When The Rains Come

You’ve probably been hearing about the deluge of rain and flooding that’s been hitting Texas over the past few days. It’s bad. Luckily for my family and I, the worst flooding is located to the south and west of us. Of course, we are keeping the many victims and their families in our thoughts.

As the rain was falling, the idea for this post came into my head.

Like an impending rainstorm, it is fairly certain that challenges will present themselves at your organizations. No company is perfect. No industry is perfect. No individual is perfect. There will be times when the pressure is seemingly unbearable. That’s part of the human experience and part of operating a business in today’s marketplace.

Here are a few tips on how to mitigate the challenges when they come:

Remember Your Priorities – while putting things off for no reason other than laziness is never acceptable, there will be times when there are valid reasons that projects have to be postponed or even scrapped altogether. During challenging times, it is crucial that you remember your priorities and continue to work on those items despite the obstacles that you are facing. Not everything can be labeled a “priority.” You’ll have to make some difficult decisions. You’ll hurt some feelings along the way. Don’t shirk your responsibilities. Be the decider.

Have a backup plan – contingency plans are a necessity. Have these plans at the ready for the priority list that you have created. It’s important to have responses to at least the most likely obstacles. If you’re planning correctly and have done your due diligence, you already know what the potential shortfalls are.

Get information from multiple sources – if the rains come, don’t be reactionary. It is important to get as much information from a variety of reliable sources.   Just as no weather forecast is exactly like another and we look to many sources for the most accurate forecast, the information that you will use to ultimately make decisions should come from multiple channels. Nobody knows everything.

Stay focused – it’s your job to steer the ship through the storms. Even if it’s not in your job description, be the one that remains focused on the important tasks at hand. Panic in private. Persevere in public.

ALL of these are covered in more detail in the ABSURD! Leadership program.

Check it out here!

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Are You Walking On Eggshells?

You’ve probably seen posts on Facebook about how people hate going to work. Or their boss sucks. Or they feel like they’re stuck.

I saw a post recently from one of my friends that got me thinking. She said, “why do I tolerate the ongoing feeling that I have to walk on eggshells at my company? It feels like I can’t say or do anything right.” I replied to her post with a simple question, “why DO you tolerate it?”

I once had a job like this. No matter what I did, my boss always found fault – he was quick to criticize and not once did he ever pay me a compliment. I wish I could say that his criticism was constructive – after all, feedback that is meant to nurture is a good thing. But it was just mean-spirited. Luckily, I wasn’t at this company for very long, just a few weeks to be exact. I woke up one morning and decided that I didn’t have to endure the nonsense any longer.

We spend most of our lives working. It’s a reality that we’ve created for ourselves. My point is – if we’re going to spend most of our time working, shouldn’t we be happy doing it? If you can’t seem to ever please your supervisor, if he or she says no to anything new or different that you want to try, if the only time you hear from your boss is when they think you’ve screwed up, why stay there?

If you’re not working for a true leader, it may be best for you to move on to an organization that will appreciate your value.

Walking on eggshells all the time? Take the hint.

Please remember to take a look at ABSURD! Space is filling up!


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The Thing About Progress….

The renowned Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, “the thing about progress is that it always seems greater than it really is.”

There is certainly truth in that statement. How many times have you heard (or said yourself) that “we’re making progress” after a meeting or when giving a report? Chances are, it’s probably more than you would care to admit. I’m guilty as well!

The problem with “we’re making progress” is that the “progress” referenced is not usually defined. If you’re truly making progress, you should be able to answer an inevitable follow-up question from a true leader. Namely, “what does that mean, exactly?”

You don’t ever want to be unprepared to answer that follow-up. You want to have details at the ready. You need to be able to demonstrate the progress to which you just attested. If you can do all of these, you are indeed being truthful when you say that you’re making progress.

Let’s look at the other side of the “making progress” statement. Here are some pretty lame reasons that people try to get away with by falling back on “making progress.”

We didn’t actually meet.

We’re getting nowhere.

We have no idea what we’re supposed to be doing.

We can’t agree on anything.

We’ve been too busy to have any meaningful discussions.

Honesty is one of the most important qualities that we look for in each other. If you’re really not “making progress,” then say so. Ask for help if it’s needed. If you’re really not getting anywhere, shake things up – perhaps you need new people or a better sense of direction. You may even need to scrap everything and start from scratch.

Any of those suggestions are better than saying that you’re “making progress” if it’s not true.

Progress is a tangible thing. Be careful when you’re claiming it.

Please remember to take a look at ABSURD!   Space is filling up!

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Do Your Meetings Suck?

A recent study estimated that 32 BILLION dollars is wasted globally because of unproductive meetings.

I’ve never been a big fan of meetings. Let me clarify that – I don’t like having meetings or attending meetings just to “meet.” I also don’t like meetings that do not have an agenda, a start time, and an end time. Think about it – have you ever walked out of a meeting thinking, “what was the point of that?” I bet you’re nodding right now. That’s good. Some organizations have decided that they “must” have a staff meeting or management meeting every week on a certain day at a certain time. That’s fine – as long as there is new information discussed. But if you have to work too hard to come up with things to talk about, you don’t need a meeting.
Now, every meeting you attend will not be akin to a Bruce Springsteen concert. For the record, I’ve seen Bruce several times on a concert stage and have never walked out of a show thinking, “what was the point of that?” Of course, it is a good idea for management to get together in the same room fro time to time to review where projects stand. But “making progress” is never an acceptable answer in a meeting. And simply going over what is currently in progress isn’t enough of a reason to take people away from actually working on those projects. There has to be more to your meetings.

So, it’s time for organizations to make meetings matter. Here are 5 suggestions on how to do just that:

Send the agenda to attendees ahead of time. Let people know what will be covered in the meeting. EXPECT THEM to have reviewed it before they walk into the room. During the meeting, it is OK to deviate from the agenda but never get so far off topic that items on the original agenda are not discussed.
Start the meeting on time. Time is a valuable commodity that cannot be replicated. Have respect for people’s time by starting the meeting at the time stated on the agenda. If people are late, so be it. Make a note of it and take appropriate action after the meeting.
End the meeting on time. The end time is just as important as the start time. No one likes long, drawn-out meetings. And if you finish before the stated end-time, for goodness sake, do NOT hang on for the extra few minutes. Let people go early.
Do not simply read handouts to the attendees. Not only is it a waste of time but it is also insulting to people’s intelligence. Chances are if they are in the meeting to begin with, they can read all by themselves.
Do not leave the room without establishing action items and assigning responsibility. If you cannot come up with action items to take going forward, you didn’t really need a meeting. You may have needed to exchange e-mails or phone calls but you didn’t necessarily need to take people away from their offices and their teams.
So in summary, meetings should be used to plan and to talk about action. Stop meeting just for the sake of meeting. Your time would be better spent actually working on the projects that you want to “meet” about so much.

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Who Am I?

Originally posted on CU Insight on 5/1/2015

I’m the one that lets others take the credit.

I’m the one that when blame is passed around, I bear the brunt of it.

I’m responsible for my ship and I accept that responsibility gladly and humbly.

I’m the one that navigates the ship, straight and true.

I’m the one that changes course to avoid swells and rough seas.

I listen more than I speak.

I learn more than I teach.

I’m available when needed but also need “me” time to finish my tasks.

I’m the one that tells everyone what a great job you’re doing.

I’m the one that is honest with you when you need to improve.

I don’t point fingers. I take action.

I don’t hide. I’m right in front of you.

I expect you to do what you think is right.

I will correct you if you could have done it better. But I will not fire you for doing what you thought was right at the time.

I will delegate certain duties to you and will expect you to accept them with appreciation. After all, I gave you these duties because I trust you.

I won’t be here forever.

I am always training my replacement.

I have your back.

To get to you, people will have to go through me first.

I will not always tell you everything. Some things are “need to know.”

I will tell you everything that you do need to know.

I expect you to challenge me, respectfully and honestly. I welcome different opinions.

I do not want you to “walk on eggshells” around me. I’m not that fragile. Neither are you.

I will hold you accountable.

I will implement new procedures. I will give you time to adjust.

I expect you to adjust.

I am your first phone call.

I do not expect you to hide anything from me – ever.

I will defend you if you are worth defending.

I will never hold you back.

I want you to succeed.

Who am I?

I am your LEADER.


Are you ready to get ABSURD

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Posted in Building Relationships, Change, Collaboration, Conflict, Credit Unions, Decisions, Employees, Gen X, Human Resources, Innovation, Leadership, Management | 1 Comment

The Middle Ground

Which of these phrases sounds best to you?

“Find the middle ground.”

 “Let’s come to a compromise.”

 “Can we meet somewhere in the middle?”

 “Let’s work towards a mutually beneficial arrangement?”

 Personally, I prefer the last one. The first three are overused and even misused. How does one define the “middle ground?” The concept alone is arbitrary and frankly, too subjective. Why? For starters, my definition of the “middle is always going to be slightly different than your definition. Additionally, the “middle” opens the door to too many outcomes. Finally, human nature never really allows us to be completely satisfied with the “middle.”

In business (and in life,) we need to let go of the misguided belief that every agreement should be 50-50.  That’s simply not realistic in today’s environment.

Indeed, the best we can and should be working for is coming to arrangements that are, as stated above, “mutually beneficial.” We need to accept that 50 isn’t always mandatory. If we get 30 and the arrangement benefits everyone involved, shouldn’t we consider that a “win?” Too many worthy projects or ideas are indefinitely stalled or altogether scrapped because of our need for 50.

Further, not everything involved in a deal or agreement is tangible – so how exactly can it be precisely measured in numbers? As long as there is VALUE (numeric or otherwise,) and the “what’s in it for me?” question is satisfactorily answered, go for it!

Instead of working for the “middle ground,” work for the solution that benefits everyone. Life and business are not based on exact mathematical equations.


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Get Rid of the Nonsense!

If you’re involved with social media, you’ve probably seen the acronym “SMH” attached to posts or tweets. It means “shaking my head” and is used to express disgust, confusion, disbelief, etc. about a particular situation, story, or circumstance.

In all likelihood, you’ve had SMH days at your workplace. It’s inevitable. People do things that downright baffle or even anger you. It’s normal to have days like this. But if you find that you’re spending too many of your days in SMH mode, it’s most likely because something is seriously wrong and needs to be fixed ASAP.

It is vital that organizations rid themselves of nonsense – in whatever form the nonsense presents itself. Nonsense kills, demotivates, and hurts productivity (and thus, profitability.)

As a consultant, I have the privilege of working with many organizations. Leaders of organizations that seem to be stuck in SMH mode call upon me to provide an objective assessment of what’s happening. Believe me, some of these assessments have me not only SMH but PMHO (pulling my hair out.) A lot of the nonsense that I’ve seen has been allowed to fester for months or even years with countless hours of lost productivity and wasted time.

Here are some thoughts on 5 of the most frequent SMH causes:

Meetings that suck. I don’t like meetings. In fact, I hate them. I’d be willing to bet that if you asked your organization’s employees what they really thought about meetings, many, if not most, would shake their heads. Never have meetings for the sake of having meetings. If you must have a meeting, make sure you have an agenda, purpose, and bona fide reason for taking people away from their work.

Complainers. If you have employees that resist every change, gossip about anything, disrupt the harmony of the team, or are just unproductive in general, they need to go! You can’t afford to have these people working for you. Here’s a policy to implement: “Constructive criticism or even complaints are allowed. However, a potential solution to whatever ails whoever must also be suggested.”

Policies and Procedures that are outdated or no longer appropriate. If you haven’t updated your policy manual in the last 3 years, you’re probably hanging onto things that aren’t effective anymore. Perform a hard, candid audit of your policies and procedures (or hire someone to come in to give you an objective assessment.) It’s amazing that in today’s fast-paced market that’s filled with technologically savvy consumers, there are still some organizations that cling to “we’ve never done it that way before.” SMH.

Ineffective Leadership. No one is perfect. But leaders have extraordinary responsibilities. If they’re not up to task, it’s time to say good-bye.

Stifling Creativity and Innovation. Why would you NOT want your best and brightest employees creating and innovating? NEWS FLASH: there is a limit to the number of times a creative employee can hear “no” before walking out the door. Are you going to act on every suggestion? Of course not. But if you’re saying “no” because you refuse to take even the slightest risk or are more concerned with your personal reputation than the welfare and progress of the organization, you don’t belong in a management role.

What are your SMH moments and how have you fixed them? Feel free to comment below.


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