Leadership Power

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Gratitude: Your Most Powerful Tool

At my company, we used to show people our gratitude by keeping them employed. You know, giving them a paycheck. Heck, what else were we expected to do… am I right?

The answer of course was, no… I was dead wrong!

There are plenty of surveys that ask employees to rank what’s most important to them when it comes to their job. And if you’re like I was, you might say it’s all about the money. But, time and again, the surveys show that employees don’t value their paycheck as number or 1 or even in the top 5.

Always in the top 5 is being appreciated by those who they work with and to whom they report.

My belief is people don’t go to work for a paycheck. They go to work so the paychecks doesn’t stop. And although they can’t spend “appreciation” at the grocery store, there’s a lot more at play with your team than just getting paid.

I came to learn that employees want and crave appreciation and gratitude for what they do. Good to know. The bad news is, it wasn’t something I was comfortable with doing and neither were my brothers, who were my partners, along with my dad.

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5 Reasons You Can’t Run Your Business from the Beach Forever

A few years back I worked with a phenomenal contractor, Mark Paup of Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, in Des Moines Iowa.

Mark had grown his business into a systematic and money making company. And as I like to do with former clients, I called him up just to see how things were going.

He asked me a question, “Al, do you ever just get to sit on the beach, and it all runs without you forever?”

I replied with the answer he knew I would, and that was, “No…”

And after the briefest of pauses, I continued with, “You absolutely don’t have to be so heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the business like you were when we first started. And you are actually encouraged to take time away from the business because you deserve it based on all the hard work you’ve done with me. It’s actually good for your team for you to let them run things without you.

“That said, you’re the face of this business, and you must keep a finger on the pulse of it to keep it headed in the leadership direction we created during Leadership Power! if you’re to reach the near-term goals set and the long-term goals still ahead.”

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Your Employees Need to Know the “Why” because It’s More than Just the Money

The purpose, or what I call the “Why” for what your employees do at work, is becoming more important to them than just collecting a paycheck.

I know this to be so because I witnessed this when I was a contractor and now as a consultant to contractors. This long-time trend has become the norm. And I think it’s not just a good thing… I think it’s a great thing.

This may seem scary to you. Or, you may be in disbelief that this could be true. A quick review of articles and blogs online will validate what I’m saying here.

And if you’re an owner or manager who is over 50 years of age, you probably grew up in the trades with being told, “This is what I want done”. There was no discussion. You were just expected to do it because your boss told you to.

But having worked with consulting clients over the last few years, all I see are Millennials and now even some of the Generation Z arriving at work.  This movement is in full swing, so doing things because “I told you so” is long gone. In general, they’re not going to engage their heart and soul into anything at work until they know the “Why” they’re doing something.

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Personality Profiling – Tendencies vs. Absolute Truths

As part of Staffing Power, I advise my clients to make sure that Personality Profiling be a part of the hiring process.

To be clear, I don’t like the term “Personality Profiling” because it feels, to me, manipulative. Profiling is just a very bad word unto itself.  That’s why I prefer the term Motivational Mapping.

Motivational Mapping is seeking to know how the new hire interacts in the world or at least how they view things. That promotes better communication because if you know the words they want to hear they’re more likely to be more motivated.

This switch of terms to Motivational Mapping isn’t meant to be a game of semantics. It’s more about recognizing that the term fits better because it’s about the things that motivate us. That’s different because we’re all wired differently. All of which I think is a really a good thing as we don’t want to live in a world of clones.

That said, we all have tendencies. And recognizing those tendencies early on will help set up the potential new hires to better succeed at your company. It can also reveal if a new hire is a good fit for your company. That’s why you want to pay attention to what the Motivational Mapping is revealing.

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Leading with Humor

Wouldn’t you agree that the work we do as contractors can literally be life and death? It’s serious business!

I definitely feel this is true.

A plumbing or drain company keeps good water from bad water. Just go online and look up the plague. You’ll see what existed in the world before proper  plumbing and sanitation changed it for the better. And plumbing and drain companies keep these systems functioning the way they must so we can stay alive and avoid illness. Without us, many people would be sick and dying.

A heating and cooling company not just keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer (which is very nice). In extreme cases for the young, the elderly, or the infirm, it too can be life and death. Remember, we “play with fire” as I told my own techs. Plus, we “play” with gas and fuel oil and even high voltage that in the wrong hands, untrained personnel, or even the inattentive tech can become very dangerous.

And electricians literally wrangle lightning and light our homes, power our communications abilities, and, in many homes, it is the “fuel” that provides the heating and cooling too. We take it for granted, but here too a lack of seriousness and attention to detail can cause real damage to life and property.

All of this is serious business.

BUT we can’t be deadly serious from sunup to sundown. We do need to be focused when we’re doing our work in every phase of our business, but we’re human beings, and without a break from it… it will wear you down if there’s no time to lighten up.

Here are just three ways humor helps:

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Beware Actions Born of Boredom

Many a client throughout the years has told me when I said they were taking actions out of boredom with the status quo, “Bored? I can hardly catch my breath!”

Maybe… maybe not.

You can be crazy busy, but activity can serve to mask the underlying boredom that can creep into our life at work. This is especially so in a maturing company. The goal for leadership must be to make their companies perform consistently better, and this can take its toll.

Boredom usually takes hold because this never ending-process is tough and, frankly, boring. So, they respond to it by starting a bunch of new projects that take away attention from the main objective they said they were pursuing.

Here are just four ways boredom can play out in a bad way:

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Actions Speak Louder than Words – Fix Your Own First

“Do as I Say, Not as I Do” is a common refrain from a frustrated boss.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say this and all your employees would do just this? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If what you’re saying doesn’t match what you are doing, you’re busted.

The reason is all eyes are upon you all the time, and as the owner, you can’t hide. I understand that no one is perfect when it comes to everything they do as a leader, but the fact is your actions speak louder than your words.

Think of it this way: imagine your dad or mom are telling you as a young teenager that you have to quit smoking because it is dangerous to your health. The problem is they’re telling you this as the ashes are dropping off the cigarette dangling from their mouths.

You see it for what it is.

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What to Do When Family is Fighting at Work

The first thing to remember is that all companies act like families whether or not the people working together are related.

Someone is playing the role of Dad, Mom, Big Brother, and probably the Big Sister.

And very commonly in the home service business and contracting world, our businesses tend to be multi-generational, so it could be quite literally a family business acting this way.

Here’s the thing… what do you do when people are not getting along? In other words, how do you clear the air, and how do you keep it from escalating or spreading like wildfire throughout the company?

Here are 10 great tips from my own business career working with my dad and two older brothers and from helping clients who are and are not related with these very real issues that can destroy the company if not addressed quickly and in the right way:

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No Such Thing as Accidental Company Culture

One of the greatest lessons I got came along very early in my consulting career. I was very fortunate to work with the great Steve Lowry of Lowry Services in Pennsylvania.

Steve shared with me one day as we were pretty far along in our scope of work that other companies he competed with could copy everything he does from his truck design, his marketing, and a whole lot more, but they could never copy his company’s culture.

He was not bragging.

Steve told me one day as we were wrapping up work on one of the staffing programs, “Al, the better I treat my employees, the better they treat my customers and the more successful I have become. When they make customers incredibly happy and feel like they are treated well, they are all in with doing business with my company for life.”Company culture has to be cultivated in every transaction and interaction. It’s either getting better or its getting worse. There is no standing still. It takes work and that work is always ongoing.

What can you do to make company culture better at your company?

Here are just five ways to get you started on a better path based upon the great company cultures I’ve seen and helped make better.

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If Nothing Gets Done… You’re Responsible

Don’t look around for someone you can point the finger at because it’s you!

I say this because I used to blame people at my company for what didn’t get done or for what got done poorly. And I was all too happy to point the finger of blame. Yes, I’m a New Yorker, but don’t waste time figuring out which finger.

My flawed approach changed when I was lucky enough to get accepted into a great contractor affinity group. The reason it all changed is I was exposed to very successful contractors who were willing to share the lessons they had learned along the way to becoming successful. All I had to do was ask a question of them and shut up long enough to listen to the wisdom they were sharing.

Again, as a New Yorker, this wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t going to blow this golden opportunity. I bit my lip so I could shut up long enough to listen to the help they were giving me.

And what came back time and again from pretty much all of my whining about my staff and what they either didn’t get done or did poorly was that it was my fault, not theirs.  This was tough medicine but I was ready to take it.

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