Setting a Good (Business) Example

School is in full swing, all after school activities are busy with practices, games, performances and other activities, and the weather is taking a definite turn towards autumn tomorrow if the weather people are correct. The idea of school was established many years ago so that kids would get not only a foundational understanding on what it means to be an adult, but also get an introduction to all the topics they may have to know about as an adult and things that may help them decide what they’re going to do with the rest of (or many years of) their life. School was established with the best intentions, a way of socializing the next generation, exposing them to things their parents wouldn’t be able to do alone and giving them a solid starting point to life.  And I believe that the idea of school is a good and necessary one.

But still today there are people who don’t make it through school, who aren’t able to learn based on the current format, who aren’t being prepared for what comes next. Does the current iteration of school need to be replaced? In many ways I say yes because the world has shifted in many ways from what it was when the current school practices were decided upon. In many ways schools aren’t preparing the next generation to go out and live in this world. But thanks to the internet and some more inventive educational organizations, there are ways to fill the gaps until something can be properly discussed and thought out.

The next question of course is what else is falling outdated and therefore failing others? What opportunities do we have that we may or may not be taking advantage of? What are we trying to shout to the world through our social posts, TV shows, movies, and events? What are we telling the world through the marketing, promoting and sponsoring that we do?

The good news is that the business world has a much easier time of making changes than the established school system does, because each individual business has the ability to take a look at what they’re doing and decide it’s not serving them the way they hoped it would, decide what’s outdated and not helping them move forward, decide what types of training and support are best for their teams, and most of all decide whether the story they’re telling to the world is the right one for them or not.

We have 3 months left in 2019, what face is your business showing to the world? What contributions are you making as a business to the world and your ideal customers/clients? Is this the business that you want to enter into 2020 with? Don’t despair because there are only 3 months left in 2019, instead ask questions, accept facts, and make changes so that the business you have going into 2020 is one that’s making a positive impact on the world, contributing to communities, partnering with other like-minded businesses and maybe most importantly, is one that you’re proud to run.

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A Coach for the People

This month I read “Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.” This book is a look at the principles and practices and leadership of Bill Campbell who started by being a sports coach and moved to become one of the greatest business coaches, working with Apple, Google and other big businesses. The book shared about a man who had a really big heart, lots of smarts and great people skills. Everyone who knew him had great things to say about him, and even after his death his practices and teachings live on in the companies he worked with.

The core of the book and what Bill was all about, is people. Bill was all about teamwork, communication, openness, honesty and trust. He recognized that it all comes back to people: that people are what make or break a company, sell a product/service, help a customer, or buy a product/service; that to care about people you have to care about people; and that it’s not always about the problem but about having the right people on the team to get things done.

Much of what was shared through this book emphasized that it’s not just about having people to fill spaces or do a job, but about having healthy teams, healthy relationships, healthy lives and healthy communications. It’s not about perfection or getting it right all the time or not having disagreements or not having weaknesses, but about doing what’s good for the community; creating a culture of safety, clarity, meaning, and impact so teams can thrive; having dependable people on your team; keeping everyone on the same page across departments; and creating victories for today and tomorrow.

When it all comes down to it, what Bill knew and taught throughout his life was that while teams are essential and invaluable, everyone is their own person, responsible for how they live their life, how they give back, how they love, how successful they are, how they communicate, what kind of leader they are and what difference they make in the world. Each person Bill came into contact with was challenged to be their best, give their best and love the best they could.

As we head into the last months of this year, I would challenge you to not (just) focus on getting products and services out the door to as many people as possible, but to be a people person, to genuinely care about the people you connect with and to make each person’s day that you connect with a little better.

9/11 Reflections, 18 Years Later

This week we’re switching things around and the regular business post will be published on Friday this week, to give me the opportunity to share some more family and relationship focused reflections today. Today is 9/11. 18 years ago 4 planes were used in a terror attack that devastated the lives of all Americans and countless others around the world were also affected by the actions of people who had a hatred towards what the US represents or has done.

If I’m honest it’s not something I can really understand. I don’t have a hatred so deep of something or someone that I can understand the willingness to make a plan to kill thousands of people, let alone little children.  I can’t imagine putting into action a plan that will definitely cause destruction, especially unknown destruction.  I understand the concepts of controlled burns when it comes to fire prevention, or about sacrificing one structure to make sure the others around them, and the people in them, are safe.  But I can’t understand the reasoning behind taking over planes and flying them into buildings where people live and work intentionally.

Each year we see footage and hear stories of the men and women who were there, of the fear they experienced, of their willingness to head into the zone even though they didn’t really know what they were heading into or what really happened.  I can remember all those years ago seeing it on TV for the first time and not really believing it.  But with report after report of loss of life and the many pictures and videos that were shown, I quickly knew that this was a reality and that not only had lives been lost but more men and women were putting their lives on the line for those who might be trapped.  It hurts to know that even today not all of the families have gotten to give their lost loved ones a proper burial, that some never really got to say goodbye.  It still hurts to know that people wanted to hurt people in this way.

But what I’ve been struck by today as I’ve watched some of the footage and read some of the stories of men and women who were killed or willingly put their lives on the line is about life.  We don’t often stop to think about the over 20,000 people who were saved because the first responders did their job.  We don’t think about their relief as they returned to their firehouses and found their brothers and sisters of the heart who had returned as well.  We don’t think about the gift of life that was given to people because people fought to bring the plane down over Pennsylvania instead of letting it get to the intended target.  We don’t think about the boys and girls who are alive and now looking at their 18th birthday without a parent that they never knew.

But the fact is they’re alive and so are we.  Yes, we should pause and grieve for the lives lost.  They are people who will never live to grow old or spend time with their families or have (more) kids or make an impact on the world in the way they thought they would.  But they would not want their legacy to be one of hatred, anger or grief.  Many gave their lives so we could be free and live our lives.  Choose to support those who put their lives on the line then and still today.  Choose to have hope for tomorrow.  Choose to make the world we share a better place, a place that tragedies like 9/11 will be fewer and farther between.  Choose to live today.

Taught by Toni Morrison

This week the world lost a great thinker and writer, Toni Morrison. She won a Nobel Prize for her literary work and has received other awards and recognition as well, she’s been an editor and a professor, and was a mother. Her words and spirit have spoken to many generations and groups of people, so today I thought we’d take a look at what made her so well liked and successful (even if that may not have been her goal) and what we can learn from her life and success.

It all starts with words. Toni is known for her culturally relevant and forward thinking, and her words were always accurate but sensitive. She did it all when it came to writing, including editing the works of others, and many of the tributes that have been shared have echoed how her words have stuck with them, and that her words made them realize how important, valuable and powerful words can be. As a business owner one of the most powerful tools you have are words, and too many businesses today aren’t providing sufficient words, both written and audio. They aren’t speaking to their people, let alone speaking in a passionate, persuasive and informative manner.

She told a story. One of the things that we’re really been talking about in business over the past few years is the value of telling a story, and how our customers can relate better to us when we tell a story. As powerful as her stories were, the words she chose were words of truth, words that spoke to the situations, experiences and emotions of the African American culture she so often wrote about. Go ahead and tell stories in your business and to your customers, but don’t waste your time or theirs with false stories or tales that go nowhere. Keep it relevant and accurate to who you are, who your customers are and what you’re all about.

Finally, she knew what it was to nurture and love. In one interview she talked about some famous authors who had one breakout hit but ended their working years doing menial labor jobs. She questioned what happened that they weren’t able to continue to bring greatness to the literary world, and that’s something that we have to question in business as well. Why do some companies start out so well and peter out? One of the reasons is because they don’t take the time to nurture and care for their customers and provide an experience that customers want to come back to and want to tell others about.  No one has had a bad thing to say about Toni Morrison(although not everyone has loved her work), would people be equally positive about you?

Toni Morrison lived 88 wonderful, engaged and filled years, years in which she chose to make an impact one word and one relationship at a time.  Are the words and actions you’re taking in your business building a similar legacy that will last as long as she did and beyond or are you working on a one-hit-wonder?

A Life of Making a Difference

I’m a big fan of animals, I support various animal organizations, including those that raise puppies to be service dogs. I was reading a post on a site or social media the other day about how 10 dogs were going to different organizations and eventually to different homes to support different veterans or others in need. It was an impressive reminder how big of a difference something as simple as a litter of puppies can make in the world.

Of course each dog ends up with only one individual who is their primary support target, but that individual has a circle of people including and beyond their immediate family who will benefit from that dog as well (not to mention all the social benefits the dog’s owner gets).  And then there are all the people who follow the puppies before they go to their forever home on the organization’s social accounts and email newsletters and even live cameras and interact with the others who love the organization, all of whom also get the positive boost of seeing the cuteness and knowing that any contribution they make to that organization (donations, sharing about them, volunteering time) will be part of a positive ripple effect.

I know sometimes we look around and wonder how we got into the mess we are in or how we could possibly make the difference in the world that we want to or if anything we’re doing is really making an impact.  But if you look at the life of a service dog who doesn’t live nearly as long as a human and doesn’t have all the skills or abilities of a human (even if they are more loving and cute than most humans), it’s amazing how big of an impact they’re able to have on the world.  If a dog can make that big of an impact during their short life, why can’t we do the same through our posts, our words, our gifts, our careers, our relationships and our generosity?

Leadership Lessons from Lee Iacocca

This week the world lost a great leader: Lee Iaccoca.  He died at a ripe old age of 94, after having an incredible career in the auto industry, and many years with family.  He’s someone that I’ve shared about in past blog posts because while he may not have been a current leader (i.e. running a business and being the topic of many news stories each month) he’s certainly someone that we can learn from and admire, and apply many of the things that made him so successful to our businesses today.

One of the reasons that his story is so incredible is because he did what he did in an industry that is known for distrust; it’s always been said that you shouldn’t trust a car salesman.  Yet what he did was sell cars, and he not only helped run several car businesses well (Ford and Chrysler), he appeared in their ads because he was so well trusted and admired.

In one of his books he shared a list of what makes up a good leader, a list that shows why he was so successful as a leader.  This list includes: curiosity, creativity, communication, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competence and common sense.  Being a leader that lived that list, he was able to connect with people on a level that too many leaders aren’t able to do, and therefore aren’t able to be as successful, or bring as much of their vision to fruition as they could if they were better at connecting with people.  Iaccoca believed strongly in picking good people, and treating those people as a priority.

From two of the vehicles that Iaccoca helped create, the Mustang and the minivan, we’re reminded of the value of having good ideas, and a good team to help bring those ideas to life. Not every idea will work out well, as Iaccoca found out and I’m sure you have too, but you can’t get anywhere if you aren’t willing to put those ideas out into the world and try to make them a reality.

With the number of people who have been great leaders, who have helped this world become a better place passing on, it’s up to us to pick up the mantle and grow into leaders who would make them proud.  Some leaders are born, but the large majority of them are made through long days, hard work and sweat-equity.  Will you be one of those leaders the world needs?

In Pursuit of Independence

This week in the US we’re celebrating Independence Day, the day we honor and remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence declaring our independence from Great Britain. So today I thought we’d talk a little about the word ‘independence’ and what it means.

The dictionary defines independence as “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” We truly do best when we find a balance of dependence and independence, because most of us can’t live truly independent from others (you depend on others to grow your food, build your buildings and means of transportation, keep the internet running etc.). But as you know, sometimes there can be too much dependence, or the wrong type of dependency (too much to allow for individuality), which is where Independence Day and the separation from Great Britain came from.

What about our independence? It means that we’re individuals, able to make our own decisions about what’s best for us, being brave enough to live our own lives and make decisions for ourselves, and strong enough to take actions that protect ourselves and those we love and create a life we enjoy living.

Right in line with this is something that’s very evident with Independence Day celebrations, and that’s pride. Truly being independent is something to celebrate, to be proud of, which means it’s also a responsibility we have to uphold and care for.  It’s something we have to tell the next generation about so that they understand why we do parades and fly flags, or why we’re so careful about our finances and going to school (or whatever your independence is connected to), so that they understand our pride and continue to celebrate it and uphold that independence.

So this week how are you going to work on your independence?  Maybe you’re just thrilled how much independence you have this year and just want to celebrate.  Or maybe it’s time for you to take a step in the direction of a new independence.  If a bunch of men and women can find the strength and courage to separate one nation from another, you too have the ability to move in the direction of independence in your life.

What’s In Your Future?

Abraham Lincoln, a very wise man and great leader, once said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Abraham Lincoln is one person who unknowingly can speak to how few years we can have, he was assassinated when he was only 56 years old.  Like many other people we’ve lost before they’re able to live out the full potential of their life we have to wonder what they would have done with those additional years and opportunities.

What is in your years? Are you spending all your time on things that won’t bring you to where you really want to go, living a life with no real future, spending time with people who depress you or drain you, working a job you hate and eating things you don’t like? All of these things make years really seem small and insignificant. I love filling my days with things that will help others, that will bring benefits and blessings to many people, and even things that will help me learn more about and improve myself!

Neither you nor I know what the future really holds. But I do know how I will get there- by living my life in a way that will bring me to an amazing future, not put me where I don’t want to be. By reading inspiring books, choosing my friends wisely, starting my own business and making good decisions about what I fill my body and time with, I know I’ll be a whole lot closer to a future I actually want to live in, than one that I can’t stand.

How about you? If you continue living your life as it is right now, what does your future look like? Is it a life with filled and blessed years? Or is it a life with many empty years? I encourage you to make decisions this week that will help you get to the future you want.

Together We Stand

Today being Memorial Day has me thinking about others. Yes, I’m thinking about the men and women of the military, but I’m also thinking about the bigger picture of everyone else that we share this world with. This got me thinking about what does military vs. everyone else in the US look like?

Well, a 2016 article states that less than 10% of the US population was a veteran (approximately 20 million people) and another article shared that approximately 1.3 million people were in active duty in 2016. Those numbers don’t sound very big, but what they don’t talk about are the men, women and children who are immediately related to someone in the military (by blood, adoption or marriage). Data from 2015 says that over 5 million people were considered immediate family to active service people, so doing very generous math, that means that possibly one third of the US is related to someone who was or is in the military. And if you go beyond the immediate family circle that number grows again.  And beyond that, even if you don’t have anyone in your family who is or was in the military, there’s a strong likelihood that you know someone who is or was in the military or someone related to someone in the military.

Since the draft ended in 1973, these men, women and their families have volunteered to stand up for each of us throughout the world.  Representing us, protecting us, and standing in for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Just like we make choices each day, they chose to join the military, not knowing how they’ll make an impact or if they’ll be required to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Today as you honor and remember the men and women who have sacrificed for our country I encourage you to think about how respectful you are of that sacrifice. Are you working to build relationships with others and a future we can all be proud of or are you helping create a world that will require more men, women and families to make sacrifices for the rest of us?

Taking Action for Earth Day

Today has been Earth Day.  It’s the day that people around the world take time to remember the planet that we all live on and share, and to do something to help make sure that planet is here for many years to come.  Given that our success, and our lives even, depend on the health and continued life of the earth I thought today we’d talk about some things we can do to help the Earth be around for many more years to come.

Today plenty of companies sent out emails and posted on social media asking for donations.  I saw many more emails today with double and triple matches (meaning a gift you give is doubled or tripled) than I did for Giving Tuesday back in November, so the simplest way you can give to the future of our world is to donate to companies who are going to plant trees, protect the (endangered) animals, and fight for the health of our planet.

Another way you can give back is to recycle and pick up, even if it’s not your garbage.  Sometimes the wind gets the best of the garbage/recycling days or the animals get into the cans and as a result trash and recyclables go everywhere. While it’s not something I recommend doing unless you’re able to glove up or protect yourself in some other way, taking action to pick up that stuff goes a long way to making sure that those things don’t end up in our waterways and stay away from animals who could be killed by them.

A third way to help the earth is eating less meat.  Protein is important to our diets, but meat is also one of the bigger contributors of what’s hurting our earth. That doesn’t mean we eliminate meat from our diets, but rather make smarter choices about how much we’re consuming.  Try to eat meat fewer days per week, substituting with other proteins like eggs, quinoa and almond/peanut butter whether at dinner or during other meals of the day.

Fourth, if you’re able to get out there and plant trees or other plants to help our animals and the bees who are crucial to the health of our food system, that’s a great way to give back to the earth.  I saw an article recently that suggested the way to fix climate change was to plant tons of trees.  With a little bit of effort and adjustment I think we can come to an agreement between us and mother nature and learn how to share the space we all live on together.

Finally, another very easy way to give back is signing petitions.  Many of the suggestions I’ve given are things that you can do all year long and not just on Earth Day, and this is no exception.  Every day I get at least a dozen emails about petitions I could sign on all kinds of topics, including those that have to do with animals and nature.  It’s a very small way to contribute, but seeing how many people have already signed the petitions goes to show that I may be just one person, but my individual voice along with the voices of thousands of others really ads up.

What will you do to care for the world you live on?