Leave ‘Em Be, plus What I Learned from the Honey Badger

Today I learned:

1. Leave ’em be: 

http://i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k488/sqacct7/Topic%20Photos/Section%20B/betterthanyouquotes.jpg

Today was my first day back in the office after a week at home recovering from surgery. As I sat down with different people on the team through the day one thing became abundantly clear: Everything was under control.  This didn’t come as a surprise mind you, but it is good to learn that your expectations have been met, or exceeded. It reminded me of a great quote on hiring and team building:

“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them alone to get on with it.”

David Ogilvy

2. What I learned from the Honey Badger: With 39+ million hits on You Tube, most people have seen the hilarious Honey Badger video (linked below). I’ve been exposed to it a number of times, but always from the perspective of humour.  When the link crossed my path again today I saw an opportunity to view it in a different light.

Can we learn anything about business from the Honey Badger? It turns out we can.

For me, there are three key lessons:

1. Be fierce:

“The most fearless animal in the animal kingdom. It really doesn’t give a sh*t. “

The Honey Badger knows what he wants, and he goes after it. In his case the prize is a treasured Cobra and maybe a taste of larvae. For you it may be additional responsibilities, a new contract or just a chance to bend the bosses ear. Whether your goals are personal or career driven, it pays to clearly identify what you are after and then be fierce in your pursuit.

2. Be relentless:

“It’s getting stung like a thousand times. It doesn’t care.”

The Honey Badger takes its problems in stride. Stung by a swarm of bees? Bit by a cobra?  Day to day, hopefully at least, you are not likely to be taken down by a cobra, but other pitfalls and speed bumps are all around us. Downsizing? Negotiations falling apart? Crappy boss? We have problems every day. And we choose our own response. Take your licks, get back up and continue driving forward with both eyes squarely on your prize.

3. Accept pursuit:

“The Honey Badger does all the work, while these other animals just pick up the scraps.”

You wouldn’t surround yourself with Jackals by choice, but they are a sign you are doing something right. In business the jackals will multiply in the good times. Don’t be concerned when they are hanging around. Be concerned when they aren’t.

I should note, I chose a business angle to this post, partly because I googled the subject and it turns out I am not the only person with a slightly odd sense of humour who thinks we can learn something from the Honey Badger. I actually found a couple other blog posts referencing personal learnings and life lessons from the Honey Badger. These are the two best I found:

As well, for those of you who would prefer to see the Honey Badger video in the light context that I am sure it was originally intended, I apologize. Here is a link to another hilarious video that I promise not to analyze and ruin for you. There is certainly nothing to learn from it, other than the fact is it an obvious reminder for self-censorship.


I am an Idiot, plus Inspiring Action with Why’s not What’s

Today I learned:

1. I am an idiot: Admittedly, some may tell me this should not be news or at least it should have been an assumption going in. Regardless, I didn’t make it past 7:15am before the label was applied this morning so at minimum this is earlier than usual.

As I prepared for work , 7 days post ACL-reconstruction, my wife looked at me like I was nuts.  This in itself is not unusual, but she is a physiotherapist so when rehab is concerned I need to listen (even more than I usually do, of course).  I continued to prepare until, as I struggled to pull my socks on, she muttered “you’re an idiot.

This helped snap me out of it, and we had a good discussion on surgeon recommendations, rehab principles and recovery.  Suffice it to say, another day at home for me. A good reminder that I don’t always know best, but at least my wife does.

2. Inspiring Action with Why’s not What’s:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

– Simon Sinek

The goal is to sell people on why you do what you do. What you do is simply the proof of what you believe. Within Simon Sinek’s Ted video (linked below), he draws together this concept with several engaging examples – Apple, TiVo, and the Wright Brothers – but for a business leader or manager the most tangible example from my perspective relates to Martin Luther King Jr.

In jest, Mr. Sinek quips “He gave the I have a dream speech, not the I have a plan speech.”

This struck a cord and immediately made me consider how I have addressed my team in the recent past within activities like staff meetings, project planning sessions and 1:1’s.  It served as a good reminder that too often we emphasize what we are doing – what the plan is – not why we are doing things.  This is not to say we ignore the why, but rather we don’t always lead with it, and perhaps don’t give it the time and credence it deserves.

Importantly, in management the why must be tailored to individuals and the team.  For example, when I think about one large project I worked on in the past, our why messaging was at a corporate level, and it didn’t sell the goal at a personal level.  In the end, people follow for themselves – not solely for the money but for whatever else is intrinsically driving them. Selling your staff needs to get personal, in terms of why it is good for them. Get your Why right and you will have no trouble getting your team on board for the How and the What.

Link to Simon Sinek on Ted.com, plus graphic from guidedinnovation.com.


Leading with Lollipops, plus Sibling Bonds

In a TED-themed post, today I focus on learnings from a morning spent enthralled in the growing online library of Ideas Worth Spreading.

Today I learned: 

1. Leading with Lollipops:

“Maybe the biggest impact I’ve ever had on anyone’s life…was a moment I don’t even remember.”

– Drew Dudley

This quote comes from a powerful video (linked below) in which Mr. Dudley describes a time when a young woman recalled an interaction with him that had changed her life, and he couldn’t even remember it.

Mr. Dudley speaks about the idea of everyday leadership. He proposes we re-frame the concept away from money and power, to a more tangible concept we can all own. He suggests leadership is “the moments we create, acknowledge, pay forward and say thank you for.”

This idea is somewhat similar to the theme of Robin Sharma’s book, The Leader Who Had No Title (and I have already made it clear I am a fan of this concept). I consider myself a believer in this approach to leadership, and over the past several months I have been trying to emphasize it in interactions with everyone I meet. It gives me tangible ideas I can use to make me a better parent, manager, and friend.  It formed part of the motivation for this blog, and it has certainly impacted how I approach my relationships with others.

The video also led me to consider a “lollipop moment” in my own life – one I have never said thank-you for.  Here it is:

In 2007 I was looking at options for what to do next and I was considering a number of different academic pursuits, in the hopes I could open some additional doors in my professional life. I knew I needed to do something, but I wasn’t sure what, until I met professor Darren Dahl.

I decided to attend an information session on the part-time MBA program at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, and as it turns out Mr. Dahl was the presenter. The experienced floored me.

Instead of providing basic information on the program, he energetically launched into a pseudo-marketing class, conducting a discussion on the BMW film series. I said nothing. I was totally caught off-guard. I also knew I was home. I left the session and immediately got to work arranging my life  so I could attend the program.  Fast forward a few years and I graduated in 2011.

Would I have done it anyway? Maybe. Only one thing is for sure: In that moment, he handed me a lollipop that changed my life, and he probably didn’t even realize it. He certainly never asked for anything in return.  That’s leadership.

Link to Drew Dudley @ TedxToronto: (Trust me, it is worth your 6 min 22s seconds.)

2. Sibling Bonds:

“They are with us for the entire ride.”

– Jeffrey Kluger

I have known for years that my brother just gets me.  My humour is littered with 80’s sitcom jokes that only he seems to be able to pick-up. Often, I make a joke and we are the only two laughing. Most people are looking at me curiously, wondering what I could possibly find funny about Kale in a salad.

Understanding the impact of our relationship, makes me keenly examine the relationship between my own children – two young girls that are 20 months apart. The girls are the best of friends but admittedly emotions shift quickly. At times they fight with reckless abandon. Within Mr. Kluger’s Ted video (linked below), he suggests children in the 2-4 age group engage in one fight every 6.3 minutes. Frankly I think either he is low-balling the number, or my kids help bring down the average.

The most thought provoking piece to me is Mr. Kluger’s conclusion: “Life is short, finite and it plays for keeps. Siblings may be among the richest harvests of the time we have here.”

This raised one question for me – how can I ensure my daughters value their sibling relationship in the way I do mine?

At their age, I can say it, but it won’t hit home. I can try to control the fights, but it won’t change much. There will always be another doll to yell about.

Instead it hit me the best way to accomplish this goal is modelling.  They learn so much from what they watch and experience. What is the best way to build my daughters’ relationship? It might just be calling up my brother and inviting him and his family for dinner.

Time to make a phone call…

Link to Jeffrey Kluger: The Sibling Bond on Ted.com.


Anticipation – Mickey’s Victory, plus Trust Your Team

Today I learned:

1. Anticipation – Mickey’s Victory: Little girls have a hard time falling asleep the night before they fly off to Disneyland.  What is interesting to me is this phenomenon, while expected, far exceeds the same problem on Christmas Eve. Despite having a thorough understanding of the concept of Santa and only a cursory knowledge of Mickey et al., Disney takes the cake as a cause of sleep deprivation.

Hopefully this does not foreshadow additional sleep issues in the coming days.

2. Trust your team: While preparing for a brief absence from work today I was bolting around the office like a chicken with my head cut-off through most of the morning. It took someone else to wake me up to it.

One of my reports said, “Well…somebody is trying to clear his desk for vacation.”

Unfortunately it took someone else to snap me out of it, but fortunately she was successful.

In that moment I realized the world doesn’t stop when you leave the office. If you have a good group around you, and they are competent and engaged, it really doesn’t matter what you fly around trying to accomplish in a few hours. Everything is covered. Any fires that come up will be put out. Everybody already knows exactly what they need to do, and they will do it.

Today I learned, thankfully, that I needed to get over myself.


Competence, plus Preparation, Take 2

Today I learned:

1.  Competence: The other day I took part in a leadership training seminar where we discussed the concept of competance. The facilitator showed a great video clip of a labourer carrying bricks off a boat:

This man is clearly good at his job, and he has spent whatever time was required to develop a true competence in the task at hand.

Reflecting back on the discussion today, this clip raises two questions:

a. Will his employer (apparently in Bangladesh) pay for the treatment of his future neck and/or back injuries?

b. How do you help your team members achieve this level of competence – or mastery really – in their jobs?

The second question is tougher.

The basic method proposed in my session was to “show them what to do, how to do it ,and why.”

No question it is good, clear advice. But a video like this suggests to me that is really part of step two in this problem. From my perspective the video tells as much a story about hiring practice as it does about competence and eventually mastery. I do believe there is some form of greatness or calling in everyone, but I don’t believe everyone is suited to do anything.  To me this video is more about Jim Collin’s famous statement that you need to “get the right people on the bus,”  or in this case the boat. Not every person is going to balance 20 bricks on their head. Most are going to fail miserably at this task. To me this is more a lesson in finding and then nurturing the development of the right people, than it is about taking who you have and helping them master the task at hand.

Am I right or have I had one too many bricks fall on my head on this on?

2. Preparation, Take 2: After yesterday’s post on presentation preparation and my perception that people are too often inclined to blame their lack of preparation on a technology fail, today I found myself involved in a 2 hour preparation session with representatives from my company and one of our vendors aimed at planning a series of three webinars for a customer group. Two hours, about 10 people online, bouncing ideas and working on a very rough run through. We had technology problems, poor narative, and incomplete explanations. At the start we weren’t on the same page with the message and we had differing views on the key issues to address. It was generally a weak product.

Is this a problem?

Nope.

It was the first of 3 sessions, over which I expect we will iterate the presentation to a final product that I am sure will be polished and, most importantly, valuable to the customer. It certainly feels good to have a take away from personal involvement in a good process, just one day after learning a similar lesson while observing a bad one.


Serving Feedback in a Sh*t Sandwich, plus The Death of Cable TV

Today I learned:

1. The Sh* Sandwich: I had a great discussion this morning with a few other managers about performance evaluations and the art of delivering feedback. One person came up with a term that I wasn’t familiar with before today – the Shi*t Sandwich.  Essentially this is the practice of framing a piece of negative/constructive feedback with two positive points.

For example: “You did a job great developing that proposal, John. We need to do a lot of work to get your presentation skills up to par, but in the end you are still great at developing rapport with clients.” Although, we know that with many managers the middle part will be more like, “…your presentation skills suck…” Hence the title.

Regardless, I am not a big fan of this approach.

It is an easy way to get across a tough point but the area for growth can get lost in “the bread.”  I prefer to deliver both the positive and the negative separately, clearly delineating between the two. As well – maybe most importantly – I think it is critical to ensure upfront the person is ready to hear everything you have to say.

My preferred approach would be closer to this: “John, would you like some feedback on our work with Customer X?…Great…I think you did an excellent job in some areas but in a few spots we need to work on improvement. Let’s start with what I think you did very well…”

From my perspective The Sh*t Sandwich is a cop out. It’s an easy way to get tough news across, but in the end if the key piece doesn’t hit home you will just need to revisit it down the road. Better to be clear, with specific examples, up front so you can get to work on the road to improvement.

2. The Death of Cable TV: Admittedly it is not dead yet, but its days are numbered.

In the fall we got a PVR, and we now watch about 5-10% of the commercials we previously watched, mostly when we forget to fast forward.

More recently we signed up for Netflix, and in the last month my 4 year-old daughter hasn’t watched Treehouse TV once. She is only interested in Netflix (via TV, iPad or Computer) as she is in control of what she consumes. She can even pause it to pee.

Add in Apple TV a couple weeks ago and we now stream shows, along with our pictures and music.

Interestingly, with more choice we are actually watching far less TV. Flipping on a slideshow or some music is now viable and fast, so we are turning to more laid back evenings with music, pictures and books. All in all, everything is better, faster and in-line with what we want, when we want it.

Reflecting on it today it occurred to me that it all happened very quickly. Our progression – from basic cable to everything on-demand – took us about 3 months. This spells very bad news for our cable account. If every hockey game was free in HD online we simply wouldn’t need it.

How many years will it take for everyone else to follow the same path? 10 years? 5?



Today’s Teachable Moment and The Rudest Guy at Work

Today I learned:

1. Teachable moments: While lying on the couch with my two year old this evening she looked squarely up my nose and excitedly exclaimed, “Dad, what’s up your booger hole?”

As an early candidate for father of the year I wasn’t about to let the teachable moment slip past me, and I politely informed her that it is nostril and not, as she and her 4 year old sister so fondly refer to it, a booger hole. We then engaged in quite a lengthy conversation about the purpose of nostrils during which it occurred to me that the lesson had in fact taken. This made me interested in how we identify and properly execute the “teachable moment.”

There are no shortage of people discussing this issue online, and what struck me is that the recommendations are basically the same whether you are taking the perspective of a parent or a manager.

The best K.I.S.S. summary I can come up with is this:

  • The right moment must be laced with engagement and emotion. Teaching about seat belts after witnessing an accident is an easy example. With kids, once they engage and start asking about something they are sponges. At work it may be tougher to spot the moment, but engagement looks the same in a 4 year old as a 40 year old. It just sounds different.
  • Be prepared. If you prep your message and stay ready to engage in conversation rather than command you’ll find your opportunity.
  •  Be patient. Outside school we have the opportunity to weave messages into the day. You don’t need to convey everything in one go. Learning occurs over time – take it.

2. The Rudest Guy at Work: I was reading an article on Manners in this week’s MacLean’s, not because I need it of course but rather to learn from the behaviour of others.

It got me thinking: who is the rudest person at work?

I work in a rather large office so there are quite a few candidates. People that leave their dishes in the sink for someone else to clean were the first to come to mind. The people that anonymously post sarcastic signs to condemn those people are close behind.

The winner?

At my office it is hands down the guy that shaves in the bathroom then leaves hair all over the sink.

Over the last few weeks I am becoming increasingly frustrated with that guy. Unfortunately I can’t bring myself to post a sign, so the plan I have developed to deal it is this:

  1. Take a deep breath and suck it up.  Life’s too short.
  2. Divert my attention – e.g. Use a different washroom
  3. Look for the lesson – e.g.  Examine my own behavior to ensure everything I do at work is not having the same negative effect on other people.
  4. Politely address the issue – e.g. collect the shavings and sprinkle them on his keyboard after he leaves at night.
Well, 3 out of 4 isn’t bad.