It’s Not Me, It’s You and Him and Her and Them…part 3

And last but not least, here are just a few more of the “friends” that I share the road with on a daily basis, although they do tend to take up more of the road than I do….

  • Retiree Ricky– driving the 80 foot RV down the middle of the highway while pulling a small car that also has a boat attached. Of course that doesn’t include the three lawn chairs, two bicycles, ice chest and ladder tied on the back bumper. You’re the one that when you left the last RV park you forgot to secure waste cap so you’re dripping soapy dish water, clumpy brown water (I don’t even want to know what the clumps are) and garbage all up and down the highway. You’re easy to follow because of the wet trail you leave behind. Plus, since it’s been a few months since you last drove this monster you are still “getting the hang of it” and tend to drift from one side of the lane to another. You get so close that I have been able to color in the empty states on the map of the USA posted on the side of your RV of the places you have visited. But hey, you’re retired with no specific place to go so who cares how long it takes you to get there?
  • Mr. 18 wheeler – where do I start? Should I complain about you driving in the left hand lane with 10 car lengths between you and the next vehicle, or about you and three of your buddies driving side by side down a five lane highway at 5 miles under the speed limit and making it impossible to get around, or about you riding two inches off my bumper and then blaring your horn and flashing your lights wanting me to move over even though we are both driving 10 miles over the speed limit, or about the flat tire you have that is throwing rubber all over the road so that it seems like I am having to play dodgeball to keep from being hit by one of them, or about the wide turns you make as I am stopped at the red light and you miss my car by ½ an inch because I can’t back up or move over and you are laughing the whole time because of the look of terror on my face, No, I don’t think I will mention any of those issues.
  • Teenage Tina – driving the 4 passenger car with 6 of your besties jam packed inside while drinking your Grande Iced Caramel Vanilla Macchiato with Extra Espresso, texting your boyfriend and taking a “selfie” with the radio on full blast to the latest Bruno Mars. You’re the one we try to stay away from because you drive anywhere from super slow to super fast, changing lanes at the last second because otherwise you will miss your exit. We never know how you are going to drive, so it’s better to just move over and let you get by.
  • Traffic Tommy – traffic, what traffic? If the traffic slows down, you immediately swerve over to shoulder and drive on that to get around everyone, or you will navigate between the white poles that separate normal traffic lanes from HOV lanes and get in the HOV lane (after all, there are not any cops around so you can drive on it free). The traffic laws are not for you, they’re for everyone else because they need laws to keep them in line and out of your way. After all, you’re more important than everyone else and have someplace you need to be. Okay, maybe it’s not that important, but you still need to be there now. Okay, maybe you don’t need to be there now, but you might as well get there as fast as possible, after all you’re just surrounded by a bunch of losers.

This is what driving on Houston freeways is like. You meet the most interesting (crazy, homicidal, nut jobs) people and I can truthfully say the problem is not me, it’s you, and him and her and them!

It’s Not Me, It’s You and Him and Her and Them… part 2

Here is part two of my favorite homicidal maniacs that I see as I drive to work on Interstate 10 in Houston every day. I can truthfully say that the problems I see are not my fault, it’s you and him and her and them, I am sure that you can identify with most of them…

  • Granny – the little blue-haired old lady driving her 10 year old Cadillac in the fast lane at 25 miles under the posted speed limit, with her blinker on (that has been on for the last 30 minutes) so short that she has to sit on a pillow so she can see over the steering wheel. It almost looks like either no one is driving the car or there is a little kid behind the steering wheel. She’s late for her Canasta Club so she is driving about 5 MPH faster than normal (she’s actually up to 32 MPH now) and has a death grip on the steering wheel, scared to death that someone is going to either hit her or a cop is going to pull over for speeding. Then when she needs to change lanes, she turns the blinker in the opposite direction than she is turning,  which creates utter havoc as everyone slams on the brakes to keep from hitting her. But at least she will make it to her club on time!
  • Farmer Freddie – driving on the shoulder, ½ on and ½ off the road, at a constant speed of 28 MPH so he can look at the crops and livestock on the side of the road (even though he’s on the Interstate, nearing downtown Houston which hasn’t had crops or cattle on the side of the road for 30 years). He never leaves enough room to pass and you never know when he may decide to swerve back over into the lane, but hey – at least he is waving at everyone as he drives down the road. Of course people are waving back at him, just not with all their fingers!
  • Motorcycle Mike – where did you get your license, out of a Cracker Jack box? Swerving in and out of all the lanes, cutting across traffic, driving in between cars, then getting upset when someone honks their horn at you, doing wheelies just to show how cool you are, racing your buddy to the next exit then cutting across four lanes of traffic so you don’t pass the exit, but at least you’re wearing a helmet – even though the rest of your outfit is shorts, flip flops and a tank top.
  • Harry Harley – you’re not quite as bad as Motorcycle Mike. Your problem is that your exhaust pipes are so loud that it sounds like an 18 wheeler coming down the road. You may not be driving as fast as Mike, but then again, how could you since you have handlebars six feet long and almost have to stand up just to reach them. With your leather jacket, skull cap, leather pants and motorcycle boots on, everyone is afraid to look at you for fear that you might get mad and call your gang over to “take care of business”. Little do they know, that your normal job is as a CPA, but you live for the weekend!
  • Boombox Bobby – the entire back seat and trunk of your Monte Carlo are taken up by four foot speakers, woofers, tweeters and bass boosters turned up so high that all the vehicles next to you shake and rattle when you pull up next to them. It doesn’t matter that no one can understand the lyrics to the music, it’s all about the bass…bass… and more bass.

These are just a few of my “friends” that I meet on the road every day. There are a lot more, as I am sure you are aware. Stay tuned for part three coming next week.

It’s not me, it’s you and him and her and them and…

Spend 5 minutes on the I-10/Katy freeway in Houston during rush hour and you may quickly become a raging maniac and feel like you’re playing bumper cars. I have spent more than my fair share of time either driving on the freeway in my personal car or riding on a Metro bus. It’s interesting,or should I say scary, to watch mild mannered drivers turn into homicidal maniacs in just a few short miles.

It gets especially dangerous if you happen to be driving in a small vehicle. It’s either get out of the way (even if you’re in the supposedly “slow” lane) or get run over. Drivers will get right on your rear end and see how close they can get to you without actually touching bumpers, although at times I could swear that I did feel a bump when some of them got a little too close!

I can truthfully say the problem is not me, it’s you, and him and her and them. You know who you are, you’re:

  • Big Bubba – driving the F250 Diesel, with 4wheel drive, a lift kit and spotlights all along the top of your cab. You’re the guy that needs a step ladder to even get into your truck. Then you turn on all the spotlight (even in broad daylight), put your lights on bright and then try to see if just maybe you can run right over the top of my car, without actually causing any damage. Then again, if there is damage, who’s gonna stop you?
  • Mario Andretti – the type of car doesn’t matter. You could be driving a moped and you would still be darting in between cars, crossing three lanes of traffic at a time, flooring the accelerator to pass me then slamming on the brakes so you don’t hit the next car, never using your blinker because after all, by the time you turned it on you would already be two lanes over. Interesting enough, even with all your lane changes and quick moves, I normally still arrive at the next stop light at the same time as you – go figure!
  • Makeup Maria – late for work again so you’re putting on your makeup, curling your hair (tell me again why someone invented battery operated curling irons), applying the lipstick, inserting your contact lenses, etc., while driving with your knees. Of course, you also have the car’s vanity mirror folded down, with the 100 watt bulbs (just a small upgrade to the car purchase price) to make sure you don’t miss any of those problem spots. Gotta look good for the office!
  • Businessman Bob – driving the BMW with the 17 inch laptop open and resting on the passenger seat so you can put the finishing touches on that word document while you drive, holding your cellphone up to your ear talking to the office while answering emails with your second cellphone while trying to change radio stations while trying to drive and screaming at everyone to get out of your way. Don’t they know how important you are?
  • Leo the Landscaper – driving the 50 year old, smoke belching, dented old pickup that is held together by duct tape, while towing the 20 foot trailer filled full of lawnmowers, trash, branches and dirt. We know where you’ve been because there is a trail of dead leaves, rocks, dirt and mower parts behind you. And of course you’re driving down the middle lane with the windows open and the radio at full blast listening to music only you can understand. And why don’t you use your blinkers? Probably because they were not invented yet when the pickup you are driving was manufactured!

If I have not mentioned you yet, don’t worry. I’m just getting started, stay tuned for Part Two next week.

How to Lose Your Job Without Really Trying

In this day and age of mergers, acquisitions and the inevitable layoffs, it seems that employees would be doing everything in their power to keep their job as well as striving to be a valuable asset to the company. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. At times it appears that a select few are more interested in just doing the bare minimum, or just enough to get by. It seems that a sense of loyalty has faded into the sunset, from employees and employers. In fact, at times it appears that both parties are working against each other rather than with each other.

This behavior is difficult to understand, much less believe. It seems that people are working hard at trying to lose their jobs by doing “little” things that soon grow into “big” things, such as:

  1. Being late, late, late. I am old school and I always believed that if you were on time, you’re late. I once had an employee that could never get to work on time. She was always 2-5 minutes late, every day. Her excuse –“ I have never been able to get anywhere on time, I am always late.” The problem was that the previous manager accepted this for several years and when I came on board I had to change the culture and help the staff understand this was not acceptable. It was an uphill battle and the final result was that she had to quit and find another job. I have even had numerous job applicants show up late for an interview without calling, apologizing or even providing an explanation for their tardiness. My solution – send them packing. If they are going to show up late to an interview, and you accept it, why would anything change when they’re hired? You’ve already given them approval to be late.
  2. Failing to call in if you’re going to be absent. Instead, they just text, email or leave a voice mail. If you’re going to be out, I would like to speak to you and make sure you have all of your duties covered so I don’t get any surprises later in the day. It’s not just common courtesy, it’s also me trying to help you so that you don’t have tons of work to catch up when you return to the office. Look at the big picture and remember that everything you do or don’t do has an effect on someone else.
  3. Always being negative. Life is too short to spend time only thinking about the worst that can happen or seeing all the negative things that others do. As one of my distant cousins says, we need to be happy, happy, happy.
  4. Spending excessive time on social media and gossip. This can destroy the office atmosphere faster than a nuclear bomb. It doesn’t matter whether the story is true (which in most cases it is only partially true) or not. Gossip, Facebook, Instagram, etc. has no place in the workplace. Do you really want your co-worker, boss, CEO to see the pictures you posted of you in a bikini/speedo surrounded by empty beer cans with the party hat on your head. Even if it’s a joke or meant to be funny – once it’s in the “cloud” it’s there forever. I have seen numerous reputations tarnished and respect lost because of a “funny” posting or a political rant that quickly got out of hand. If you’re going to post everything on social media without filtering it through the “should I or shouldn’t I” side of your brain, then don’t add all of your co-workers and bosses as “friends”.
  5. Being afraid of doing something because you might do it wrong. There are three different things that can be done in every situation – the right thing, the wrong thing and nothing. I would rather someone do the wrong thing than simply do nothing. I can use the wrong things as a teaching opportunity, doing nothing just makes you look incompetent.

These are just a few ways that you can lose your job without really trying. I have just barely skimmed the surface. Think about it. What are you doing, whether intentional or not, that is leading you down a path of self-destruction?

It’s Time to Fix Stupid

I am a firm believer that regardless of how some people say that “you can’t fix stupid”, it is fixable and can be very rewarding if done right. That being said, I will admit that I have seen some people do some pretty stupid things over the years. For example, I have seen:

  • A customer tell a quick lube technician that he thinks he has a gas leak around his engine and would the technician mind seeing if he could find it. The technician (having just attended a seminar that emphasized customer service) eagerly agreed to do what he could. After placing the vehicle on a lift and walking under it, he took out his trusty lighter and began to flick it so that he could have a little more light to see. Luckily, someone stopped him before the lighter (and probably the technician) found the leak and burst into flames.
  • A construction worker in the attic of a new home, trying to complete the finishing touches before the final walkthrough by the homeowner, decided to take a shortcut. However, in his haste, he slipped and fell between the ceiling studs. Unfortunately, the new owners were ahead of schedule and as they opened the front door, the worker’s leg came crashing through the ceiling! Not a good way to make a great impression!
  • A technician completing the install of a new door on a bank vault (yes, a very large vault, not a small safe), set the combination and then closed the door so he could test that it worked. Unfortunately, he had left the new combination on the inside of the vault! The company was forced to cut through the side of the vault to gain access to the inside so they could reset the combination.

Were these stupid people? No, these were intelligent people, trying to do the right thing but going about it in the wrong way. They allowed the situation to control them, rather than them controlling the situation. These situations could have been prevented very easily if the right steps had been taken or the proper groundwork set. In each of the cases above, management reacted quickly although not necessarily properly. Let’s take a look at each situation.

  • Gas leak. This could have been prevented very easily if the technician had been trained in safety and not just customer service. The shop was gung-ho to stress customer service first and foremost, but had failed to train staff members in the basics of safety. The technician had a goal, but failed to grasp the basic fundamentals needed to reach his goal in a safe manner.
  • Hole in the attic. The worker was so focused on completing his task that he failed to consider the possible consequences of his actions. If he would have stayed on the proper walkway rather than trying to take a shortcut, his situation could have been prevented.
  • No combination. Since the safe company did not have a well-defined protocol or procedure of how to install a combination lock, the technician was left to his own initiative of the best way to complete his job. Unfortunately, he was fairly new to the job (less than a month) and this was his first solo installation.

All of these situations occurred because of one of, or a combination of, the following issues:

  • A lack of understanding of how to evaluate the goals or how to reach them,
  • A lack of understanding how to eliminate unnecessary goals or ideas,
  • A lack of education on the subject, and
  • A lack of motivation.

These are all a direct result of a failure in management. One of the main duties of management is to protect your employees. This requires you to have an “all-seeing” frame of mind so you can prevent problems by constantly being aware of your people and their capabilities/shortcomings. By keeping your “mind on the mission” you can hopefully prepare and implement a plan to prevent situations like those listed above. What was the final result in these situations?

  • The technician was fired, creating additional issues for both the shop and the employee.
  • The company took the time to properly train the worker on safety and he became a valuable asset and long term employee.
  • The technician called his office and explained the situation, then walked out the door. He never returned to the company, instead he mailed his uniform and tools back to them and went to find another job.

No one said being in management would be easy. It is challenging, heart breaking, stressful and not very rewarding at times, but it can also be the most fun you will ever have if done right. If it isn’t fun, then get out and do something else.

Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde, Which Boss Showed Up For Work Today?

It’s 7:55 on Monday morning. You’re sitting at your desk, a strong cup of coffee in your hand, computer powered up.

7:56. Double-check and make sure everything is arranged just perfectly on your desk, nothing out of place. Dump the remains of breakfast in the trash, check the employees and make sure that everyone has dumped the trash off their desk. Make sure they are clocked in, logged on and ready for the first call as well as working on projects. Shut down any socializing by the staff.

7:58. Check the coffee pot, make sure his special blend is ready and hot.

7:59. Last minute check of his office, lights on, Out box empty, everything organized, nothing out of place.

8:00. You hear the back door open, you feel steps coming down the hallway, is he smiling, is he greeting the staff as he walks by their cubicle, does he appear to be kicking an imaginary dog down the hall as he walks, is he mumbling to himself and throwing daggers from his eyes at the staff, did he stop in his office and throw his briefcase down?

He’s in the kitchen, you can hear him pouring his cup of coffee.

Now he’s walking to your office, the moment of truth is here – Who showed up today, Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde? What will be the first words out of his mouth? Will it be “Good Morning” or “I have something for you” (which means grab a pad and come to my office, I want to tell you about all the inefficiencies/staff violations I have seen this morning so far).

The next few moments set the tone for the day, or at least for the next few hours. Will you be able to get some real work done today (even though you have already been here for 2 hours trying to accomplish a few things before he showed up) or will you be running around putting out fires all day? Is it another day of mistrust, anxiety and fear or is there finally some relief and a chance to breathe?

You sit there thinking, it all starts at the top, it’s out of your control. Or, is it?

I have had the opportunity to be part of the management  team (and I use that term loosely in some cases) and work for several large corporations in various venues throughout my career. This has provided me with real word experiences in watching how upper management deals with employees – both good and bad. This book will take a look at those “bad bosses” and hopefully show you, in a humorous way, how to lower an employee’s self-esteem, destroy their confidence and make them feel lower than dirt! Or, you could always do just the opposite and be the boss the staff wants you to be! 

And, in case you were wondering, Yes, all of these things did occur at some point in my career and no, I am not making any of this up. The truth is always stranger than fiction. If you see yourself in one of these illustrations, do us all a favor – CHANGE or GET OUT OF MANAGEMENT!

(Stay tuned for the e-book, scheduled for release in the summer of 2017)

You Can Fix Stupid

Keep your mind on the mission!

You can’t fix stupid! There is a popular comedian that has made his living speaking on this theme. It has become so popular that many in the general public have made it a catchphrase as well. However, I don’t agree with this philosophy or even the idea that things can’t be fixed. I believe that you CAN fix stupid by following a few simple steps.

The concept of “being stupid” is really due to one of, or a combination of, several issues:

  • A lack of understanding of how to evaluate the goals or how to reach them,
  • A lack of understanding how to eliminate unnecessary goals or ideas,
  • A lack of education on the subject, and
  • A lack of motivation.

The first step is evaluation. This is understanding and acknowledging the who, what, when, where, why and how of the goal. Before a project can begin, we have to understand what we want to accomplish as well as the assets available. The goal has to follow the SMART outline so that the project will be accepted by the staff. I believe that many businesses are believers in this management style, however they fail in the implementation step. My goal for this step has always been to evaluate how the staff should be involved in reaching the next step and then insuring that we continue to advance towards the goal. Once the mission is identified, we can’t afford to have anything stand in the way of it being accomplished.

Second is elimination. This step involves identifying any excess baggage and areas that are slowing or hampering the progress of reaching the goal and eliminating the problem. This includes systems, people, protocols and even unnecessary mini-goals. I am a firm believer that a goal should be a “living document”. This simply means that while the overall goal would be constant, implementation would continually be changing and adapting as new ideas, laws and technology evolve.  You must maintain an attitude of awareness and adaptability due to the frequent changes in technology and laws. An example of this is the issue of law firms being owned only by attorneys. There is a movement by some attorney groups to change the laws so that law firms could be publicly traded or, at a minimum, have additional owners that are not attorneys. I believe this concept will gain ground over the next several years and firms need to be prepared to address this issue.

Education is the third step. This is one of the most important steps. A lack of education creates ill will, discourse, rumors and misunderstanding. A lack of understanding creates a “what’s in it for them,” attitude that can be difficult to overcome. With the proper education, acceptance is created and with acceptance comes assurance and the inclination to share with others. A sharing attitude is exactly what you want the staff to possess. The staff has to be educated sufficiently in all the benefits that the project can provide until they reach the point that they are motivated enough to share the brand with others, that this is the” place to be”.

Fourth and final step is motivation. How do we keep the project interesting to everyone involved? This can usually be accomplished through education of the goal and helping the individual to understand “what’s in it for me”. This step requires constant contact through every avenue available so that the brand is at the forefront of every staff member’s mind and thought process.  My vision would be that every staff member would always be thinking about how they could improve and enhance their current projects while strengthening the brand.  Motivation is a lot easier to accomplish when you believe in your product and goals and will do anything to see them succeed.

These steps are most effective when performed in the sequence that I have laid out. However, they are also continuous in nature. You are always going to be educating staff members as new technology and programs are implemented. In addition, you will be in a constant state of evaluation/elimination of programs figuring out what works and getting rid of what doesn’t.

Being a leader requires a lot of the characteristics and talents portrayed in the old movie, The Wizard of Oz. You have to be prepared for anything and be able to think on your feet. Leadership takes courage to implement new ideas; intelligence to be able to think critically, analyze problems and come up with solutions; a heart so that you can connect with people to understand their passions, fears and desires; commitment to persevere to the end; and unlike the Wizard, the ability to be genuine and trustworthy so that when the curtain is pulled back, people can see you for who you really are. It will require the ability to be forward thinking while keeping the big picture in mind.

Keeping these steps in mind, while staying in a constant mindset of being aware of new solutions in technology, using social media to promote the brand and leveraging programs designed to bring ROI to the company will help you to “fix stupid” and be the type of leader your people need and deserve. Keep your mind on the mission.