How to deal with the Meghan Trainors in your Office

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Having a 13 year old daughter allows me to keep up with all the current music. After dealing with a particularly rough day last week, my daughter and I were jamming in the car when Meghan’s song “No” came on.  Although the song is referencing a woman fighting off advances of an unwanted guy, the chorus of the song summarized the people I had dealt with that day.

Every company or organization has them…you know who I’m talking about. It’s that individual or department you loathe dealing with because it seems like all they want to do is tell you what you can’t do or simply just find unique and creative ways to tell you “No”. I have a personal little reference for these types, kind of a profiling term if you will.  I have dubbed them the CantNos.

Sidenote: In my earlier, less mature days, I would actually have contacts’ first name followed by a last name CantNo to remind me who I was dealing with on the phone.  I’ve evolved since then though.

As a driver,  I think one of the hardest things I have to deal with are those in the workplace whose first answer is instinctively “No” or “We can’t”.  I guess I’m just too optimistic or “Polly Anna” when approaching problems or even trying to find alternative ways to further the brand, expand a message or take our game to the next level. Sometimes I think how miserable it must be to always find ways to kill someone’s idea or squash their passion.

Just as the CantNos have an instinctive response to most every situation, I have a guttural reaction in dealing with them.  I often find myself counting in my head to calm down, imagining a great post about them on social media or silently throat punching them in my happy place. (Figuratively of course, no violence in the workplace)  Unfortunately, what I don’t say usually can be seen all over my face. Disgust, anger, bewilderment in some cases. This is a group of people I just can’t understand.

If you’re in a position of leadership and can readily identify this group, here are some things to consider:

  1. Are their responses warranted?  I do know there are times when you have to deal with a department whose primary role is to protect the company or organization. Groups like legal, compliance, regulatory or finance have to keep the company in the right lane. I’m sure most of them do not relish in killing every major idea but it seems a number of these groups just accept that as part of their role. If you are a leader, challenge these departments to find a way to soften the blow. A simple, “Let me find a way to help you” would go a long way. As a driver, if I know you’re at least trying to explore an idea but find it is absolutely impossible or too risky, I can accept that.  It’s all in how you frame it.
  2. Do they just get satisfaction from being dream killers? This is a toxic group. You can hire the brightest talent in your industry but if you have a one, two or more of the CantNos in your organization, you may find yourself with a revolving door. If it’s more of an attitude issue, you need to confront it head on. This could include having a direct coaching session or even eliminating the CantNos from your company. You’d be amazed at the change in morale once you have the spine to pull the trigger.
  3. Be self-aware. I know I’m an intense guy, I’m a driver. I have learned to take a moment to identify if the issue is really a potential CantNo or if it’s me being unrealistic.  There’s nothing wrong with being outgoing or super creative but I have learned to be more self-aware to recognize the difference between people who are helping me be more realistic versus those who are CantNos. This has helped mitigate some of the internal frustration I once suffered from while furthering my own evolution toward a better team player.

Saint Augustine said “Anything in moderation is ok” (paraphrased). The same holds true for this topic. Identifying the root cause of CantNos can help you determine the wheat from the chaff in your organization. It can also help you better prepare yourself for interactions with them.

If you haven’t heard the song, it’s a great little tune so that’s my #MondayMotivation gift to you!  Enjoy!

When you bite off more than you can chew

kobayashi-hotdogs[1]Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest is an annual attraction on the 4th of July that attracts both competitors and audiences from around the world.  Mountains of hot dogs are stacked in front of the competitors as the anxious crowds wait to cheer their favorite competitor.

Takeru Kobayashi, a small framed native of Japan, holds six Guinness Records for eating hot dogs, meatballs and other junk food items. In 2001, he set his first record eating 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes at the Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest. The secret to Takeru’s success is his unique strategy to tackle monumental eating challenges by taking one bite at a time. Where many cringe and crack under the pressure, Takeru continues to set world records with ease.

Takeru realized early in his competitive eating career that the biggest challenge is not the number of hot dogs but the tendency for people to have mental barriers. He simply sets a goal and works toward it in a methodical manner.

When he was asked about his ability to think without limits, Takeru said, “I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is”. Unlike Takeru, you may find that members of your team have preconceived limits that hold them back.

So as a manager, how do you help your team manage through times when they feel they have bitten off more than they can chew?

There’s an old saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Helping your team recognize that every project has bite-size pieces can be a good first step. Managing these smaller sized portions is an easy way to be able to avoid being overwhelmed.

As stress mounts, we tend to focus on the enormity of the problem rather than the more manageable solutions. Team members who appear to be overwhelmed need you to coach them on how to find the most practical strategy to complete their work. The real barrier may be all in their perception and an objective viewpoint could be the perfect diagnosis to this common problem.

Leaders should use Takeru as an inspiration for their teams and teach them that often the biggest barrier to success is a mental one that can be overcome with the right perspective. Helping your team learn how to accomplish their goals without cracking under pressure will not only enhance organizational productivity but also show your team that you committed to making them successful.

Business Lessons from The Walking Dead, Season 6 Episode 9

For those of us who have the sickness known as “TWD Syndrome”, The Walking season 6 episode 9 delivered enough punch to make up for the amount of time we had to go without!

In the first ten minutes, I found myself on edge, laughing, cringing and coming off my couch. Let’s just say, the writers left nothing on the table and started out guns blazing. (Or actually, in Daryl’s case, a rocket launcher.) The episode was laced with several lessons we could take to the office this week.  Here are two for you to nimble on.

Know when to cut them: The moral battle between Morgan and Carol over when to and when not to kill has remained a theme over the last few episodes. Morgan believes everyone has a the opportunity to change so he tends to avoid killing anyone who is a non-walker. In contrast, Carol is a fierce mamma bear who will kill anyone who threatens the community. Morgan’s decision to spare the life of the Wolf put the fledgling community’s only doctor in jeopardy.

Lesson: Sometimes we have to realize not everyone will change their ways. If you have someone like The Wolf on your team, taking the Morgan philosophy could threaten the rest of your team.  As cold and cruel as it may sound, most teams function better under leaders who, like Carol, make the tough decisions and remove anything or anyone who will threaten the vitality of their team. Bottom line, when in doubt, make the kill shot.

Everyone needs a Daryl and Michonne on the team: Daryl Dickens is a quiet character on the show. He tends to be the voice of reason as well one who can always be counted on when times are tough. Similarly, Michon is a complex character with quite reason, amazing strength and raw brutality when needed.

Both characters can be counted on when critical decisions need to be made. In S6E9, Daryl brought down fire on a band of thugs to save Abraham and Sasha (probably one of my favorite scenes). Michonne took the kill shot later in the episode when the young man threatened to kill Rick.

Lesson: Don’t underestimate your steady team members who are critical to the success of your organization. You likely have reserved team members like Daryl and Michonne who are always willing to step up to the plate when needed. Although they do not require a lot of attention or maintenance, it’s always a good idea to show them some love and ensure they know their value.

The Walking Dead writers continue to hypnotize me with the show’s plot and character development. It’s an added benefit that each episode tends to have business lessons laced throughout.

So for all of the The Walking Dead fans out there, what was your business take-away from Season 6, episode 9?

2016 Productivity Goal- Screw the To Do List

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Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Lincoln’s quote speaks to the value of preparation and having the right tools. In business, success is driven by thoughtful planning and effective implementation.

Most of us are trying to get back into the swing of things after a holiday slumber. It seems our brains are naturally wired to begin working on new ways to be more productive. Many will make a resolution to make better to do lists, only to find themselves exasperated at the end of the day with little sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the tool many of us lean on is the one thing holding us captive to our lack of productivity: the to-do list.

My advice for being more productive in 2016: screw the to-do list!

In Kevin Kruse’s book “15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management”he offers a solution to the downward spiral to do lists cause.  Rather than adding your tasks for the day to some legal pad or Moleskin notebook, create a calendar appointment. According to Kruse, this allows you to allocate your time to accomplish the tasks rather than trying to squeeze them in between meetings or other daily time hogs.

The key to success will rely on your commitment to treating this calendar appointment as a doctor’s appointment. If you schedule fifteen minutes to complete an expense report, then start the task at the appointment time regardless of what the day throws at you. At the end of the fifteen minutes, if you haven’t finished the task, look at your calendar and allot more time.

I think you’ll find this method to be more productive and provide you the ability sleep soundly at night knowing you allocated your time to complete the necessary tasks for the day.