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Sacrifices in Business – Having your cake & eating it too!

I love the quote “every point of refuge has it’s price“. Another one that rings true is “nothing comes for free“.

No where is this more evident than in the world of fast growth business!

What have you had to sacrifice lately? Has it been your percentage of dedication to life or work? How many people do you know that work 8h or less? How many people do you know that are conscious of the true sacrifices they are making each and every day?

This article is more than just about time, energy or strategy management, it’s a “wake-up call” to anyone who thinks that any success comes easy!

It takes courage, moments of truth & at times allot of blind faith to take the necessary measures required to achieve the success you desire. Most of all, along the way, it takes allot of personal sacrifice to make your professional career eventuate into part of the formula which equals “work-life balance”.

A client & I were speaking last week when he shared with me the incredible amount of pressure that he’s under at work. He continued to share how he has recently tried to delegate to his next immediate level of management, hoping to help them grow. Upon reviewing his results, he was astonished at how he was able to deal with so many diverse situations within his workplace. His area is one of the most intense work environments of his entire global organization, and still they provide solid & leading results day-in day-out.

None of this surprised me! From the first time we started our Executive Coaching relationship, I had noted how stringent he was on his work-life balance. For the sake of confidentiality, let’s call him “Joe”, and he can celebrate his balance today because he prepared, trained & practiced for it. Most of all, he paid his dues earlier on & sacrificed when he needed to!

You don’t just wake up one day & have a balanced life! It takes hard work, sacrifices, dedication & lots of practice!

Today he typically splits his time working from home & office. He takes every opportunity to enjoy long weekends with his family. He has a ground rule not to mix work with pleasure on weekends, or after a certain hour of the day. He’s conscious that time is precious and that his young boy will quickly become a young man before the blink of an eye, and so he prioritizes his intensity very carefully. As we discovered, it’s all about energy management!

As an outside observer I had noticed that just like a body builder who rests certain muscles masses in-between workouts to witness effective growth, Joe was resting his brain and giving it different stimuli by engaging in non work related activities on the weekend. By not using the “work” part of the brain over the course of 2-3 days, it enables him to be that much more sharper Monday through Friday. It enables Joe to get allot more done in less time than before.

But it wasn’t always like this! Joe is the exception to the rule, and he has also “been at it” for the greater part of the last 15 years! It takes personal and or professional sacrifice to become really successful at something.

As evidence, I give you Malcom Gladwell’s CNN interview regarding his book Outliers, he briefly touches on the concept of the “10.000 Hour Rule”. I especially love his other interview comparison with The Beatles.

To put this into perspective, 10.000 hours of “practice” is the equivalent to

  • approximately 417 days (or 1.14 years) if you didn’t sleep at all
  • 625 days (or approximately 1.71 years) if you slept for 8 hours & dedicated the remaining 16h to a single task
  • 1.250 days (or approximately 3.42 years) if you only dedicated 8 hours to a single task

In comparison, how much time are you dedicating to what you want to be really good at?

People on many levels of an organization want their cake & eat it too, but contrary to Joe, they aren’t willing to make the necessary sacrifices!

There’s the entrepreneur who makes personal sacrifices on multiple levels just to keep his dream alive, running his start-up “on the smell of an oily rag“. It’s been a hard road but he’s within reach of his dream now!

There was the fast-climbing corporate executive that didn’t have time for a relationship because of the intensity of their business. Any wonder why they’re still “home alone” & without a life-partner at this stage?

Then there’s that guy who felt it necessary to hangout with his friends until the wee hours of the morning having a few beers & exchanging tall tales. Any wonder he typically didn’t get up to speed until noontime at work the next morning? Any wonder why his moments of brilliance were just that, limited to “moments”, even though what was required was more consistency? There are even more countless tales of people who “had the potential but just never materialized it consistently“. It all takes it’s tole and requires a delicate balance if you’re to have your cake & eat it too.

So where can you start?

  • Visualize the life or objective (professional & personal) that you want in 2-3 years (i.e. success.. “your cake”)
    • Make it really visual, to the point where you can smell, taste & almost touch your visualization
      • Quick Tip; Fill it with as many facts & details as possible
  • Visualize your current “reality”
    • If this is going to work, you’ll have to be brutally honest with yourself
      • Quick Tip; This will be the last time you “focus” on your “reality”
        • Focus on your objective, raising your reality toward it instead of focusing on your reality which will only downsize your objective
        • Remember that your reality is merely the accumulation or consequences of your past actions in life, and whilst it might influence the speed at which you can break free of your reality, it does not condition the achievement of your objective
  • Determine “what” is required to bridge your current reality to your visual image of success
    • If you can’t figure this out, get help form someone your trust
      • Quick Tip; Do an inventory and address it
        • There are only two things that stand in your way of success
          1. Limiting beliefs (in yourself or another)
          2. Lack of a strategy
  • Set a time-line to acquire the skills, network or resources you require to achieve your objective
    • Determine “what” activities you’re willing to sacrifice or give-up completely during this period to achieve your success
      • Quick Tip; What is non-negotiable?
  • Now set-up a discipline for yourself to measure your progress along the way
    • Make time in your calendar for reflection on your daily, weekly, monthly progress & make the necessary adjustments
      • Quick Tip; What isn’t measured doesn’t get done!

If you follow these basic guidelines, work hard at them and realize that there are NO SHORTCUTS (!!!), than I guarantee you too can have your cake & eat it too. I can also promise you it won’t be an easy journey! Why? Because “every point of refuge has it’s price“.

A Social Contract – Why you won’t survive without one?

When was the last time you found yourself all alone.. in a dangerous dark alley.. and on the wrong side of town?

You’ve been strolling down a beautiful path of endless optimism, hope and opportunity. Suddenly you realize something has just drastically changed! You’ve made a sudden wrong turn and now find yourself, with the exception of the “thugs”  that intend to provoke physical and emotional harm, all alone in an obviously dangerous place!

What do you do? Who’s got your back? Who’s going to help you get out of the predicament you’ve just found yourself in? Who’s going to stand with you and deal with what’s to come?

Does this sound like a scary scenario? Unfortunately it’s all too frequent!

Let me take you back a few weeks when I had the privilege to be amongst illustrious fellow mentors at the Barcelona mini-seed camp. The night before, as I looked over the agenda, my excitement peaked when I realized that I would be in close quarters with the “legendary” Fred Destin of Atlas Venture. “Legendary” you ask?!?! Well, anytime highly successful entrepreneurs refer to a VC as someone they hold in high regard and respect, first my eyes open wide, then my ears perk up and finally I sit at attention ready to listen!

The very next day this reputation was cemented based on Fred’s shared view of “Social Contracts”. In turn I redefined how I viewed this critical catalyst for success. What I would later read in Fred’s blog couldn’t have prepared me for the wild and wacky, sometimes borderline ethical, tales of business dealings that go on between entrepreneurs and VC’s.

A few days later, Fred agreed to a Skype call, generously shared his perspective on Social Contracts, and here’s what I came away with:

  • A Social Contract is an “understanding” or gentleman’s agreement between two parties
    • To be effective, it supersedes the required legal contracts that govern a relationship
  • A Social Contract is bound by honor, integrity and will become most relevant during critical “moments of truth” yet to come
    • It will get all parties safely through the tough times and hard decisions that are guaranteed in any venture
  • You establish a Social Contract based on a firm hand-shake, a confident stare into the white of the eyes and a mutual respect that you’re both in this journey for the “long-haul”
    • It’s two “human beings” coming together to form an “enterprise”
    • It’s a relationship where either party recognizes the requirement to stand-up against pressure that is sure to come from business and likely life partners, as the journey get’s complicated and the waters become muddied
  • A Social Contract isn’t something entered into lightly and often needs to be the preceded by a multi-hour brainstorming session to guarantee the like-minded intentions of both parties
    • It’s the basis of how you’re about to govern your relationship whilst executing on an agreed 12 to 18 month business plan
    • It has little to do with the financial plan and more to do with the necessary “pivoting of strategy” that is sure to come
  • It’s an investment into the long-term strategy and is based more on the soft assets that are critical in a “moment of truth” vs. the hard assets that traditionally formulate a Business Plan

Our conversation reinforced the practical nature of “working agreements” that I’ve always felt are necessary for any engagement. I take relationships very seriously and just as I would expect my “friends” (vs. acquaintances) to never leave me stranded in an unfortunate circumstance, regardless of who’s at fault for getting us into the mess, I also expect my Social Contract counterpart to stand-up and fight with me regardless of the danger we’re about to face.

Practical Experience

1- The Entrepreneur and their Partner; In similar situations, within the past 12 months I can recount two separate entrepreneurs that “were left hanging” when their supposed partners “parked-it” and quit on them in the midst of the most significant challenges the venture was experiencing. In both cases the entrepreneur was at fault for getting themselves into trouble, more based on inexperience than reckless abandon, yet the partner “checked-out” and left them “hanging in the lurch”. They tried to make it about who’s right or wrong, over-looking that they were both, along with other investors, about to loose their shirts! Fortunately, the entrepreneurs’ resilience, along with a strong network of friends and allies helped pick themselves up by the boot-straps and out of immediate danger.

Both entrepreneurs paid a significant and costly price by either missing time-to-market or suffering a significant devaluation in equity, but most importantly, they learned a crucial lesson in Social Contracts.

2- The Employer and their Employee; Recently I’ve seen the same thing happen in three separate organizations with Senior Executives. This is yet another reason I identified so strongly with the core concept of Fred’s Social Contract. Too often the employee/employer relationship hasn’t been tested under difficult circumstances and when the moment of truth finally comes, especially in a critical situation such as a start-up or hyper-growth environment, the “paid/contracted resource” isn’t up to the task of facing the required adversity! Rather than having the courage to support their leader, or quit outright, they “park-it”, leaving their leader and their company “out-to-dry”. Later, they move onto another company, never taking full responsibility  to the true consequences of their actions, or lack there of.

I always share with employers that often it’s more important to know what NOT to count on than assume what you believe you can count on. Unless the relationship has been tried and tested under adverse conditions, you’re better planning off for, and expecting the worst, whilst hoping for the best.

3- The Friend and the Bar Room Brawl; Several years back, I’d like to think it were only a few ;-), when I was still living in Philadelphia and a few years “younger and innocent”, I was hanging out on South Street in South Philadelphia with 4 “close” friends. We had entered an outside bar that was protected from the street walking traffic by 2 meter high iron gates. In essence, no easy way out! We had all had a few drinks however one particular friend had too much to drink when he decided to cause trouble.  I bet you can imagine what happened next. First I tried to refrain him from being an absolute idiot, but he insisted. Then I tried to mediate the situation before it was 6 against 2! 6 guys staring me and my mate down. Where were my other two friends? They had “checked-out” and left the bar as soon as they saw we were out-numbered and headed for trouble. Later they justified that they hadn’t started the trouble so therefore they shouldn’t have to “face the music”.

The end result were some broken chairs, broken tables and my friend and I were barred from South Street for the next 6 months by the Philadelphia Police Department. We walked away with a little more humility and a few bumps and bruises to show for our stupidity. I slapped my mate over the head and promised to kick him in the pants if he ever did that again! The relevant fact was, I didn’t leave his side, neither would he have left mine. See, we had a bond stronger than words or any legal agreement! We had a Social Contract that we had entered into a few years before, which was to stand-by each other, be the times good or bad, regardless of who stuffed-up. Much like how most marriages are supposed to work! 😉

My closing questions to you are;

  • How secure is your Social Contract with the partners you have in your business or life?
    • Have you faced any moments of truth lately?
      • How did your partners stand-up in the face of adversity, regardless of who was to blame for the mess you found yourselves in?
    • What lessons can you take from that situation?

Reducing your Employee Churn/Burn Rate & Getting Results

What is the most value asset you have in your company? You shouldn’t have to think too hard! It’s the people that execute on your strategy.

So why do you always seem to be “the last man left standing” in your organization?

I’ll share with you the answer, followed by two key lessons & one practical example/result as to the “why” of so many company’s having challenges in retaining staff these days. An especially complex issue to understand, given the current economical crisis, is the unemployment rates around the world are still incredibly high.

The Answer is that we, as leaders, typically do a very poor job of recruitment, induction, ongoing management & assessment of our most valuable assets. And the general root cause is through poor communication and lack of courage!

Personally, even though sometimes hard to swallow, I firmly believe in the 90/10 rule, which states that if one of your staff isn’t working out, it’s 90% YOUR fault.. & only 10% theirs!

Do you think I’m being harsh, unfair & unrealistic? Well, consider this.. who’s in the drivers seat?

  • Who (ultimately) did, or approved the hiring?
  • How clear were you in defining and communicating the Mission & Vision of the company?
    • Did you receive acknowledgment, or other form of undeniable proof that you were clearly understood?
  • How clear were you in defining the role to be fulfilled & the specific outcomes to be expected of the role?
    • Key words being “role & specific outcome”.. forget job description!
  • How clear were you in communicating the behaviors you expected whilst your team executed on your plan?
    • How did you manage the first signs of lack in performance or alignment with your vision, message and/or expectations?
  • How often did you sit down to agree S.M.A.R.T. objectives/goals?
    • How frequently did you follow-up to make necessary adjustments?
    • How quickly did you put someone on a performance plan when they didn’t deliver on what was agreed?
  • How much planning & thought went into the induction, education/training, mentoring or skills acquisition process the individual needed to succeed?
    • How much coaching or mentoring did you consider to be required from yourself, or senior/more experienced staff?
  • How quickly, and how brave were YOU in having “the difficult & uncomfortable conversations”?
    • Are you paying & rewarding your staff to perform?
      • Are you doing the opposite?
      • How are you motivating/encouraging non-performance/conformance?

I could go on & on.. but I think you get the point! It’s YOUR company, YOUR department or YOUR team, and therefore YOU are the ultimate responsible person for the outcome/output of everyone’s role. If things aren’t working out then look inward before you look outward, and once you’ve completed this assignment take responsibility to make the immediate & necessary adjustments.

Lesson #1

  • Be crystal clear on Your Vision & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Who needs to do What, How & by When?
      • This requires acknowledgment & buy-in, however remember you’re the boss (90% responsibility), so make sure that “your team” buys into “your plan”, even if you need their help in constructing it, and not the opposite!
    • Where do you want your company, area or department to be?
    • When do you expect specific results?
      • When do you expect escalations when things are in danger, or aren’t going according to plan?
    • How do you want (expect) your employees to behave, handle themselves and handle adversity (which is sure to come)?
      • What are the rules of engagement?
    • What are the boundaries & non-boundaries that you expect people to respect & understand?
      • What are the focus areas they’re supposed to be focused on in order to achieve success?
  • Be crystal clear on Your Mission… & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Why do you want your people to behave in a certain manner?
    • Why do you need your people to achieve certain results?
    • Why do you require specific results within specific time frames?
    • Why is the company in business to begin with?

I’ve embedded the Core Values, which are the “behaviors” or “rules for the road” within the context of the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How above. That, in short, is your Core Ideology!

Lesson #2

The next biggest lesson you might have to learn, is regarding COURAGE. Courage to stand-up to the “know-it all’s” who’ve never run an enterprise but have every theory in the book as to how your organization should run! I find these days far too many companies have “grayed the line” between “boss & employee” and between responsible for direction & responsible for execution. If you’re going to take 90% responsibility for the failure of an organization, you need to get straight, and clearly understand, who’s “experienced” and better still “paid to run the show”.

In order to deliver on the above, you need the right skill-set that’s for sure, and you also need to have the backbone to “listen first” and “act accordingly second”. Acknowledging someone’s perspective and giving them voice doesn’t mean that you have to take their advice or recommendations over your own experienced opinion or gut instinct/intuition. It only makes you more responsible and accountable to the eventual decisions you make.

Once you’ve guaranteed success, then you can stand back, be humble and allow your team to bask in the glory of having executed excellently on a plan. Take 90% of the responsibility, give 90% of the credit and you’ll have an effective & motivated team!

I’ve spent hours-upon-hours giving practical workshops to MBA students who have paid a pretty penny to gain a highly valuable education, just like I’ve spent hours-upon-hours with both managers and employees who’ve read the latest books containing magical and earth moving experiences. What I always share with them is that “now you have the logic, it’s time to go out into the real world to implement and execute”.

The execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of a thought, or even a strategy. A brilliant thought without effective execution is merely an illusion. A brilliant strategy, without effective execution, is merely a waste of everyone’s energy & time.

Practical Example/Result

I recently walked into an assignment that demanded many changes in a short period of time. Multiple colleagues had just been fired for non performance and conformance. I was walking into an understandably hostile environment!

I stood in front of a room and shared my “what” followed by my “why”. Then came my “how”, where I told them that I only expected  1/2 (!?!?) of the output, dedication and commitment that I was willing to put in myself! However, I also advised them that I typically give 300% to every assignment!!

I explained that I would give them 48 hours to go through the grieving process of having lost their colleagues, followed by 15 days to be at 80% or better, and showing signs they would be at 150% by day 30.

I committed myself to complete transparency & communication, just as I would to holding them as accountable (where & when) as I would hold myself. I shared with them that there would be 2 day, 15 day & 30 day milestones, at which time I would have conversations with non-performers & either implement a performance plan or retire them. I would also make it a regular habit to commend the good performances along the way.

I shared with them that in a 24 hour weekday, I’m hoping you have 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll guarantee you that more than 50% of the remaining 16h will be based on, or thinking about, “work”. Therefore, if you’re going to dedicate more than 50% of your “awake” time to “work” during a 5 day work week rather than to your loved ones & special interests, it’s absolute lunacy to work in a place where you’re not motivated and inspired. As a consequence, if I ask you or if you decide to leave, then we’re only doing each other a favor based on a general concern & well-being for all.

Result

One person left within 48 hours, a few more within the first 15 days, then a few more within the next 15 days. Along the way change happened, a pride which previously didn’t exist filled the department! Results, followed by customer satisfaction, started to sparkle where it didn’t exist before. THEY, the last ones standing, did all of the work. I merely gave them direction and the opportunity to be everything I already knew they could be.

11 Quick Secrets for winning – What’s your Super Bowl?

February 8, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been an avid American Football fan ever since I can remember, and so I’m obviously one of the many who eagerly await the crowning of the National Football League Super Bowl Champions each year. I also love “sentimental favorites”, and so this year we hit the jackpot! After Hurricane Katrina 4,5 years ago, everyone on the planet had to have been cheering for the New Orleans Saints to upset the favorite Indianapolis (formerly Baltimore) Colts.

Drew Brees, the undersized and unlikely hero in a land of giants was voted the Most Valuable Player, and I just finished watching a pre-Super Bowl interview with Katie Couric which will give you 11 key secrets for a formula of success necessary for you to lead your team to your own Super Bowl victory.

These 11 gems, or pearls of practical wisdom that you can implement immediately, are all contained within the first 5 minutes. Here are the highlights, accompanied with my own questions to you:

  • @ 40s; I’m excited.. 4 years ago we had a dream, we had a goal that we would be here at some point, fighting through some ups & downs & adversity to get here
    • It’s never an easy road to victory, so..
      • What’s your plan?
      • How well is it articulated?
      • How prepared are you & your team to deal with adversity along the way?
  • @ 1m10s; I’m always going to be nervous.. feeling those butterflies.. the minute you loose that nervousness it’s time to get out because with that nervousness comes the edge, that edge keeps you locked in, keeps you focused, it’s that will to win..
    • It’s all about Passion, so..
      • What’s your WHY?
      • How Passionate & Focused are you about what you’re doing?
      • How Passionate & Focused are your team?
      • How “bad” does everyone want to win & what are the sacrifices that you’re all willing to make?
  • @ 1m36s; I have so many mentors in my life, coaches, teachers, people that I’ve worked with in my past, that I continue to talk to today. People that give me the best advice at the best time, and then I’m able to relay that to my teammates, or guys who need it, who may be going through the same thing that I went through at some point
    • You can’t do it on your own, so..
      • Who are you surrounding yourself with that’s going to give you the right answers at the right time for the right situation?
      • How are you going to engage & relay that information to your team, and with what frequency & intensity?
      • Are you surrounding yourself with practical people that have been there, “done that” before, or theorists that have studied it? What’s the right blend?
  • @ 2m03s; so much about being a Quarterback is that there are 10 other guys in that huddle, each one is motivated at times in different ways. Some guys.. all you have to is give them a look, other guys you might have to yell at them a little bit, each guy had a different trigger or button that you need to push in order to get their best
    • You have to know your team (Leadership part 1), so..
      • Are you prepared to give that stern look, or have that “hard conversation”, yet be empowering in the way that you do it?
      • Are you communicating, engaging & enrolling your player? Do you know their “triggers” and treating your team as a motivated group of individual performers?
      • Are you willing to follow-up on lack of performance & “bench”/sideline your players when they don’t perform? In a worst case scenario are you ready to let go & trade them to another team, or even league?
  • @ 2m35s; when you let people know how much you care, how much you care about them ,or in our case, how much you care about the game & winning the game, and being at my best, & that I’m going to lay it on the line for them.. they play for you
    • You have to set the example (Leadership part 2), so..
      • How much are you rallying around you own “WHY”, and are you communicating with passion?
      • How are you showing that you care? As much for the team as eh victory itself?
      • How are you striving to “be the best”, be your best?
      • How are you “laying it on the line” for your team? (walking your talk)
  • @ 3m16s; (Katie) A teacher told us that you’ve been teaching kids in New Orleans that anything is possible , and therefore you’re becoming responsible for the hopes & dreams of all these children looking to you for courage & inspiration.. do you some times feel like that’s too much pressure?  (Drew) It’s a source of strength for me.. a responsibility just knowing that as a quarterback of this football team, and a member of this community, I have the platform that I do to influence so many people in such a positive way, and in the end, I’m only being myself, I just embrace the opportunity & do as much as I can and give back as much as I can
    • Take responsibility for your team’s hopes & dreams (Leadership part 3), so..
      • Are you shying away from responsibility, or rather rising up to it & embracing it?
      • Are you leading a team, but still part of a community?
      • Are you leveraging the platform you have in order to positively influence your team’s performance?
      • Are you being yourself, allowing your true self to shine through?
      • How are you giving back?
  • @ 3m50s; the number one piece of advice I give to kids is that they can accomplish anything they want in life, don’t allow anyone else to tell you otherwise if you’re willing to work for it! That’s the truth, we can all be whoever we want to be as long as we’re willing to work for it. There’s no mountain that too high or task that’s too great!
    • If you can can dream it you can achieve it, so..
      • What’s your dream? Personal, Professional, and team?
      • How have you communicated it & how do you remind yourself & the team on a daily basis?
      • Is everyone putting in “the hard yards”? Is it a true team effort?
      • How hungry are you? How hungry is your team?
  • @ 4m25s; no Quarterback that’s too short.. impossible.. I’ll never let those people get the best of me.. they’ve been telling me that all my life!
    • It’s all about belief, so..
      • How much do you & your team believe in your dream or vision?
      • What are the reaffirming tools that are in place to make sure that the belief stays strong?
  • @ 5m00s; I’m supposed to be the calm, cool & collected one.. but that’s what I like about it.. going outside the norm, outside the box and something I started two years ago.. a special rally cry that get’s you going..
    • It’s all about communication & innovation (Leadership part 4), so..
      • When things aren’t working, how are you stepping outside the box to find new solutions?
      • How are you rallying your team?
      • What is your own unique & secret “rallying cry”?
  • @ 5m45s; that once you’re in that huddle, you’re part of a brother hood, now we’re going to go out onto that field & we have to play together, trust each other and win together
    • It’s all about teamwork, unity & trust, so..
      • What’s your “huddle” routine? How often & when do you look each other in the eyes & set the course of the next play that’s going to score you a touchdown?
      • What’s your pulse check to make sure everyone senses the responsibility of a “brotherhood” and steps up their game?
      • What’s your method of creating transparency that has everyone “play together” & trust one another enough to “pick-up the ball & run with it” when your teammate has fallen or faltered?

At the 13m50s mark, Drew talks about the perspective that an injury brought him early in his career. A downward cycle in his life that became a moment of reflection and gave him heightened perspective. A “time-out” of sorts, that possibly allowed him to gather his thoughts, strengthen his conviction and put together a master plan built on the sweat & tears of good old hard & honest work. A moment of reflection, that led him to stand on top of the biggest stage of his life only a few shorts hours ago.

What are the simple lessons you can learn from this interview, and from his story?

“Yesbutters” & “whynotters”.. which are on your team?

One of my clients this morning sent me the following and whilst I couldn’t find the original author, I thought it was very relevant.

Yesbutters don’t just kill ideas, they kill companies, even entire industries.

The yesbutters have all the answers….

  • Yesbut we’re different
  • Yesbut we can’t afford it
  • Yesbut our business doesn’t need it
  • Yesbut we couldn’t sell it to our workforce
  • Yesbut we can’t explain it to our shareholders
  • Yesbut let’s wait and see

All the answers. All the wrong answers!

Whynotters move Companies, so the next time you’re in a meeting, look around and identify the yesbutters, the notnowers and the whynotters. God bless the whynotters, they dare to dream, and to act. By acting, they achieve what others see as unachievable!

Before the yesbutters yesbut you right out of business, “why not”, indeed?

– Author Unkown

As a consequence, this was the funniest, & yet simplest advice that I could give to a CEO who just didn’t think his team had the capability to overcome adversity. By reflecting on this message, he realized that it wasn’t the strategy that was too complex, but rather the attitude of his team that wasn’t aligned with his expectations for results driven focus.

So he gathered his team earlier this morning & shared with them that yesbutting was a now forbidden practice. He made time in his agenda to help anyone out who didn’t know how to become a whynotter. The end result was that by the end of the day, he reported back to me that with the exception of two individuals who are now on a performance plan, his yesbutters had transformed into whynotters and the outlook for the rest of the week was much brighter than before.

Take a look around you. What type of people surround you at work? More importantly, what type of people do you allow to surround your personal life? Inspiring whynotters or depressing & dream dampening yesbutters?

Ready to make any changes?

———————–

P.S. Thanks Fabio!

Save the last dance for me..

December 7, 2009 2 comments

Updated 21-12-2009.. In the early hours of the morning of December 17th, my father finally passed away to his resting spot.. ironically, he didn’t go quietly.. a few minutes after his death.. an earthquake hit Spain, and Portugal ….

Do you remember being a small child & standing on your fathers toes? Do you remember looking up at that all impressive image of a man, asking him to shuffle his feet and dance with you? On a Monday, that was the 23rd of November this year, I danced my last dance with my father.

This isn’t your typical post to be found on this blog, but it’s one I need to write today. Through it, in addition to some own self healing for myself, I hope that it will help others better understand some of the underlying issues that effect us all, as well as our colleagues, at work, at play and everywhere we encounter human beings.

I’ve long contested that we are animals of emotions, that’s a fact, regardless of whether we want to admit it or not. The lessons from “Save the last dance for me” will one day be an entire chapter in the book that many keep inspiring me to write, but for now, it’s a simple recant of my last journey home.. to say goodbye to dad.

My father is dying from prostate cancer, ready to leave our world any day now. For several years he’s been battling his cancerous illness, and how he’s made it this far still baffles the doctors that look after him. They say that he should have been gone weeks, or even months ago, but with every hospital interment, something inside of him becomes stronger than the grim reaper that tries to take him from us. A few nights ago my mother, brother & I reached a final stage that I don’t wish upon anyone, the stage at which someone asks you to decide whether or not to follow medical advice, and put an end to the dialysis which has been a 3 times per week routine for my family, necessary to keep him alive. On Thursday he had another episode, and convulsions of what is rotting from within were evidence that he has reached the final stages where there is nothing left to do. At 82, now bed ridden and mainly unconscious, my concern now extends to my mother, who at the young age of 77, can hardly keep the promise she made long ago. “Whilst the other is alive, there wont be a nursing home for either”.

My father is the youngest of 8 siblings, all of them girls. Most of them have now passed away themselves, with one sole survivor, I believe the eldest, which will yet again watch another one go from our midst. Coming from a modest background, he always tried to teach me critical lessons of life which I often did not heed, and ironically, the most frequent of which led to one of the most challenging moments in my life more recently.

My dad was “old school”, raised by what most would describe as a “less than loving environment”. It’s sad to see generation after generation inflict such pain on themselves, both emotional as well as physical, only in the name of “not knowing any better”. For me, my generation was the breaking point, a generation in which my brother & I said “enough” and tried to change our environment for the sake of ourselves, as much as everyone around us, and for our own generations to come. Tears welled up from inside on Friday November 20th, sitting at an outdoor café on the outskirts of Lisbon, when my brother recounted the most recent flashback which he obviously needed to speak out-loud. My father has always had large hands, it’s a family characteristic, and my brother used to fear those large fists that would beat on him for reasons that modern parenting would find uncomprehendable. This time, many many years since he had last laid a hand on anyone, the flashback was triggered by my father’s frail outreached hand, seeking assistance to stand-up out of the taxi that transported him home from his last hospital stay. The hand that used to punish, now needed an act of empathy & support.

When I last saw my dad a few weeks ago, he could barely sit upright, but still had enough strength to raise his now fragile hands to reach out and hold mine. His body no longer had the energy to heat itself, and so he sought comfort from the warmth of mine. This is what everything had come down to, the tender touch that for so many years I had craved, now came as a consequence of desperation, and all I could think of was.. “what emotional turmoil was eating him up inside?” What emotional pain, which had lived within him for most of his adult life, and that is most likely much more cancerous than any disease that can be treated with medication?  You see, I realized a few years ago, thanks to the beautiful energy of my dear & loving wife Maria, that his violence was not that of a “bad man”, but that of a “frightened one”.

Since meeting Maria in the spring of 2006, I’ve again learned many valuable lessons, which have consequently given me yet another rebirth in what can be considered “quite an eventful life”. I’d have to say that the most significant one to-date has been understand the concept of “forgiving without condoning the act”. This has been a great gift, and brought with it relief from a weight on my soul, allowing me a few years ago to finally be at peace with my father after so many years of discomfort.

Self admittedly, I can be very judgmental, something I am able to better control in my professional life than in my personal one. For as long as I can remember since my late teens, all I could feel was anger and resentment toward the man, that whilst providing for his family, also inflicted much pain. I was fortunate, or maybe not depending on your viewpoint, as by my 14th birthday the physical pain which my brother and mother had been subjected to for so many years, was now transitioning into more of an emotional bargaining chip. It would take me almost 28 years to understand that my father was simply a victim of his on circumstances, upbringing, and internal daemons, fed by his inner fears & complexes of inferiority. That was the true “cancer” eating away from within long before the one that now draws an end to his daily breath. How can people create such pain for themselves? Why are we so often ignorant to how our own internal fears allow us to live such unproductive lives? I recently read a quote by from a Mary Oliver poem that reflects “are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” It is reflections like this, that want me to breath lots of life into every breath that I breath!

Plato once wrote “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Maslow used to say that “the human is a wanting animal  and rarely reaches a state of complete satisfaction for a short period of time”. Are these the things that drove him “insane”? I know that in my own short 45 years I have had to learn to deal with this heritage handed down. Some may call it a curse, but through my own development, I have actually found the blessing in overcoming what traditionally holds us back from self-actualization.

What was he trying to prove, or reach? A man that once served King Juan Carlos I of Spain whilst he was exiled in Portugal, (yes.. that’s who influenced the name that would be bestowed upon me at birth) my father was also a “tailor to the stars” back in the mid to late 60’s, a status that would again be bestowed upon him many years later in Philadelphia upon the occasion of tailoring some outfits for Bill Cosby. What was the pain that this man held so deep inside of him? That ate away at his very heart? I do believe that my father loved us dearly, but unfortunately, he just didn’t know how to express that love, and in turn, his frustration resulted in sour and unfortunate outcomes. I truly believe that words & acts, which on the outside were of harsh criticism, were simple and frustrated expressions which he unfortunately couldn’t articulate in more empathetic tones.

How many of us leave things unsaid? How many of us allow an argument to go unresolved? How would you feel if the last words you spoke to someone, or the last emotions you felt, were to become the last remaining exchange with that person for eternity?

I’ve been fortunate to be able to leverage allot of my own self discovery toward my work. This for me is a beautiful thing, because it means that I have a greater opportunity to live more consistently “on purpose”. Think of your average workday.. or work week.. would you agree that on average, over the course of a year, you spend more time with your colleagues at work than you do with the ones you love most? How are your relationships at work? And more importantly.. how are your relationships at home? How have you expressed your true sentiments? Towards others, as well as yourself?

In-between the Friday that I arrived & the Monday that I departed to return back to my “now home” of Barcelona, I spent yet another magical weekend with my two boys, Joni 17 & Riki 13. A weekend which included speaking to their teachers to discover how I could better help the evolution. A weekend that was full of simple adventures & shared experiences! A divorce back in 96/97 has conditioned the time that I have been physically present, a fact in itself that often haunts me, and that I deal with the best I can. I consider myself fortunate to have a very special relationship with Joni & Riki! They are indeed my greatest pride & joy, along with my relationship with Maria, and I take necessary measures to ensure that I educate them, through dialogue, as to “the ways of the world”, sharing with them every facet of my own life, fears & mistakes, hoping that they can find their own way in the world, with less turmoil than I. That is another thing that I hold dear from my father’s lessons.. “that it is our obligation to ensure the success of the next generation”. I had to figure most of that out for myself, inspired by others who would come into my life’s journey.

On the Monday that I departed Lisbon, the morning of November 23rd, my father wanted to walk around the small apartment he & my mother share. My mom’s patience was wearing thin, weighed & burdened from abuses which have left her scarred,  her frail form didn’t permit her to lend him a helping hand. My father insisted that I keep tapping away at the keyboard, insistent as always that work is more important than anything else. As I look across the room at this now shell of a man.. that I once imagined all empowering.. I stopped tapping on my keys.. and I made the rest of the world wait!

Lifting his remaining 54 kilo frame off the lounge, all I could feel, as I placed my arms around him, were bones protruding from his skin. There was little physical presence of this man I call my father, and so that morning.. we danced.. this time his feet on mine.. we danced our last dance…

P.S. Updated 21-12-2009.. In the early hours of the morning of December 17th, my father finally passed away to his resting spot.. ironically, he didn’t go quietly.. a few minutes after his death.. an earthquake hit Spain, and Portugal