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Do you like cookies? Did you like some cookies from your past that aren’t around any longer? Have you ever heard of Hydrox cookies? They were actually the precursor to Oreos and were around for almost 100 years before leaving the market. I just had to try them a few months ago and I did a video about it; check this out:


https://youtu.be/v1CziqjLouE

I can hear you asking why I shared a video about cookies. Because this post, although it’s not about cookies, is about the topic of change and how sometimes change turns out not to be a good thing. I figured the video about cookies was a good introduction to this discussion.

I’m one of those people who will acknowledge that things often need to change or be tweaked to make sure they either remain strong or get better. I’m also one of those people who decries change for change’s sake.

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Creative Commons License Robert Couse-Baker via Compfight

There are many good changes; at the same time there are a lot of horrible changes. Let me name a few; yes, a lot of them are going to be food related:

* Dunkin’ Donuts used to have all their franchises make their own dough and fully ice their glazed donuts. In the 90’s that changed to where the main company shipped the mix so that the stores could basically just add water and bake. The donut quality was diminished because the mix cost less. How do I know this? Think about the last time you saw them advertising their donuts.

* Pizza Hut used to talk about the quality of their ingredients, and their pan pizzas reigned supreme. At some point they not only decided to change up the sauce but some of the toppings they put on those pizzas to save on costs, quality dropped, and things were never the same again.

* For years McDonald’s milkshakes were the talk of the town. It was a pleasure going there to get a milkshake and fries. At some point the company decided to move away from real ice cream and the milkshakes were a mixture instead; I don’t know a single person who thinks the quality improved any and, for me, it took the joy out of buying Shamrock Shakes around St. Patrick’s Day.

* To update this some, there are a lot of coffee drinkers who own Keurig machines. Early last year the company decided to come out with a new machine and changed the size of the K-Cups, such that they wouldn’t work in the old machines. The company’s idea was to force everyone to buy new machines, but when other coffee companies decided to supply their coffee in the old cup format the Keurig people decided they were wrong (after losing lots of money) and rectified the situation.

Here’s my opinion. When changes are made because they’ll make more money or save on expenses and sacrifice quality, there’s going to be failure. People aren’t stupid and metrics never lie.

For instance, the quality of health care in many hospitals across the nation fell when nurses, who used to have maybe 5 or 6 patients to take care of, suddenly not only had to take care of upwards of 15 patients, but their hours were extended to the point where many of them had to work mandatory double shifts. Also, many hospitals decided they only wanted registered nurses because they were allowed to perform many other duties and thus they could hire fewer nurses and save money that way… even though mandatory overtime probably wiped out those savings.

Convincing people that change has to take place when you change computer systems makes sense. Making a new product that’s inherently superior to your previous product; genius. Making a new product like a smartphone where the only positive change is in the camera, while taking away the extra storage possibilities your previous version of that same phone had; idiocy (I’m talking to you Samsung).

I understand that businesses need to make money. I understand that businesses need to sometimes cut costs. What I disagree with is this belief that consumers won’t notice the obvious change in quality and the company’s attempt to convince us that quality hasn’t been sacrificed. To me, this is bad leadership and bad practice, and is disingenuous to the beliefs of those who were the original creators and those customers who helped make whatever that item or service was popular.

I might be a throwback to the premise that quality should always be supreme and that new and improved isn’t always the truth. Actually, the second video I ever did on my first video channel talked about that; this is a good way to close this discussion while asking you your opinion about change for change’s sake:


https://youtu.be/SNFAt_wYt8c

 

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I love the TV show X-Files, which means I’m one of the many people who was glued to the TV Sunday and Monday night for the short run of new shows after so many years. This is the only way I love conspiracy theories, through the eyes of Fox Mulder and his partner Dana Scully.

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Erin Blair via Compfight

As the show ended Monday night, I started processing what I’ve seen in the first two shows. Strangely enough, the second show brought me back to many of the episodes during its first incarnation because some of the same characters are there, and some of the characters alluded to were from the past as well.

Thinking more about it, I realized that, when all is said and done, the problems Mulder and Scully keep running into and getting out of lay at the feet of those who keep trying to thwart them yet keep failing for some reason. The reason; bad leadership principles and actions. Yeah, I know it’s a TV show and that one can’t always equate fantasy with reality. In this instance we can, as I’ll bet that the 5 points I’m about to make are some that you’ve seen a bad leader implement, even if the world wasn’t as much in danger as it is on the TV show. Let’s take a look at these 5 things.

1. The leaders think they’re smarter than everyone else.

There’s no doubt that the villains in the show are intelligent people. What they always seem to do is underestimate just how smart Mulder and Scully are, as well as how dedicated they are to their job. Just because people may not know something doesn’t mean they don’t have the capacity to put truth together and figure things out on their own.

2. The leaders can’t maintain secrets.

I tend to believe that transparency is good for the most part when business is concerned. However, when something needs to be kept quiet for at least a short while, the information should be limited to as few people as possible, and they should be told why.

On X-Files, no matter how much the leaders try to keep things quiet, there’s way too many people that know way too much and the leaders can’t control everyone. The assumption is that those who know will keep their mouths shut “just because”… that’s never a smart move. Why?

3. The leaders assume everyone who knows what’s going on agrees with them on everything.

I Want to Believe
Scott Vandehey via Compfight

Because a lot of what the show talks about deals with technology, medical procedures and, okay, aliens, there are a lot of different types of specialists that need to be brought into the inner circle. The belief that being in “the know” is enough to keep these highly intelligent people quiet seems to always go awry.

For instance, not everyone is comfortable with killing for killing’s sake when trying to keep certain people quiet. There are a lot of people who get killed indiscriminately, and a lot of people who get set up to take the blame for something that they had nothing to do with just to get them out of the way. Think about corporate America in today’s world; how often do we hear what’s going on inside because someone leaked a memo to the media? How often do those people do it because they’re happy about what’s going on? It’s rare; that type of thing never works well.

4. The leaders flout the rules they helped to create.

The quickest way to turn people against you who might be on your side is to decide that the rules don’t apply to you that you establish for everyone, which is supposed to include you. If you have a tardiness policy but you always come in 2 hours late, who’s going to respect you? If you allow certain people to break the rules because you like them and penalize others, how long do you think things will run well before mutiny begins?

What has always happened on X-Files is that someone in the know gets irritated with how things are going and starts dropping hints to Mulder, sometimes classified files, hoping that as a rogue player he’ll be able to get the truth out without dirtying their hands. Sometimes those people have been in the inner circle. There will always be someone who decides that they’re reached their limit in what they’ll participate in when things become extreme.

5. Some of the leaders are too close personally to think clearly about what needs to be done.

On the show, there’s a character known as Cigarette Smoking Man. As bad of a guy as he is, every once in a while he’s been known to go against the grain in doing his job because it’s possible that he’s Mulder’s father, and he might have been responsible for Mulder’s sister being taken away from her family at a young age. In the first X-Files movie, one of the inner circle was worried that his own grandchildren would be in danger of something the group was looking to do, and he decided that was too much for him to be a part of.

I think it’s admirable to think about the needs of employees who report to you as a leader; as a matter of fact, it’s imperative to do so. However, if you get too personal with some of the employees, to the extent that you can’t do the job properly anymore, the department will suffer and long term success won’t be coming except as a fluke. Oh yeah; when push comes to shove, family and love always wins.

What do you think; do you know people in leadership positions who are failing some of these?
 

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Yesterday was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr holiday. I’ve written many posts over the years about Dr. King so I decided to skip it this year and concentrate on a part of his message from the past.

Let’s start with this quote:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Creative Commons License David via Compfight

People are often led to causes and often become committed to great ideas through persons who personify those ideas. They have to find the embodiment of the idea in flesh and blood in order to commit themselves to it.

In the book Great Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell used this quote as a way of telling leaders why it’s important for them to work at their craft and become great leaders. He stated that people often look to leaders for inspiration and guidance.

He’s not wrong, yet I feel there’s something missing. The missing piece is why people need to wait for leaders to find their own inspiration and provide their own guidance.

I have to admit that I’m good at leadership but I’m a bad follower. I work well with others and there might be times when I need to ask a lot of questions to understand something so that I can either make improvements on myself or on processes for others.

I also understand the need as a leader to inspire others when they need it. It’s smart to do because it’s one of the easiest ways of getting things done. Some leaders think fear is the best way but history shows us that when people are working to try to not make mistakes, that’s when they make most of them.

If I go off the premise that leadership and inspiration and guidance somehow go hand in hand together, it’s not such a far-fetched belief that it behooves everyone to try to become a leader, if only to lead themselves, motivate themselves, guide themselves and not stand around waiting for someone else to take care of all these things for them.

What a concept right? I will acknowledge that it’s not easy for everyone across the board to do. Unfortunately, there are a great number of people who don’t have the background to know how to become a leader of others, let alone themselves. The majority of people who say “I can take care of myself” can’t.

One of the reasons I talk about leadership so much is I know that when people develop leadership skills to work with others, it actually improves their lives as well. By extension, it stands to reason that even if a person isn’t hoping or needing to be a hired leader, the skills involved to be one are precisely what many people need to take control of their own lives.

A big question asked often these days is where are the black leaders like there used to be in the past. I always say those days are gone and they need to be gone. We can’t always look for someone else to improve our lives. We need to have the skills and willpower to take the initiative and become our own leaders, become the leaders a community of people might need, hand and hand, arm in arm, working towards either an individual or shared outcome.

Dr. King also said “The time is always right to do the right thing.” The right thing might be learning how to find the leadership in ourselves. I like to think I’ve found mine; what about you?
 

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Almost all the work I do involves a computer, whether I’m at home or on the road. One of those things I always try to do if I have a bottle of something is to keep putting the top on after I’ve taken a drink. It’s time consuming, but the one thing I don’t want to do is spill water on my keyboard; it’s the most problematic issue I’d have to deal with on a normal day.

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Karsten Schmidt via Compfight

Of course, a couple of weeks ago I didn’t follow that process. I also failed on another process, where I had the bottle close to my keyboard, something else I also try not to do. You know what happened; I wasn’t paying attention to where the bottle was and it tipped over… barely missing my keyboard and the bit that fell on the floor barely missed the power strip that’s not quite under the desk but close enough to throw a scare in me.

The reason we need to have processes in our lives is because they keep us from doing something wrong that we can control. Not every process has to do with major problems.

I’m probably not alone in having a process for how I put my clothes on. My process is probably different than yours though. If I’m planning on leaving the house I always start with my socks, left foot then right foot. Next comes my shirt, then my pants, then my belt and finally my shoes. Next comes the essentials; pen, Chap Stick and the small cloth to wipe my glasses in my left pocket. My wallet in my back left pocket. Finally, my keys in my right front pocket. My right back pocket… I’ve never used it, ever.

Why the process? Each step makes sure I don’t leave home forgetting something. This doesn’t mean there aren’t times when the process is interrupted. The essentials are always set, so that I’m not walking out of the house without being fully dressed. But I have gotten to the car without my keys, my wallet, or any of the other things that I feel are needed. That either means I have to come back into the house, or I’ve arrived somewhere missing something I knew I was going to need; that makes for a miserable time until I can get back home… especially if I leave my wallet at home. Luckily, I can’t go very far without my keys.

Take a moment and think about the processes in your life for what might be the first time. Do you think about how you breathe? How you eat? How you get places you go to all the time whether you’re walking or driving there? Isn’t it nice having processes you don’t have to think about every moment of your life? Isn’t it freeing?

Think about your business life. How many processes do you have that you follow every morning after you’ve had your morning wake-up call (I would have said coffee but I don’t drink it)? Do you have a process you follow for the work you do? Do you follow that same process every day? Is it the most efficient way to do things or is it something you’re comfortable with?

Think about process as a leader. Don’t you feel more comfortable when you know what everyone is doing, and how they’re doing it? Doesn’t it make evaluations, monitoring and production go more smoothly? Isn’t life better when you don’t have to deal with a lot of small things that can turn into big things?

If so, then why don’t most departments in businesses have written procedures? Wouldn’t that make it easier to keep everyone on an even keel? Wouldn’t it free you, the leader, to do other things because your written procedure tells everyone how things are supposed to work?

Are you a person who uses a lot of processes to help you get through the day? Are you a free spirit, someone who hates process for the most part so that every day is a new experience? I’d love to know your thoughts on this question, and wonder if you’d agree with me in thinking that process is good.
 

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I have a friend who recently started working at a new place. After she’d been there a few weeks I asked her how she liked the new job.

Employee Ownership
Cabinet Office via Compfight

She said she was struggling because of the overall demeanor of the people who worked in her department. They were always talking nasty to each other, very little courtesy, and when those particular people weren’t in the office everyone else starts talking about them in the worst way possible. Even though she’d only been there a few weeks, she had the feeling that they were saying all sorts of nasty things about her also, and she was distressed by that.

The best I could tell her was that it didn’t matter what others said to her if management didn’t believe what others were saying, and that the only person she could control was herself. However, when we parted, I started thinking “Sigh, another workplace with bad leadership.”

Why blame leadership? I’m one of those people who believes a company’s culture comes from its leaders, and often funnels down from the top levels. If there’s a director of a department who allows that sort of thing to go on, it’s either because they encourage it or ignore it out of weakness. I won’t say fear because it’s possible they’re clueless about what to do, but that’s still a sign of bad leadership.

What they seem to miss is that they could be setting themselves up for a harassment violation. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as:

repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

* Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or

* Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done, or

* Verbal abuse

This is 2016, and leadership deciding that one member of the team “can’t take it” isn’t going to get them off if there’s a suit filed against the organization. True leaders would do something to stop this kind of harassment because, other than the 1973 Oakland A’s, team members who don’t get along usually don’t coalesce into a winning or efficient team.

If it were up to me as a director there are some things I’d do to change the culture:

1. Immediately ban all talk about other employees during the work hours in the department. I’d make it part of the conditions of their job and a part of their job review, which would be a monthly process.

2. Tell each person that if they have a problem with someone to talk to them about it, courteously, and if they needed me to intercede that I would… but that it wouldn’t necessarily mean I agree with their side of things.

3. Set up a process of communication where everyone would know what was going on with the department and could air their concerns in the open, as long as none of them were with a specific person.

4. Set up a team building process of some sort just to get things moving in a more positive direction.

5. Become a bigger presence in the office for a while (even if I had supervisors to handle that part) so everyone would know I wasn’t kidding.

Truthfully, I expect employees to talk about each other; it’s just what people do. However, I wouldn’t allow it during work hours; that’s when I need my team to act like a team and produce like a team, even if they’re each individuals with their own goals. If they can’t contribute to the team, which means they can’t contribute to the department… they can always be replaced.

Sometimes leaders have to be ready to use that last option, no matter how good an employee might be. It’s never about the individual at that point; it’s about the team.

This is how I’d do things. Let me know your thoughts on this.

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It’s New Years Eve, the last day of the year, and this is the last post of the year and of 31 straight days of posts. It’s possible that I’ve overwhelmed some people and that maybe I should apologize… nah!

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Happy New Year!

When I mentioned in the first post of this December series that my intention was to write a month’s worth of posts, I wondered if it would generate any real interest from anyone. After 31 days, I’m still not really sure how much interest all of the posts have generated. What I do know is that this is the most concerted writing effort I’ve ever done for this blog.

By comparison, on my I’m Just Sharing blog, I wrote just over 1,000 articles in 3 years. I knew I could write a lot, and I certainly had a lot of topics to cover. What I didn’t mention in that first post was that every post for this period was written before the end of November. So, if anything dramatic has happened, it won’t get addressed here until January. Then again, maybe it showed up video on my channel; hmmm… :-)

As for 2015, it was an interesting year for me. I finished my second book on leadership titled Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy. I celebrated my 14th year in business. I started posting article on LinkedIn, and I had a lot of people connect with me on Twitter. I also had my 1,200th post here this year; it only took me 10 years to get there. Oh yeah, I also celebrated my 10th year of blogging, which is via this blog. Not bad eh?

I have goals and visions for 2016. I want to work more, travel more, make more money. I’ll hit post #1,300 sometimes around May or June I figure, and of course in June I’ll also hit my 15th year in business. I want to sleep more, rest better, have more fun and buy a new car; not necessarily in that order. I want to work on my influence and friendships.

There are no specifics; I figure to use a big part of December thinking about my direction for 2016. At least new posts here have been taken care of. Actually, I wrote my last posts for all my blogs by the 20th so I could take 2 weeks off to rest, recharge, research and plan how I’m going to proceed in 2016. Hopefully this means that the first post on this blog in the new year will come with a real direction for myself and for you, the readers… the few of you actually reading that is. :-)

I hope y’all come along with me; there’s plenty for everybody. Meanwhile, I’d like to share my favorite posts of the year with you. Before I started looking, I told myself I wanted 15 posts. Then I said I wasn’t going to put a limit on it; whatever it came out to be, that’s what it came out to be. That means it came out to 15 posts; karma!

I wish everyone a wonderful 2016; now, my favorite posts of the year:

We Must Remember History…

What Is Leadership?

5 Leadership Lessons From Mom

10th Anniversary Of Mitch’s Blog

How To Ask For Advice

You’re Responsible For You

1,200th Post – What’s Gone On, What’s Coming…

Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, My Latest Book Is Here!

9 Ways To Make Leadership Easy

My 14th Year In Business; 14 Thoughts…

What Do You Do When There’s Nothing To Lose?

What One Leadership Concept Is Overlooked Too Often?

The “Wussification” of Leadership

Do You Feel Guilty By Word Association?

9 Lessons Of Decorum


 

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A couple of years ago I reviewed a book by someone I know called Paid To Think by David Goldsmith. Even though I liked the book and said so, David didn’t quite like the review; hey, can’t win them all.

Inspire

The main concept of the book is the power of thinking. In the introduction of the book, he talks about the value of thinking before taking action. I’ve always agreed with that premise in both business and life. Quite often, people react more than thinking about their words or actions, and it rarely ends up well.

There are a lot of people who look at athletes in certain sports and talk more about their being gifted and having great talent and instincts. It’s rare that there’s a lot of talk about how smart someone is unless the athlete isn’t seen as a star athlete.

What people miss is that athletes are always thinking, along with coaches. Magic Johnson wasn’t just a talented player who went out on the basketball court and performed… well… magic. What we saw in 48 minutes a night took hours, days, weeks, and years to get right. It’s often not a solo event either. Without a lot of practice and getting others to think, all of those sneaky passes he used to throw would have gone un-caught because no one would have been expecting them to come their way.

Back in May I wrote an article talking about taking some time to think about a hardware problem I was having, where I was ready to have a kneejerk reaction an call the company to complain, and instead taking care of it myself. It saved a lot of time and consternation and kept repair people out of the house; that’s always a win!

Last month I wrote an original article on LinkedIn where I talked about leadership lessons learned while trying to make my websites mobile friendly. That was a process that took me 5 months to figure out, which I did one night by finally just sitting at my desk with my hands away from the keyboard and thought about what changes I should think about doing, since I hadn’t been able to find any solutions to my problem online. I was even able to share what I learned with others, which has made it a pretty popular post via search engines.

Thinking is imperative. You can’t manage your life without thinking. You can’t set goals towards your dreams or things you want to do or achieve without thinking. You can’t fix anything going on at work without thinking.

Thinking is “doing”. I know people who fear that it looks like they’re doing nothing if they’re sitting at their desks thinking. I respond “who cares what people think; at least they’re thinking”.

I know a lot of people who have had great success because they took the time to think about what they were going to do. I can’t say I know anyone who’s had long term success without thinking (winning the lottery doesn’t count lol). If you do, please share a name and I’ll count myself as wrong. If you don’t… then think about my thought on thinking… and be sure to let me know what you think. :-)
 

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