“Hardship can turn out to be a great blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind duress; in fact, they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary or valued for their contribution…” – Sebastian Junger
A good friend of mine shared this quote with me last week, and for some reason it really struck a cord. Not that I am dealing with more hardship or duress than anyone else. Then again, it seems challenges lurk in every corner and at every turn.
Some of my fondest memories come from times in my youth when such challenges existed. The soccer games we lost against our biggest rivals in our run for state, only after months of grueling practice. The many car wrecks I had (yes, I was a horrible driver), and working two jobs to pay off the damages. Continue reading
“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” – Howard Schultz
I was sharing dinner earlier this week with several of my colleagues, and the conversation turned to the topic of work, motivation, and ambitions. One of the more rewarding aspects of my job is to understand what motivates my fellow team members – and to make sure we honor those elements as we build our business.
“To be honest, I just love helping people find work”, one of our recruiters said. “The beauty of working in staffing is that you get the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life every day”. Prophetic words that spoke volumes about what motivated her behavior.
And I can tell you this statement was a genuine as the day is long. I know this because I saw it in action. Earlier that day we met several of our consultants during a client visit. One of those consultants pulled our recruiter aside to inform her his assignment would be ending prematurely. I wasn’t part of that conversation, but I did witness the follow up. Continue reading
“Mastery comes from a monomaniacal focus on simplicity vs. an addiction to complexity” – Robin Sharma
“What you stay focused on will grow” – Roy Bennett
I have always been a student of success in business and have long admired those who are able to achieve profitable growth even in the most difficult of times. Many of my past leadership messages have spoken about the importance of culture in driving this success. So too have I written about attitude, an important element of culture. But today I want to discuss the value of focus and simplicity as two of the most important elements of success in business.
Over the last several months I have spent a considerable amount of time researching this topic. In addition to looking at the qualities that drive our most successful (and least successful) branch operations, I’ve also looked outside at some of the more successful companies in our industry. Believe me when I say this wasn’t a casual effort – I have mountains of data behind this. In the end this exercise has led me to one inevitable conclusion – teams that live and bleed focus and simplicity achieve disproportionate growth, have higher staff engagement/satisfaction levels, and provide better service for their customers.
“A Smooth Sea NEVER made a Skilled Sailor” – English Proverb
“Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm.“ – Charles Caleb Colton
“To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“However bad the storm you are in, there is still sun somewhere over your horizon” – Ken Nutt
I’ve been thinking a lot about storms and turbulent times these days. Figuratively speaking, it seems the warm glow of the sun and light breeze has been replaced with a gathering storm. The building clouds of economic uncertainty are on the horizon. An undercurrent of change is already moving below us and a cold sharp wind is already blowing in our face. Whether its macro challenges or specific ones we face in our private lives, there is no doubt storm winds are blowing.
I used the storm metaphor specifically as I’d like to share a relevant story from my past. I had the fortune of growing up living near the water. Our house was a block away from the bay, and as fate would have it, my step-father owned a boat repair business. That combination meant a childhood spent on the water, and in time boating became my passion. Sailing, skiing, fishing – you name it. I literally worked two part time jobs through high school to fund my boating habit.
My step-father was also smitten by the sea. At times it felt as if he managed the business not only to keep the lights on and support the family, but to allow maximum flexibility for boating. As a result, any time good weather allowed we were on the water. Continue reading
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” – Winston Churchill
Those who know me recognize my affinity for Sir Winston Churchill. His leadership, while cantankerous and arguably self-serving, may well be the very reason the allies were victorious during World War II. What’s most interesting about Winston Churchill is to understand the history that forged both his style and his philosophies on leadership. Bear with me as I share highlights of his life and the connection to the quote above.
Born of nobility in Great Britain in the late 1800’s, one could argue he was given all the opportunity necessary for success. Despite this privileged status, he had an interesting and somewhat rocky childhood. Raised largely by his nanny, his interaction with his parents was fairly removed and arguably of limited influence.
Churchill struggled mightily during his formative years. A young, stocky red headed boy (I can relate to that), he spoke with both a stutter and a lisp (something that plagued him most his life). In and out of 3 different schools, Churchill’s early academic record was quite poor. And while excelling in certain subjects (Mathematics, History, and English), he was generally thought of as “a poor student”. Continue reading
“We’ve made leadership in to something bigger than us. Something beyond us. We’ve taken this title of leader and we treat it as something that one day we are going to deserve. But to give it to ourselves now is a level of arrogance that we are not comfortable with.” – Drew Dudley
A few weekends ago I was catching up on my ‘white space’ activities, one of which is to watch TED Talks on business, leadership, and innovation. As much as I might think I know about leadership I still spend countless hours researching and gaining insight from others who offer a new and different perspective.
On this particular day I was watching a clip from a speaker named Drew Dudley. In this clip Drew opens his speech with the question “How many of you are completely comfortable calling yourself a leader”? Only a handful of people raise their hands. Perhaps not surprising, but most of those in the audience were uncomfortable recognizing they are leaders in their own right today. And what’s amazing is that the audience for a Ted Talk is generally individuals who are enamored with the topic of leadership. Of all people you would think they would overwhelmingly be ‘leaders’. Continue reading
“As much as talent counts, effort counts twice. Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals—and it is what turns talent into skill, and skill into achievement.” – Angela Duckworth
One of the members of my leadership team recently shared with me an article/blog post from Daniel Pink (www.danielpink.com) on the importance of grit in driving individual and team performance. The article included excerpts from an interview with Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who recently published a book on her findings and observations on the topic of grit [Book is entitled “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”].
At any rate, it got me thinking – what is grit, and how can we as leaders leverage this to drive superior performance? Is it something that’s inherent in a person’s character, or can it be learned/developed?
Simply put, grit is a measure of an individual or team’s determination to a cause. It’s a mentality fueled by a relentless persistence to succeed. It reflects the tenacity and perseverance individuals will endure to see things through. Continue reading
“Jim, you are not doing a good job of hiding your disdain for your company” – Jim Spivey
I was recently sharing my thoughts on the qualities I look for in members of my team with a fellow colleague. The first is simple – capability. Each member of the team must be able to do the job asked of them in a competent, effective manner. Experience, effort, tenacity, and a willingness to learn are all part of being a capable team member. No surprise there.
The second is more abstract but vital to the success of any team – integrity. Members of any group that don’t practice integrity both in words and actions becomes a hindrance to the team. It forces the other members to operate in an environment of distrust, clouding the focus on its objectives. Eventually the team will fail. Again, no surprise here.
But the third quality I look for is just as important – Engagement and Respect. That includes a passion and intensity for the job, but must also come with an equal conviction to the team…and the organization that team serves. One that weathers the daily challenges and the ebbs and flows of progress without resorting to critical and unconstructive behavior – overt or subconscious. Continue reading