Monday, May 31, 2010

Who’s party is this anyway?

At dinner the other evening, a friend told us about the New Canaan, CT Memorial Day parade. We asked how big it was and she said, “Big.” Coming from Southern California, this could mean hours long.

We packed up our chairs, a small cooler and walked into town. We should have known being that New Canaan has 14,000 residents and Huntington Beach has 400,000 our definition of big was likely incorrect. The parade was about 45 minutes long and included veteran organizations, community volunteer services, youth groups (many with American Indian names) and fire trucks.

Walking back, I reflected on the fact that the Veterans were first and were the most recognized. They were the parade. The others were for fun. As a leader it made me think about how often we are invited to participate in events and the importance in preparing. I was at a high level meeting the other day and another leader introduced a new team member as “having a master’s degree from Syracuse or someplace.” That certainly minimized the accomplishment.

How to you ensure you are prepared and recognize the right accomplishments?

PS – Thank you to all our LiaV veterans.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Switzerland

Coming from very large families and generally staying out of the fray of disputes has granted our home the status of Switzerland. It is a neutral place where all baggage is left behind and good time can be had by all.

This weekend we attended the graduation ceremony for my nephew from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in North Adams. MA. It was a nice celebration in the gymnasium of the Trailblazers. As with most graduations, the bleachers were full of family and friends. In our case, my nephew’s father drove up for the event from Tennessee and participated in the graduation party thrown by my sister. While I’m always neutral, it was fantastic to see everyone drop their differences for the sake of a significant achievement and celebration.

It made me think about the environments we create for our people as leaders. Do our teams think of us as Switzerland? Do we foster environments that bring people of different thoughts and opinions together, or drive them apart?

What do you do to foster an environment of inclusion and safety?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

It’s Payback Time

Take yourself back to mid 2008 for just a moment. The great recession was in full bloom. Friends and relatives were losing their jobs. Hours were being cut back. Company 401K match contributions were being canceled. Insurance co-payments were being raised. Pensions were being eliminated. Employees were putting up with it all because they had to.

Fast forward to time now. While unemployment remains around 10%, companies have started to hire. Consumers have started to buy. Industrial orders have increased. The word “career” has crept back into our vocabulary. My college nephew even got a summer internship.

Why did companies and management do all those things over the past few years? Because they could! Employees did not have a choice. The power in this relationship is about to shift and employees are going to remember those decisions. While the definition of compensation may have changed, the way teammates were treated during hard times will not be forgotten. It’s payback time. Those unilateral decisions over the last two years are going to be paid back over the next ten years through attrition as teammates get options again.

Did you and your company play the game for the long term or take advantage of the temporary shift in power over?


Sunday, May 9, 2010

“If it’s not a good time, it’s a good story”

The last three weeks have been interesting global travels. The Poland and Czech Republic front end of the trip was rescheduled due to the volcanic ash cloud emitted from Iceland. The team was successful swapping all our events into virtual forums and we never missed a beat.

The China leg had the typical airplane delays. But, for the first time since I’ve been traveling internationally, a scheduled delay was canceled and the plane left on time. This really screwed up my quick rearrangements! The transition to India was relatively seamless. Of course that was when my traveling colleague lost her voice. She could only nod and smile for two days. That was when she wrote on a piece of paper, “If it’s not a good time, it’s a good story.” I thought this was a pretty positive perspective.

How do you keep a positive attitude during the worst of travels?


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is PowerPoint the enemy?

Think of the last time you were completely bored in a PowerPoint presentation. If you are like me, your pulse lowers, your eyes glaze over, you think about other things and perhaps you do your email on the “crackberry.” Back in January 2009, I did a two part blog series on this topic entitled “The Heart Rate Test (Story-time Part I)” and “Death by Viewgraph…NOT (Story-time Part II).”

Last week a colleague emailed me an article from the New York Times (26 April 2010) entitled “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint“ by Elisabeth Bumiller. It discussed the use of PowerPoint in the military and how it does not properly articulate the message to leadership. While the article does present the topic in a fair manner, I do not agree PowerPoint is the issue. It is the user that over uses the tool to avoid really engaging. The presentations you give are far more than the charts presented. You need to understand your audience and their motivations. You need to appeal to all of the audience’s senses and make them be a part of the session.

Is PowerPoint running a “muck” in your organization? What have you done to correct it?


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