Photo of kid holding a tooth
Photo copyright ©1998 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Change can be painful. So can maintaining the status quo.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth? I still have mine. Every dentist I have been to as an adult has suggested that I have them removed. “Why? They’re perfectly good teeth.”, I would ask them. “Because it’s hard for us to clean back there.”, was always the answer. In other words, they wanted me to have my wisdom teeth removed for their benefit, not mine.

My standard response to their pleas has always been, “I’ll have my wisdom teeth removed when they are more of a problem for me than for you.”

Guess what? We’re there. As I type this, I am in immense pain from an issue with my wisdom teeth. I am slated to go see my dentist later today and I can’t wait. I am ready to say, “Yank those suckers out of there! Whatever! Just make the pain stop. Please!”

Why have I put this off for so long? Let me tell you a little story.

Like many people, I had braces as a kid. Unlike most people, my orthodontist created a plan to make room for my wisdom teeth to come in rather than set the expectation of having them removed later. To do this, he removed 4 teeth in the front portion of my mouth and moved everything forward. These were my eyeteeth on top and corresponding teeth on the bottom. That sounds strange looking back, but it made sense at the time. One of the eyeteeth was impacted and needed to come out anyway.

The result of this procedure 40 years ago is that I still have my wisdom teeth. The process of having those other 4 teeth removed and years of orthodontia to close the gap to make room for the wisdom teeth to come in was such an ordeal, I have been stubborn about any suggestion to have those wisdom teeth removed. Plus, they haven’t bothered me before.

To have my wisdom teeth removed would be to suggest it was a mistake to have gone about this in the way it was done originally. Admit a mistake? Not me!

Where in your life or career are you making this same kind of choice? Where are you resisting making a change because to do so would feel like you are admitting to a mistake? Where are you resisting a change because of how much effort you put forth to get to where you are right now? Is someone you know suggesting you make a change and you resist because that change is more for their benefit than yours?

Which is more painful, staying in your current situation or making a change?

For most of us, the pain of continuing the current behavior exceeds the pain we anticipate encountering in making the change.

The reality is, having the dental procedure I did when I was a kid was the right choice AT THAT TIME. The choices you have made that have you in the situation you are in right now were likely the right choices AT THAT TIME.

Each day we need to revisit the situation and decide whether staying where we are is still the right choice AT THIS TIME.

For me, that means more dental work, as soon as possible. I am ready to make that change. What does it mean for you? What’s your pain level? Is it time to make a change?


Skills Gap

Image of lobster cages
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Are you having trouble finding people with the right skills for your posted job openings? You’re not alone.

I continue to read article after article about companies and hiring managers complaining about their challenges in finding “qualified candidates” for open positions.

Here’s a thought. Maybe you’re not qualified to be a hiring manager.

Yes, I just said that.

Look at your own career. Give it a good serious look. How many different positions have you held? If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing it’s been more than one. Make a list. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Don’t just count different companies. Include changes within a company when you had a significant change in job responsibilities. You can skip promotions within the same job family (adding “senior” to your title, or changing the classification from “I” to “II”). But, do include significant changes in responsibilities, such as Manager to Director or VP, and moving divisions where the fundamental aspects of the job are significantly different.

Got it? Good. Now, using a 5-point scale, beside each position, give yourself a TRUE ranking of how qualified you were for that position on DAY ONE. Not a year later. Day one, when you walked in the door to start that job. Be honest.

Scale: 1=Not qualified, what the heck were they thinking? 2=No experience in this specific area, but have other skills that can apply with a bit of training. 3=Some specific experience, understanding of general concepts, need help with specifics of this job/company/department. 4=Confident. Hit the ground running with some room for growth. 5=Subject matter expert, same job new place.

How’d you fare? How many 5’s did you get? Any 1’s? Just a guess, but I’ll bet you had mostly 2’s, a couple 3’s, and maybe even a 4.

My career has been full of 2’s and 3’s. I had one 4. And that 4? I walked in the door thinking I was a 5. I was wrong.

When I read these articles it is clear that these hiring managers are complaining because they only want to hire 5’s. And yet how many of these people rate a 5 themselves? None. Not a single one of them. I say that with complete confidence. Because if they were truly a 5 as a hiring manager, they wouldn’t be whining about a lack of qualified candidates – they’d be CREATING their own pool of qualified candidates.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again (and again, and again…) When it comes to finding qualified candidates, hire for ATTITUDE and APTITUDE. Train for everything else.

Now go out there and find yourself some great 2’s and 3’s.

I’ve Got a Golden Ticket

Photo of Powerball Lottery ticket

If you’ve seen the movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, or read the original book, “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” by Roal Dahl, then you know about the contest to find a Golden Ticket. You might even recall the song, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket“.

In this song, Grandpa Joe pines away with the lyrics:

I never had a chance to shine
Never a happy song to sing
But suddenly half the world is mine
What an amazing thing
‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket

Before the Golden Ticket, Grandpa Joe did not get out of bed. He felt he had no reason to. Then, all of a sudden, because of that ticket, he sees possibilities. He gets out of bed, sings and dances around the room. It’s a happy day.

This book was originally published in 1964. Today we have a similar concept to the Golden Ticket. It’s called Powerball.

Admit it. You know you’ve wondered what it would be like to win the big jackpot. How would your life change if you won $447 million dollars like the one lucky winner did on June 10, 2017?

I know you’ve joked about, “When we win the lottery…” We use that phrase often in our household. It’s usually followed by, “It would help if we bought a ticket.” So, recently, I did. The jackpot hit $375 million and I thought, what the heck. Let’s have some fun.

When I buy a ticket (a rare occurrence), I go all in. I put the ticket up on the bulletin board in our kitchen. I actively contemplate what we would do if we won. We talk about it. I write about it in my journal. It inspires a blog post. (Did I just make that ticket tax deductible?) We play lots of “what if” games. We dance around the house singing, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”. Hey, if you’re going to play the game right, you have to believe that your ticket could have the winning numbers. You have to go all in.

After the initial excitement dies down, we realize we wouldn’t really want to win that huge jackpot. Sure, it’d be fun to always travel by private jet, to have a vacation home (or two), to buy a new sports car and build a garage to hold it. For a while.

But, you know what? None of these extravagant purchases would make life any better. It would only make it different. When we get past the rush, the burden of dealing with a jackpot of that size becomes palpable.

That’s when the game changes. We start playing another game where we contemplate: if we could define our own jackpot, how big would it be? From there, we start thinking about what changes we could make that would allow us to achieve our more realistic desires without the benefit of a winning lottery ticket.

You don’t have to wait for a Golden Ticket. Chance are, you really can have the life you dream about if you make the choices and take action steps needed to get you there. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s there. It is possible.

Of course, if that dream involves winning a huge jackpot, be sure you buy a ticket.


Lost at SEA

Photo of sailboat
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be lost at sea? I’m willing to bet you have been. You might even be there now. Lost, adrift, with no idea where you are, how you got here, or where you are going.

I’m not talking about finding yourself all alone on a sailboat with no land in sight. I am referring to a different type of sea – Someone Else’s Agenda.

There can be comfort in fulfilling someone else’s agenda. We know what we should be doing. We get to simply show up and follow directions. Do this, do that, collect a paycheck, go home, repeat.

Often, though, when we get totally sucked into someone else’s agenda, we wake up one day to realize we have no idea where we are, how we got there, or which direction we should head next to reach our goals. We might not even know what our goals are anymore. They’ve been tossed overboard while we were lost at sea.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with following someone else’s agenda. For most of us, riding on someone else’s boat is a great way to get where we are going. The problem arises when that ship is not going where we want to go. By the time we realize this, it can be difficult to get off.

Take some time to look around. Is the ship you are on still going the direction you wish to travel? Yes? Super! Steady on. Full steam ahead.

If not, did the ship change course? Or is it you that has set a new destination? Either way, it’s up to you to take corrective action. Do it now.

Here’s to smooth sailing and following YOA – You’re Own Agenda.


Building Castles

Photo of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

I just returned from a trip to the UK. While there, we toured a number of castles. One of those was Stirling Castle in Scotland. The photo above is the Great Hall.

The main stories we heard during our visit to Stirling Castle were about King James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England.

What struck me in the stories was how much effort King James put into validating his right to rule. Much of the architecture and decorative elements of the castle were intended specifically to demonstrate that he was the rightful ruler.

How much time and energy do you devote to validating your right to lead?

I have certainly worked for people who spent an inordinate amount of time justifying their right to be in the position they were in. These are often the people who get tied up in titles, seating charts at meetings, and other trivialities that distract from doing the real work at hand.

I get it. If you are a King who came to power by  conquering, you probably do need to expend some amount of energy telling people you belong there. You really do need to worry about people who would like to cut off your head.

How many of you can honestly say that your life is in danger if people do not accept you as their leader? How much time are you wasting to make yourself feel safe?

Here’s a thought. Instead of working to ensure your own safety and well-being, try working to ensure the safety and well-being of those you lead. Do that and you will be the beloved king who others willingly rally around to defend.


Money for Nothing

Image from Money for Nothing Music Video
Photo from original Money For Nothing video by Dire Straits.

One of my all-time favorite songs is Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” from their Brothers In Arms album. In case you need a reminder, here’s the full song in the officially uploaded version on YouTube.

According to published interviews, Mark Knopfler wrote the song after overhearing a guy working in an appliance store make comments about videos playing on the display TVs that were tuned to MTV. From that guy’s perspective, being a rock star was easy money. You just stand there, play guitar, prance around the stage, etc.

This song came to mind lately with a series of quotes coming out of the White House. Stick with me. I am not going political on you.

Here are a few of them:

1. “This is more work than in my previous life.”
2. “I thought it would be easier.”
3. “I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go quicker.”
4. “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Have we not all at some point looked at what someone else was doing and thought to ourselves how easy that job would be? And have we not had the experience of getting that job or that project and finding out that it was much more difficult than we expected?

I recently told a group of people that what I am doing now is the hardest thing I have ever done. They were shocked. How could being a speaker and entertainer be more difficult than managing major data center networks on a global scale? I’m not complaining. It’s worth it. Every single day. But, it’s incredibly hard work. Sure, being on stage looks easy. And, frankly, once the lights come up, that is the easy part – thanks to countless hours of practice and preparation. Getting there is the hard part.

In the corporate world, I know many people who think that the job gets easier the higher up the company ladder you climb. All they see are the perks. They see people in those jobs who make it look easy. Having been on that ladder myself, I can tell you that while each rung brings a better view, it also comes with a price.

Only you can determine whether the perks are worth the effort. Banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee can be fun and those just might be Hawaiian noises. But, you won’t get money for nothing. It is definitely work. You might as well make it fun.


Going Up?

Photo of elevator buttons
Photo copyright ©2017 Tim Gard. Used with permission.

I recently entered an elevator after making a mad dash to catch it before the doors closed. When I got in, one of the people already inside said, “Good thing you caught it. This elevator is really slow.”

As we stood waiting for it to start moving, I was beginning to agree with her. Then we all realized nobody had pressed a button. No wonder it was slow.

Is your career suffering from this same thing? You’re there, in the elevator, briefcase in hand, dressed for work, but it’s not moving.

Did you remember to press the button?

Too obscure? Allow me to be blatantly obvious in the analogy.

Are you wondering why you haven’t received the promotion you are hoping for? Are you wondering why you never seem to get assigned to the fun projects?

Have you tried pushing the button?

If you are hoping for a promotion, does anyone know? Have you had clear conversations with your boss about your desire for upward career mobility? Have you applied for openings in other departments? Have you asked what steps you can take to prepare yourself for the next opportunity?

If you are wondering why you never seem to get assigned to the projects you’d most like, have you given your boss an indication of your real interests? Have you had a conversation with your boss, in a non-whining manner, where you express, “You know, I would have enjoyed working on that project. When another one like that comes along, is there something I should do to be considered for it?”

Read those last two sentences again carefully. Together, they provide your boss with a clear indication of what you desire while assigning responsibility for making it happen squarely on you.

It’s up to you to make your intentions known. It’s up to you to make sure you are qualified for what you seek. It’s up to you to press the button.


Difficult People

Picture of Gus - the Office Curmudgeon
Gus – The Office Curmudgeon

Who is your office curmudgeon?

The most frequent questions I get when presenting leadership programs to corporate audiences are about dealing with difficult people. This is one of my favorite topics. Why? Because often your difficult people are the best people to have on the team.

Every team is going to have at least one challenging person. (Note: If you can’t identify the difficult person, it just might be you.)

Here’s my 2 question guide for dealing with difficult people.

Question #1 – Are they worth it?

If you strip away all of the personality quirks and interpersonal challenges, is this person good at their job? Are they otherwise making a solid contribution to the team?

If the answer is “No,” then we’re done here. You know what needs to be done and you don’t need me to tell you what that is. Go do it now.

If the answer is “Yes,” congratulations. Keep reading.

Question #2 – Is the difficulty internal or external to the team?

External – I call this one the rock star. In true rock star fashion, this person is excellent at their instrument. They may or may not be the lead singer. They might be the drummer who is never seen, but the underlying beat and rhythm they lay down is unmistakable. The true rock star is highly respected by the team for their knowledge and skills. Others turn to them for advice and guidance. These are fantastic people to have on your team. In the corporate world they are often called “guru” or “SME” (Subject Matter Expert).

I love rock stars. Gus, one of the characters in my act (pictured above), is patterned heavily after rock stars I’ve had on my teams. My top two methods of handling these rock stars:

a) Work with them to develop better interpersonal skills outside the team. Good luck with this. I hope you have more success with this approach than I ever did. Be patient, persistent and extremely clear in your conversations.

b) Never send them out into the world alone. If you know that interaction with others outside your group is going to be necessary, send someone else along with your SME to act as the buffer and outward interface. I’ve had repeated success with method and it is therefore my favorite. Be clear to both the SME and the person playing buffer what you are doing, why, and their specific roles. Your rock star with rough edges knows the deal. They’ll thank you for providing them a way to do their job.

Internal – I call this one the diva. The diva is also highly skilled in their job. But, they are different from the rock star in that they see the team as a supporting structure for them, personally. They insist on being in the spotlight. They often grab for the more interesting projects, thinking that since they are “the best” on the team, they should have first dibs on new projects coming into the group. They think hoarding their knowledge is a good way to ensure job security.

Outside of the team, most people do not see this behind the scenes drama playing out. All they know is this person is good at their job, asking “Can’t they be the one I work with all the time?”

I struggle with divas. Here’s the best I can suggest:

a) Work with them to adjust their behavior. Be extremely clear about how their behavior is negatively impacting the team and by extension the organization. Encourage them to become a leader within the team. Help them understand what that means – it’s not a title, it’s a behavior. Good luck.

b) Redefine job duties. If you can find a way to redefine roles and responsibilities so that this person’s natural inclination toward the spotlight can be used to benefit the team and/or the organization as a whole, do it. Sometimes this means transferring this highly skilled person to another department. It can be difficult. But, if done right, it can be a fantastic move for all.

Good luck with your difficult people. They are worth it.


Do you trust your co-workers this much?

Amazon is building two large data centers in my neighborhood. That means they need power. Lots of power. And redundancy.

Each of the two data centers has a new power substation. The next phase is installing redundant power feeds to these substations.

For the last couple months they have been running new power lines along the large transmission towers that feed the new substations. Have you ever wondered how they do that? I happened to capture a bit of it from my phone in this video:

(If the video isn’t in your view, here’s the direct link:

As I watched these people working, it occurred to me how much trust there must be between the individuals on this crew. The obvious one is the guy (we’re just going to go with “guy” here) hanging in the harness. Clearly he has to have an enormous amount of trust in the helicopter pilot. A friend tells me the line on the other side of this tower are live, at 138,000 Volts. Ouch!

The less obvious trust factor is on the pilot’s part. Let’s face it, if that guy hanging in the harness gets tangled, the pilot is in just as much trouble.

Do you have that level of trust with your co-workers?

While this level of immediate self-destruction might not result if either you or your co-worker fails at their job, there is still a need for trust. There is still a level of dependency. At the most base level, each of you is depending on the organization for which you work to be financially viable so that your paychecks can continue. That relies on the overall success of the organization, which in turn relies on each individual doing their job.

Do you trust your co-workers? Do they trust you? For better or worse, you are in this together.


Doing the Hokey Pokey

You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out, you put your left hand in, and you shake it all about…

Do you know the song? I’m sure you do. Sorry if it is now stuck in your head.

What does that have to do with making work fun? Everything.

It is coming up on 4 years since I left the comforts of the corner office to pursue this dream of being a full-time corporate entertainer and speaker. But, it is only a bit over a month since I closed the last door on my former world of being an IT guy.

Soon after leaving the full-time IT executive job, I signed on with an IT services company as a consultant, doing odd projects as they fit my schedule and interest. It was very sporadic. The projects were few and far between. But, it kept me connected to the old world. Why? I guess I was keeping a toe in the waters. You might call it a plan B. You know, if this puppet thing doesn’t work out, I can always go back.

What it did, though, was provide excuses. It allowed me to hold back in pursuing some gigs when I really needed to be aggressive to win them. It allowed me to say to myself, “Oh, it doesn’t matter that you don’t have any gigs next month. You can just go fill in with some IT stuff.”

Then when I would get calls for IT projects, I found myself being annoyed. I didn’t really want to do that work. The joy in that work is no longer there for me. And every time I was out on one of those jobs, I would be thinking about all of the opportunities I was missing by not being able to return that phone call immediately, or polish that new joke I had been working on.

So, I finally pulled the plug, closed the door, moved on. Pick your own metaphor. Whatever you call it, I quit the IT consulting job. There is no more safety net.

Darren LaCroix tells a story of getting started in the speaking business, making reference to an old job he clung to for security. He says a friend told him, “That’s not a safety net. It’s a drag net.” There is so much truth to that statement.  (Side note: Darren produces some of the best speaker training programs available.)

What are you clinging to from your past? What pond are you still dipping a toe into for some sense of security? Where are you simply being stubborn about letting go?

If you really, truly want to achieve your goals, you have to be committed. You have to be all in.

Stop putting only a left hand, or a right foot in your pursuit of your dreams. Get to the end of the song. Put your whole self in and shake it all about.