A Shining Moment: 8 Lessons Learned From a 17 Minute Rain Delay

Once upon a time, there was a year dominated by turmoil – where groups were pit against groups and fear was being instilled everywhere – anti-immigrants against immigrants, cops against blacks – unfortunately the list is endless.

Then came an event that shook the world from China to Chile to Poughkeepsie and beyond.  People from all walks of life put fear and the election on hold and bonded while they sat in front of their TV or radio. Some crossed oceans in hopes to witness and be part of history.  Of course, I’m talking about The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.  So, in case you were visiting a distant planet this past October, here’s a quick recap of what happened:  There was this little team who won the World Series in 1908. AND, they hadn’t won since.  And, it’s not because of the lack of support.  The Cubs could be 0 and 22 (wins to loses) and there wouldn’t be an empty seat in the house.  So, season after season, generation after generation, the people would come with hopes high and leave, heads down, still declaring, “Next year!”  You’d rarely hear anyone mumble, “That’s it – I’m no longer a fan!”  Quite the contrary – they were nicknamed “Loveable losers!”  There are also a couple of curses that may have contributed to their loses.  Whatever it was, it sure had a grip on The Northsiders.

Now onto Game 7 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.  First, no one believed that there would even be a game 7 – the Cubs were behind in the series 3 games to 1.  It’s the best of 7 and all the Indians had to do was win 1 more game.  And, all the Cubs had to do was win the next 3 – you must be kidding.  They won 2 and the series was tied.  We are now in Cleveland, top of the 9 th inning, Cubs were winning. Could this be real, three more outs, that’s it – the Cubbies win the World Series!  Nope.  The Indians tied the game and we’re now going into extra innings!  Really??

And then carain-delay-12-16me a Force of Nature – it started to rain.  The tarps came out and we’re now in an official rain delay.  All the momentum was going to Cleveland – they stole the thunder. In that 17 minute rain delay, here’s what happened in a small weight room down below the field:

We’ve seen it in movies; the manager/coach comes in and gives them the pep talk of a lifetime.  Not here.  Instead, veteran player, Jason Heyward, who was in a slump this first season as a Cub, gathered his young team together and told them – he loved them.    He also told them that he “was proud of them for overcoming everything this season.”  Heyward invited them all “to look in the mirror, and know everyone contributed to this season and to where we are at this point. I said, ‘I don’t know how it’s going to happen, how we’re going to do it, but let’s go out and try to get a W.'”

In those 17 minutes, the 25 Cubs realized that they almost lost what had brought them this far – the conviction that they have each other’s back and the appreciation for the camaraderie and collaboration they had all season.  No one person had to go out and win it on their own nor did it matter who did what for the team.

As you know, the 17 minute rain delay was over and after 108 years the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in the 10th inning.

There’s much to be learned from this Cub win and the 17 minutes rain delay both organizationally and personally.  See what you can do with these 8 lessons:

  1. Start seeing obstacles as rain delays.
  • And then start seeing rain delays as a time to regroup, inspire and motivate yourself and your teams.  No time to point out the differences or mistakes.
  1. When two or more people on your team get discouraged, it may just take 17 minutes to remind them of their worth and contribution and that you’ve got their back.
  • It’s a risk but can you really tell your co-workers you love them? I don’t know – try it.
  1. Sometimes when we don’t get what we want we are invited to have more persistence and patience.
  • And more persistence and patience, and then more persistence…
  1. Bring people into your lives that don’t know OR care about your past.
  • No goofy curse or almost-made-it history mattered to this young team.  It was only about the present.
  1. Let go of your own past.
  • Bring in a new internal voice that could care less about your childhood, last failed project or self-destructive history. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE.
  1. Collaborate and make it fun!
  • The average major league baseball player makes $4.4 million – and they’re playing a game. That should make you start lightening up on yourself and each other.  Play is good!
  1. When you’re personally in a slump and your team is down, why not learn from Heyward; set your ego aside and be cheerleader who reminds everyone that “rain delays” happen and it’s a perfect time to acknowledge what got you this far.  Maybe it’s time to really have each other’s back.
  2. Lastly, you are oh so valuable (lovable) even when others see you or you see yourself as a “loser.” Take a long look at how you handle mistakes.

If, after 108 years, the Chicago Cubs can do it, surely we can learn to come together and start making more Shining Moments.

It’s More Than A Ping Pong Table – Three Steps To Keeping A Millennial Longer Than 6 Weeks

ping-pong-table 3You’re a business owner, HR executive, CEO, COO, manager, etc. and you’re completely perplexed on how you can stop this revolving door of millennials coming in and going out of your business.  You’ve supplied the kitchen, with 27 different cereals, nut mixes, candy bars, protein drinks and gluten free whatever.  In fact the boardroom has been completely transformed and the only reason why you still call it “The Boardroom” is because of the wide array of board games millennials can play on their breaks. (Yes, you did your homework; according to The GBrief , the website ALL about millennials,  “they love their board games”  The GBrief – millennials and their board games)  And still you haven’t found a way to get them to stay.

Here are three simple steps in turning things around:

Step 1:  You must acknowledge that what millennials want in the workplace is shared by the majority of your employees, regardless of what generation they belong to.  No one graduated college thinking, “I can’t wait to be micro-managed!”  We all had dreams of contributing and being part of the growth of something and/or some organization.  The challenge we’ve got with a millennial is that if they don’t feel this empowerment and engagement in the first month – they’re out of there.  Or, they stay – unhappy.  “Hey, I stayed unhappy at my job for 20 years!” is not a good enough reason to ask anyone else to do the same.

Step 2:  Recognize that you’re not the only one who wants to feel good at the end of the day about their productivity and contribution to the organization.

Step 3: And that’s your job; to find out what makes your employees feel productive, fulfilled and happy.  And here’s the catch – just by taking the time and energy in this exploration you will reap benefits far beyond what you expected.

This probe doesn’t take forever.  And, the impact on your bottom-line will be far more positive than any hummus-packed refrigerator or ping-pong table.  I promise.

If you’ve already done this, I’d love to hear and share what worked.  If you need quick and productive ways to search out your company’s “truth,” I’ve got a proven process to offer you.  Take a big exhale – and go for it.

Is your customer really #1?

customer centric blogHow to identify if you really have a customer-centric business.

I’m sure if I was to call 50 companies right now and ask if they were a customer-centric business, they would all say “yes.”  Isn’t that why we’re all in business – to be of service to our customers?  The happier (we’ll define happy in a future article) they are the more business we have.  On paper,yes.  In the board room, maybe.  In your cubicles, not quite.

A few weeks ago I attended an ASQ event on Value-Stream Mapping.  ASQ are the really smart guys and gals that make up the quality profession, the engineers, managers, business-improvement people who make quality of a product/service their 100% focus.  And value-stream mapping is a design used to follow a product or service from the very beginning all the way through to the customer.

The ASQ presenter used a case-study from their company based on a customer complaint: the customer was not happy about how long it took them to receive the ordered product.  This was a big client – there was no sweeping this complaint under the rug.  There was the “I’m sorry” and “we’ll make sure this doesn’t happen again,” and XYZ Company meant what they said. So, they set up a committee to make sure that the situation was not only remedied, but a new plan would be set in place.  This was not about reprimanding the department or individuals that may have delayed the delivery.  This was a solution-focused conversation and this committee was ready to make the necessary suggestions to put a change in place.

After the committee interviewed all departments in the flow, they found the problem was in Receiving.  Here’s a very simplistic review of what resulted:

  1. The committee talked to everyone in Receiving (not just the department head.)
  2. Employees in receiving made suggestions on how to improve the process (these were the front-line people – the ones that are really in the know)
  3. Implementation of employees’ suggestions (talk about empowering the employee)
  4. Lead –time was reduced from 10 days to 3 days! (customer and XYZ were thrilled)
  5. And because Receiving felt empowered by the committee’s process in using their ideas, after one month, the lead time was reduced even further – to 2 days!!

Now this is a customer-centric business!  And it all started with their INTERNAL CUSTOMERS.  The presenter from XYZ was excited to share just how powerful it was when the committee engaged with the front-line and how implementing their ideas not only helped the process, but now these internal customers felt more vested in XYZ than they ever have before. As the presenter said “These people are hard workers and really want to do their best.”

When was the last time you had a challenge and you talked with your employees and asked for their ideas and solutions?

It’s never too late.  This is a win-win situation. It’s so simple, and yet so few leaders and managers do it.

Your action:  This week, go and talk to someone in your front-line and ask them how things could be improved for the customer.  I can almost guarantee you, it’s going to be something you never thought of.

Then:  Implement a suggestion – shake things up a bit.

Finally: Start accepting that to put the customer as #1 you must begin with the internal customers.  Let me know what happens.

Unequivocally more people will be smiling at the end of their workday – including you and the customer!

Important: If you can’t or won’t engage with your front-line people, if you are at all hesitating, you must find out what’s blocking you.  The agility of your company depends upon it.

Remember – A Customer-centric business starts with your internal customers – always!

Recognition: Not Just For The Holidays

Great Job no 2Now’s the time to be jolly and generous with our words.  “You’re great!”  “Happy you’re on the team!”  “Good work this year” Waiting until you hand someone their bonus check (you are giving one, right?) or slur some kind word at the Holiday Party, is not going to cut it.  It’s empty and insincere.  It won’t endear me to be vested in you or your goals.  That said, if you choose to follow a few simple truths and a couple of rules, the organization and you the leader, will reap rewards beyond those you are sharing.

Let’s begin with the premise that things are always changing.  If you don’t believe it – check the mirror. Therefore, let’s make it work in your favor.  Why not ride the wave and allow for change to happen.  Creativity is change.  Next, your employees, when given the opportunity, want to create and innovate for you.  And, creative people need recognition in order to know that they are being creative.  Oh, you may take offense and say, I’m being creative for myself. Yes, and that’s just one component of the creative process. Even the stay-at-home dad who paints the garage wants to be recognized for its beauty and transformation.   Creative people also know that they need to create in order to get that recognition.

Therefore, if you follow an easy formula, you and the recipient will both be rewarded by your words and action

“Say it when you see it!”  AND   “Be specific!”

I learned these two applications years ago and it has changed my relationships with my clients, teams, colleagues, and family.  “Your idea on the Midas project was a great platform for us to build on.”  “The client loved your design and sees it as something that can grow.” “What you said to that frustrated customer was creative and sincere, they felt heard and it diffused the situation.”  You get the picture.  If you wait for the end of the month or worse, year, it will fall flat and be fairly meaningless.  And usually, you the giver probably won’t even remember all the creative gems that went unnoticed. You must recognize the details.

If you need to have some relevance to your recognition:  you reward behavior and creativity you want to see more of.  By you being specific and saying it when you see it, you are reinforcing something that works and that can grow.  Parents do it all the time with children and as much I find disdain in this analogy, most of our organizations are built on the parent/children paradigm.  I the employee work to make you happy and you reward me.  You want me to want your approval and I work to get it.  But this is beyond approval.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you sincerely told someone you appreciated the specifics of their creative efforts in a timely manner?

Here are a few blocks you may have to giving recognition.  I’ve been here. Be honest with yourself and see if any of them resonate with you. Awareness can cause change.

 People are just doing their jobs.  Of course they are AND they are not robots.  They have emotions and little feel-good hormones, endorphins that actually go up when positive recognition is given.

 I haven’t done it in the past.  So?  Try it for a couple of weeks and see if everyone’s endorphins don’t go up, including yours.

It means more when I save it for the really big accomplishments.  There’s no big deal if you save for the successes?  Why not reward the risks taken?  Creativity starts with a willingness to make mistakes and look silly.

All their other work has been average. Why now?  You’ll get more of what you want.  With your coaching, behaviors can change when one is being rewarded for the positive change.

Don’t have the time.  Please, find it.

I want you to have an environment where creativity and innovation flourish.   By acknowledging creative behavior and work, you are establishing what you want more while developing more engaged employees.  So, as you’re playing Santa this year and then contemplating what you can do next year to be a more effective and admired leader, cultivate creativity by creating your own new muscle and begin spreading good cheer.  The creative gods will smile upon you and your teams.  Promise.

 

The Gap, hot hot jeans and NO sale

So, I’m driving home from a delightful afternoon with some old friends feeling really swell and I see one of those mammoth outlet malls. I’m excited because I’ve been to this particular one about a year ago and I’m still wearing the cute little dress and jeans I got from The Gap Outlet.  Time to check them out again.

It’s Saturday, and never mind that I would have to park a gazillion miles away – I could use the exercise.  I sprung out of my car and as I began my trek to the store my stomach started to get queasy. Do I really want to do this?

Earlier in the week, I was reading how The Gap and Walmart are not joining 40 other companies to raise the safety standards in Bangladesh after the horrific building collapse that killed over 1,100 people.  This structure was where their ready-made garments were made.

blindfoldedI’ve been part of several boycotts in my life so I am not unfamiliar with making a conscious choice not to do something for a cause I believe in.  But this seems to be different and times are different.  In the back pages of business journals and magazines are articles discussing the pros and cons of such a boycott against the clothing manufacturers who kept a blinds eye to the conditions of their factory so that either we can have cheaper clothes and the profit margin for these companies can remain high. Good for the stock prices.

The con for a such a boycott as Timothy Hartford of the Financial Times argues is that “Bangladesh has been a development success story; poverty is high but falling fast. Literacy and life expectancy are improving.”

Okay, I get it, for the people of Dhaka working at these factories, is a windfall.  They get paid about $1.50 a day.  And we the consumer get to save lots of money when we purchase our jeans and tops.  And for some of us, we cannot afford to spend any more.  We are also spoiled and we want our lower prices – at any cost.

Still, after this tragedy, the 40 companies said that they will spend more money to assure the safety of the these workers.  The Gap and Walmart will not join in as they do not want to be part of a binding contract.  They are coming up with their own contract, and it will be non-binding.

So, back to my now not-so-joyous-walk to The Gap Outlet.  I went in and began to ignore that part of my gut that said, “you weren’t going to do this.”  I was super sweet to the sales clerk who directed me to my size jeans. $19.95 on sale.  I tried them on along with a “pricier” $39.00 pair of jeans.  My gosh, they looked great on me and for anyone who buys jeans, you know what a miracle it is to feel hot in the first pair of jeans you try on.

But I couldn’t hum out the voice in me that asked, “are you really going to do this?”  And then I looked at the label.  “Made in Bangladesh.”  Not to be morbid, but considering the timing, it is a very likely chance that these jeans were made by one of the 1,100 workers who were killed in the accident.  I couldn’t do it.  And because, I like a deal soooo much I almost rationalized buying a pair made in China or Thailand.  Please get me out of there!

I walked out, walked back to the car feeling very sad over the whole dilema.  Low prices, horrific working conditions, “helping” a poor country.  What will it take to bring to a heartful balance to it all?  I don’t know…

Create Messy

So, you’ve got an idea that you think may solve the challenges of your department. Or you’ve got something in your gut that says write the book. Or maybe your hand and your heart wants you to finally pick up the canvas or guitar that’s sitting in the back of your closet.

And oh, how you fantasize about how your little idea propelled big profits for your organization. And those luscious daydreams of how your book, your writing, touched people enough to tell all their friends about it. And no doubt about it, once you pull out the canvas and brush, the art will flow and your kids will fight about who gets to hang that gem in their room. All so perfect.

Days and weeks and then years pass and the idea never gets beyond your own head as it travels with you to and from work. And the canvas and guitar are content keeping your old shoes company in the darkness of that little room. The writing pad you bought to jot down your prose, well, it’s working swell as it captures your weekend to-do lists.

This is me too.

What is it that stops us dead in our tracts from embracing that magic inside of us that gives us joy at the mere thought of following through, or sharing our creativity? Top on the list: Our ego’s refusal to accept anything short of perfection. It won’t be perfect. It’ll messy and so far from “perfection” (whatever diluted concept that is.) So, let’s flip it around.

Whatever you create, write, draw, strum WILL be perfect – there is perfection in the effort!! There is perfection in the messy. The goal, as our friends at Nike say, is to “just do it!”

When I look at most of what I do, it’s messy. First drafts and second drafts. Then there’s brainstorming – and that’s really messy. As a good friend of mine ordered me to do when I was looking at the different hats I wear – like many of us in this economy – he said, “earn messy.”

The reality is that it’s one messy step at a time. It’s sharing your idea at work until somebody listens to you. It’s writing a paragraph a day and accepting that it will come together when it comes together. It’s turning your computer off as tune your guitar and make the first messy swish on the canvas.

It’s declaring NON-PERFECTION and finding success in your simple, pure and messy efforts. It’s accepting messy and perfection.

Go Innovate and Create Messy!