problem solving

Did you go far enough? 3

Will you go far enough to find the gold?Have you ever had trouble locating something or have a problem you couldn’t solve?

When this happens: 1. You can try to figure it out or locate it yourself 2. You can ask someone else to find it or solve the problem for you or 3. You can just give up.

Yesterday I overheard a man talking to his wife in the supermarket. He couldn’t find the brussel sprouts. She took him further down the aisle and there they were. I heard him say to her, “I didn’t go far enough”.

If you are looking for brussel sprouts at the supermarket, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t find them. Not going far enough only means you may have creamed corn for dinner instead. But what if it’s your business we are talking about?

What if you have invested your life savings along with the savings of your relatives. What if you have purchased drilling and mining equipment valued at a million dollars to excavate a gold mine? Now what if you can’t find gold?

During the 1848 California Gold Rush, this happened many times. One claim in particular was talked about by Napoleon Hill. The story was of a man who had purchased a claim and had found a very large seam of gold. He had mortgaged everything and borrowed from his relatives to mine the claim. After a few weeks, the “mother lode” went dry. No more gold. What did he do? He sold his equipment to a junk dealer for 10 cents on the dollar and went home. He didn’t go far enough.

The junk dealer hired a surveyor. The surveyor went to the mine and told the junk dealer, “dig ahead a few more feet and you will find the seam again”. The junk dealer did that and found one of the richest gold mines in California.

Whether shopping for vegetables for dinner or running a business, make sure you go far enough. Don’t settle for creamed corn when you have your heart set on brussel sprouts. And never, ever give up your business or your dreams before you have gone far enough. Because, during the act of going far enough, you will almost always find your answer.

The junk dealer learned that in 1848. And because his wife went a little farther, the man I saw in the supermarket yesterday learned it too.

Six Reasons You Don’t Need To Know How To Do the Job To Land The Job 4

When I interview, one of the first things I look for is common sense. If the candidate does not possess a basic understanding of how things work, I have a very hard time visualizing them working for me. I always feel I can teach someone to say, sell diamonds or drive a forklift, but I can’t teach them common sense.

Today, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) published its 2013 Outlook Ranking Candidate Skills. These were ranked in the order of importance to the interviewer. Guess where Technical knowledge of the position came in?

So here are the TOP SIX Skills/Qualities employers are looking for:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  2. Ability to work in a team structure
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data

Seven was technical knowledge related to the job. So the first six skills employers are looking for sound to me like NACE Qualities and Skills Employers are looking for in JOB searchescommon sense. In fact, if you look at the definition of common sense:  sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts (Merriam-Webster dictionary) these first six skills are all about common sense.

I’m not saying a solid technical foundation won’t land the job, but remember there are many applicants who have the technical skills. This survey, and my years of interviewing experience, suggest that there is more to the interview than just presenting your skills. If your future employer can’t see that you have common sense, they will have a hard time seeing you as a part of their team.

Parents? Back to School List? Here Are Four Things College Freshman Need Most 1

So you’ve bought the clothes, the sheets (custom length so you can’t buy them off the rack), the college required laptop and the meal plan. You’ve packed change for laundry, filled out the dorm surprise package card from the university and made your hotel reservations for the big trip out to drop your freshman off. All set, right?

Here are four additional things you should put on your student’s “back to school” list:

  1. Remind them to follow the rules. If a class starts at 10am, the professor expects them to be there at 10am. It is now their responsibility, not yours, to get up in time to get to class.
  2. Remind them to break the rules. Buckminster Fuller had a quote about how one sometimes must create a new paradigm if the old one doesn’t work. Then there’s “Girls who behave rarely make history”.
  3. Take notes, write things down. College will be different from high school. Let me say that again, college will be different from high school. If the expectations are not clear ahead of time, it could be Thanksgiving before your student knows there’s a building on campus full of books; insiders call it “the Library”. Mid-terms for freshman can be a real wake-up call.
  4. Expect to learn – College is a huge emotional undertaking. Not having clear expectations about the outcome cheats the student of opportunities to make connections that are meaningful. As early as elementary school, when my kids went out the door to school I’d remind them to “get their money’s worth” and to “make sure they teach you something”.

As you send your kids off, please add these reminders to the list. If your student really applies all four, she or he will get so much more out of their college experience. And in four years, you can proudly display your Parent of a University Graduate Coffee Mug.

In Your Business, Do You Tack On A Header? 0

A good friend of mine from college sailed in a regatta last weekend to raise money for charity. When I went on-line to make a small donation, the website, Mississippi Leukemia Cup Regatta, asked me to send a comment of encouragement. I told Cathy to “always tack on a header”.

If you are not a sailor, I offer the following paraphrased quote from Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School:

More can be gained or lost in one healthy wind shift that can usually be made up by any amount of boat speed or superior sailing. Racing skippers are often so concerned about whether their boat is sailing faster than the one next to them that they neglect to consider the effect of wind shifts.

To the layman, this means if you are being pushed off course, you need to do something to get yourself back on course.  In this case the wind is changing so the boat is forced to move further away from its goal of reaching the next marker. If the captain of the boat doesn’t do something to change the boat’s relationship to the wind, the boat will stall, the energy of the wind will just rush past the sail and not provide lift to move the boat forward. To get moving forward, closer to the next marker, the captain must tack, change the direction of her boat in order to get the most advantage out of the new wind direction.

In business, you must be constantly ready to tack, to change your approach in order to keep your business moving forward, growing and expanding in a changing sea of challenges. The changes I’m addressing here are subtle, not cataclysmic. When  you tack on a header, you are adjusting your relationship to the goal, not changing the goal. When the captain of a sailboat tacks, her goal is still to get to the next buoy. Changing the direction of the sailboat at that moment is necessary to keep it moving towards the goal.

Sometimes you can just ride out a small change in the wind. But if the header is severe enough, you are being pushed further from your goal. On top of that, those who have already tacked are being helped by the change in wind direction. In business, this means that those who saw the wind changing are already reaping the benefits because they adjusted their course first.

So keep your business growing, moving forward by staying up on the latest wind movement, and don’t be so concerned about whether your business is moving faster than another. If you stay on the right side of wind shifts, you will reach the finish line ahead of the competition.

Does Your Organization Create Bottle Necks? 6

 You never know when and where a bottle neck will occur. I had arrived in plenty of time for the new officer training class. All I wanted to do was to meet with a friend before the morning session began. But the only entrance into the meeting room was blocked by the registration table.

At the time it was a little annoying, but I finally worked my way through, registering as I passed the table. Perhaps that was the idea. But the meeting was being held in a private company’s conference room and the building was back from the road on a tree-lined campus. I don’t think they were afraid of gate crashers.

After almost three hours of presentations, we broke for lunch. Guess where the lunch table was positioned? Just outside of the only exit from the meeting room. By this time, getting out for many was very urgent.  There had been no bathroom break.

As I struggled to maintain my composure while the line slowly moved towards the exit, I made the attached sketch.

I wonder how many times this happens? Are there bottlenecks in your organization? Are they merely inconvenient or do they impact productivity and cost money?   What types of bottle necks have you seen?

 

A Fresh Approach To Leadership 2

Peter Drucker’s quote “Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things” is just a starting point for what a true leader can be. Here are three ways to lead:

  1. Don’t rely on too much data – Managers can spend time analyzing reports, doing studies, collecting data, but in the end the decision still must be made. Leaders don’t fill their heads to the point they can’t make a decision. They know when it’s time to take action.
  2. Don’t make excuses – There’s an old expression that goes something like this “you can make excuses, you can make money, but you can’t do both”. Successful leaders face the same problems the rest of us do. But their focus is on what needs to be done to “make money” where “making money” equates to achieving any goal or objective.
  3. “Know instead of Believe” – People believe a lot of things. We learn from our parents, friends, teachers and we come to believe certain things. Leaders find that they  ”know” things. It’s that feeling, something you can’t put your finger on. Leaders have it and pay attention to it. ( Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell covers this in great detail )

These three ideas are the starting point for a fresh way to look at leadership. As a leader, I’m sure you will add your own.   Please share your ideas for the rest of use, so we too can become leaders

Tiger Woods wins PGA Event after 923 day drought – Can your business bounce back from a major set-back? 0

923 days later, back in business

As you can see from his website, Tiger Woods is a business. Like all businesses, his customers make him successful. On a fateful night in November, several years ago, he lost the trust of many of his customers (fans). Then there was the famous news conference and the rehab. His business lost sponsors. For those first few months it seemed like Tiger Woods as a business was over.

Yesterday all the newscasters could talk about was the new Tiger. One pointed out that many golfers have an initial burst of success, followed by a plateau, followed by a second wave of success in the sport.  Tiger’s initial burst of success included winning 71 PGA tournaments and the Arnold Palmer six times. His win yesterday is what is surely the first of many more as Tiger Woods continues to take the steps needed to once again be successful on the golf course.

As I watched Tiger play the final holes yesterday, my mind shot to the chapter in Peter Shankman’s book, Customer Service – New Rules for a Social Media World. In chapter five Peter talks about Stopping Small Problems From Becoming Big Problems.  On February 19, 2010, one of the headlines was “Will Tiger Woods quit golf for good?” That same day Tiger held a Press Conference. “People learned more about Tiger in the past 15 minutes” than they have through his whole career, said Geek Factory CEO Peter Shankman on Fox News.

After the news conference, Religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman outlined her thoughts on how Tiger could recover from this; Admit your wrongs, take responsibility for them, express your regrets to all who were harmed, and spell out your path to return to integrity and righteousness.

No one likes to think that something bad will happen to their business, but not having a plan on how to handle set-backs is bad. By thinking ahead about the unthinkable, you  may be able to minimize the damage, keep your customers and even turn them into raving fans in the end.

So it’s on to Augusta as the new Tiger continues to reinvent himself, both on and off the golf course.

Management in Unexpected Places 0

Thousands of people have gathered on the Camden waterfront to witness Red Bull’s Fulgtag, where contestants launch their homemade flying machines off of a 30′ tall runway attached to a barge anchored in the Delaware river. From the website promoting the event, to the local radio show celebrities who were judging the efforts, anyone could tell that this was a well organized event. The promoters were very clear in all of the advertising that they were not allowing any outside food or beverages (with the exception of unopened bottles of water) into the viewing area. This created a captive audience for the group’s $5.00 hotdogs and $6.00 beers. But as my son and I were watching one of the crafts attempt their flight, I noticed a business transaction taking place right beside me in the crowd.

 

The “Manager” of the operation was wearing a purple drawstring backpack. He casually approached his potential customer in the crowd and happened to ask, almost in passing, if the two men would be interested in purchasing a cold beer for $3.00. There was initial interest, followed by negotiation. The customer’s friend was very interested also and would the manager consider selling 2 beers for $5.00. As it was close to the end of the event, the “manager” said yes. As the manager was speaking with his customers, I noticed that he had two employees with him. Once the customer was interested, the managers’ employees backed up to the group, with each employee facing out towards the crowd. The employees never looked at the manager or acknowledged the customers. As the transaction took place, their job appeared to be that of making sure the manager was working safe. I pictured the 3 holding practice in someone’s garage where they covered evacuation drills in the event that their customers became disruptive or an outside entity attempted to interrupt their operation.

 

After the transaction was complete the customer said” I wish you had been here earlier” to which the manager said, “we’ve been here all day”. So the manager and his employees must have put together a business model in advance, had worked out the logistics of supplying their operation in spite of obstacles at the point of entry to the event and had planned out in advance evacuation routes in case their business was discovered by the original operations managers or local authorities. This was necessary because I had to assume that they had not secured the necessary permits to operate such a business.

 

Now I’m not passing judgment either way on what they did, but in the final analysis, price controls and regulations created an underground market. A group of entrepreneur’s recognized that opportunity and capitalized on it after weighing the costs and the benefits. Their conclusion was the potential costs (possible fines and a night in the Camden jail) were offset by the chance to make some money. I imagine they saw their company providing a service. So next time you are out and about, keep your eyes open and you will probably see your own examples of management in unexpected places.

 

The shocking truth about Management. This is your real job 2

At a meeting last year, I was learning the in’s and out’s of a particular process my employees were going to be using. The instructor was almost finished when he asked his Boss, who had been sitting in the back of the room, if he would like to say a few words.

I expected the man to review the same material or make a specific point about the training. Instead, he talked for a few minutes about how he ended up with this company and what it takes to manage. He ended with his assessment of what his job really was about:

“My job is to solve any problems before they get to my Boss”

Regardless of the nature of your business, at some level as a manager, this is your job. You report to someone who is expecting you to figure things out and to “take care of problems”. After all, that is a big reason why you were hired or promoted.

My experience is that those who are good problem solvers also have the most ownership of their jobs and their areas of responsibility. Good problem solvers are self motivated and get satisfaction in being able to resolve issues within company policy. In short, good problem solvers are good managers.

So pull out your job description and make sure you pencil in at the bottom, “My job is to solve problems before they get to my Boss”. Your employees, suppliers and customers will be glad you did. Oh… and your Boss will be happy too.