That’s a Weak-A_ _ Backhand

My son and I spent a few hours in hockey rinks watching the younger sons of great friends of ours playing the game they enjoy. Both lads are playing A1 level hockey (10 and 12 years old) and they are quite good. It was the comment of a dad when his son tried a backhand pass that didn’t quite make it to his teammate. The dad said, loud enough for all of us around him to hear, “that’s a weak-ass backhand.”

Now that both of mine are past the “parent watching” period, they actually play with our Friday night group if they are in town, we delight in listening to the parents as they coach  cheer from the stands. I am positive that over half of the moms and dads never played hockey and do not truly understand the game. Their focus on their son or daughter is without seeing the overall context of how the play is evolving on the ice.

In addition to the “backhand” comment, that served his son no good at all, telling little Timmy to “skate faster” or  “shoot the puck” is so often not what the child should actually do. If the kid listens to their parents, they will likely have to be retrained by the coach. There is a reason that parents should cheer a great effort and stay away from the armchair coaching.

And that reason is that the parents are not trained in the coaching and are not looking at the entire team on the ice and prepping the kids who will be jumping on the ice at the next line change.

This is exactly what happened when our boys were younger. I would often go sit or stand by myself when I was watching because I couldn’t handle the non-coaching advice from the stands. It was easier to be far away or to actually coach so I could concentrate on the kids.

Oh yeah, the kids are the ones playing and the ones that should be enjoying the game. Parents do not often understand this.

This same scenario happens in business when people who are not properly trained or coached in a particular skill offer the “do you know what you should do?” advice to their co-worker. So often the advice is ill-conceived, ill-timed, or just plain 100% wrong. Nice work telling someone else what to do when you are not even operating at 100% of your own capacity and expectation.

Seeing these types of actions is essential for leaders so that the proper correction can be made and the right direction can be provided. People need to try harder, make mistakes, correct them and ultimately improve their performance. Comments from the proverbial “peanut gallery” or another department do not help anyone.

I can remember an IT manager asking my colleague and me why we wanted a specific type of report. When we answered he said “you don’t need that.” For those that know me, it was really a challenge for me not to lose my mind. The discussion was substantially longer and more heated than it needed to be because someone was trying to do our job. We were not trying to create extra work. We were trying to gain the data we needed to complete our assessment. In the end we reluctantly got the report and were able to make our business case as a result.

Instead of being critical and being a “seagull colleague” (fly in, crap on everything, then leave), how about you take the time to understand where your responsibility begins and ends and how you might be a better colleague by being supportive. Take the time to understand the context of the situation. You might not be able to add value, and that is just fine. And if you can add value, make sure it is properly offered so that the person can choose to accept it or not.

One last tip for the parents – Be a Fan…NOT a Fanatic!

And don’t worry about the strength of the backhand pass of a 10-year-old. I bet yours was no better than when you were 10. And that is if you even played the game.

Are you a 24 X 7 Merry Christmas mindset?

Or are you a Grinch?

Yes, Virginia, you have a choice to make every day.

You can talk about leadership, culture, disruption, or any other unicorn, but it is the mindset of every person that will determine success or defeat.

Let’s start with a quick review of the season. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Full stop. Now, you can choose to believe this or not, and I will never force you to. I have my beliefs and you can have yours.

Do you put up a holiday tree or a Christmas tree? What do you put under your holiday tree? Holiday presents?

After spending a lot of money and ballooning your credit card balance, you will suffer from the post-Christmas blues. Or maybe the holiday blues?

You made a choice. And there are results to the choices that you make.

The concept of choices and their related outcomes is something that we deal with each day as individuals in our home life and in the companies where we work.

Do you arrive early or slightly late for work? I used to be so late in University that my friends had to tell me the arrival time was 30 minutes earlier than it really was. KST – Kist Standard Time. This was kind of funny until a senior executive that I was meeting with commented that being even a few minutes late means the person you are meeting with isn’t as important as you are. That really caused me to think about others first. What do you do when you have a meeting? Are you prepped? Are you running in late? Do you still check your phone as you walk in…3 minutes late?

Our MacKay CEO Forum has a tenet that Nancy uses – we start and end on time. Perfect!

What about your level of effort each and every day? No sports comparisons here because the season for any sport is not a full year, like full-time jobs are. I will say that it bothers me when highly paid athletes talk in the post-game media scrum that they “just didn’t have it today.” Really????? What about the fans that worked 40 hours a week for many weeks to be able to afford that one ticket to be entertained by your athletic prowess. And you “didn’t have it today?” What do you think your boss would say if that was your excuse for not doing a full day’s work?

If one employee gets away with lousy effort, then others may try. And then the organization is in deep trouble. Customers also have a choice and if employee’s poor efforts drive a customer to consider a different provider, then the organization may not survive.

I believe it is even worse when the leader exhibits poor behaviour. And Boards should be held responsible for supporting the leader during their tenure.

What is going to happen to the Boards of Nissan and CBS? Probably nothing, yet they supported truly reprehensible behaviour by the CEOs.

Am I being a Grinch? Nope, but people who make these types of decisions certainly are. And the CEO’s selfish, egotistical, “above the law” behaviour can affect the lives of hundreds or thousands of employees who come to work everyday and perform to the best of their abilities.

Most of the time it is not the employee that causes the business to be closed or sold off for pennies on the dollar. A truly fascinating read is “Why Smart Executives Fail,” by Sydney Finkelstein, Professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. He originally asked “How can so many people be so disastrously wrong? What can possibly account for the scores of business failures we see each year, in different industries, and even in different countries? And how can we prevent this sort of thing from happening again?” Six years of research led him to publish the book in 2004. And yet Nissan and CBS were uncovered this year. Apparently certain people didn’t read the book and let their ego get in the way.

The recipe to be Merry 24 X 7 is quite simple:

  • care for yourself first (it is why the airlines tell you to put your oxygen mask on first so you can then take care of others)
  • care for others with the resources you have (not everyone can afford large financial contributions to worthwhile charities or community activities. Everyone does have their time and talents to provide instead)
  • care about doing the right thing (doing things right is good, only if you are doing the right things. It makes no sense to keep doing the wrong or evil thing)
  • care about the people who count on you (this can be your family, your friends, your co-workers, or your customers. It also means you shouldn’t be zipping around a vehicle that is turning left just so you make it through the light – I saw too many near misses on increasingly slippery roads today)
  • care about your choices of how you react to situations that may not go your way (if you don’t become the new sales manager, why waste your time being bitter? Do a better job, be challenging to yourself and help serve your customers better. I am quite certain that this level of effort will be appropriately noticed in a positive way. If you choose to be a Grinch, you might be looking for a new job)

Think about your resolutions and the corresponding actions for the future (not just for 2019). Have fun and live.

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!


I Want to Live Until I Die

December 12 was Frank Sinatra’s birthday. Treat yourself and listen to him sing “I want to live until I die.”  He was often referred to as “the voice” because of the amazing and distinctive pipes he had.

But this post is not about his voice, it is all about the song. The song is a focus on the great things in life and a desire to live life to its fullest.

So, why do we spend so much time these days talking about or posting about or raging about so much stuff that really doesn’t add value to the quality of our lives?

I read an article that actual university researchers were paid to study, and they concluded that, James Bond drinks too much. Seriously?!?!?!?! He is a fictional character that was a very focused individual with a license to kill.

We spend so much time applying the mores of today against every aspect of history, even recent history. I am all for helping to understand the background and context so we learn. But to argue about perspective and ultimately to change history to suit someone’s current view is largely a waste of time.

How much employee time is wasted on phones reading pseudo-reporting about these topics? They are mostly opinion pieces and do not present balance or full reporting of factors to help people reach their own conclusions.

It reminds me of my Father responding to a silly request of mine to do something with buddies when I was a teenager with, “if they jumped off a bridge, would you?”

We have lost the ability to have conversations about topics that may have alternate points of view and not take it personally when someone disagrees with us.

How does this translate into your ability to come to a unified conclusion about major decisions for your department or organization? If people become disengaged because of petty personal opinions, your organization suffers. Talking behind someone’s back can erode overall trust and ability to operate as a team. Clear case where it is not diversity that makes you strong. It is unity that makes you strong. You need diverse inputs and you must have everyone on the same page for executing the plan.

There are even positive stories that get twisted. I cannot fathom why so many people have to be so negative. There was a news story of a mall Santa that got down on a knee to honour an elderly veteran. And some commenters to the article chastised the person for taking a knee, etc. Respect was being shown. And the commenters wanted to shame. Unfortunately, the phrase “haters gonna hate” seems to apply more often than it should.

People respond to positive stories. It is one of the reasons for the phenomenal success of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Stories of heroism in the midst of danger. Acts of kindness and strength where disasters strike. People helping people through volunteer activities year round.

This is the heart and soul of an organization or city or country. Banding together, unity, to stand for something.

What do you do to encourage acts of kindness and good deeds in your company? Do you recognize people publicly? Do you reward those that are actively working to improve the quality of your product or service for the benefit of your customer? Do you encourage people to give you all they have for their time with you and then they can feel good about their effort when they go home to their family or outside activities?

Or do you whine, bitch, moan, and complain? Do you allow others to do the same thing? Do you have the courage to stop this type of behaviour and help the person see that they need to change?

This situation reminds me of the old super hero phrase when the villain was destroyed and the good guy says “why could they not use their powers for good, instead of evil?”

Live life to the fullest. Family, friends, and even strangers can have their day brightened by your actions.

“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely, in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy sh*t, what a ride!” – Hunter S Thompson.


Is Managing/Coaching People Like Training a Dog?

Now, before anyone thinks I am equating people to canines let me be clear. I AM NOT!

As I was walking Trappar this morning I have time for some extra thinking. As I throw the ball and he fetches it and runs back I began to notice some things. And depending on the amount of praise, or treats, that I gave him, he also responded a certain way.

Here is the comparison from my experience. Individual results will vary based on specific actions you take and the chicken/bacon treats you have:

  • When you have a new employee you are excited to have them join and all is great as they acclimatize themselves. The same holds true for new players at the first practice. When you bring home the puppy everyone wants to play with Trappar and just enjoy how cute she is.
  • After the first days of new employee orientation it is time to get to work to be productive. Players need to get to practicing in order to prep for games. First there are basic concepts that are described and drills presented to reinforce the objective. When training Trappar you need to establish some ground rules and performance expectations. For example, no biting or chewing things other than his chew toy. BUT, the question in all cases is, “do you use positive or negative reinforcement?” Discipline is necessary to adjust what is being done incorrectly. However, giving Trappar treats when he does a good job is the same as providing some “attaboy”s to the employee that is catching on and doing nice work. I always played better for a coach when I got some praise as it also helped me understand that the corrections were necessary. With negative reinforcement you get dragged down and it is hard to do well mentally as you direct energy to being mad rather than on the expected performance.
  • Setting goals is also an interesting comparison. When I throw the ball for Trappar to retrieve I have learned that he will go a bit faster when I throw it just beyond his reach and he thinks he can catch up to it faster. When I throw it well past him he runs hard and brings it back, he just doesn’t go as fast. When you set goals for employees, is there an opportunity to reach them or are they “stretch” goals that have little opportunity for achievement? Are you placing your players in a position to succeed or will they not be able to deliver the necessary results?
  • How do you act or react when an employee or player does something wrong? Tony Dungy, Super Bowl champion coach and now a broadcaster and author, never yelled at his players. In his view, what does yelling at a grown man really do for them, you and the team? John Wooden did not yell at his players if they missed a shot. Wooden would determine if the player took the shot that was being properly worked for. If yes, then it was “let’s keep doing this and you will get another chance.” If no, he would ensure that the players knew they needed to adjust their plays so the right shot would be created and taken by the appropriate player. Trappar dips his head when i use the “big dad voice” if I am ticked about a behaviour, like excessive barking. It doesn’t happen often so I don’t have to yell much. I actually don’t have to yell at all, but that is for another column. If I can use a stern voice and correct Trappar’s behaviour the result is 100% better and more consistent. Personally, the odd “big voice” has been effective on rare occasions. If I used it too much, like some managers and coaches I have seen, then the effectiveness is dramatically reduced. The only time I believe you have to be very forceful is if the person is doing something illegal, immoral or can physically hurt someone. Trappar doesn’t do any of those things.
  • What is your work to rest ratio? When Trappar was a puppy, the trainer at obedience school suggested a 3:1 ratio of rest to vigorous play. This has been adjusted a bit as he has grown. However, he does rest after a morning at the dog park and an hour plus of chasing, wrestling, and generally having a doggone good time. Do you take time to celebrate your success with your employees or players? humans cannot go full-out all the time. Recovery is important. And it can also be a time to celebrate.

So, when you look at your managerial style, do you provide guidance and direction with support, praise and the necessary discipline? Or do you take a rolled up newspaper and give them a metaphorical whack on the snout “because that was how we trained our people when I started here?”