Monthly Archives: June 2007

Investing In Friends

Like anything else that really matters in life, being a good friend takes effort. I know this is a bit different than most of my business discussions but if you read the comments on yesterday’s blog you will understand why I am writing on this subject.

Maintaining quality relationships requires being proactive. Good friendships don’t just happen. As Gail mentioned in her comment, our world is moving at an incredible pace and it is very easy to get completely caught up in all the things that are flying at us. To maintain good friendships we need to step back from the reactionary mode of our daily living and purposely invest time in just being a friend. Relationships won’t happen by accident. You have to work at them.

I had a fantastic time with three great friends yesterday. All four of us are from different cities and aside from Dan, we all had to travel to get to Calgary. We had to invest the time for the magic of yesterday to happen.

This morning I received an email from another great friend. Mark lives in California and we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we would like. We find ways to get together at least two or three times a year but that still isn’t enough for either of us. Mark’s email this morning was just to tell me how important I am to him. I was already having a great day and the few minutes he invested to send that email made it infinitely better.

I know this won’t surprise those of you who know me but for me there is a business benefit to all this friendship stuff. I believe that having a full rounded life makes us far more productive business people. Family and friends are two of the cornerstones of a healthy rounded lifestyle. Having friends who you know care about you makes you a better business person. So take a moment and evaluate the balance in your life. If you find that you are out of balance in any area, do what you need to do to fix the situation. Investing time in people pays amazing dividends!

I know I still haven’t posted the commentary I referred to in yesterday’s discussion so you will just have to log in again tomorrow.

Friends

I am travelling to Calgary today to golf with some very good friends. Some of the best friends I have in the world are people I have met through business.

Networking isn’t just a business development tool it is the act of socializing and human beings are after all social animals. I have invested a lot in my business relationships and the friendships that have developed are an important part of my life.

Dan, Glenn and Ken are from a previous chapter in my life but I can hardly wait to see them this afternoon. This is a great segway to tomorrow’s topic. I have started work on a discussion on the value of people to a company. I’ll complete it today and post it tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Active Listening

Gerri and I had a great conversation about focus after she read yesterday’s blog. We agreed that one of the most important times to be able to focus is when communicating. This reminded me of what I call active listening.

Truly focusing on what someone is saying can be difficult. Your mind wanders (or sometimes flies) off on tangents. Something someone says reminds you of something else and you are gone or worse yet, you simply become bored and away you go. I believe listening is the most difficult communication skill to master. That’s why we need to employ active listening.

In your conversations for the rest of the day try to:
• truly concentrate on the person who is speaking
• listen to every word
• think about what they are saying
• avoid thinking about your answers or the next point you want to make; just listen, your turn will come when it comes
• listen to their voice, hear the inflections
• look directly at them, watch their body language

Try to receive all of their communication. Now smile at them and try to let your mind and body respond to what they are saying. That isn’t an excuse to let your mind wander off. Stay focused on what they are saying. Just let yourself respond naturally while maintaining your focus. I think you will be amazed at what this does to the quality of your communication and how the people you are interacting with respond.

Remember I said this is hard, it is an art. Without practice, we aren’t used to truly listening. Now once you have practiced this for the day, take it with you into tomorrow.

Focus

This week I thought I’d discus some of the topics listed in my speaking brochure. We have already covered leadership for almost an entire week. Today I will talk about focus.

I learned the lessons on how hard it is to truly focus the hard way. I was facilitating a management meeting and talking about the importance of focus. I came to a part in my presentation when I talked about how important it is to give your primary task 100% of your attention. One of the guys in the group asked me how I did at this and I replied that I thought I was pretty good at it. The group immediately ganged up on me. You see I spent a great deal of my time on the phone with this particular group. I used to look at emails and even reply to them while on the phone. I would do activities like signing checks or reviewing reports. I guess I wasn’t fooling anyone. I was quite proud of my ability to multi-task. They all said they could clearly tell when they didn’t have my attention. This was a big wake up call. I needed to focus!

I think many of us think we are good multi-taskers. The more I study this topic the more I am convinced that no one, NO ONE, is a good at multi-tasking. Indeed it may be impossible. I believe our minds can flip from one focus to another incredibly quickly but we do not have a multi-core processor. We can only actually focus on one thing at a time. So, no you can’t safely drive and talk on your cell phone. Anytime you are having a conversation with anyone, who ever you are talking to deserves your full attention.

Giving something your full attention is not easy. Our minds bounce around from one thought to another constantly. The trick is to discipline our minds to hold one focus at a time. Of course this isn’t always necessary or even desirable but in business sometimes it is critical.

So become conscious of your ability to focus. How good are you at giving someone your undivided attention? Write into my comment section and let me know.

Doing The Right Thing

I had two meetings yesterday that reminded me of a “randyism” that I haven’t thought of for awhile. It’s not always easy doing what’s right but it is always right! The two business people I met with are both good friends and the meetings were social but as often happens the conversation turned to business and each of these people ended up sharing their basic philosophies with me.

Dan’s core business is very successful and he is involved in a number of others that are also doing very well. He shared that he has always lived by a simple belief: He looks for the win-win in every situation. Everyone must leave with a smile. If you think this sounds over simplistic then you should meet Dan. You can see this belief personified in everything he does. The result is that he has a great family life, he is surrounded by friends that truly care about him and yes, he has achieved great financial success also but he is quick to point out that money has never been his motivation.

Gerri and I had supper last night with Murray. We have known Murray since high school. He is a professional who is probably the most respected expert in his field in Edmonton and certainly one of the top practitioners in Canada. We were having a little tug-of-war over who was going to pay the bill when Murray decides for some reason to share these thoughts with me. He said that he has been involved in partnerships for his entire professional career. It has evolved from him being the young junior partner to now when somehow he woke up one day and he is the “old guy” in a multi-person partnership. He said he has started every partnership stating his two simple rules: They will never fight over money and they will always do what is right.

Yesterday was such a great day. I am so blessed to have people like Dan and Murray in my life and it is so good to see that doing what is right is a very successful way to run a business.

How Is The Internet Changing Your Business World

I had an amazing experience yesterday. I conducted my first live internet strategic planning session with a company in Australia. The company is an exciting, leading edge graphic design company specializing in web design, tracking and analysis, visual image management and interactive on line services.

Doing a strategic planning session live from the other side the globe was no big deal to them. They live in the digital world. But it was earth shaking for me. I have often been involved in conversations about how the internet was changing the face of business and I thought I had some idea what I was talking about. What I didn’t know was that my vision was extremely narrow because I had no idea of what is possible. I was in a seminar in Florida a month ago and one of the session leaders stated that the two top blogs are read by more people every day then the total circulation of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and L.A. Times combined! I thought I was doing pretty well for a guy my age with sending and receiving a couple dozen emails a day, banking on line and occasionally even buying a product on the net. Today my head is spinning with ideas of how companies can market, sell and deliver services on line.

Wow what an amazing world we live in. So, what I really want to know is how has the internet changed the way your company does business?

Managing People In A Hot Economy

Northern Alberta is experiencing one of the hottest economies on the planet. Virtually every business is looking for staff; there are help wanted signs everywhere. Donut shops are starting people at 12.50/hr and still can’t attract enough staff. There are line ups at almost every restaurant and businesses are setting new sales records every month. This economy has created some very unique management challenges.

When there just aren’t enough people to go around and when everyone is competing for staff, how do you attract quality people? How do you motivate people to be high performers when they know they can get another job any day just down the street? There is a simple answer to these questions. It’s not an easy thing to do and it requires amazing discipline but it is simple: Hire high quality people in the first place and provide a positive energetic work environment. Maintain high standards your team members can be proud of and celebrate your teams’ wins.

If you think these sound like the building blocks of any solid management strategy you are right! I believe the fundamentals of good management become even more important in a heated economy. I am hearing situations like the following all over the place: “We can’t discipline someone because they might quit and we are short staffed already.” “Nobody cares anymore. I place ads but the candidates I get aren’t any good, but we are desperate so I have to hire somebody.” Yet there are businesses out there that are not experiencing these labor problems. These are businesses where the people are positive motivated and doing a great job, day after day. How do they do it?

It takes strong leadership, unwavering standards and a great work ethic to manage a team in this environment.
• You have to constantly be in an active recruiting mode, looking for good people everywhere you go.
• Your team has to see your commitment to them and to your business.
• They have to know that you are proud of the business and will not compromise.
• This leadership must start at the top of the organization and must be consistent throughout the management team. This means that the hiring, training and managing standards must start with the management team.

I can go into more detail on this subject if your comments show an interest. One of the subjects I will definitely explore in more detail are my beliefs on hiring a motivated team.

Leadership Week

We’ve had some great discussions on leadership this week. I’ve really enjoyed writing these commentaries and I very much appreciate the comments. I hope you have found the dialogue both interesting and beneficial. This week saw the first comment that was responded to by another reader. That was an exciting moment for me because it moved this site one step closer to what I hope it will become. By no means am I the only one with good ideas and knowing some of the people who are reading my blog, I know you have a lot to contribute, so step up and let’s all make this a more valuable site for everyone. I need to thank two people in particular for their contributions this week. Vern, thanks for stating and asking what was on your mind and thanks to Chris for sharing his insight.

So, what have we learned about leadership? I think we have arrived at a point of agreement that the qualities of leaders are varied and some what indistinguishable. The one thing I am sure of is that you know a leader when you see one. They stick out like a rose in a field of dandelions. I’m also quite sure that most leaders know that they are leaders. If you are one of those don’t be scared to step up and lead. People crave leadership and the world will never have too many leaders.

Lee Iacocca’s Nine Cs Of Leadership

Lee Iacocca has a new book out entitled “Where Have All The Leaders Gone”. It’s a great book but then I’ve always liked the way Lee Iacocca thinks and writes. The book is quite American in its focus but if you can get past that, he makes some great points on leadership in the world today.

One of the chapters is dedicated to what Lee calls his “Nine Cs Of Leadership”. Although I still don’t believe you can use any one static set of measures to determine whether or not a person is a leader, I do think these measures are as good a set of benchmarks as I have ever seen. Mr. Iacocca’s nine Cs are: Curiosity, Creative, Communicate, Character, Courage, Conviction, Charisma, Competent and Common Sense. I highly recommend reading this great book.

Leadership is still one of my favorite topics and so I am sure I will discuss it again. I look forward to continuing the stimulating discussions that have been generated over the past few days.

Is There One Characteristic That Is Unique To Leaders

On one of my earlier discussions on leadership a comment was posted asking if there is a characteristic that is exclusive to leaders. Is there something leaders possess that is not found in other people? I don’t think so. At least there is nothing I have ever identified.

Although there are some qualities that are common to all leaders I don’t think leadership can be distilled into one identifiable set of character traits. It’s just not that simple. As individuals all leaders have their differences and often these differences are as important to the persons make up as the characteristics they share with other leaders.

I know this is slightly off today’s topic but I just had a very interesting discussion about a leader’s ability to risk. The observation being shared with me was that leaders have to be able to “put themselves out there”; they have to be willing to boldly go… The person expressing this said this boldness is the one characteristic she has always admired in leaders and the fear of this is the one thing that has always inhibited her from accepting leadership positions.

Remember that these discussions are just my thoughts based on my experiences. I really appreciate the comments that have been posted recently. Thanks to everyone for being interested enough to share your thoughts for my benefit as well as benefiting my other readers