June 28, 2008

Bees

I love bumble bees. They are awesome creatures.

First of all, their uniform rocks – yellow and black is strong. They are a meaty insect with excellent engineering. They exert just enough effort to get the job done but in an instant can move quickly. They are focused. They work independently. There is a common team goal. If you want to learn more about these cool creatures, there has been a study on the DNA of the bumble or honey bee.

I was on a conference call recently and decided to do it in the backyard of my home office. At one point in the call someone asked me something and I went on about bees. After everyone finally believed me that I hadn’t been drinking copious amounts of alcohol at 10am, I made my point. In fact it was one of those moments where it helped what we were discussing.

Often we think our people are all the same – a subject from a previous blog post – but we know they are not. But why I love bees is because they have bought in to the plan. Their individual skills are paramount to the success of the team; they are left to work their part of the plan on their own. I’m not sure if bees have conference calls or team building meetings but somehow the communication is solid and the plan is carried out.

They can hover like a helicopter and fly like an F-16 at the same time. It is a marvel to watch them work. You can stand right next to them and they won’t even flinch. They are focused. They are not threatened by you and they won’t sting you if you leave them to their toil.

They are not bogged down by politics or egos or backstabbing or emotions. They are there for a job, they have mutual respect for each other, and they get it done.

Perhaps you can score an idea or two from simply observing life? No, I have not been drinking.

km

June 27, 2008

Name on the Building

It’s the Friday of a long weekend in Canada. It’s the beginning of a very long extended extra long weekend for some in the U.S. Every few years, the calendar doesn’t work in our favor.

This Tuesday (July 1st) is Canada’s 141st birthday and next Friday (July 4th) is America’s 232nd anniversary. I’m thinkin’ it’s time for a massive backyard BBQ for everyone in both countries. Now that’s free trade, baby!

But the discussions are hilarious these days. Tuesday (July 1st) or Canada Day is the official beginning of cold beer and wearing too little and being outside season. It works better when it’s attached to a weekend. So everyone is asking “Are you off on Monday?” “Who’s coming in Monday?” “Will we be open Monday?” “Have you booked Monday?”

A hundreds of years from now, who cares ...take the day off.

This year works out perfect in the U.S. but there is one problem, because Independence Day lands on the Friday. The long weekend is extra special when it falls on the Monday because then you get three days off and only have to go back to work for four.

Work is important, it lets us buy things. But unless your name is on the building, have some perspective. Millions and millions of us have at one time left a meeting with an envelope in our hand and our security card in our former boss’ hands. It happens, for various reasons – doesn’t matter. If that has happened to you, what happened to all those deadlines you were trying to meet? Did all those Blackberry pins vanish? How were they going to survive without you?

I was talking with a colleague a few months back and she said that she was so stressed she broke down crying in her office. She said she really “needed to take some time off”. Have you been there? Does this sound familiar? I left a gig with 39 accrued vacation days – I am the idiot. Congrats, I work hard – yippee. Unless your name is on the building, sign out the vacation request form and get out of the office.

There is nothing that excites me more than working with smart people on fun projects. Well, a Porsche GT and a villa is Tuscany may change my view, but that’s not the point. But after working for a lot of years and being the “busy person” everyone goes to – it’s time for all of us to take off the work gear, crack a cold one and call friends we haven’t talked to in a while and remember – if our name is not on the building, we deserve it.

The person who's name is on the building learned this lesson long ago.

km

June 26, 2008

Think Big

I don’t check history sites very often, but I thought I’d do it today...

June 26, 1819 WK Clarkson patented the first bicycle. Mine collecting dust in the garage is probably not a good plan.

The St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in 1959. It connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic. Without trade routes, economies don’t move. Way cool.

John F. Kennedy gave his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in Berlin, mere months before he was killed in 1963. It’s interesting to watch the first few rounds in the McCain vs. Obama boxing match. This race will be nothing if not interesting …and expensive …and distracting.

The world’s tallest free-standing structure was opened in Toronto. The CN Tower is 32 today. It’s like being in a low flying aircraft overlooking the city. If you haven’t been, it’s worth the 58 second elevator ride – strap in!

I’m a race fan and a car freak so this is cool, the first Grand Prix race was held in Le Mans, France 82 years ago today. Ah yes, Sunday morning with a fresh cup in my hand watching a race. It’s almost spiritual.

And this is beyond words I possess. On June 26th, 2000 – the first map of the Human Genome was completed. Check this out – they had to decode more than three BILLION biochemical letters of human DNA. Holy crap! I can’t decode my phone bill most months.

When you feel overwhelmed, or self-doubtful, or left wondering if your ideas are too big or far fetched. A black man may be the next President, a structure was built three decades ago which stands 1815.39ft. in the air, we have created a waterway where there wasn’t one before, and we now have MapQuest for our genetic code.

It’s 8 O’clock already. Where did the day go??

km

June 25, 2008

We’re Not The Same

There are about 6.7 billion of us living on the little blue planet. We come from rich families, poor families, we are old, young, smart, not so smart, creative, technical, emotional, and cold. We are kind and mean, helpful and selfish. Some of us take the credit for others' work, others take all the blame. A few of us even do truly selfless work and help others because it's the right thing to do. Some of us feel the need to boast about every victory while others are shy and self-doubtful.

How many of these people work with you or with your company? Perhaps you're at one of those rare places where everyone is exactly the same?

When I talk to colleagues and clients who are involved in a struggling venture, they often point to problems with the product or the price or competition or technology. Few think that if they looked closely at the people, they may find the answer.

Consultants are usually hired to “fix it”. That’s not good enough, and it’s a band-aid at best. If you can motivate people, find their strengths, give them the tools in the right position within the organization – you will have a fighting chance to compete on price, product, technology and competition.

This is not about scaring or firing people - it's about empowering people. Or the “teach a person to fish vs. give a person a fish” lesson.

We have all been in meetings where the boss reprimands the group because sales are down or because market share has softened. Is everyone on the team to blame? Is everyone working at optimum levels? Does everyone have the same level of expertise in the group? Has the game plan been clearly mapped out to everyone? Is there a game plan?? Is there constant follow-up on how to carry out that plan? And is everyone on the team motivated the same way?

Treat everyone in your organization the same and you risk losing your top performers. Lower the bar and your competition may soon be some of the people in your boardroom now.

km

June 24, 2008

Words

I love words. As we all try unsuccessfully to keep up, the common thread is our need to belong. It was wrapped up nicely in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which is part of a paper he wrote entitled A Theory of Human Motivation first published in 1943.

We want to belong and communicate. Words are the most powerful way we do that.

As I travel in many circles, circles that are growing every day with the wild-wild west that is social media, some have found powerful applications for certain words.

Mitch Joel reminded me that one of my all-time favorite words is authentic.

Seth Godin springs to mind anytime I utter or write the word remarkable.

These aren’t slick marketing buzzwords – these are words that have been used in the right context and have become even more powerful.

Some of my favorites include; love, honest, interesting, passionate, dream, money, chocolate, and real.

Above the fireplace in my living room is a word beautifully carved in dark stained wood. One man gave it added strength, hope and meaning. John Lennon was only on this earth for 40 short years, but his mark will be felt for generations. He said it best with one word.

Imagine.

km

June 23, 2008

What We Need

My cell phone died this morning. I use that as the big umbrella word which covers everything – human error, dropping it, bad service patch, all of it.

When equipment craps out on me, there is no point in blaming anyone or anything but myself. It must be my fault; it must be something I did. It couldn’t be mechanical error, I’m a dufus.

We live with toys and technology. If it was about functionality; all cell phones would have a keypad, an ear speaker, a microphone, and that’s all.

But we have hundreds of options to choose from with cell phones. It's the same with computers, televisions, audio equipment, and the list is absolutely never-ending. As the cliché goes – as soon as you buy something – it’s obsolete.

Phones can flip, slide, be used to exchange emails, fry an egg, work documents, accept faxes, take pictures, record audio, and there are things I’m missing and things that are coming soon.

We create a need for our lives, and then we fill that need. Or we create a gadget then justify the need for it. None of us NEED a television screen the width of our “media room”. None of us NEED Bluetooth sunglasses. None of us NEED a moon roof in the car. None of us NEED Riboflavin in our breakfast cereal.

This morning I just NEEDED my phone for a phone call. Happy Monday.

km

June 21, 2008

Saturdays Count Too

It’s never easy waking up early in the winter. The few dozen times I've had to host a radio morning show always came with the requisite three-alarm system that rivaled the CIA security code required to enter a washroom at the Pentagon. That exercise was doubly painful in February. Cold dark winter vs. warm toasty bed. That is why morning guys make the big bucks. So says the theory.

If you haven’t tried to wake up at 3am in February in a while – and yes, it is much different than being up or going to bed at 3am – let me assure you, it’s not much fun.

But this morning, the sun woke me up at 5:53. The first pot of coffee was half-brewed by 6:15. The house was filled with bright sunshine, the tunes cranked, coffee sipped, I almost called a friend but realized it was only 7:14am.

Instead, I listened to some perfect music for the moment. One song was The Verve - Lucky Man. It's bright and hopeful and I just let the rays warm my face while I enjoyed the prestine guitar and Richard Ashcroft's vocals wash over me.

Isn’t it funny that most of us can spring out of bed when we’re off to do something fun? During all my years of radio, the Tuesday morning shuffle has always been quite humorous. Sales account managers barely making the 8:15 with coffee in hand, half asleep. Then I’d get the offer from one of them for a 7am Saturday tee time without hesitation.

We spend a lot of our time and energy working and working on work and talking about work. Here’s an idea; grab a nice hot fresh cup of coffee, load up some of your favorite tunes on the player, put your feet up and LISTEN. No email, no books, no phones, no work.

Saturdays count too. I hope you enjoy yours.

km

June 20, 2008

Fridays Count Too

I remember what my Grade 10 math teacher used to say when we were acting up in class at the end of the week: "Fridays count, too". He also used to say "Math is not a team sport", but that's 'cause he usually caught me “getting inspiration” from my peers during exams.

The point of "Fridays count, too" represents a tremendous competitive advantage you can have over your competition.

It holds true in countless examples. Think about how most people structure their day. They get in around 9am, have a coffee, check e-mail, make a few calls, yak in the hallway, maybe have a meeting. It’s now 11am or noon.

If they have a lunch, they get back around 1-1:30pm, check e-mail, yak in the hallway, grab an afternoon coffee, and it's mere hours from quittin' time.

I am not the cubicle type at all! I don’t think people should set in their fattening pens and type away all day – that kind of office space makes me wanna hurl. I’m a guy who would rather wear jeans to work because it isn’t about dress code, it’s about the ideas and the work.

But it is work so have a good look at how you structure your day and how your organization structures its day.

Do your meetings end with "who does what by when"? Are people given the space and tools to truly be creative? Does everyone have a clear vision of the game plan or how they can contribute? Are you maximizing everyone's strengths?

And perhaps on Friday afternoons - when your competition is taking an extended lunch or on the golf course - you can make your next move?

Or take the day off, and meet up with your competitors in the club house.

km

June 19, 2008

Behind The Curtain

One of the many people I admire in the media is Mark Ramsey; he’s a wicked smart forward thinking dude. Mark has been ahead of the curve a long time while bending media types’ minds in to thinking differently and focusing on – here comes the weird part – the audience!

It’s interesting to watch as we in the media try and figure out “what’s next”.

We talk about technological advancements, social media, online changes, tuning habits, eyeballs, music cycles, ears, information levels, page views, time spent listening, average quarter hours, and unit rates. The list is virtually endless.

If you are not in the media, all this means the square root of nothing to you.

We spend countless hours emailing each other, on calls, deliberating, researching, wondering, hoping and guessing. We pontificate and agonize and analyze over heaps of data and studies to determine audience appetite.

All the while those not in the media have neither clue nor interest.

There are conventions on the subject of radio, television and various other media and how it is changing. There are meetings with PowerPoint presentations and conference calls to discuss the future and how it will affect today.

While media outsiders don’t give it a second thought.

Ramsey posed a question yesterday which was this – if you had a radio station but no longer had your broadcast tower, what would you do? What kind of “station” would you build?

My overly simple answer is; something interesting and remarkable. I’ll spare you the results of the meetings and deliberations.

If you try and please everyone, you will please no one. So pick a hill to climb and get on your hiking boots. Meetings and planning are important. What is much more important is passion, teamwork and inspiration. Don’t get caught up on the tower; get caught up on the idea.

Thanks Mark, for always making us think.

km

June 17, 2008

Most Want It. Few Expect It.

Think back to the last time you were in a retail setting and received real customer service. You were blown away. You told your friends. You didn't expect it.

I was just dealing with a service provider that boasts top notch service with the latest technology. Their website was down for hours and their help lines were flooded because their website was down. Servers crash – no one's immune – but it’s funny when it happens to a company that rests its reputation on this stuff.

We can't lose focus on the goal of any business – to get more business and to keep clients/customers happy. But there is a big difference between service and servitude. The customer is not always right. The customer has a need but doesn't always know what they want.

Imagine going into a car dealership and the sales rep has no idea what options are available on the car you want to purchase. There are other dealerships; you’ll walk out. Everyone has choice. If you are prepared to spend $30,000 on a new vehicle, you hope – you expect – the dealership is a cohesive business that gives everyone inside the organization good customer service in order to give you the same.

Ensure that everyone in your organization is sure of the game plan and how best to give customer service. If someone is unsure, take the time to show them. If not, your customers will walk out.

km

June 16, 2008

Life’s What You Make It

I had a great chat with a good friend this morning about work, but most of all we talked about life. We talked about families and priorities and fears and wow it was pretty deep for a Monday morning! But it was a good chat – one most of us should have more often.

I am not suggesting we forget responsibilities, but I saw a guy the other day screaming at someone on his cell, while his kids waited to play.

Then there was the day I was looking at email at a stop light and I heard a skid. The guy behind me missed plowing into the back of my car by inches. After he was able to stop, I noticed him looking on the floor of his car. Then he was back on his Blackberry.

I wonder if both of us in the hospital or as the main attraction at a funeral was worth all that stress, possible injury and break dust. And I justified that my car was stopped before I got back to the important emails.

I'm not slammin' PDAs, but how many people are driving beside you with their head somewhere else? How many are in that ill-fated 3pm meeting with no brain cells left to concentrate? How many people do you know who have recently gotten a promotion only to realize the workload is just bigger and the hours are longer?

This is not the cynic guide to the working week – I enjoy working, I just think it's okay to call a friend once in a while and talk about life.

km

June 13, 2008

Jobs Well Done

Steve Jobs announced details last week about the iPhone 3G to be released July 11th. There are more functions, more integrated abilities and it will start in the U.S. at about $200.

Jobs and the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak have done remarkable work since his return in 1997 after a 12 year absence.

The magic of this company is their CEO. That is not to diminish work from thousands of developers, designers, and staff that keep Apple in business. But he is the rock star geeky gear head in jeans on stage with a laptop balancing on his finger.

While some think it’s all about price, this guy gets it. Other than bathroom tissue and nail clippers, there aren’t too many things we buy without attaching some emotion to it.

At one time, Macs were common to graphic designers, audio editors and the film industry. I remember years ago a producer was in my office begging for a G4 for his studio. This was not a kid throwing a tantrum because he didn’t have the shiniest toy – it was because the Mac platform was simply superior for that application.

Last year, Fortune Magazine named Steve Jobs the most powerful businessman in the world. That is high praise. Jobs and his team have been very aggressive with their marketing – most notably their television campaigns. And with over 70% share of the portable mp3 player market and increasing home and business shares of their other products, the campaigns are working.

Apple will never have the market dominance of PC, that’s not the point.

BJ Bueno in The Power of Cult Branding says we need to build brands people love, not brands people won’t hate. Good advice for Apple, good advice for all of us.

Test that theory by touching someone’s iPod and watch the reaction.

km

June 11, 2008

The Cost of Exploration

Throughout my career, I have conducted numerous research projects. You may have done so as well.

These projects have run the range of issues such as; music, entertainment, buying habits, behavior, packaged goods, and the list goes on. I love research but caution colleagues and clients on the importance of researching the research.

You must know what you want out of the research and that means asking the right questions to the right people.

Research is expensive and dangerous. You can spend thousands to get the wrong answers and steer your company in the wrong direction.

Lately, we are all talking about the price of oil and gas. We have become dependant on it so while the price continues to rise, our use does not subside. So we pay more at the pumps to drive our cars. But few of us spend much time talking about the fact that the price of strawberries has increased substantially in a decade. We eat just as many strawberries and put just as much fuel in our vehicles.

These issues are important when doing research. People do what they want to do – we may complain – but our behavior is slow to change.

Or perhaps the conflicts in the Middle East are about the safety of strawberry merchants?

So when you ask someone’s opinion who speaks for hundreds or thousands in a focus group or research project, remember – perception and convenience are not married. The real cost of exploration is thinking that research is a surefire solution.

Research is one of your many compasses but without proper input; you can get off course quickly. So ask carefully, spend wisely, and digest slowly.

Which reminds me; I need to fill the tank, I'm out of strawberries.

km

June 10, 2008

Perspective

I just spent a week attending a funeral and various gatherings with friends to celebrate a life cut way too short. Haul out the clichés but they all ring true. Life is too short!

It got me thinking about the end of my life - a topic I don't deal with all that well. I prefer to use the "la la la, I can't hear you" approach. But I am of the belief that a celebration is better than the alternative. When I go, crack open the beers on my behalf!

Death is sad – a life is usually cut short, but what is worse is not living while we’re here.

I just received news of a colleague who will not live a long life and will have a rough road ahead while he’s here. It’s horrific. We never know.

It’s interesting how your perspective can change in an instant. So often in business, problems stem from what are essentially silly turf wars. People feel wronged because they are passed over for a promotion, or someone else in the building received preferential treatment, or myriad reasons why we humans get all twisted up about irrelevant stuff.

So have a look around, the situation may not be as it seems. Someone may not be out to get you or trying to steal your job – they may just be having a bad day or dealing with life stuff.

As well, it seems we all have some degree of fear. That may be fear of failure, fear of what they'll think, fear of what may happen. What if that fear was removed by an immediate reminder that time is ticking?

Grab life by the balls and don't let go.

Have a great day!

km

June 3, 2008

Underdog Champion

I love underdogs. They’re scrappy. There are thousands of examples. Less than a minute left, goalie pulled, you bang in the rebound. The Penguins did it last night and held on for dear life until they won game 5 in triple overtime.

Sport is so often used as the cliché because it’s so perfect. One of my favorite sayings – and I have many; the problem with teamwork is that not everyone on the team is working.

How many times have you been in a business situation where the solution is to cut spending? Sometimes, it’s cut people which is never fun.

But the underdog finds ways around money issues, staff shortages, bigger better financed competitors. Rarely do companies succeed by simply under-spending. However, there are plenty of companies – and sports teams – that have overspent to failure.

If you’re the underdog, get scrappy. If you’re the leader, don’t forget how you got there.

I love the story about Steven Bradbury. He is an Australian speed skater who had very little hope of doing much – but making the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City was a huge accomplishment.

Steven won his heat, got into the finals and was the long shot at best. Rounding the final lap of the 1,000 meter final, he was clearly in fifth place. It was over.

But he kept skating as hard as he could. Suddenly, disaster struck. The other four skaters fighting for the lead, smacked in to each other, slid into the boards and Bradbury won the gold medal.

Be scrappy and stay on your feet.

km

June 2, 2008

We Are All Alone Together

About 18 months ago, a friend gave me a DVD of The Secret. I spent the first half of the video watching with my arms folded in doubt, and the second half taking notes.

It was just what I needed – a kick in the ass.

But one crucial part of the process is – action. No one will paint the picture for you – you need to move. I didn’t. I had fifty ideas and didn’t know which one to do. Been there, done that?

It’s a daily process, but it really is amazing how much gets done when you get going.

Social Networking has given us a canvas to paint whatever we want and share it quickly. But we are all just people bumping into each other and each other’s ideas, if we do nothing with those connections.

I was watching what some would constitute a “girlie movie” the other night – P.S. I Love You. It's a cool story with good lessons. Plus I think Hilary Swank is a gifted actress and the cast was excellent.

There is a line in the movie that rang true to what I’m referring to here; “The thing to remember is if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too”.

km

 
© Kneale Mann Leadership Strategist Executive Coach Speaker Facilitator 613.983.5009 knealemann@gmail.com
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