One Project, Two Classes

One Project, Two Classes

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”  ~ Helen Keller

One Project, Two Classes

When Barbara looked at her phone’s screen, she saw a text message she never thought she would see, “Mom, I’m being called to the principal’s office, and it’s not good.” After rushing to the school, Barbara saw her daughter in tears and was informed that she had been caught cheating on two assignments. The principal went on to explain she had turned the same paper in for her English and history classes. Confused, Barbara further probed and found that the work filled the requirements for both classes and the essay had not been plagiarized. There was nothing in the classes’ instructions or school honor code that forbade turning in the same work for two different classes. The principal countered that two distinctive assignments required unique work and Barbara’s daughter had manipulated the system to get out of doing two papers.

In a collaborative business environment, we often assume the principal’s mind-set. Somehow using a team member’s work product for our own ends means we’re cheating. There’s never a need to reinvent a pivot table or write a new report when the work had been previously completed. Individual achievements don’t matter a whit if your team falters. Hoarding your work product from the team can be extremely damaging by wasting time and resources through duplicative effort. As leaders, we should praise efficiencies rather than viewing true collaboration as skating by on someone else’s work.

By the way, Barbara was a top performing business executive. After a vigorous discussion with the principal, her daughter was sent on her way without further repercussions.

Consider this …

1. Where does your project, business, or workplace need more efficiencies?

2. What work products already exist that can be leveraged or repurposed to solve other issues?

3. Where might you encourage greater collaboration and sharing of work in order to make the entire team more effi cient or eff ective?

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Collaboration Only Makes Things Better

“When you need to innovate, you need collaboration.”  ~ Marissa Mayer

collaboration only makes things better

Westmoreland, Tennessee, is not where one would expect to find success. On average the unemployment rate of this Middle Tennessee town has trended above the national rate since 1990. Decades of mistrust between the Westmoreland haves and have-nots fostered division and a profound lack of cooperation. These splits created 30 churches and non-profit organizations in an area where less than 10,000 people lived. Each group had its own food pantry to try to meet the needs of the low-income residents of the area, and still many in Westmoreland went hungry.

All of that started to change ten years ago, when a collaborative effort was set up almost accidentally by an outsider. Minister Charlie Millson worked to find common ground among the disparate groups. Millson appealed to the one thing these different groups had in common—they all lacked funding. Within one week of moving to the area, Millson devised a plan and explained it by saying:

We knew that the small churches didn’t have the funding, manpower, or sometimes even the space to stock a pantry. Many of the churches didn’t even have telephones where those in need could reach the pantries.

Millson called a meeting of some of the town leaders and proposed that they pool their resources into a new organization, the Westmoreland Food Bank. He found an inexpensive place to rent in the downtown area and opened a food bank with regular hours and trained volunteers. Soon churches started sending volunteers and resources. Now almost every church in the area participates in the food bank, and it serves over 600 families each month. All of this was financed and staffed by locals in a town where collaboration was unknown until someone helped the people see the benefits of working together.

Consider this …

1. Identify the areas in your business or organization where there is uncoordinated activity (at best) to vast disagreement (at worst).

2. Prioritize those areas from the most critical to the least critical according to their impact on your collective success.

3. Develop a plan to address the most critical by pulling everyone together and building a plan that requires collaboration—one that everyone buys into.

 For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Oh Yeah, the Customers

“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” ~ Jeff Bezos

Oh Yeah, the Customers

A friend of mine owns a small business and found herself in the enviable position of having excess liquid capital. Her business was currently supporting her and fed her soul, but would have been considered a flyspeck on the commercial accounts of her bank. Currently, her excess funds were sitting in a savings account drawing next to nothing in interest. Not being that familiar with investments, she asked her bank’s branch manager what the bank could do to help her money grow. The branch manager promptly replied that one of their commercial specialists would call her to discuss her options.

 A week went past and then two without a peep from the bank’s specialist. My friend closed her account with that bank telling the branch manager the institution obviously didn’t have need of her funds. The bank had a chance to grow with her, and they choose not to. As far as the bank was concerned, the loss of her account appeared to be insignificant. The commercial specialist, if contacted at all, triaged his or her calls to the largest accounts first and my friend obviously drew the short straw.

“Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,” is a line penned by Robert Service in his poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” (Coincidentally, Service was working at a bank when he wrote that.) When we don’t deliver to a customer, we remain in their debt. Like any business, when our debt to equity ratio gets too high, there can be dire consequences.

Another similar analogy is the one of an emotional bank account. Whether we recognize it or not, when we enter into a relationship with someone, we open an emotional bank account with them. When we make more deposits than withdrawals (give to the relationship more than we take), our balance remains positive. When we make more withdrawals than deposits (take more than we give), we become “overdrawn,” and experience the associated negative consequences. We all should take some time periodically to evaluate our personal customer service debt to equity ratio, or the balances of the emotional bank accounts we have with our customers, stake-holders, and teammates.

Consider this …

1. Make a list of the people who are important to your success—clients, stakeholders, teammates, etc.

2. Now, place “A+” (to denote a positive bank balance), or “A-“ (to denote a negative balance) next to their names.

3. If you have outstanding debts or negative balances, clear them up as soon as possible. 

 For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Shut Eye

“Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.”~ Emily Bronte

shut eye

The brilliantly mad genius of Orson Welles scared the nation into believing martians had invaded the Earth, produced one of the greatest films ever made, and hawked no wine before its time. If War of the Worlds, Citizen Kane, and cheesy 1970s wine commercials weren’t enough, Welles was also a world-class magician. Welles was so talented at prestidigitation, he harbored secret anxiety about magic. Sideshow magicians have long called what Welles feared, shut eye. The term is attached to someone so adept at weaving illusions, the performer begins to believe she or he truly possesses magical powers. It’s difficult to believe someone would wake up one morning believing himself or herself to be a spell waving wizard, but there wouldn’t be a term for the behavior unless it existed.

Anyone in business has a modicum of the carnival spirit coursing through their veins. We’re cheerful for clients and team members when we’d rather go back home and hide under the covers. Doubts are often swept away by a mental shot of “you can do anything” bravado. Those pick-me-ups are a necessary part of our professional existence. The danger comes when we become shut eye to chasing our goals at the expense of our family, friends, or faith. Did Orson Welles really fear in gaining the world he could lose his soul in the bargain? He had racked up more awards and notoriety before he was thirty than most of us will see in a lifetime. It seems more likely Welles’s trepidation lay here versus believing he was magical. The fact is, top performers sometimes begin to feel as though they are invincible.

When we become so prideful that our ambitions hold no consequences, the reckoning of a fall is likely just around the bend. The magic lies in moving forward with those who matter to you. Let those people in your life be your touchstone for where ambition ends and an ego-driven success at all costs begins. Open and honest communication and the willingness to be held accountable by your loved ones holds that key. Be sure you guard against the shut eye to that.

Consider this …

1. In what ways and at what times do you sometimes feel as though you are invincible?

2. With whom do you have a loving, accountable relationship that you can leverage to keep you grounded?

3. Have an open conversation with that person or people and give them permission to help you keep both feet firmly planted on the ground.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

May the Force Be With You

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” ~ Yoda

May the Force Be With You

The Force was not with George Lucas when he pitched Star Wars to Universal Studios and United Artists. The executives at both studios thought the market wouldn’t support such an expensive science fiction film and politely shuttled Lucas out the door. Hoping the third time would be the charm, Lucas pitched Twentieth Century Fox and got their acceptance by the skin of his teeth. Lucas didn’t receive the budget he needed to bring his full vision to the screen, but he’d make due with what he had. He had originally written Luke Skywalker’s home planet as a jungle, but filming in the Tunisian desert was cheaper, so Lucas adapted the script.

Due to the worst rainstorm in Tunisian history, filming got off to a less-than-auspicious start. Many of the set pieces and props were damaged or destroyed. If that wasn’t bad enough, the crew and actors weren’t even behind Star Wars. Harrison Ford thought Princess Leia’s hairdo was ridiculous and Chewbacca looked like a giant in a monkey suit. The man inside R2-D2, Kenny Baker, foresaw the movie flopping as did the rest of the crew. To top off Lucas’s problems, most of the required special effects for the movie didn’t exist and had to be invented. Production schedules waned, actual expenses burst through the budget’s seams, and George Lucas flirted with hypertension and depression.

At the end of the day, the innovation and determination of George Lucas won the day, and so it is with you! Knowing the backstory of Lucas’s tribulations to get Star Wars into theaters, we hear the words of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Consider this …

1. What major obstacles are facing your business, project, or workplace right now?

2. What things have you “tried” in order to overcome them? What has worked and what has not?

3. How can you emulate the innovation and determination of George Lucas to win the day?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Can I Take a Moment of Your Time?

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” ~ Peter Drucker

can i take a moment of your time?

It’s been one of those days … and you know with supernatural precision how many straws are resting on your camel’s back. With equal confidence, you estimate that one more straw will be THE spine-crushing limit. Coffee is possibly the only substance that will fortify your spirits, and you make a mad dash to the breakroom when you hear someone ask, “Can I take a moment of your time?” You break a lifetime of courtesy training and workplace team building by replying, “No, you may not.”

If you thought the reply was rude, consider if that person asked you to fork over your wallet. We often say that time is our most valuable asset, so it should be easier to give up your debit card than five minutes of your time. However, we would fight tooth and nail for a few dollars but are routinely complicit to time banditry. The difference between our wallet and our watch is where we place value and our perception of self-worth.

Can I take a moment of your time? No, but I can give you a moment of my time. The difference between the request and your response is one of self-controlled choice. Anyone who takes your time is baring you from achieving your goals and aspirations. Whether through complete altruism or by gaining something in return, when we consciously give of our time, we retain control of that precious commodity. While that may sound like a game of semantics, it is a game with a purpose. At the end of the day, time is all we have. How we manage that time often means the difference between success and failure. Top performers maniacally manage their time.

Consider this …

1. Identify your two biggest time wasters.

2. Now list out the impact these two time wasters have on your productivity.

3. What actions are you willing to take in order to better control these time wasters so you can be more productive?.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Kakeibo

“Time is, time was, but time shall be no more.”~ James Joyce

Kakeibo

In many Japanese homes, you can find a simple notebook. Likely dog-eared from use, the notebook is always easily accessible, not far from anyone’s reach. Pulling back the note-book’s cover would reveal a neatly kept household accounting journal. At the head of each month, there is a record of one’s income subtracted by fixed expenses. That subtotal has a deduction for one’s savings goal. The final set of entries are a handwritten ledger of every yen that has been spent during the month. At the end of the month, one’s spending is compared to the savings goal, and an evaluation of the resulting financial performance is conducted. The budgeting system is known as kakeibo. It was introduced in Japan over a hundred years ago, and even the digital age has not yet transformed the process into a smartphone app.

The theory is that when one takes the time to write down spending and evaluate those patterns, financial performance becomes part of a habitual, daily mind-set. As brilliantly simplistic as the system is for finances, the same principles can be applied to any management of resources. What would you discover about your time management skills if you applied the kakeibo system for one week? Your income would be replaced with the 10,080 minutes in a week. Our time overhead would be measured as sleeping at least a healthy seven hours a night. Work and leisure activities would be logged as spending money, just like in the kakeibo system. At the end of the week, an honest review of how you spent your time would shed a bright light on your inefficiencies. This process is something that I often coach executives and sales persons to complete. It truly is enlightening.

If your first thought was, “I don’t have time for that,” you’re likely already mismanaging your time. If we don’t have the time to evaluate how we spend our time, what do we have time for?

Consider this …

1. For the next week (preferably two), keep a record of how you spend your time … in fifteen-minute increments. (Stop complaining, just imagine you’re an attorney and you’re billing for those fifteen-minute increments.)

2. At the end of the process, categorize your time into the major, similar categories and tally the hours and percent of the total for each category.

3. Assess whether the way you’re spending your time matches your performance priorities.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Success Starts at Home

“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.” ~ Samuel Johnson

Success Starts at Home

It’s Monday morning, and you’re chomping at the bit to get your week going. You’re looking at your weekly calendar and downing a cup of joe before heading into the office when you hear it. The whooshing, splashity hiss emanating from your laundry room sounds like the Titanic’s hull has just been breached. You take a quick look, and the blessed water heater has sprung a leak. There’s enough water on the floor to fill a kiddie pool. Thanks, Monday, you’ve just hijacked a carefully planned week.

Every office has someone that’s constantly on the phone dealing with household issues. Is that drama monarch a top performer? I’d wager not. Nothing throws a rock in the punch bowl like problems at home. A chaotic household always spills into your professional world limiting the energy you can expend at work. Then you’ll spend your time at home catching up on work, which means household issues go unchecked. This vicious cycle will continue until you reroute the loop. You CAN reroute the loop!

Start by utilizing your professional abilities at home. Catalog your home assets like a project manager would by evaluating each piece of equipment’s usable life, scheduling a time for replacements or periodic maintenance, and sticking to the timetable. Set boundaries with those acquaintances who always seem to call you at the wrong times for advice. Create a family calendar so you can plan around school or interpersonal events. Whatever your positive action steps are, the goal should be to clear away personal detractors while at work. You owe it to your employer (or your business), and you owe it to your career to leave your personal distractions at the door. When you’ve taken care of that, it’s time to storm the castle!

Consider this …

1. What personal distractions tend to get in the way of your work?

2. What steps can you take to anticipate and manage those distractions outside of work hours?

3. What are some of your biggest time wasters at work, and how can you better manage those?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide.)

Disrupting the Universe

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Disrupting the Universe

“Do I dare disturb the universe?” were words penned by world-class poet T. S. Eliot in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” The poem centers around the titular character observing life events happening around him and then stolidly talking him-self out of participating. Prufrock makes the excuses that he’s too old, too bald, or plainly too scared to pursue the things in life that interest him, comforting himself with promises that there will be time for all those things—later. Sound familiar?

Just as a J. Alfred Prufrock exists within all of us, so does our ability to disturb or disrupt the universe. As innovators, entrepreneurs, and change agents, we tend to think in terms of “disrupting” instead of “disturbing.” Regardless, we often think that upsetting cosmic balances takes a cataclysmic event, but the universe can be disrupted with a phone call, email, or simply speaking up in a meeting. When our sights are only set on monumental tasks, are we using this as a cover or an excuse? Have you ever said, “When I finish Project X, everything will fall into place,” as a fear-filled mask for effecting small changes?

Do one thing a day that disrupts your universe. If you do one thing a day that combats the muttering internal negative voices that hold you back, soon you’ll have a catalog of universe disruptions to staunch the harshest of inner critics. Do you dare disrupt the universe? You bet you do, because the universe isn’t about to change on its own. That change starts with a choice. You can choose the status quo, or you can choose to shake things up. That all begins with asking yourself every day, “How will I disrupt the universe today?

Consider this …

1. What needs disrupting in the universe around you?

2. What actions can you take right now that will be disruptive to the universe?

3. How can you create the habit of disrupting the universe each day?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Exit Incremental, Enter Exponential

“An exponential growth is a simple doubling. One becomes two becomes four.” ~ Peter Diamandis

Exit Incremental, Enter Exponential

To be an innovator, one does not always have to create a brand spanking new process or widget. Some innovations are a change in the way we approach the commonplace. A few years back Arizona State University (ASU) started the arduous plan for renovating Sun Devil Stadium. One can imagine the laundry list of upgrades one would want to incorporate in a reimagined sports stadium. However, better flow to the food vendors and bathroom access would not be what one would consider an innovation. Wishing the stadium to be something unique, ASU solicited the advice of some of their top alumni.

Enter Jack Furst, the founder of the private equity firm Oak Stream Investors. Aft er graduating from ASU in 1981, Jack worked on Wall Street before striking out on his own. What separates Furst from his peers is a vision that includes a strong bond to the community. When ASU asked for his opinions on the stadium’s renovations, they got more than they bargained for.

In Jack’s mind, a facility that was utilized for only football games and the odd concert did not fulfill the stadium’s potential. Furst’s vision was to make Sun Devil Stadium into a place that would function as a community hub, open daily to the public—food vendors, outdoor movies, festivals, or any other activity that would make Sun Devil Stadium an integral part of the Tempe/Phoenix community in the coming years. From a financial perspective, turning a capital investment from a two percent to potentially a hundred percent utilization rate is staggering. This is referred to as exponential or “10x” thinking.

When we marry our core values with the opportunities life presents us, unexpected innovations can crop up in the most unlikely of places and transform life as we know it.

Consider this …

1. Quickly list ten ways that you could exponentially transform your business, company, team, or project. (Think ten times growth or transformation.)

2. Select two or three of those ten ways that seem to be most feasible.

3. Engage in a conversation with members of your team about how to bring these transformations to reality.

 

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide..)

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