leveraging connection & collaboration for improved performance
I love the Elvis song, but picking up chicks isn’t quite what I’ve got in mind today. Or any other day for that matter. I’m happily married.
How do you feel about these topics?
• Work flow
• Standard Operating Procedures
I confess. Some days I embrace and love all these things. Other days, they plum evade me!
For me, it comes and goes in spurts. Some spurts last a long time. Others, not so much.
This week I had some big technology challenges – most notably Internet issues thanks to my ISP (Internet service provider). Since my wife and I both work from home offices and our work relies heavily on the Internet, it wasn’t a terribly productive week. Even when the Internet issues were repaired, I found myself completely discombobulated due to the disruption.
Does that ever happen to you? I imagine it happens to everybody.
It’s not a good sign when you start out a week having to cancel some online appointments. Things went downhill from there.
Oh, I was busy. But I wasn’t productive. So yesterday I Tweeted a message to help myself try to get back on track and salvage what’s left of the week.
I’m not busy but I’m productive.
No, it wasn’t a statement (Tweet) of fact. It was a statement (Tweet) of what I needed to do. I needed to stop being busy and start being productive.
That’s when Elvis entered my head singing, “A little less talk, a little action please!”
But, too much talk isn’t the cause of my current failures. It’s a confluence of factors that have converged on me in recent days. It happens.
Unexpected things. Expected things. Things just come up and knock our wheels off, making it hard to keep going down the track.
I admit it. Those are just excuses. Good ones, but still excuses!
I need to be more disciplined. That’s what the Elvis song means to me today. I need to get my butt in gear and start making meaningful progress. I need to stop talking, stalling and putting things off. It’s time to dive in and get after it.
You can chase getting things done, or you can let your work chase you! I’d rather chase than be chased.
Here are some things I’ve going to resolve to do:
– Release the podcast on a specific day of the week at a precise time. No, I’ve not settled on exactly when yet – but I’m working on it.
– Create an editorial schedule, too. I write a lot. Every day. I just don’t post a lot. I’d like to publish one post a week.
– Get back to my block scheduling – something I’ve almost always done, but I’ll allowed it to slip this year. And I can’t explain why. It just happened. Proof that if you don’t pay attention, things don’t improve.
– I’m almost always creating work flow, schedules, processes and systems for clients. It time for the cobbler to build himself some shoes.
– I’m getting back into chase mode. I’m always in chase mode when it comes to business, but I’ve allowed the work to chase me lately. I don’t enjoy being chased by work. I’d much rather do the chasing and hunt it down, tackle it and get it in a choke hold. So WORK, you’d better start running ’cause I’m coming. And I’m armed and dangerous.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
– Woody Allen
It’s the Pareto principle. Everywhere you look it turns up. The 80/20 rule. Wait a minute, what?
If 80% of success is showing up, does that mean we just need to show up 20% of the time? That’s about right. Seems like lately I’ve had about a 20% chance of getting service – of any kind. Twenty percent chance of getting an email returned. Or a phone call returned. Nah, wait a minute. That’s high.
If 80% of success is showing up, does that mean 20% of the people are succeeding? Maybe that’s right. But wait a minute. That means 80% are failing. Seems high, doesn’t it? Then again, I guess it depends on how you define “success.” Maybe 80% of us are failing. That would explain our level of misery and dissatisfaction.
If 80% of success is showing up, then what makes up the missing 20%? Yeah, that’s what I want to know. I know how to show up. I’m interested in what I’m missing – other than showing up.
And once again, I’m hit in the forehead with professor Sutton’s seminal work in The Knowing-Doing Gap. If people know they have to show up to succeed…well, to be fair, if they know 80% of success is determined merely by showing up, then why don’t they? Show up, that is.
They know it, but they don’t do it. See, it’s that infamous gap that continues to plague us. We’re so busy chasing our tail to learn stuff we don’t know while the stuff we do know goes UNdone. Makes no sense, but it happens all the time.
Yep, I’ve expressed that to business owners before. And salespeople. And waiters or waitresses. And store clerks.
“Man, you grumpy old man,” you must be thinking. And I am, in some ways, but I’m not hateful. Intolerant of poor service? You bet. I’ve never had a stomach for it – the curse of starting a career in sales when I was 16.
People have too many options. Getting customers is too hard. Helping people make a decision to buy from you is tough work. This business stuff isn’t as easy as falling off a log. Then again, I wouldn’t know, having never fallen off a log. Doesn’t seem pleasant to me. Or easy, for that matter.
Let me tell you two stories of my recent experiences. The stories stem from a quote I read back during the inflationary years of the late 1970’s when I was in the early years of my business career. People were fighting hard for business. In one of the business magazines of the day I remember reading a quote by a lady management consultant who said, “We’d all buy a lot more if we could just get waited on.” It’s been almost 40 years since I first read it. I think of it almost weekly – every time I encounter poor service.
Disclaimer: I admit I may have a superior expectation when it comes to customer service. Not high maintenance kind of stuff. Not ordering off the menu type of stuff. Just solid, “do what you’re supposed to” kind of behavior. It’s shocking how difficult it is for some people to just show up.
• Salespeople, get a cell phone from your company. If they won’t buy you one, use your personal phone. Do not trust the switchboard at the office. Don’t assume the voicemail at the office works. Be available when prospects or customers need you. And if you’re not available when they need you, at least give them the chance to leave a message directly with you, knowing you’ll get it.
• Call people back promptly. Not all calls need a fast response, but some do. Return phone calls based on the promptness required. Without exception!
• Use email. Push it to and from your smart phone. Be available via email because many of your customers prefer it over the phone. Besides, you can reply quickly and set a more precise expectation. “I got your message. I’m in a meeting for the next 2 hours, but I’ll be back in touch by 4pm today.” Two sentences tells me all I need to know as a prospect or customer. Now I can move on with my life ’cause I know you’ve got the ball and I’m going to expect to hear from you before 4pm today.
• Give me the rules of the road and it’s likely I’ll comply with them – and be happy in the process.
Whether it’s on the phone, via email or in person – 80% of success is showing up, but it’s showing up on time, prepared and doing what you’re supposed to. There’s a lot to showing up. Most – that’s right, I said, “MOST” – can’t or won’t do it. I’ve got a lifetime of business experience and I can attest to the fact of my statement. It’s just not that hard to show up your competition because no matter what space or industry you’re in – most of your competition is barely able to answer the phone before the 5th ring. And if they pass that test, most of them won’t be able to call you back within 4 hours. Nobody will call you “right back.”
You don’t have to go back to school. You don’t need any high dollar training or consulting. You need to get your act together and start acting like you want and need the business. You need to let prospects see how much you appreciate their attention. You do that by being there to serve them when they’re ready.
I quit. Again. Not my first time. Doubtful my last.
I’d invested 40 years sharpening my business building skills. You don’t survive four decades doing something if you suck at it. Of course, surviving it doesn’t mean you’re great at it either. But I was both a survivor and great (tongue firmly in cheek).
Careers usually don’t have the ideal hockey stick curve. Mine sure didn’t. There were up’s and down, but mostly the overall trajectory was favorable. Accomplishment was the fuel that drove me. Not income. But I was highly compensated because I was a faithful steward to every man who hired me and I was great at running their businesses so they didn’t have to. It was my personal business model that I had fallen into in my early 20’s. It remained my business model until I quit. The first time.
That was back in the spring of 2008 following a tough 3- year period where I ran the business full-time while trying to buy the company so I could convert it into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). Running the company and working feverishly to make a deal exhausted me. I chalked it up to sprinting hard for over 3 years. That would run anybody’s tank low.
When I finally made the decision that I was no longer going to chase the buyout, I hunkered down to really focus on my role of leading the company. I thought it would re-energize me. We had done good work for nearly 20 years. The company had a stellar reputation and a unique place in the Dallas retail landscape. There was much to be proud of and I put my head down to push our company’s accomplishments to new levels.
After almost 9 months of intense efforts to “do the work” I realized how miserable I was. I was simply sick of the game. My tank held only fumes. It was a first for me. I’d never experienced it before. Not really. Being tired is one thing. Being empty is quite a different sensation.
Success can foil greater success. It did for me. Success can prevent you from doing something different, something better. Something for which you’re better suited. Because as we all know, you can’t argue with success. Well, you can, but nobody does!
Success caused me to run on empty. By the Spring of 2008 I was 52 and highly compensated. Everyman has his price. You don’t like to think so, but that’s just because you’ve not yet hit yours. Trust me. You’ve got a price. And it may not be money.
I had been running on empty for too long. We’ve all done it. Kept going. And going. And going. Watching the needle slowly (or quickly) descend.
Growing more anxious as we boogie down the highway at night looking for any sign of civilization, life and a gas station.
Hoping to see one soon.
Then the overwhelming relief we feel when we spot one and navigate successfully to the pump before the engine dies.
Other times we run out on purpose because the fuel we have isn’t the fuel we need, or want.
For years I’ve driven little 4-cylinder high performance cars that require 93 octane fuel. There have been times when I could only find 91 octane. It’s just not the same. The sooner I could burn that tank full of 91, the sooner I could refuel with 93. And be back on the high performance I wanted. It involved an intentional, purposeful running the tank down to empty. When your tank is full of an undesired fuel…you’ve got to empty it so you can refill it with what you want.
I hadn’t been happy for a very long time, but I was successful and responsible. And I wasn’t a quitter. Yet.
Serendipity happened. I hit my ceiling price tag. The details are unimportant except to tell you that I faced a non-negotiable standard. Most of us have those. We may not know what they are exactly, but when we’re faced with choices…there are things we simply won’t do. Actions we won’t agree to. Decisions we’ll refuse to make. Without so much as a phone call home, I resigned.
Unlike the gas tank in my car, I wasn’t able to pull up to a pump and just fill it up. I thought I could, but I had never known an empty tank. I was unprepared. Completely.
Empty meant lost. For a long time. Years.
I had devoted my life to management, marketing and all the stuff involved in building businesses. Now, I couldn’t find sufficient energy to do it. I did the usual consulting and helping people. Clients told me I helped them, but it was incredibly unrewarding. I poured myself – as much as possible – into their businesses and their challenges doing everything I could to affect improvement. Mostly, it frustrated the soup out of me.
Fast forward to December, 2012. I’m sensing the tank is empty. Sick and tired of being sick and tired. Frustrated with a client (my largest) who was determined to be miserable (“it’s never going to be any better” was his daily battle cry), I was miserable. So I fired myself. Or him. Again, I quit. I wished him well and began a quiet, unannounced hiatus while I searched for my next move.
By the time May 12, 2013 rolled around I was spent. It had been coming for months, but in the early morning hours I got a text that I had been expecting. It simply said, “He’s gone.” I’ve said and written all about it. You’ll find it here.
I’d love to tell you running on empty was intentional, but it wasn’t. It just happened. In part, because of my own foolishness. In part, because it’s a stage of life I’m going through that has more to do with experience than age, but I’m not sure about that.
It has everything to do with coming to grips with important issues that everybody faces. It has to do with contribution, service, passing it on, helping and making a difference. It has to do with figuring things out.
Finding answers is tough work. Finding good answers is still harder. Finding great answers is harder still.
So it is with habits, too. Whether we’re trying to change something temporarily or permanently, it’s tough to shake things up.
It means avoiding some things, reducing some things, eliminating some things and starting some new things.
It’s been almost 4 months since the funeral. I’m starting to feel normal again. Kinda. Sorta. More days are easier than hard. So that’s progress.
It’s time to create art. Again. Something I haven’t done since I was a teenager.
It’s time to give more. Again. Something I have done my entire life.
I’m shaking it up.
• Checking Facebook no more than twice daily
• Checking Twitter no more than twice daily
• Checking email no more than three times daily
• Writing something – anything – every single day
• Taking photographs of something – anything – every single day
• Talking with somebody about something emotional – happy, sad, frustrating, thrilling, etc. – every single day
• Reading fiction regularly
• Reading biographies regularly
• Avoiding books, articles, blog posts, podcasts or videos that are all about business and only business
• Listening to more music
• Singing more (why don’t people sing more?)
• Drawing (I used to do this all the time)
• Picking up my guitar and for the first time with purposeful intention to learn 5 cords (G, D, C, A and E)
• Relaunching the podcast over at Leaning Toward Wisdom (I did that, even though I’m not terribly regular at producing content.)
• Interviewing at least 3 people a week for the project – Chasing DFW Cool (I’ve already smoked that goal. I just started this a week ago and I’m already past 5 with more on the schedule.)
• Intently focus more on my paying clients (this will be hard because I’ve always been an “all in” kinda guy with people who hire me to help them, but I’m still trying to up my game)
It’s that next to the last thing that is the professional thing. I say “professional” and not “business” for a reason. I have no idea about making money with it. That’s not the point. I don’t even care about it. I’m going to launch Chasing DFW Cool because I want to. Because I know I can do it…and do it well. Because I know there are tons of people in this area – Dallas/Ft. Worth – doing cool things. Because I want to tell their stories.
It’s the last thing that is the money-maker. That provides the income, and has since I stepped away from running companies. It started out coaching executives, but I’ve narrowed it further into coaching and working only with CEO’s or business owners. There’s enough creativity in that to keep me juiced in that endeavor, but Chasing DFW Cool is the bigger creative outlet.
I’m determined to fill my tank with high octane fuel.
Yes, I have to make a living. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much these days. I have one client who will get all my business focus. That’ll pay the bills. I’m letting everything else go!
In the meantime, I’ll be running on better fuel than I’ve run on in a long, long time. Fuel that gives me more energy, more horsepower and greater thrills. Without any thought about money. Because I can.
I’ve spent 40 years running on the fuel of business building. I found success. I figure I’m smart enough that what I don’t know about this new adventure – I can figure out. Eventually. And I’ll do it as I go.
Cause that’s how I’ve now decided to roll.
“If you wanna run cool, you got to run
On heavy, heavy fuel”