Monday, December 15, 2014

Please promote me faster!

It is one of the most common situations a mentee brings to a mentor or boss, "I'm not happy with the pace of my career. How do I get my next promotion?"

I suppose if you are the mentee, this question sounds completely reasonable.  But, if you step back, it sounds different.  In my years of mentoring people in their professional careers, there has been a common confusion of using the words responsibility and promotion interchangeably.  They do not have the same meaning.  When you simply ask for a promotion, it comes across as requesting something of entitlement.  As if you deserve something.  If the mentee changes the question to, "How do I increase my level of responsibility?' it appears they want to have a bigger job and do more for the organization.  Sooner or later, all increases in responsibility come with a promotion.  If it is not within the current organization, apply the skills obtained to another employer.

So, years ago I started coaching, if you want to rise up the organization, first stop asking for a promotion and start asking for more responsibility.  Then:

          1) Work harder than anyone else.
          2) Do the jobs others are not willing/able to do.
          3) Always take assignments in the toughest/most demanding areas.

Mentors - How do you respond to your mentees on these "I want a promotion" sessions?

Mentees - Do you want a promotion or more responsibility?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Shirtless Leader Guy

LiaV Fans - Sometimes something is so simple and clear it needs no more explanation. 
Do you see yourself in here someplace?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

60 years later – Johari Window still holds

During my initial training in heavy manufacturing management, it was stressed to keep all things personal to myself and share nothing.  In fact, I still have an “unlisted” number (for the Gen X and Y’s – that is a land line that is not listed in the phone book (again for the Gen X and Y’s – a phone book was a place where everyone’s names, address and phone number was published annually).

It did not take long to learn that the world of leadership was changing and people expected more from their leaders than short term direction.  It was around then that I read an article about the Johari Window.  It was enlightening then and at 60 years old, it still applies.  The concept splits the world of knowledge about one’s self into four quadrants dividing what you know about yourself from what people know about you.  Good mentors and coaches can help you seek out what is in each quadrant so you can understand and improve.  For a detailed explanation of the 4 quadrants click here.

In looking this over, something occurred to me.  What if we replaced the word “known” with “care?”  So the window would compare what you care about to what others care about.  Understanding these quadrants for yourself and others would make you a much more thoughtful leader.

Have you seen the original Johari Window?  Have you deployed it?  What do you think of this added perspective?


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What’s more valuable – Time or Money

Two brothers of about the same age and with many similar interests – one of which is motorcycling. The older brother is recently retired and the other is slightly short of that time.

During the process of installing a new rear tire, brakes and wheel bearings, the older brother emails the younger saying how nice it is to have the time to be able to repair his own motorcycle to which the younger brother replies, “I can’t wait until I have the funds to pay someone else to do it!” 

What a great example of the difference in the value of time and money.  As Daniel Pink points out in “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” we will often do work for ourselves that we will not accept pay for to do for someone else.  The value of time is to do what we want to do.  The interesting thing is we might use it working physically harder than we do at our place of paid employment. 

The challenge for the leader is to connect these dots.  Help your people align their passion with the work that needs to be done. 

How do you help align these priorities for your team?  Can you share an example? 


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What’s more important – good processes or people?

It is one of the best problems to solve in business – having too much of it!

You really learn the strength of the team and processes in your organization when you are fortunate enough to win the confidence and business of customers.  After a week helping a client build and deploy the methods, tools and processes to maintain customer expectations, the question seemed very reasonable.  “John, which is more important, having good people or good processes?”  We were so focused on getting the processes right that the question made me sit back and think.

Of course they are both important, but that does not answer the question.  In most organizations, the most talented 5% of the team can accomplish the assignment with no defined process.  They are just so good they develop tools along the way to achieve the task.  The same organizations typically have the other 5% that will not or cannot follow the best defined processes.  Then there is the 90% of the team that really want to do a great job, are fully capable and want to support their teammates.  They want to do the right thing and want to be consistent.  They deserve proper support and direction from leadership.  They want and will follow well thought out and defined processes.  They would like to participate in the development of the processes and will likely make them lean and doable. 

So, assuming your organization has the 90% capable and well intentioned team, well developed processes seem pretty important.  What have you found to be the most important in your organizations?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Post testing email subscription notifications

Post testing email subscription notifications.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Test Again

Still trying to fix Feebburner.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Soon, Immediately, ASAP or Now?

Which of these would you do first?  What is the difference?

I recently saw these four words on different bullets on the same chart.

As a senior leader, which one do you think I was supposed to react to?  Should I have to assume that “now” is before lunch but “immediately” is sometime afterward?  Or possibly, “ASAP” means today where “soon” is sometime this week?

Communication is hard enough without using words that seem to mean the same thing but don’t.  There is a simple way to avoid this – use a date and/or time.  This is particularly true when you are making commitments, describing risks or asking for help.  Your leaders are pulled in many directions and will react to the requests that are easily understood and input into “their system.”  To be a strong team player, you need to understand the system and fit your needs into it.

Trust me, “soon, immediately, ASAP and now” cannot be calendarized (I did not make up this word, but someone else did).

Do you find yourself or others talking in general terms on exacting topics?  How do you help avoid this pitfall?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Learning does not have to be Grand

“Are you Catholic?” Bala asked.

Experiences around the globe have taught me the “politically correct” sensitivities of the United States are not universally shared.  Religion is a good example. It is common in many places to ask a person their religion, particularly if you think you might have something in common.

So it was that Bala, the driver, asked me if I was Catholic.  He was a kind man and wanted to share his church if I answered yes.  This was in India mind you and Catholics are far from the majority.  Infant JesusChurch (see photo) was in the village of Emjala in an unmapped area of Hyderabad only 3 kilometers from the plant I was visiting. It was not St. Petersburg cathedral, but very interesting and having Bala explaining the details and what takes place here on Sundays in his broken English made it very worthwhile.

Like all major cities, Hyderabad has it big sites – Chowmahalla Palace, the Golkonda Fort and Charminar among them.  I had been there, done that.  The locals said “you have seen it all Mr. John.” It was not so.  This small side trip shows that cultural awareness and learning takes place with every little exposure and each person you meet when you take the time to understand.

What small things are you exposing your team to help their cultural awareness journey?


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Delaney’s Data

“How do you spell “pierce,” Delaney asked her dad.  Once getting it right, she disappeared.

She is the cutest and smartest seven year old you could possibly meet and I get to call her my niece.  She was contemplating an earlier discussion she had with her mom about the possibility of getting her ears pierced during her next doctor check-up and wanted more data. When she was next found, she was on the internet watching videos of kids getting their ears pierced and tracking how many of the little girls cried versus not.  She had divided a paper into halves and her research data indicated that about half the girls cried.  Ultimately the data did not prove or disprove her intuition.

Leaders need to have great intuition and vision to be successful. They also need a way to test their theories to understand the resulting success probability and/or the nature and difficulty of obstacles they must overcome.  Leaders who master the ability to visualize and test intuitions are likely to increase their chances of success and have the backing of the teams they lead.

Do you have a track record of testing your hypothesis?  How do you do it?


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Did I remember to say…

I’m not a big fan of “manufactured holidays” or those so bloated by industry that they lost their original meaning.  But then again, it is SO important to thank the people around us.  This is particularly true of people contribute so much toward our success and get little credit.

Yes, I’m talking about the administrative support we depend so heavily on.  While I would like to think I am good at remembering to thank people, it is probably not likely the case.  We can all be better at it.  A few years ago, I chose to add a new thank you into my tool kit.  Every time things were particularly tense in the office area, I would ask the office manager “Did I remember to tell you how much I appreciate your support lately?”  This little statement of appreciate did wonders for breaking the tension and conveying a message.  You have to mean it if you’re going to say it thou!

Today is Administrative ProfessionalsDay (23 April).  If you are not good at remembering to thank your folks, this is a good reminder.  Thank you again Sandy, Patti, Darleen, Gail and Doris.  You all contributed so much toward the success of so many!

What tools do you have to remember to thank people?


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


For the longest time, I’ve coached and mentored people on the use of the “3E’s” (Education, Experience and Exposure) as the key components for self assessing your career situation.  I learned them from Deane Hislop originally and then saw the CISCO Career Makeover video (quite funny) where it was also used.

An odd coincidence happened as I was on my way to watch the NCAA Final Four basketball games.  I read a career mentoring article (sorry, I cannot find it now to properly credit the source) and their guiding principle was called “BASKET.” While the name might have been what originally caught my attention, I ultimately liked the six elements:

·         Behavior – the way you act (includes verbal and nonverbal communication)
·         Attitude – your internal guidance system (this can make up for less talent)
·         Skills – specific techniques (these are learned through repetition)
·         Knowledge – this would be similar to the Education E (formal education and training)
·         Experience – actual time in position (the opportunity to succeed and fail)
·         Talent – the natural things you are born with (can be a negative if used wrong)

While I like the simplicity of the 3Es, I also love bringing Attitude and Behavior into the discussion.  We have all met very talented people who turn us off!

What do you think of this coaching/mentoring model? Do you think LiaV should transition to using it as the primary model?


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

“Expectations remain the same”

Kansas University basketball coach, Bill Self, said “the faces change, but the expectations remain the same” on a TV advertisement.  At long last I thought I found an analogy where coaching sports did not align with other forms of leadership.

Self was describing how the KU basketball program has certain long term expectations and the players come and go. The longest a player stays is four years.  In business, it is the managers that come and go quickly and the “team” is in place for the long haul.  Each leadership regime comes in with their own set of programs, goals, methods and expectations.  On the surface, it sounds inconsistent.

After more thought, the expectations of the team did not change as much as it might sound.  In the aerospace industry, quality, safety and precision are the foundation and independent of who is the leader. The same concept is true in the customer service, high technology and entertainment industries.  The expectations at the top level remain the same.

Do you ensure your teams understand the top level expectations and create a culture supporting these expectations?


Monday, March 24, 2014

It’s easy to win - Give credit and take blame

At the risk of piling on, it is March and you all know I’m a hoop fan.

While the emotion and drama of the NCAA tournament are without equal, I look at the character of the participants, particularly the coaches.  Last year we shared the Jimmy Valvano’s 1993  ESPY speech that displayed amazing character in the face of grave adversity.

On a smaller scale, try to watch and listen to the words of the losing coaches in the post game interviews.  See what they say and how they say it in the worst of times. This is when true character comes through.  It is easy to be a winner.  At the youngest of levels, the Boys & Girls Club teaches “Win with character, lose with dignity.”   Listen to the amount of ownership the head coach takes in the loss.  It says a lot. I was taught to “Give credit and take blame.”

How about you as a leader in the work setting?  Do you take ownership of the missed deadlines or failed efforts?


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Does anyone really care what LiaV says?

In the blog world, there are generally three types of readers. All three read the posts.  They differ in how they comment. There are those that are actively engaged and respond often.  Some are topically engaged and comment when a post sparks an emotion. Last, there are “lurkers” who are always reading the posts and never comment.  This diversity makes the Internet interesting.

You might have seen the comment of Anonymous on 10 February.  This reader has commented in the past and appears to be topically charged.  The question posed (Does anyone really care what LiaV says?) seemed worth checking.  I have not gone to Feedburner in a while to check our statistics, so here they are:

754 = Active LiaV email subscribers
515 = Active LiaV RSS feed push subscribers
133 = Active LiaV Blogger site subscribers
117 = Active LiaV Twitter subscribers
200 = Approximate number of site hits per day for over 111,890 total views
United States = Country with the most site hits (with England, Germany, Poland and India next)

Thank you for your engagement and participation. 

Does anyone really care what LiaV says?


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Crush Washers

Returning home from a recent oil change, my wife’s car sat in the garage slowly dripping oil from the drain plug.  This could be the sign of something very minor (tighten the plug) or a big deal (stripped out oil pan). 

Under further investigation, the head of the drain plug snapped off when attempting to loosen it.  The good news was that the additional repair was limited to simply replacing the drain plug and crush washer (less than $10).  Why did the drain plug break?  The crush washer is designed to compact as a mechanic tightens the drain plug.  It actually makes the seal with the oil pan to stop drips.  Once the washer is fully “crashed” it not longer stops the drip and causes too much turque to be placed on the drain plug.  The crush washer costs less than a dollar and should be replaced every oil change.  You can see from the photo that this crush washer is way over crushed and should never have been re-installed (penny wise and dollar foolish). I like to wonder what the mechanic was thinking when they put this washer back in and what the leadership message was at the shop was that allowed him to think it was ok.

It is easy to blame the mechanic.  Leaders must realize that everything they do sends a message to the team.  Did the shop owner rush the mechanic or say that they should save money on parts? Was quality or volume the primary shop philosophy?

Do your leadership messages tell your people to go fast and install bad crush washers or slow down and put in a good one? 


Friday, January 31, 2014

Over 900 Career Wins

As soon as I returned to Southern California, old friends reached out to jump back into youth basketball coaching. I enjoy teaching young players the fundamentals of basketball, sportsmanship and to respect the game. At the same time, I saw that Coach K at Duke achieved his 900th NCAA career victory.  It made me wonder with our NJB/PCHoops 10 game season how long it would take me to get 900 victories.

Well – let’s just say it is going to be a LONG time! Then a trusted colleague sent me this quote from LSU’s legendary basketball coach Dale Brown.

“The word coach was first used back in the 1500s in England.  A coach was a horse drawn carriage used to transport a person from where he or she is to where he or she wants to be,  needs to be, or ought to be going.
All these years later, that is exactly what coaching should be about, but this is most difficult to follow because of the pressure to win.  Measuring the success of a coach shouldn’t have anything to do with league titles, state championships, national rankings, or national titles.  It should have everything to do with directing a program ethically and making good use of the power coaches have to reach and teach young people about issues and ideas that will carry them not only through a season…but through a lifetime.”  Coach Dale Brown

Sweet – Based on these criteria, I believe I have far more than 900 victories.  All good leaders should measure themselves based on the people they develop rather than the only P&L.

How many victories did you have today? This week? This year?


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