You Will

Porsche in winterMany years ago I was involved in a corporate merger. I was on the side of the company being purchased and subsequently absorbed.

During the lead-up to the actual papers being signed, executives from the soon-to-be parent company visited our location as part of their due diligence.

One of these visits was in the midst of a winter storm going on at the location of the parent company. As we were walking through our local campus, there was casual discussion of this storm. One of the executives told us that whenever bad weather approaches, he drives his Porsche to the airport, leaves it there, and rents a car that is more suitable to winter driving. I commented that I could not imagine being in a position where I could have such a fancy (and expensive) car, and choose to take on the additional expense of renting something different.

He responded by saying, “You will.”

My key takeaways from this offhand remark were:

  1. He viewed me as someone who would continue on with the company after the merger.
  2. The company had a philosophy of sharing the wealth.

Both of these turned out to be true.

This simple statement, “You will,” impacted my work greatly. I felt motivated, included, engaged. “You will,” became, “I did.” For that, I am extremely grateful.

As a leader, do you believe in sharing the wealth? Do you actively seek ways to include others in the benefits that you have received?

Or do you view the perks and benefits you have received as something to guard and protect?

Find a way to truly say, “You will.”

 

Goals and Dreams

 

Photo of Evening Sky
Photo copyright ©2015 David J. Crone. All rights reserved.

A goal without action is just a dream.

Well, count me among the dreamers.

I’ve had lots of dreams over the years. Great ideas that I never took action to bring to life. Or, didn’t act fast enough and saw others put them into practice before me.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve had, all of which now exist:

  • Color score board for baseball and football stadiums. Now they’re even in HD!
  • Automatic equalizer for professional sound systems.
  • Automatic feedback suppressor – an extension of the automatic equalizer.
  • Solar-powered roof exhaust fan.

Some days I pine away for these dreams, wishing I had done something to bring them to life. “If only …”

Other days, I look back at these dreams, see the way others have implemented them and feel good that my dreams have been validated. Seeing that these devices exist gives me a sense of satisfaction, even if I was not the one who made the dreams come true.

As my career moved from software engineer to manager to director, more and more of my job became that of enabling others to bring dreams to life. Over time, I came to enjoy the role of enabler at least as much as I enjoyed that of doer.

Many times, sharing my dreams, my vision, with my staff was the spark they needed to take a project in a totally new direction, adding their ideas as well, and the project was better because of it.

Yes, we need goals. Yes, we need action plans. But, we also need dreams – those images of a better world that seem so far out there that we can’t yet fathom the path to get there.

Share your dreams. Celebrate when they come to life, regardless of who makes it happen.

Do the one thing

To do list

It happens to all of us. OK, it happens to me often, so I have to assume it happens to all of us. Maybe you are unique and you don’t suffer from this problem. Or, maybe you’re just kidding yourself.

It’s there. Right in front of you. That one thing that needs to be done. It’s a simple thing, really. If you just stepped forward and did it, you’d feel better.

It could be anything. It could be picking up the phone to call that person you know you need to call. A simple phone call. How hard can that be? Wait. I need to get my coffee first. And a notebook. Where did I put that notebook? And my special pen. I can’t take notes without my special pen. Oh, this won’t do. The lighting isn’t quite right here. Let’s adjust that.

Next thing you know, it’s well past normal daytime working hours and you tell yourself the person you’re going to call is certainly gone for the day. I’ll call tomorrow.

Or exercise. Yeah. Exercise will make me feel great. First I have to change clothes. Where are my workout sneakers? And those yoga pants. OK, I’m dressed. Oh, I have to move all the stuff off the treadmill. Where am I going to put it all? Not yet. I forgot to get my water bottle. Hydration is important, you know. Where’s my iPod? Let’s download that new playlist. That’ll get me motivated.

See where this is going? Nowhere.

What are you resisting? How many roadblocks are you putting in your own way to make you feel better about not doing that one simple thing?

Be aware of those self-destructive procrastination habits. Do the one thing that needs to be done. And then the next. And the next. Keep it simple.

No special pen will make you feel as wonderful as crossing off that one item on your to-do list, even if you use an old crayon to do it.

 

Happy Birthday Jeff Dunham

Today is Jeff Dunham‘s birthday.

Jeff Dunham with Achmed
Jeff Dunham with Achmed

Instead of sending the typical generic Facebook birthday greeting, I decided to list a few of the things I have learned from Jeff along the way. Lots of business and life lessons here for all of us.

  1. Laser focus on your goals – From the very beginning of his career, Jeff knew exactly where he wanted to go. Everything he did was aligned with achieving the level of success that he has now reached. This was no accident.
  2. Character development – Jeff’s characters are very clearly defined and consistent. Watch videos of his earlier performances and you will see the consistency. Yes, the characters have grown. But, they have not changed their core personalities. It is this strong character development that drives Jeff’s material. The photo above is from last year’s ventriloquist convention, where he sustained over 7 laughs per minute for nearly 8 minutes – by reading the cooking instructions on a package of ramen noodles. That is the power of a strong character.
  3. Get help, but you own the result – Sure, Jeff has a team of people who contribute to his material. But, before a joke hits the stage, Jeff makes his own adjustments to the final wording and delivery. Give Jeff a classic joke from an old classic routine, and he will tweak it just that much to make it his own. This hands-on approach to every aspect of Jeff’s stage presence is what preserves his brand. He knows how to ask for help, take the bits he likes, adapt it, twist it, and make it his own. He has a team of people working in the background, but ultimately, it is all Jeff.
  4. Test, test, test – Jeff is always adding new material to the act. He doesn’t just write a joke and that’s the end of it. He tests it. He varies the setup, the punchline, the timing, the vocal delivery, the physical movement that goes along with the delivery. He constantly hones and tweaks the nuances to get the maximum reaction from every line.
  5. Know your fan base – Some criticize Jeff’s material, complaining of the language, the content, blah, blah, blah. Guess what. Those people are not Jeff’s core fan base. He knows exactly who his fans are. He understands in great detail who buys tickets to his shows, who spends gobs of their hard-earned dollars at the concession stands buying T-shirts, stuffed Peanut dolls, and on and on. He knows his fan base, he knows what they want, and he delivers. Man, does he deliver.

I have learned a tremendous amount by watching Jeff over the years – not just what he does on stage, but also what he does off stage to earn the right to be on the stages that he plays.

Thank you Jeff, for all you have taught me. And happy birthday.

First things first

Do you remember being a kid in school and answering this question:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When asked that question, most of us immediately think in terms of the job we will do. Fireman, policeman, doctor, lawyer, astronaut, nurse, etc.

FIREMAN DAVID
Photo copyright John R. Crone. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

The question itself is flawed. It causes us to think of the wrong things. It puts way too much emphasis on what we want to get paid for instead of what we want to live for.

A better question would be,

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want your life to look like? Single? Married? Kids? Lifestyle? Travel? Leisure time?

My perspective:

  1. Define your life goals
  2. Form your career to support that life
  3. When in doubt, go back to step one

With that fresh perspective in mind, take a moment to ponder these questions for yourself:

  • Who do you want to be?
  • What is the life that you want to live?
  • If money were no object, what would you choose to be doing with your life right now?
  • What do you need to do to make that a reality?

Live Long And Prosper

 

Net Neutrality – Part 2

Before proceeding, be sure you’ve read my first post on Net Neutrality. Done?  OK.

Net Neutrality Image

Part 2.

I’m going to use a really simplistic analogy to explain what’s happening on the Internet and what brought about the need for Net Neutrality.

GEEK WARNING: As in part 1, I warn my more technically knowledgeable readers that I am going to greatly oversimplify things here. If you have a way to explain this in words that non-technical-geniuses can understand, go for it.

Analogy #1 – The Highway System:

Since so many people refer to the Internet as “The information superhighway”, I have to use this analogy.

When the Internet was created, it was designed as a transport mechanism with equal access. All bits were created equal. No matter what type of data you transmit, it is to be relayed and carried the same as all other types of data.

If you think of our nation’s highway system, you can drive any brand or color of vehicle on the highway that you want. Car, truck, motorcycle, red, white, black, all are treated the same. I know, being stuck behind a big old broken down RV going up a big hill is annoying, but you get the point.

On the US Interstate highway system, there are 3 basic components: On-ramps, Off-ramps, and the highway. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the highway itself has infinite capacity. Obviously, that’s not true of the Internet, anymore than it is of I-95 around our nation’s capital. But, stay with me here.

With this assumption, the only limitations are the size (capacity) of the on-ramp to get data onto the highway, and the size of the off-ramp, to get data off.

When we talk about companies and individuals paying for the Internet, by and large we are talking about paying for the size of your on-ramp and/or off-ramp. For now, we are going to ignore the highway itself (the Internet backbone).

Content providers such as web sites (Facebook, AOL, Yahoo!, etc.) and streaming media providers (Hulu, Netflix, etc.) pay for on-ramps. How much they pay depends primarily on the amount of data that they are sending to the highway via their on-ramps.

Consumers pay for off-ramps, again based on the amount of data they pull off the highway.

[Side note: Although not always the case, on-ramps and off-ramps are typically priced based on their maximum capacity, not the amount of data actually traversing them. Essentially, you are paying to put data onto the Internet, or to take it off.]

Where this gets tricky is that we, the end user consumer, don’t live on the off-ramp. We live in neighborhoods fed by the off-ramp. Your ISP (cable, DSL, telelcom, etc.) manages the off-ramp. The ISP acts as a middle-man to the Internet backbones, aka the highway.

What makes Net Neutrality of interest is that the ISPs are getting tired of moving large amounts of traffic across their off-ramps from certain high-volume content providers. Those providers (Netflix is only one, but the most often mentioned), have created a demand for their content that is exceeding the ISP’s off-ramp capacity.

That leaves the ISPs with a challenge. How do they pay for the work it will take to increase the capacity of their off-ramp?

The easiest way is for them to charge the end users based on the amount of data that they consume.  Another way is that they can charge users based on the TYPE of traffic/data they are consuming. And that is the root issue behind Net Neutrality.

Again, to make this simple, let’s say Netflix is the red cars coming off the highway. MegaCable Off-Ramp Services (MORS) notices an unusually high percentage of the cars using their off-ramp are red. There are so many red cars that other cars are having trouble getting off the highway.

Now MORS has a choice. Do they increase the capacity of their off-ramp, which is going to cost them money?  Do they just let the cars coming off the ramp fight it out, and whoever gets through wins?  Or, do they start limiting how many red cars are allowed to use their off-ramp.

What started happening was that ISPs were taking that third option. Some were actively limiting traffic on their off-ramps based on the type of data (limiting red cars, for example). Others were getting ready to do so.

Unfortunately, the customers, the end users who are paying to be fed by that off-ramp, want red cars. And they want lots of them.

And there you have it. The root of the issue.

Net Neutrality says that ISPs cannot limit the flow of cars across their off-ramp based on the color of the car.

Any questions?

 

Choosing your clients

The Indiana State Senate passed a bill this week that clears the road to outright discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. Welcome to last century.

To paraphrase, the bill would make it legal for businesses to refuse service to married same-sex couples on the grounds that same-sex unions violate the business owner’s religious views on that subject.

This is lunacy.

In response to this, I have instituted a new policy at I’m No Dummy Productions LLC.  My business will no longer serve companies who refuse to serve married same-sex couples based solely on their being a same-sex couple.

For more, read the press release.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support the right of a business, especially a privately held business, to select their clientele. When we can only serve a limited number of clients, we need to choose the clients who are a best match for the services that we provide. But, the choice must be made in a way that makes the most sense for the business.  Not, as this bill allows, in a way that perpetuates bigotry and ignorance.

I support this bill on one condition: If a business, on religious grounds, chooses to refuse service to a customer based on their sexual orientation, then they must refuse service to all clients who violate any tenet of their religion.  You’ve sinned?  Sorry.  Next!  You use birth control?  Next!  This needs to be an all or nothing package deal. You don’t get to pick and choose.

We must not allow individuals to hide behind their religion to support bigotry and hatred. Especially not a religion based on love and acceptance.

 

Move on

Have you ever felt guilty about leaving a job? Have you ever allowed this guilt to hold you back from moving on, whether to another company or simply another position within the same company?

hand in water

Perhaps you’ll appreciate this advice given to me by an HR manager at a company I was working for at the time:

“Picture a bucket of water. Imagine putting your hand into the bucket of water. Now pull it out. See how quickly the water fills in the space where your hand was? That’s how long you’ll be missed.”

Ouch!

But, he was right. In the instance that prompted the above conversation, I took the new position. Amazingly enough, my former department did not implode. They did not fall apart. Life continued. In fact, my departure created an opening, an opportunity, for someone else to step up and grow. It was good for everyone.

So many times we hold ourselves back from new opportunities out of some misplaced sense of responsibility. Sure, we might be missed – for a while. However, moving on when the time is right provides us with new challenges, new insights, and new avenues of personal growth. And, just as important, it creates opportunities for growth in others as they step in to fill the role we are leaving.

Next time you find yourself hesitating to jump because you are worried about those you’ll be leaving behind, picture that bucket of water. Make the jump.

 

Take the stage with confidence

When you present your ideas to your boss, what is your approach? Are you sheepish, shy, subdued? Or are you bold, confident, maybe even brash?

Having been on both sides of that exchange, I can say that confidence wins every time.

Exude confidence
Exude confidence

If you ever have the opportunity (or burden…) of standing on stage to present, the single most important thing you can do to ensure success is to mount the stage with confidence and a smile. What you display, the audience will assume.

If you appear confident, the audience will presume you know what you are talking about. The opposite is equally true.

The same applies when meeting with your boss and your peers. A smile and a positive posture of confidence will gain you more leverage and leeway in whatever it is you wish to do.  Have a harebrained idea you want to act on? Present it boldly, with confidence and a smile.

As a comedian, I have found that how I take the stage, and how I present each joke, is far more important than the words in the joke. If I deliver it with intention and courage, even a bad joke will have more likelihood of scoring a good laugh. However, if I deliver it with a voice and presence that suggests I’m not so sure of the joke, it will invariably fall flat.

Be bold. Make your case with confidence.

Culture vs Competence

In my most recent blog post, I suggested that making sure there is a good cultural fit between the employer and employee is an important consideration.  And that during the interview process, it is equally important for both the company and the individual applying for a position to ask questions around this topic.

The very next day, Dilbert started a series of comics making fun of the whole concept of hiring based on cultural fit. I won’t violate Scott Adams’ copyrights by pasting his actual comic strip here, but you can click on this link to see one of my favorites in that series. Or do a search on the Dilbert site. My favorite of the series ran on September 29, 2014.

Some people would say, “Well, he told you!”  I would say, we’re both right.

In the comic, a good cultural fit is being held up as an alternative to a competent employee. Understand that competence, to me, is a basic level of qualification. Being competent is your permission to even interview for a given position. This is not an either/or, mutually exclusive decision. Obviously, employers need to find competent candidates.

But, once competence has been established, chances are very good that there will be several candidates still in the running. That is when cultural fit comes into play.

You can have both.