Saturday, November 20, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving! I thought I'd share a feel-good story for Thanksgiving week. A friend and co-worker is from Jasper Indiana and shared an inspiring story after spending a weekend at her hometown. She went to a Jasper High School football game and got to see Zach Beckman play a few downs.
Zach Beckman is a high school student. "He is very involved in school activities and sports, and just happens to have Down Syndrome." Everyone in town knew his story and when he entered the field, the crowd cheered. Zach was such a dedicated team manager his freshman, sophomore, and junior years that the coaching staff "let him dress out in uniforms" and gave him player status.
With the agreement of opposing coaches, Zach was allowed to run a few plays. Zach's teammate volunteered to be Zach's buddy on the field. Zach was too vulnerable to take the ball so he stood near the sidelines with the wide receiver while the team ran a running play in the middle.
On the last regular season game, an away game at Mount Vernon, Zach lived out a dream and scored a touchdown! His sister put together this YouTube video as a thank you to the coaching staff and players that made his dream come true.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Image via WikipediaOkay, I admit it. I watch Dancing With The Stars. I'm a little embarrassed to admit this in such a public forum, until I realized that it a means of building relationships.
For example, I called my mom tonight. We didn't have much to talk about. Fortunately, life is has been pretty stable and slightly on the uptick for the past few months. So, we talked about Dancing. Who we liked. Who we didn't like. And so on. On the surface, it may seem trivial to gossip about the stars. However, by listening to likes and dislikes, we learn a little more about each other.
Furthermore, I don't want to take it for granted that my mom has the cognitive ability to shoot the breeze. My wife's mom does not because she is suffering from Alzheimer's. It is a terrible disease. At first it was the little things like forgetting how to fix coffee or use the remote control and kitchen appliances. Then it progressed to inability to remember current events. At this point simple conversations ceased. It has been a wake up call to not take those water cooler talks for granted.
Now to bring it back around to work for a little takeaway. Show at least a little interest in your staff and co-workers. There is a fine line between being friendly and being friends. I think Zappo's take it too far in wanting co-workers to be friends, support systems, and weekend buddies. But it's a mistake to be all business all the time. There is tremendous value in the water cooler talks.
Water cooler talk help build relationships. It may seems trivial, but those friendly conversations build trust and commadery. That goes a long way to establishing a foundation to getting people to say yes to your ideas and initiatives. 'Friendship is the first and most powerful trigger to yes', according to author of the book 7 Triggers to Yes. It's cliche, but nobody cares how much you know until you show how much you care.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Image by ShashiBellamkonda via Flickr
It's been over a month since my last blog post because I got burnt out. I did not get burnt out on blogging, but on leadership theories because they are all bunk.
It started with the book Drive by Daniel Pink, then Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, and finally the book Rework by 37 Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.
I blogged my criticism of Drive. Although the book does a good job of popularizing motivation theories, it falls well short of an accurate and useful analysis or application of these modern psychological theories. Steven Reiss' book The Normal Personality is much better, but not near as readable nor marketable.
I really enjoyed Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness. It was interesting to learn how he risked it all to bring Zappo's back from the brink of bankruptcy. The book was also very autobiographical and vulnerable. He wrote the book himself and I like his writing style.
Rework also grabbed and held my attention. Again, the founders wrote the book themselves and I like the writing style. They get right to the point and don't waste a bunch of words.
Rework and Delivering Happiness were in direct opposition with one very important topic: company culture. Tony Hsieh's whole book revolved around developing a culture of happiness because it leads to profits. On the other hand, Rework states, "You can't create culture. It happens. Don't force it. You can't install culture." Whereas Hsieh spends tons of money manufacturing culture, 37 Signals allows culture to emerge from daily operations.
At the end of the day, none of it matters. Cultures are nothing without profits. The quickest way to erode culture (and happiness) is to erode profits. Nobody is happy when your company is losing money and laying off people.
Furthermore, there are as many leadership theories as there are leaders. 37 Signals could never implement Zappo's culture and vice versa. My criticism of Zappo's culture is that I doubt the corporate culture in Vegas filters outside the city limits and down through all departments. Each individual's culture experience is based on his/her relationship with their boss. Each supervisor determines the culture of his/her department. There is no such thing as a company culture. Company cultures evolve and change over time, anyway.
There are 16 common motivators, but each individual has a unique set of motivators. Whether your primary motivator is family, money, prestige, exercise, curiosity, food, order, or power, there is one common denominator -- money. All basic desires require money to meet these desires. The bottom line is the bottom line. Money might not buy happiness, but it's one hell of a down payment.