Posts Tagged Leadership

Telling It Like It Is

After a 29-year career, Johnny Miller retired this past Saturday from his job as a golf analyst for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel. Before he took the role as an analyst sitting in broadcast booths located on the 18th greens of golf tournaments, Johnny spent 28 years as a PGA golf pro. As a golf analyst, he was known for his blunt commentary of the play of professional golfers whom he critiqued. Johnny’s style was to never hold back on his opinions while offering positive or negative comments of a pros play. There were a number of pros who often didn’t appreciate Johnny’s comments on their play, but the television audience appreciated the honesty and teaching moments he provided to amateur golfers with his golf analysis. During Johnny’s career he covered 355 golf tournaments in 33 states and 14 countries around the world. Among those tournaments were 29 Players Championships, 20 U.S. Opens, 14 Ryder Cups, 9 Presidents Cups, 3 Opens (British Opens) and 1 World Olympic (Rio). I trust that Johnny will enjoy his retirement and hope that there is someone willing to step into his big shoes and continues telling it like it is.

In business, leaders should surround themselves with people like Johnny Miller who are unafraid to provide:

  1. advice or critique of a potential strategy or tactic under consideration,
  2. views on key promotions or new hires to supplement leadership teams,
  3. opinions on the value of new products or suppliers and
  4. views on potential acquisitions or divestitures being considered, just to name a few.

Those willing to be vocal and share their opinions even when they may not be appreciated are, in my view, one of the most important traits of your most valuable employees. Leaders should be able to surround themselves with those who are unafraid of telling it like it is. By the way, just because they share their views doesn’t mean that their ideas are correct and as a leader you have to follow them, but I would suggest you should still listen.

I’ve greatly valued, even more importantly highly respected, those that I worked with who readily offered their views of a strategy I wanted to follow as either a good, bad or how it could be improved upon. I would suggest that leaders recruit those willing to be like Johnny. So I’d like to say to those like Johnny in my career like Ernie, Charlie, Byron, Mark, John M., David (RIP), Larry, Kevin, Alan, Rick, Ronnie (RIP), Adrian, Louis, Sandy, Nate, Chuck, Jeff, Heather, Terry, Chris, Steve M., Bre, Darshan, Rodney, Warren, Rachel, Ros, Brendan, Robert and Steve K., thank you each very much. (There’s many, many more I could thank.)

Over the years many pros who initially were angered hearing Johnny’ negative televised critiques of their play later grew to appreciate and value his unvarnished reviews. To those whom I worked for who took my suggestions or comments poorly over the years I offer my apologies. But I hope you’ve grown to appreciate those telling it like it is that may surround you today. Leaders incapable of allowing direct reports who work for them that are willing to provide unvarnished advice or critique of critical decisions that are being considered aren’t, in my opinion, going to get the best from them. You might also be at risk losing them to a leader that actively seeks those willing to offer their views.

Just sayin’.

Johnny Miller

Silverado Country Club, Napa Valley, California

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Mentoring and Leadership

You may or have seen this short YouTube video (link below) titled:

Steve Kerr Explains How Steph Curry Has Changed the League

Kerr Curry

It is a great example of mentoring and leadership. The video shows a series of vignettes highlighting interactions between National Basketball Association (NBA) Head Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors (also a former NBA player) and his remarkable NBA superstar player Steph Curry. The interactions between this great coach and player are amazing to watch.

There isn’t much you can add to the power of Steve Kerr’s words of encouragement to his superstar guard. You could argue that Steph Curry was destined for an amazing career in the NBA based on his natural talents and the very hard work he has put into ensuring that he is able to give his best every game, but Coach Kerr should be given credit for helping him achieve even more.

If you provide similar positive reinforcement like Steve Kerr with the people that work for you, imagine how great a company you will have. Of course, the reality is that not all managers or company owners are good mentors or leaders. Nor are all employees’ top performers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t spend time encouraging everyone to get the best that you can out of those that report to you or work for your company.

I’ve worked for good and bad bosses. I’m sure you have as well. The best one for me was unquestionably John Mason, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Belron from 1989 – 2000. The good ones tend to delegate authority ruthlessly with confidence. The bad ones? Well, Geoffrey James, a Contributing Editor for Inc. Magazine and Inc.com wrote a great article titled “5 Traits of a Micromanager (and How to Fix Them)”. Mr. James writes that those five traits are:

  1. Measuring too many things.
  2. Monitoring too closely.
  3. Building too much consensus.
  4. Intervening too much.
  5. Setting too many priorities.

Hopefully those aren’t traits you possess if you’re a boss, but perhaps you recognize them as traits in your boss?

So, if you’re a leader and mentor I would strive to be like Steve Kerr. He has the qualities I would want to have.

Just sayin’.

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Credibility Leads to Success

It really doesn’t matter what it is you do in life, to find long-term success in your chosen field or business you have to have the skill set to adapt and find solutions to the problems you and your business face. To be able to continually build on successes and achieve goals that you’ve set for yourself, or those that your boss or board-of-directors have set for you and/or the business, is key to finding long-term success. That then earns you credibility.

 

canstockphoto19545601

How do you achieve credibility? There are a lot of ways to do so, but as a mentor once told me years ago, that way was to “fulfill the promise”. “Fulfill the promise” meant delivering on the budgeted fiscal year revenue and EBITDA that we developed for the company. The person who told me that was the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a multi-national company and I reported to him as President and CEO of the U.S. division. He taught me a great business and life lesson.

By surrounding myself with a talented team of like-minded individuals, together we fulfilled the promise year after year. That gave us credibility. Credibility provided greater influence in moving the business forward. Credibility also provided us flexibility to pursue new business opportunities, money for acquisitions to further the growth of the company and to build innovative software solutions that provided us with greater success. The key is that you have to work continually to fulfill the promise. It’s not an easy task but it’s the only way secure the future for yourself and the team.

Ultimately when you establish credibility, gain influence and flexibility in what it is you do you will find that new opportunities abound. It really doesn’t matter what it is you do in your life, if you have credibility it speaks to the ability to inspire others.

“In government institutions and in teaching, you need to inspire confidence. To achieve credibility, you have to very clearly explain what you are doing and why. The same principles apply to businesses.”

Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

When you have credibility you gain influence. Your ideas and views have greater meaning and weight, which will help shape the direction of the company that you work.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”

Robin S. Sharma, Author

With credibility you also gain flexibility.

“What is clear is that business leaders must commit to champion change – to be transparent about their goals for change, to align their incentives systems to drive the change, and to make sure their work environments are flexible in a way that allows men and women who choose to work to be able to achieve all of their potential.”

Beth A. Brooke, Global Vice Chair – Public Policy, Ernst & Young

So working to gain and then maintaining credibility should serve you well in whatever endeavor you choose. Credibility is achieved when the actions you’ve taken allow others to believe in you as a leader.

Just sayin’.

 

EBITDA – earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization

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Just Sayin’ Blog – Rube Goldberg Machines and Business

I was recently sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and for 30 minutes I stood mesmerized watching an amazing sculpture designed by George Rhodes known as a ball machine. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ball machine sculptures. The first one of Rhodes designs I saw was in the late 1980’s while walking through a terminal at Boston Logan Airport. I remember almost missing my flight watching and listening to the sculpture. This Rhodes sculpture at another airport attracted young and old alike. The sculpture really doesn’t serve any practical purpose, but is an intriguing piece of kinetic art. It’s hard to pull yourself away from watching all that is going on – a sculpture that often uses a combination of drums, cymbals, gongs and depending on your point of view makes either a virtual cacophony or euphony of sounds.

In a way these sculptures remind me of a Rube Goldberg machine. Wikipedia defines a Rube Goldberg machine as follows:

“A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task in a very complicated fashion, usually including a chain reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg (1883–1970).”

An Example:

Rube Goldberg Guinness World Record by Purdue Society of Professional Engineers

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Rube Goldberg and Business

While watching the steel balls that roll endlessly though the intricate Rhodes sculpture I started thinking about examples of how some businesses work effortlessly and continuously in a similar endless fashion. Businesses that provide the same exacting levels of customer service and delivery of a product (or products) over and over again that are a key to success. Some businesses have developed very simple processes to find success while other companies tend to overcomplicate processes in an attempt to achieve success.

While at the sculpture I was holding a Starbucks coffee and that company certainly comes to mind as a business that invariably delivers both simple and very complicated orders efficiently and effectively. This Seattle based company that got its start almost 40 years ago has today become the largest coffeehouse with over 23,000 locations in 64+ countries. I just order a Venti black coffee when standing in line at Starbucks. I can never tell if the barista is happy or somehow saddened by my straightforward order. A Huffington Post blog titled “The Most Obnoxious Starbucks Drink Orders“ details some of the complicated orders at Starbucks such as a ‘Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip’. Now that order would be a challenge to any barista fulfilling Starbucks “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mantra. It makes me smile when I hear someone standing in line ordering a similar concoction. It really doesn’t matter where in the United States or the world you place your order; Starbucks seems to always deliver the same level of consistent service regardless of the local. The company has obviously spent a great deal of time and effort in perfecting the delivery of consistent levels of service, but it all seems pretty simple to the casual observer ordering coffee. Everyone knows that you’re going to have to wait a bit when ordering one of the “delicious, handcrafted beverages” mentioned earlier versus my Venti black coffee order, but those who order the complicated drinks don’t mind. They know they are going to be rewarded with a delicious drink made to order by a barista that has perfected his or her craft. In plain sight the platform seems pretty simple. Do you think that behind the curtain there resides a Rube Goldberg machine? Doubtful.

Can you think of other businesses which deliver products consistently in a simple straightforward manner? Maybe FedEx, Amazon.com or even MacDonald’s could come to mind. Fortune Magazine lists 50 of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and the top 5 are:

  1. Apple
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Google
  4. Berkshire Hathaway
  5. Starbucks

I’m sure you’d agree that each of these companies is the polar opposite of a Rube Goldberg.

I’ve worked in a business or two that have taken great steps to simplify business processes through employee training and the use of technology in an effort to reduce back office costs that keep company investments focusing on people and growing the platform. And I’ve worked in a business or two that seems compelled to use a Rube Goldberg machine mentality. I think that those who insist on making simple processes overly complicated could find greater success by streamlining operating procedures, but as long as shareholders are pleased with the return on investment, changes in operating styles aren’t likely to happen. In a highly competitive industry companies that are overcomplicated ultimately could be disadvantaged versus others in the same industry that have found ways to reduce the Rube Goldberg machine mentality.

Do you know of businesses in your industry which operate more like a Rube Goldberg machine (deliberately over-engineered or overdone to perform a very simple task)? I’m sure that you do. Noted management doyen Peter Drucker is quoted as saying:

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”

It has to be frustrating for people who work for companies that use complicated procedures or policies in an industry where other companies have found a simpler way of delivering the same service. I’m sure you can come up with some examples in your industry.

So, what’s it like at the company you’re working? Does your company operate more like an Apple, Amazon.com, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Starbucks; or does it operate more like a Rube Goldberg? Imagine the potential for those companies that operate using a Rube Goldberg machine mentality that pivot to find a better way to provide the services or products they offer. If you look at your company and think you see an area of the business that might resemble a Rube Goldberg machine, perhaps you should seek ways to make it a little less complicated. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Just sayin’.

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