Measure What Matters - How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs

OKRs…what are they? How do you use them? Do they really work? In this book, John Doerr helps us understand how to go beyond the great management tool of “Manage By Objectives” (aka MOBs), and use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in achieving what Jim Collins calls, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (aka BHAG).

This book is a great resource for helping the reader understand the value of and how to implement OKRs. John Doerr is clear in sharing that we should not expect to be great at setting our OKRs the first time around…nor the second, third, or any other of the initial attempts. It will always be a “work in progress”. Objectives are typically an overall, measurable goal. Key Results are the smaller steps, still being measurable, practical, and causing us to stretch. The Key Results should be short term (perhaps monthly or quarterly), while the Objects are more long term (annually, 2- year, etc.) .

Take the time to read this book, if you are seeking to be better at achieving results that will help you reach the BHAG that is set before you. There is also a website built around the ideas shared in this book. Go check it out, “WhatMatters.com

Fred Factor 2.0 - New Ideas on How to Keep Delivering Extraordinary Results

A little while back, I typed up a review of “The Fred Factor”. It is the story of a postal carrier in the Denver, Colorado area, named Fred Shea. Fred is a man who has taken the idea of excellence in service and applied it to how he cares for those he serves on his carrier route. I recommend reading “The Fred Factor” as a precursor to “Fred 2.0”.

In this sequel to “The Fred Factor”, Mark Sanborn shares real life stories of individuals in various jobs with varying levels of responsibilities, and how they are providing service that goes far beyond any ordinary expectations.

There are also many practical tips to help the reader adjust their mindset to finding ways to build habits into our lives that lead to extraordinary results in the service we provide to those around us. The ideas and tidbits shared in “Fred 2.0” apply to all facets of our lives. Whether we are in service at work, volunteering, or serving our family; we can all benefit from taking these concepts and putting them into practice.

Are You Taking Initiative?

Image courtesy of  Tavarro

Image courtesy of Tavarro

As you begin reading this, I would like to start with a question. How many of you consider yourself a leader? This is not a question about your title at work or your status with a volunteer organization. In life, do you consider yourself a leader?

Let me ask this another way. How many of you are a mother or father, an aunt or uncle, a sister or brother, or a a coworker with others? Maybe a more simple way to ask is, how many of you have breath in your lungs, a heart that pumps blood through your veins, and can communicate with others? If you fit any of these descriptions, then someone is looking to you for leadership.

One part of successful leadership is taking initiative. Here are a few key points on how leaders take initiative.

1) Leaders know what they want - If you are going to be effective, you will need to know what you want. When an opportunity presents itself, you need to be prepared. There is no guarantee that things will turn out the way you desire, the only way to have a chance, is if you are prepared.

2) Leaders push themselves to act - Leaders are not waiting for others to provide motivation. They understand that motivation can be fleeting. Leaders have drive and determination to keep moving towards their goals.

3) Leaders take more risk - A principle point in leadership is that you are moving into territory or areas of action where others may have not gone before you. A leader will take the risks that others have not, and then will bring their cohorts along as the leader demonstrates success is achievable.

4) Leaders make more mistakes - By the simple fact that leaders are taking more risks, they are at least twice as likely to make mistakes as well. So long as there is movement, mistakes can be corrected and overcome. Getting yourself moving in the right direction can only happen if you are actually moving. Do not let the mistakes stop you from the next opportunity.

If you need help in improving initiative, here are some ideas:

1) Change your mindset - Do not let fear of mistakes or the worry of messing up stop you from pursuing initiative

2) Do not wait for the opportunity to knock - Be preparing yourself now for your future opportunity. Many will tell you that luck is simply being prepared with the right opportunity is presented. Be reading, studying, learning, and practicing.

3) Take the next step - There are ample opportunities, if you know what you want and are preparing yourself to take initiative, to start taking on responsibilities for the next role you desire. Whether that be in your place of employment or through a volunteer organization.

Taking initiative comes more natural to some individuals. If you are one of those who gets uneasy taking initiative, work through your discomfort with small steps. Provide feedback in meetings where you would normally stay quiet, find someone who is where you want to be and take them out to coffee or lunch from time to time to glean insight and knowledge from them. Most people like to talk about themselves and the areas of strength in their own lives. Ask questions, seek insight, and make the decision to move forward with the knowledge you gain.

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!