Leadership Power

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Goals, Beliefs and Actions: The Foundation of Leadership

When I first moved out to Phoenix, I brought the souvenirs of my career with me – a bad back and bad knees. My wife suggested that I sign up for a Yoga class, which I did with the sole purpose of my getting some physical relief.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I now love Yoga! It has been life-altering both physically and mentally.

One day as I was stretching out in class, the teacher was talking about some different philosophies. One of the things she mentioned is that if you set goals and you have actions attached to them – but you never seem to reach those goals – the step you might be missing is belief.

An illustration would be you’re a heavy person, like I’ve been most of my life, and you have the goal of losing weight. You know all of the actions – eat right, eat smaller portions, and exercise more often. But if you don’t believe that you’re a thin person – if you believe that you’ll always be a heavy person – it’s never going to change. So what we need to tie together are our goals (what we want to achieve) and what we really believe. And make sure that what we believe is in sync with our goals. And then take the appropriate actions that will make those goals a reality.

This applies to running a business every bit as much as it applies to your life.

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Making It Okay for Your Employees to Ask for Help

Is it okay for your Employees to ask for help at your company?

You might say yes. But, I wonder if that’s true.

The reason I wonder if that’s true is because at my shop it wasn’t. We had a typical New York shop full of “know it all” mentalities. That meant it was dangerous to expose what you didn’t know because at the very least it was cause for your boss and co-workers to unleash a ton of ridicule.

The other reason I know that your staff is probably highly unwilling to show you what they don’t really know is because I, myself, the boss’s kid (as someone who had risen to be the 2ndbest Tech at our shop of 25 Techs) would spend time talking Customers out of repairs that I wasn’t fully confident I could do.

Yes, that’s right I, the boss’s kid, would do that.

Also, the reason I believe that your staff won’t show you what they can and can’t do is because they probably oversold what they actually can do when you first hired them. Now they’ve become overly protective at exposing these weaknesses they have to you or any other management team members at your company.

Here’s what I know. All your employees have holes in their knowledge, and until you make it safe for them to share what they do and don’t know you’re going to be at risk. There will be lost productivity, mistakes or worse things like insurance claims or a sting operation that makes the news and makes you look bad.

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The Difference Between a Leader and a Manager

What’s the difference between a Leader and a Manager?

I get asked this question a lot when I do seminars and workshops. And even when I do 1-to-1 consulting. It’s a great question because this can be a confusing distinction between the two roles.

To me, a Leader has a vision and they share that vision with others as they try to move the company where they see it should be, so they end up where they want to go.

A Manager is busy getting the day to day stuff handled so the Leader can focus on the direction and the vision.

Leaders and Managers are both critical to the long-term success of any business.

But, there’s an issue that tends to pop up a lot when I work with clients. That issue is where there are Leaders and Managers and they are not sharing the same vision and they’re busy plotting separate courses for the company. It would be akin to have a car barreling down the highway with four people wrestling to grab the steering wheel and drive. Nothing good is going to happen in this scenario.

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The Importance of Getting Away from Your Business

I grew up working in my family’s heating business. And my dad’s coaching to his very young sons was, “We don’t do winter sports or take winter vacations.”

Basically, it meant every living breathing moment from Labor Day till April 1st was to be spent working in the business.

That made for a crazy time that could wear us and our employees down.

But, the nice thing was my wife saying to me in summer, “You home again?” or, “You’re going out to play golf again?”

That all changed when we branched out into the plumbing and cooling trades. Then, we had to be available 24/7/365. And my wife then began to say, “Are you ever coming home?”. Or, “When are we ever going to have time for a vacation?”.

The answer, for a pretty long time, was “never”.

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Creating a Business to be Thankful For

“I hate my business!”

That’s what I hear periodically when I talk with Contractors. And to me that is sad. But, I get it.

For many, the business they started didn’t turn out the way they planned when they took that big leap and typically left a secure paying job as an employee to go for the brass ring as an owner. It seemed like it would be easier.

The most common complaints I hear are:

1. “This business is making me go broke. I have to keep putting in my own hard-earned savings, borrowed money or what I had hoped would be my retirement money to keep things going and nothing positive seems to happen.”

2. “I work all day and when I get home there’s more work to do. Things like billing, returning calls, putting together bids and a whole lot more than I realized. The day never ends.”

3. “I can’t do at 60 years of age what I did when I was 50 years old let alone what I did in my 20s, 30s and 40s. So, what do I do now?”

4. “I can’t stop working or there’s no business. Heaven forbid I get hurt or sick. It’s scary.”

5. “My employees are infuriating. They act like they’re the owner and I’m their employee.”

Yes, business can be hard. But, it doesn’t have to be.

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Handing It Off Without Losing Your Mind

“Why won’t people at my company take responsibility for getting things done?

Seriously, if I don’t do it myself, it’ll never get done. I don’t know what they do all day but they don’t spend time getting done what I want them to, especially when it comes to important projects.”

This is a standard complaint I get from frustrated owners. And I get it. But, these owners never seek to change their method so they keep getting the same result but only more frustrated as time goes on.

The definition of insanity: Doing the same things over and over expecting different results.

Here’s the sad fact. You’ve trained your staff that if they don’t do what you want the way you want you’ll lose your mind and take the project back. And that is training them to NOT take responsibility or action because you’ll never be pleased with what they do anyway.

When you’re done complaining privately or publicly or both, you take back these projects and things that need to get done at your company so you remain overloaded. Am I right?

I know why you stopped delegating anything to anyone and it’s because you’ve been trained by your staff that it’s a waste of time and money to do so.

This used to happen to me at my company. Keep in mind we had grown to 70 employees and still no one was able to help me get things done. I blamed them. But, the problem was actually me.

Yes, me.

I never took the time to delegate anything to anyone properly because I was in too big of a rush and I assumed they were too. So, I dumped it on them vs. delegating it to them.

What’s the difference?

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Do What’s in the Book and You’re Off the Hook

Growing up a New Yorker, I appreciate straight talking people who say what they mean and do what they say. And I’m pleased to say that has been my experience so far with every one of the business owners I have had the privilege to work with. Midwesterners do this especially well, and without the New York attitude and sarcasm!

But I must admit the New Yorker in me tends to go off unfiltered when an owner in Iowa (or Illinois, or Indiana) tells me, “I don’t know if I can get buy in here for the Operating Manuals.”

“Really?” I reply. “I got these manuals in at my own company, a tough union shop in New York City. It doesn’t get any harder than that. And you don’t think you can get them to buy in here in Iowa…really?”

Despite the quality of my wisecrack, the owner usually remains unconvinced. So after taking a few minutes to compose myself, I share the story of how I got techs to willingly comply at my own shop.

Before we had manuals, one of my many jobs was Installation Manager. In this role, I was overseeing five install crews a day. One of our very best installers had been flipping pizzas when he entered our Apprentice training classes and had risen quickly up through the ranks.

One time I was handing out the assignments for the day and I said to him, “Hey, I can’t be there at the normal 10 a.m. time to go over what I want done here on the new boiler and heating work but I can get there around 2 p.m. Is that going to work?”

He quickly scanned the paperwork I had given him and said, “Not a problem. I got you covered.”

At 2 p.m. I arrived at the customer’s home. As I walked around the basement and saw what had been done, steamed poured from my ears. I pulled the Installer outside and said, “This is nothing like I wanted!”

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How Are You Judging Your Staff’s Performance?

With all new consulting clients, I start by asking the following: “How are you judging your staff’s performance?”

The answers are pretty much the same and they go something like this, “We think.” “We’ve been told.” “Because I’ve been in business for a while I know who is and isn’t performing well.”

To which my reply is, “So, you’re basing your judgment of them either doing a good job or a bad job at the work they’re hired to do based on opinion or other subjective measures. Am I right?”

With a sheepish look on their face, they mutter, “Yes. I guess so.”

I know this sounds embarrassing but it’s not meant to be anything but helpful. I know exactly how they feel and how they got where they are because I too once judged my employees’ performance solely on opinion and subjective feelings! Nothing in my company was based on an objective standard until we made a change.

So, how do you tip the scales in the right direction of objective vs. subjective judgement when it comes to evaluating employees’ performance?

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Attitude vs. Behavior: What’s the Difference?

“That Tech has a bad attitude.”

“I don’t like the attitude of our bookkeeper!”

“What’s wrong with the attitude of our dispatcher?”

Bad attitudes are everywhere, it would appear.

Based on…what?

In most cases, nothing, other than your opinion, that is. An opinion, by the way, that that colored by your attitude toward others! In fact, my new favorite saying is, “I see what I believe” not the old (and incorrect) saying, “I’ll believe it when I’ll see it.”

As owners and bosses, we’re quick to judge. It’s what we do. We compare people to some fictional version of how we think we were when we did their work. The part we leave out is that our vision of ourselves, especially as times goes by, is akin to the fish growing larger every time the fish story is told!

No, you couldn’t put a water heater in by yourself in one hour. Nor could you install a new heating system by yourself in two hours. You didn’t carry that giant hot tub up four flights of stairs by yourself and install it in an hour, either. And when you were up to your elbows in grunge on a job, or a customer groused at you, you may have come back to the office a little grumpy, too!

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What if I Train Them and They Leave?

Resistance—I get a lot as an industry consultant but when it comes to convincing a contractor client of the importance of training, resistance is something I can bank on.

I listen politely as they recount a bad experience or two they have had because they invested in someone who then left the company and went work for someone else—usually a competitor.

After a few minutes of this, I interrupt them and address the elephant in the room: “So, what you’re asking yourself is, ‘What if I train them and they leave?’”

“Yes.”

My reply, the only one that makes any sense, is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

The next thing I typically hear from the owner is, “Darn it. I know you’re right and I hate it.”

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