent, or many other areas in your life. What drives generosity? Must there be an abundance in your life before you can be generous? How do you learn to become a generous leader? Here are a few things to think about.

1) Generosity begins with being grateful for your station in life. If you are reading this, it means that you have wonderful things in your life for which you should have gratitude. You have a means to pay for internet access, you have access to technology to be part of the digital world, you have been taught to read and comprehend. Most of you will have close family and friends…people who care for and about you. Take the time to consider things for which you are and/or should be grateful.

2) Put people first. I know that in my hectic life, I can get lost in my immediate circumstances and surroundings. It is important to break away from the focus on yourself and find ways to serve others. An act of service does not need to be big, and should not focus on drawing attention to yourself. Try sending a note of encouragement to someone who is on your mind right now.

3) Do not allow the desire for possessions to control you. First and foremost, live within your means. If you find your desire for possessions outpaces your ability to pay, one of two things are likely to happen. Debt will become a burden that weighs down every aspect of life, or bitterness will creep in because you believe you should have something that is out of reach.

4) Regard money as a resource. There is a strange principle with money, but it seems that if you hold it too tight, it will allow bitterness, greed, and self-centered desires drive your decisions. Clearly, in our economy you need money to engage with life. The availability of money in your life should have an influence on your decisions, but let it not be the final arbitrator as to whether or not you will be generous towards those you lead and care about.

5) Develop a habit of giving. It is uncommon, that if someone is not generous when they have little, that a switch will go off in their lives and they will automatically become generous when there is abundance. Giving is a habit that is developed and matured over time. Just like all other leadership skills.

So, here are some questions to ponder

  • Are you a generous leader?

  • Do you continually look for ways to add value to others?

  • To whom are you giving of your time?

  • Are you pouring your life into others?

  • Are you helping those who cannot repay you in return?

A few years ago, I was struggling with some significant issues in my life. I did not have the means to pay for counseling or a life coach. I sought out Christian counseling that was of no cost, but these organizations were so inundated with others they were helping, they did not have any availability for 6+ months. So, I reached out to an old friend, who had been a manager/leader for me in a past occupation. This friend graciously agreed to meet with me once a month in a local eatery, where we would work through things in my life. We started with professional topics like leadership, and what it looks like to be a good follower. He coached me through tactical and strategical approaches to my career. Through the building of our relationship, he also encouraged me in matters outside of work. This man has been an example of true generosity in my life. I have not asked him for a dime…but I am sure he would give me the shirt off his back. I have offered to buy him coffee, and he insists that it is not necessary. This man is an example to me, of a truly generous leader!

Do The Right Thing - How Dedicated Employees Create Loyal Customers and Large Profits

Do the Right Thing  - How Dedicated Employees Create Loyal Customers and Large Profits

Do the Right Thing - How Dedicated Employees Create Loyal Customers and Large Profits

Many of you have heard or read about the great customer service provided by Southwest Airlines. This is a company who has and continues to set the standard in caring for their passengers. My experience with Southwest Airlines has always been positive. The ticket agents, gate agents, flight attendants, and pilots have provided me with consistent, friendly, and patient services.

I can vividly remember a time where I was dealing with many things in my mind. As I approached the baggage check-in area, I was ill prepared. Unfortunately, my attitude was not great when I spoke with the Southwest agents. Even through my poor attitude, they were undeterred and proceeded to coach me through what I needed. I ended up apologizing to both the agents and they graciously smiled accepting my apology.

Do you want some insight into why Southwest Airlines is so customer focused, and what drives them as their employees set standards that consistently exceed passenger expectations? Then you need to read this book. James F. Parker was the CEO of Southwest Airlines from June 2001 through July 2004. Before that, in 1986 he joined Southwest Airlines as General Counsel. James guided Southwest through the toughest economic turmoil, in the airline industry, during my life-time…the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent fear of ongoing air travel. Through that time of upheaval in our nation, Southwest continued to care for their employees and customers. Although the finances were tight, all salaries and bonuses were fully paid on-time for the full-time employees who were not executive level. Southwest was also the only major airline that managed to stay profitable during that stretch of difficulties.

Earlier this year (January 28th, 2019), James died unexpectedly in his home. We have all lost a great leader, and I can only image how difficult it must be for those who were close to him.

Read this book, learn the lessons of doing thing the Southwest Airlines way. The concepts apply to any industry, but how those concept are manifest will be unique to each company.

Focus in Leadership and in Life

Picture acquired from  LeadershipWatch

Picture acquired from LeadershipWatch

For years, we have been told that the ability to multi-task is essential for success in the workplace. Some leadership “experts” have likened multi-tasking to spinning plates on the end of long sticks. We have been told that the more plates you can spin, the more impressive you are as a professional. Then, after we have multiple plates spinning, we are stuck in a situation where we have to keep them all spinning all the time or we and our career like the plates will come crashing down.

Now, as I read more about leadership and personal development, I am seeing evidence from real-life scenarios and psychological studies which have proven that multi-tasking is the worst thing you can do for any kind of real, long lasting development. “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” Think about that for a moment (seriously, pause for a couple of minutes ponder the ramifications). Have you ever wondered why it is that circus lion trainers take a chair into the cage with them? When all four legs of a chair are facing the lion, the lion is trying to focus on all four legs of the chair. This causes the lion’s brain to be overwhelmed and he cannot focus on his strength…killing the prey that is in front of him.

John Maxwell, provides a recommendation on seeking to be focused in life and leadership. He has a formula or perhaps what should be called a ratio of how to focus your time as a leader.

  • 70% - Focus on your strengths

    • Everyone has areas of incompetence. Pursue your areas of strength rather than weaknesses.

  • 25% - Focus on new things

    • Spend time learning about new things that relate to your strengths. This is where you will find tremendous growth

  • 5% - Focus on areas of weakness

    • It is unavoidable that you will need to address areas of weakness. Seek to minimize the amount of time spent here

Something to consider…have you been majoring in the minors? Do you spend so much time in your areas of weakness that you lose sight of your strengths? Here are some further thoughts to consider in gaining more focus:

  • Work on yourself - You are your own greatest asset and detriment. What are you doing to help yourself?

  • Work at your priorities - List them out 3 or 4 priorities, and be clear. You are the only one who can fight for your priorities.

  • Work on your strengths - As you follow the formula listed above, you will see tremendous growth

  • Work with your contemporaries - We are all in work groups, each individual has their own strengths. You cannot be effective on your own.

Are you unsure of your strengths? Perhaps you can ask a trusted colleague. Consider purchasing, "StrengthsFinder 2.0”, better yet see if your whole team can get a copy. Go through the questions and compare/contrast the results.

It is up to you, on how to best focus your efforts in leadership and life. I have found it better to learn from those who have gone through the struggles and are willing to share their insights. Find a mentor, read a book, connect on LinkedIn with a leader whose thoughts and opinions you trust. You will find that the more you focus on your strengths in life and in leadership, the more success you will achieve.

The Heart of a Leader - Insights on the Art of Influence

The Heart of a Leader  - Insights on the Art of Influence

The Heart of a Leader - Insights on the Art of Influence

Are you a busy person, leading people who are growing as professionals or individuals? Ken Blanchard has assembled 90 snippets of insight into ways to influence yourself, and those around you.

In less than five minutes of reading a day, you can receive insight to be pondered and considered as you seek to influence those given into your care. Authors like Ken Blanchard teach us that leadership is more about influence and giving greater considerations to those whom you lead than you give for yourself. As you read each entry, take to heart the lesson. Seek to apply your learning, every day. You will find the items taught and shared in this book are pertinent and timely.