Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wishing you the best for 2014

Greetings from Istanbul.

2013 was a a year full of personal and professional accomplishments.  Many major international projects completed so we made our way back to Southern California to explore and see what next adventure presents itself. 

Thank you for following and participating in LiaV.  Whether you agree or disent, your thoughts and comments always make us think.

Be safe and enjoy the holidays with friends and family. 




Monday, December 16, 2013

Sharp dressed man

The window guy comes in to bid and he says “you understand how this all works.”  The drywall texture company owner comes in and he references “you look like you know what you’re doing here.”  The stone guy visits and says he’s certain I’ll have the structure in place to hold the granite safely. 

For the last 3 weeks I’ve been working a home construction/renovation project and wearing clothes appropriate for the undertaking (painters pants, sweatshirt and very worn steel toed work boots).  Simply having this “look” gave me credibility with these contractors bidding jobs.  It also drove a slightly lower price.  Nonverbal communication is always important but this was a great reminder how what we wear gives us credibility whether we deserve it or not.  I can remember the opposite happening one time when I was shopping for a suit while wearing shorts, t-shirt and sandals.  No sales person would give me the time of day.

Leaders need to remember that everything they do and say is watched, interpreted and assessed by the team.  Nonverbal communication is often as important as verbal.  Whether it is your office arrangement, desk housekeeping, personal affects or dress code, they all tell a story. 

What nonverbal clues do you send?  Are you managing this or just letting it happen?


Monday, November 4, 2013

Need a job or want to work here?

The evening ranger program at Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Campground started at 7:30 pm sharp.  Ranger Monica was knowledgeable, energetic, personable and formally educated.  She said as a kid she was so influenced by the park rangers at Glacier that she decided to become one.  She interned at Glacier each summer from college and took a full time position upon graduation. 

A lot of people want and/or need a job.  We try to determine if the fit is right through the interviewing process.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to tell the difference between someone who really wants or needs a job from someone who really wants to work in your organization. The aerospace industry has a distinct advantage.  Most people who study aerospace engineering really want to work for a reputable aerospace firm doing tough stuff.

I always thought Zappos (the on-line shoe folks) were onto something when they offer new employees a “exit-bonus” after only a couple weeks on the job. The idea is that people who really don’t want to be there will take the cash leave.  The result is a group of employees that really want to be in the organization. FYI – I just chatted on-line with Heather at Zappos and in seconds she verified they still have this policy and she did not take the cash offer to leave!

How have you successfully separated the people that just want a job from those that really want to be in your organization?  Has it worked?


Monday, October 28, 2013

Ti-Anse Team

When McDonnell Douglas and Boeing merged, a Seattle guy explained to me the difference between a “family” and a “team.” I was told a team selects and can remove members.  A family, on the other hand, does not select members and you can never be kicked out.  That made sense at the time, but it made me wonder how a team with the positive attributes of a family would fare.

I got to see those results in practice on my recent Haiti mission.  Our project engineer hand selected very specific people with the skills needed to accomplish the water system and pipeline installation task.  We had an industrial plumber, machine operator, heavy machine mechanic, nurse, interpreter, equipment driver, finance manager, and some strong general helpers.  The team came together during the journey to location (Ti-Anse, Haiti – in the far Northwestern region) and performed their assignments both individually and as a team.  If you were wondering what I brought to the party – it was the ability to organize the group of 64 Haitian laborers and the conditioning to walk 10 miles a day overseeing the pipeline!  Everyone brought something that only they had, but they also acted as a family caring for and helping one another. It was a classic example of putting the task before self.

What are your thoughts on the difference between team and family?  Do you try to merge the tow concepts when you lead?



Monday, October 14, 2013

Hotter than Haiti

Sometimes opportunities present themselves that make no sense.  I had no particular desire to visit Haiti and no ties to any mission efforts. 

As often the case, helping others achieve their objectives turns out to be leadership in action.  In this case, my brother was trying to bring water to the village of Ti-Anse in Haiti.  He is a retired facilities project engineer from General Motors with all the right skills to bring this project to life.  I was a guy with some extra time at the moment.  When asked, my immediate reaction was “no”.  Why would I want to do this 10 day trip with no basic comforts?  When I changed the question to, “would I help someone accomplish their objective?”, then answer changed to “yes”.  A very similar situation happened in my career when asked to go to England to complete three MD-11’s in modification. I said no at first and then was instructed to go.  This was the turning point where I worked internationally the rest of my career visiting over 50 countries.

So – as you read this LiaV post, I’m in Haiti and perhaps the 5 miles of pipe, 2 cisterns and distribution system are working.

How has helping someone else achieve their goals caused you to grow and mature as a leader?


Monday, October 7, 2013

Man Camps (Unintended Consequences)

What if someone told you that your community could have thousands of new jobs, increased home values and lots of tax dollars to build roads and schools?

Heading up Route 85 in North Dakota towards the northern entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we kept seeing what looked like poorly maintained camp grounds.  There were groups of trailers and trucks down dusty driveways with very little shade.  We were also on a camping trip, but these did not look like a place we would stop. 

Talking with the locals, we learned these were the “man camps” for the thousands of oil workers that have arrived in North Dakota since the hydraulic fracturing(“fracking”) industry started.  This is not a blog about the pros or cons of fracking, but of the unintendedconsequences of growth and progress.  ND now sports the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  There are jobs for everyone.  There are also overcrowded roads, massive rent and real estate price increases, law enforcement challenges, crime that was never seen before and the sense of “community” is disappearing.  One law enforcement officer described it as a return to the Wild West – cowboys with money, without wife’s, out doing whatever they want.  Only this time they replaced the horses with new 4X4 pick-up trucks with rifle racks.

Independent of your opinion on fracking, leaders in all situations must try their best to consider the unintended consequences of their decisions.  Benchmarking others is a great way to do this.  It is amazing what can be learned from a simple phone.

What “no brainer” decisions have you reversed once you learned the unintended consequences?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Banker’s Hours

Would you put your money in a bank that was only open 9-9:30am Saturday mornings?  What if the bank only accepted 6 clients? Would you bank where no interest is paid (like now) and the only loans available were from the other 5 members and terms were negotiated during the short Saturday session?  What if the funds were kept in a locked tin box (see photo) kept in the freezer of a refrigerator locked on the back porch?
So it was in the Bishop home growing home.  Once we started to earn money, we needed someplace to put it.  When we were 14 we could open an official bank account at the local FDIC backed bank on Main Street.  The current participants would all gather around the table and my mother would “open” the bank.  Deposits were made, withdraws taken and loans made.  Even if you had no immediate transaction, you showed up to watch the action and count your worldly treasurer.  This process clearly taught us the value of things, the importance of saving, risk management and negotiation skills.   

Understanding and managing value and perceptions of fairness are an important part of the leader’s job.  Statistics show that many people leave jobs due to feeling undervalued or underutilized.  Having a clear and accurate estimation of the value we each create helps keep this equation in balance.

How are you helping your team understand their value?  Are you helping them increase it daily?   


Sunday, September 8, 2013


After a week to exit, fantastic five week CT2CA road trip and a week to unpack, have returned to Huntington Beach and LiaV should start to republish.  Plenty of lessons were learned on the journey, but here are a few facts from our trip:

·         6658 miles (5147 in the Tahoe, 1261 on the Harley and 250 pedaled on the beach cruisers).
·         34 nights (8 campgrounds, 6 hotels, 3 family stays).
·         15 states and 2 countries (not counting entering Wisconsin 3 times – long story).
·         17 family members visited (2 parents, 8 siblings, 3 in-laws, 4 niece/nephews).
·         12 wild animal sightings (grizzly and black bears, bison, elk, deer, wolf, coyote, horses, prairie dogs, wild turkey, mountain goat and llama).
·         6 national parks (Apostle Islands, Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Cater Lake).
·         1 jump start needed.
·         1 motorist assisted (a local in Montana).
·         1 ticket warning (missed that darn stop sign in the middle of nowhere).
·         758 photos taken (2 iPhones and a Pentax).
·         1,000,000 mosquitoes (it actually was not bad except at Bobcat Lake State Park in Michigan where we were attacked by swarms).

Observations during travel:

·         People have way too much stuff.  There were self storage business in the most remote places.
·         Wire ties are the new duct tape. They fix anything.
·         Everyone has an interesting story if you take the time and effort to engage.
·         98 MPH in 660 feet is fast no matter what Tom says.
·         There are jobs in America.  You might have to go where they are (like North Dakota).
·         America is truly a remarkable and beautiful place. 



Monday, July 15, 2013

Not taking vacation – hero or idiot?

The other day on the NBC Nightly News Brian Williams shared a study about how Americans are not using their vacationtime.  He told compelling reasons why employees thing this was a good thing – stress, fear of job loss, concern over work backlog upon return.  The story was generally silent from employer’s view except to say that well rested employees aremore productive and innovative.

It might seem hard to believe, but early in my management development the old McDonnell Douglas Corporation (1980’s era…) used to publish a quarterly report to managers listing the names of team members that were losing vacation time.  This report was considered a bad mark on the MANAGER not the employee.  The company’s opinion was that the manager either was not properly developing their talent or could not manage their resources.  I can remember my leaders checking with me to see if I had vacation plans when my name started to show up on the “high count list”. Can you imagine how positive your team would receive this today?

Something to remember – real leaders do what is right independent of some policy telling them to do it.  Do you know your team members that are losing vacation days?  Are you helping them get time off?  How about you? Are you taking time to recharge?


Monday, June 17, 2013

Leaders – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

During my sabbatical, I’m reading on many of the topics that interest me but I have not had time to pursue during a busy daily corporate grind. Many of the topics do not appear on the surface to have a relationship to leading but they might.

The environment and resource utilization is certainly important to business overall but what about the three pillars – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

Reduce – A long time ago, I was mentored on this topic from an experienced supervisor.  He told me that as I rise up in an organization I should be sure to cancel as much work as I create!  Most leaders see the need for new things but few remember to reduce work.  Teams really appreciate those bosses that eliminate no longer needed tasks.

Reuse – “NIHS” (Not Invented Here Syndrome) is a challenge for all leaders.  People like to invent their own solutions to old problems.  I was once told that every business issue has already been solved, it is the leader’s responsibility to find the person with the answer.  Encourage your teams to seek existing solutions before they invent one and to document it for others to use in the future.

Recycle – Packaging an existing idea or concept differently often solves a problem faster.  This is particularly true when working internationally.  Something that works in the USA needs to be tweaked in order to be effective in Europe, India or China.  Even if the adjustments are simply to overcome the “we are different” statements of the critics. “LAF” (Look and Feel) should be made local and at the hands of the new users.

Do you have leadership reduce, reuse or recycle examples other LIAV reads would benefit from?


Monday, June 3, 2013

Why ask the Ignorant?

It has been three months since I showed up at the door step of a place of employment.  Do I miss it?  No.  Do I miss the people? Sure.

During this time we have taken on many important projects, events, trips and tasks.  Now that I have a bit more time, each of these start with a research phase.  “Dr. Google” knows everything and everyone. This allows access to the people that have solved the problem before.  For the same reason each of us add value in our professions, it is the expertise we each have that makes us valuable in the workforce.

If this is true, then why is it that so many people get their advice outside of work from family, friends and neighbors.  We ask the “ignorant” important questions that have long term impacts on our lives.  PLEASE do not be confused.  Ignorant does not indicate a lack of intelligence!  It simply means “unknowing.”  We all can’t know everything.  Many of my current questions have to do with next careers, finance and risk management.  I’m locating and talking to the experts that have proven track records.  People like to share and help those that come behind them.  They are mentoring just as we have done.

Do you seek out the best to answer your questions? 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Multi-tasking, brain chemicals or rudeness?

I was watching Janet Napolitano,Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, on CSPAN testify on immigration reform and could not miss all the people on the senate panel and in the audience that were viewing their smart phones as she spoke. Many will tell you this is the great efficiency of multi-tasking.

The same day a Steve emailed me his thoughts on the new book by Nicholas Carr titled “The Shallows: What the Internet is doing toour Brains.  Nicholas presents a hypothesis that “our brains have chemically changed over time to adapt to an age of instant information in short snippets which allow us to gain large amounts of information in a short period of time, without delving too far into the topic.” So maybe there is something to the “crackberry” theory!

But then again, perhaps many of us and our leaders have simply lost the basic skill of being polite and listening.

Which side of this argument do you reside? Do you understand the generational differences of this debate and how you bridge them?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Innovate or evaporate

I recently weaned off years of corporate a provided Blackberry to a personal smart phone.  What a fantastic product and a true lesson of innovation.  The smart phone does so much and is so user friendly.  The geeks get the credit.

Products seem to get all the focus when it comes to innovation.  Sure, leaders must have the insight to provide the funding and vision to allow the geeks to take off with their ideas, but what about leadership innovation at its basic level.  What should leaders be looking for in assessing their team’s innovation?  There are a plenty!  Leadership innovation includes process improvements, recruiting successes, team maturity accomplishments, virtual skill development, and business model overhauls.  Innovation should be assessed in all we do and of those around us.  In fact, leaders need to be careful to not set a tone of technical innovation being more important than business innovation.  They work hand-in-hand.

What have you done lately to encourage business model innovation? 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Have a FULL Day

Not surprisingly, Bill reached out to me in the mist of the NCAA basketball tournament. While we were working colleagues for a long time, basketball was a shared passion.  We are both focused on achievements outside the traditional workplace at this time, but Bill sent me a great reminder. 

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."  (JimmyValvano’s 1993 ESPY Speech)

 If Jim Valvano can give a speech with this strong positive message in the middle of a failing cancer fight, think what you can accomplish.  Reach out to someone you have not touched in a while.  Give someone a second chance.  Help someone.  Lead by example.

Have you laughed, thought and cried today?  How do you keep your days special and assist those around you to do the same?


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Work with MEANING !!!

Shelby decided it was time!  She was only 22 weeks into gestation.  Unfortunately, she was nowhere near a hospital and there were no emergency crews immediately available for transportation.  Many miles away, a Sikorsky program manager was in the process of working with a customer for final acceptance of a special medivac helicopter.  The request for assistance arrived.  Everyone involved worked together to allow the aircraft to be used for this emergency situation and Shelby is a happy ten year old today.

Working in aerospace for over 32 years, you can begin to think “making metal fly” is an exciting, technically challenging and important undertaking.  Then you are reminded what amazing things the products do.  These stories and accomplishments are what make the job rewarding in the end.  We’ve all heard the story of the mason laying bricks versus the one building the cathedral.  One is doing a job and the other is contributing to mankind.  It is the leader’s responsibility to keep the true mission of the organization visible to the team. When I saw the items in the photo on Mike’s shelf, it was a wonderful reminder of this important leadership communication role.

How do you keep your team engaged in the bigger mission?  What challenging jobs have you had to figure out the mission of?


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Exit with Grace - repeat

In 2009, I was presented the challenge of establishing multiple international manufacturing operations for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.  Four years later, major operations have been established and are delivering helicopter hardware from India, China, Poland and the Czech Republic, and the S-92 global partners in Taiwan, China, Brazil, Spain and Mexico have met the production ramp-up.  I was given the opportunity to prove international operations can be established using a robust program management orientation,  on-demand domain expertise, virtual leadership, cultural awareness and strict progress gate criteria and metrics.  It is now time to return to our Huntington Beach, CA home, enjoy life and see what new challenge presents arises.

When I left Boeing in 2009, I posted a LiaV blog on how to leave a company titled “Exit with Grace.”  It was an exploration of the best way to leave a company and I concluded that we should all leave gracefully and truthfully. I get to take my own advice again. That post got 49 comments that varied greatly.

What do you believe is the general rule of advice for an exit?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Democratizing Quality

Once upon a time there was a talented carpenter worked for the King. He had constructed many beautiful palaces and monuments for the king. He had grown old and wanted to retire from service. So one day he went to the king and requested to be relived from service. The King was sad and asked him to do one final project. The carpenter was given the task of constructing a house before he retired. The carpenter was upset. The King gave another task even though he wanted to retire. He decided to finish off the house at the earliest, with least possible effort. To speed up the work he decided on a low involvement design, shallow high speed foundation, low cost material and fast, poor quality workmanship. He was focused on completing the house and retiring forever from the service. He rarely found time for site supervision. Soon the house project was completed. The carpenter called the King, to hand over the house. The King took the Keys, but handed over the keys back to the carpenter. The King said “You have served me faithfully my friend. This is my Farewell Gift to you, my loyal one”. The carpenter was left dumbstruck – Only if I had known the house was meant for me.

This story illustrates the quality dilemma, which many of us face in course of our professional career. We are tempted/prompted to make a trade-offs between quality of work/product versus speed of work/ throughput time/profits / cost of product. At least at some point of time many people are tempted to sacrifice quality for cost or delivery.

How do you deal with the cost/quality tradeoff?  What do you teach you people?

(This LiaV post was provided by Tony Joseph, member of United Technology’s Operations Leadership Program based in India).


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Be a cancelation champion

Neil Young tells an interesting story about the struggles of conducting his sound check for the 2011 Farm Aid concert in Kansas City.  The venue was a large soccer stadium and all the acts were having the same problem. “So the next day at the show, when I was watching everyone play, adjusting their monitors all the time, trying to find a good sound and struggling.  I used nomonitors at all.  I just didn’t bother using any.” (Neil Young, Waging HeavyPeace, 1012).

Think about this simple solution.  As leaders, we solve problems.  This typically means devising a complicated system, training people and developing metrics to ensure proper use.  Maybe the first thing we should do is see if removing something (or everything) from the problem solves it better than adding to it.  A mentor a long time ago told me to try to remove something for everything I added.  He said people that work for you will remember you made their job easier.  I remember an IT director long ago used the “Y2K threat” as the catalyst to cancel over 500 reports her team did not think were used.  In January 2000, only one of the reports were asked for and it was by the person that carries it, not someone that wanted to read it!

What have you canceled lately?  Do you solve with simplification? Are you viewed are the leader who removes as much as she adds?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Leaders risk being misunderstood

If a “leader” is the one with the vision and must stay in front of the team, can they ever really be understood by their “manager”?  We are at performance review time at many legacy companies and it is a valid question.

I was asked this question in a coaching session the other day.  The logic was that leaders are typically misunderstood because they see a future others cannot.  Often the case, leaders visualize the work being accomplished in ways their peers and bosses cannot comprehend.  If this is true and if their manager bosses are conducting the performance review, isn’t it better to conform to the legacy company norms and reduce risk?

This is probably the biggest risk a leader faces when in a legacy company.  Many years ago I completed my master degree thesis on a very simple hypothesis, “Do managers know the difference between management and leadership and do they promote leaders or people like themselves?” (CSULB 1987)  The statistical significant result of the research was not good news for leaders.  Managers knew the difference and promoted those like themself.  After years of reflection, the great equalizer became superior communication skills.  A leader has to articulate their vision and approach far more than a manager following direction.

Have you seen leaders at risk due to not being understood?  What coaching have you given them?


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