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Human Resources Today
Tuesday
Nov072017

How the best stay focused

If you are flying one degree off-course you miss your target by 92 feet for every mile flown. For every 60 miles of flying you are one mile off your target.

That is just one degree off...

How do you stay on track to achieve your most important TARGETs, objectives, goals?

Sanctuary

Lee Iacocca led an effort that saved Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy decades ago. One of the leadership disciplines he credited for helping achieve that success was every Sunday evening he would separate himself from the family to spend two hours in his study.

He was alone. No interruptions. No email. He held himself accountable. Being inspired by Iaccoca, at the end of each hunting season (week) we should do a simple three-step accountability process:

  • Score: Did I accomplish my weekly WIN this past week?
  • Help: Where do I need help, or to make adjustments to stay on track? This can be tasks, people, resources…
  • Hunt: What should be my key objectives ("WIN") for the upcoming week?

Achieving TARGETs is primarily a function of (1) Focus; and (2) Time management. Therefore the best thing you can do is to have a weekly time to focus yourself.  I call this time, Sanctuary, because it is without interruptions. (You have to make it that way.)

There can be daily and weekly times of Sanctuary.

Wednesday
Nov012017

Keep waiting... and build into 2018

Have you ever considered that you are in a race? The longer you wait to enter the race, the farther others are ahead of you.

No comprende? Let's try it again: Professionally, you are in a race, whether you like it or not. The truth is, others are ahead of you.

Reality can be depressing.

However, there is light amidst our darkness. Some of your competitors left early, before the "starter's gun." Therefore they may be taking a path that leads to a different destination, one that accomplishes less than your vision.

Or they are not headed to your destination at all.

Technically, they are ahead of you, but that may not matter.

Also, each individual or team with whom you are competing has a different combination of strengths and weaknesses than you, and your team have.

Toe-to-toe or head-to-head, you may have an advantage.

However, this is only true if you get in the game. Procrastination is quitting before you play. Are you going to play, or procrastinate?

Often the difference between a winner and an average player is the winner got started, while the average player waited too long.

2 Months To GO - What's Your Plan?

Remember all that leadership stuff you wanted to do at the beginning of 2017, and how you wanted to address the toxic areas of your company culture?

How much progress have you made?

Now with two months left in 2017, what should you do?

ONE SOLUTION: Take a "Goldilocks approach" to address any disease infecting your leadership team and company culture during November-December 2017.

#1 - Do not go too slow

Yes, you need to have knowledge before you act.

However, knowledge without action achieves nothing. Often, it is actually a setback because it leaves you vulnerable to negative impact of your organization's (or personal life) disease(s).

Gather enough information about your most critical issues so your actions are focused on healing your true diseases, rather than distracting, emotional dramas.

#2 - Do not go too fast

Yes, you need to take action.

However, action without knowledge can cause more problems.

Prioritize the issues you want to address, clearly, specifically, and with deadlines. Create clear TARGETs in a simple one-page plan.

#3 - Goldilocks speed

Balance the research you need to do to confirm the most critical issues and timelines for resolution, with a clear, all-in commitment by your entire team to change.

Start your work now so you have momentum going into 2018. This gives you the opportunity to make next year, your best year ever.

Isn't that what we all should want?

Everybody wants to win, even though we may have different definitions of a "win." Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is a habit." Life proves that lesson to be true.

Build better habits so you can be the best leader you can be, employees can have fulfilling careers, and your clients are thankful for your services.

Thursday
Oct262017

Simple, Sticky Deadlines

What percentage of the time do you hit your deadlines?

How about your coworkers, or direct reports?

A survey once concluded 75% of the reason I.T. projects fail is missed deadlines. How about your work?

SIMPLE SOLUTION

Step #1

Define the outcome / deliverable / task / goal... in a clear and measurable way. (My TARGET method can be downloaded here.)

Step #2

Ask each person responsible for an outcome to define the day and time of day they will deliver.

Why include time of day? To avoid assumptions. i.e. Ruth may say Friday is her deadline. Frank thinks "Friday" means 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning. Ruth means midnight on Friday... avoid the drama!

Step #3

After the conversation, confirm details and deadlines via email. (Require a response confirming receipt and agreement.)

Use attachments for lengthy copy. No long emails...

Step #4

1-2 Days before the deadline, other team members or a leader may email (paper trail) or verbally ask (soft touch) the person under the deadline:

"Is there anything you need from me to complete (the outcome) by your deadline on _________?"

You are NOT contacting them with threats, negativity, or to play "whack-a-mole."

Use a polite, respectful tone of voice, audibly or written.

Be sincere. Be brief. Be gone.

If they ask for help, then follow-through with excellence and no complaining.

Make it safe for people to ask for help.

If people need help twice in a row or more, then something is wrong with your process, expectations, and/or their skills.

Do something to help them.

Teach them how to better estimate deadlines and manage their time. Adjust their workload. If at this time they should have the knowledge, skills, and experience, then hold them to higher performance standards.

If they should be able to match the consistency of your timeliness, but cannot, then it may be time to encourage them to find work elsewhere.

Or, if there is a problem with your example - you are the role model - then come alongside them and improve your time management skills together.

LEADERSHIP Lesson: Do not tolerate late work as being typical. It negatively affects others, and results. Use Systematic Power to follow-up with Sincere Gratitude for the individual to improve timely performance and WIN.

I hope your 4Q is strong and 2018 bright!

Thursday
Sep072017

Are you toast?

It's another morning.  Whether you bless it, or curse it, today has arrived! Some people fight the day plus each person, opportunity, and nuance that comes their way. That's no way to live your life.

Let me take you on a journey from toast, to aikido principles, to better leadership.

Toast

We can have toast in the morning two ways:  With negative energy or positive energy.  Let's say, "Neville" has negative energy and "Pam" has positive energy.

Neville and Pam both enjoy toast in the morning as part of their breakfast.  They want to butter their toast immediately when it emerges from their toaster.  This melts the butter so they can savor the warm, buttery toast to start their day.

However, today, they forgot to put out the butter the night before, or at least 30 minutes before they need to eat.  Instead of soft butter to spread on their toast, the butter is hard. 

Neville grumbles and chops chunks of butter, one at a time and tries to butter his toast.  The hard butter flips over rather than spreads.  The hard butter tears the bread.  The end result looks more like a battlefield than a tasty treat. 

Neville fights the negative situation.  He leaves his breakfast frustrated, not looking forward to his day.

Pam takes a different approach. 

She redirects the negative situation by slicing pieces of butter as thin as she can and lays them on the toast to melt the butter with the heat of the hot bread.  After the butter melts a bit, then she spreads it out Goldilocks style: Not too much so it is dripping butter and unhealthy, not so little that some parts of the bread are left naked without butter, but just right, covering the toast fully and evenly.

Pam redirects the negative to create a positive.  The result is a treat to enjoy, and optimism to step forward into her day.

Aikido

Rob Schenk of Intivix is a black belt in aikido.  You can hear us talk about this on our No Bad Bosses podcast.  You might want to consider Rob's application of aikido in leadership to redirect negative energy and increase positive results.

Similar to Pam's approach in my simple toast example, the principles of aikido are demonstrated by great leaders who do not directly block or resist an attack or negative energy.  

Instead, through training, these leaders develop habits to blend into the situation rather than try to be a wall against a flood, then they instinctively assess the threat and calculate the effect of different responses they can take to control it.  Lastly, they redirect the energy away from themselves and their organization.

Jesus redirected the negative energy of demons controlling two men in Matthew 8, redirecting the demons into a herd of nearby pigs.  He had the power to directly confront them, but in that situation he taught others to redirect the negative energy.

Life is a constant experience of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical attacks.  Aikido principles of centered response, utilization of energy, and nonresistant redirection can be applied by leaders to each of these situations.

Instinctively you may want to strike back or take another approach to block the force of an attack.  This may or may not be effective, but it always depletes your positive energy.

One problem with this approach is the Law of Natural Reciprocity.  This is our natural tendency to match someone else's behavior.

Positive Reciprocity:  Someone does something good to you, and you feel obligated to return the favor.

Negative Reciprocity:  Someone is mean to you, and you want to "get even" because you feel hurt.

Choosing negative reciprocity often wears you out, to a certain extent.

Better Leadership

In contrast, the principles of aikido teach leaders how to respond rather than react to an attack.  A leader does not strike back or otherwise attempt to block the force of the attack.  

Instead, you shift slightly off the line of attack and move towards the incoming energy to unite with the attacker's power.  You connect to control the direction and momentum of the attack, and then redirect the negative energy to a place where it cannot harm you.

In some ways the aikido approach is similar to using active listening to defuse an angry person.  Here is a quick walk-through of active listening ("LEARN") that I wrote based on something from the U.S. National Guard:

Listen to the message received carefully and attentively.  Keep an open mind to what is being said and don't be quick to offer advice or solutions.

Emotions speak louder than words.  It is important to discern the other person's emotions as well as the information they are conveying without initially judging the sender or the message sent.

Ask open questions (what, why, how) to discover issues and closed questions (who, would, where) to clarify details.

Repeat back key parts to summarize what you heard, and confirm you understand the information correctly.  Relate correction or issues to "Bad Cop" standard(s).  Reinforce how you will help them ("Good Cop").

Next steps are confirmed, if any.

See if you can apply this to a tense situation you have had recently, or experience today.  This might be an opportunity to develop a new, powerful leadership skill based on ancient wisdom and proven practices.

Thursday
Aug312017

3 Insights from my friends in Sisters, Oregon

Our family moved back to Novato, California, just north of San Francisco on July 30th.  We had tried living in Sisters, Oregon since mid-January.  It turned out we were too optimistic about our ability to see our three grown children and five grandchildren from there.  So... we came back rather quickly!

I miss three things about Sisters, although there are other aspects I enjoyed:

  1. Space - There are no traffic lights, and only one (new) roundabout in Sisters.  The biggest road is in nearby Bend, and it is only two lanes each way.  Traffic issues are rare, and mainly due to summer events in Sisters.  There are workarounds.
  2. Sisters Coffee - In my opinion, Sisters Coffee is the most wonderful coffee shop on earth.  It is a great meeting place for all, and can compete with any Starbucks for customer traffic, but has better coffee and treats.  The fresh-cooked, Rainshadow Country Breakfast is superb, and only outclassed by the attentive, sincerely smiling, warm people who serve you.
  3. People - Most importantly, I made four friends in Sisters whom I hope to have for a lifetime - Jerry, Mark, Pete, and Kevin.  (I had more time with Jerry and Mark.)

My friends shared their wisdom with me.  I got dozens of ideas.  I always felt like they gave me much more than I gave them.  Some advice or sharing of stories was personal, and many combined how to make better personal and business decisions. 

Let me share three key insights in hopes they spark a new perspective or habit in you.

Clarity

I asked each of these guys how to hear God more clearly in my prayers and throughout each day.  Bill Hybels calls these voices or nudges, "promptings."  None of them used that term, but each shared what they had learned in their journey. 

Jerry shared a perspective that really stuck with me:  At any given time we have three voices in our head trying to tell us what to do.  The trick is discerning which is which BEFORE we take action.  Here is how to recognize each of them:

The Devil

The message is evil in any way.  Rebuke and remind him that he has no authority in my life.

Yourself

If selfish, then repent (humble myself before God and admit my mistake) and move away.

Holy Spirit

If the thoughts are full of grace and truth, then it's God.  Whatever that voice says, you listen and obey as fast as you can.

Decisions

Once you have discerned what to do, then what?  It seems easy, but too often many of us procrastinate or get distracted by the next shiny object that flutters across our path.

Pete advised, "When you receive your answer you have to act on it."  He referenced an ancient text from James (1:5-6) which encourages you to ask, believe the answer, and not doubt. 

The text touched me so much that I extended it to start at verse 2 and continue through the first part of verse 6.  I review this regularly.  Interestingly, I shared James' advice with someone last week.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  (NIV)

I added the boldface to share part of the reason this teaching appeals to me.  We all make mistakes.  Many of us have difficulty letting go of past mistakes due to our high standards.  I love the reminder that God does not find fault, but gives generously.  Kevin Finkbiner of New Life Petaluma also encouraged me with this teaching last year.

There is a lot more there too. 

(1) We will always face trials, not we might have difficulties

(2) When we push through trials we develop the skill of perseverance (or I prefer the word, "tenacity")

(3) Challenges might not be fun, but they are necessary for growth

(4) Eventually we may not have everything, but we can lack nothing important

(5) We can ask God for wisdom

(6) God answers prayer when we believe and not doubt, and lastly

(7) Doubts are the essence of an un-meaningful life

We must believe in something to thrive in this life.

Jerry reinforced this in another conversation when he shared that nothing good in life comes without pressure. 

However, too much pressure is a pressure cooker, or broaster oven.  A pressure cooker or broaster can create great food, but if you leave the food in too long it explodes. 

This is a good analogy about procrastinating too long after getting an answer...

Relationships

Mark shared and demonstrated how he builds and sustains relationships.  Do you do any of these regularly?

(a)  Mark meets with his lovely wife, Sheila, most work afternoons about 4:00 p.m. at their home to have freshly ground Sisters Coffee, sit at opposite ends of a window seat, and share what happened in their day.  They have three girls, and the last one is about to go off to college.  This is a bit easier as empty nesters, but still, it all comes down to our priorities...  doesn't it?

(b)  Mark and I met at Sisters Coffee, 8:00 a.m., every Tuesday that we were both in town.  No agenda except to deepen our friendship... even after Mark learned in March that we would not be staying in Sisters. 

(c)  Someone else told the story of how Mark passed a guy on the road near his mother's home who was living on public land in a trailer last winter.  Something about the guy struck him as kind of odd. 

The following day Mark gave him a ride and learned his story.  He then returned with Judah and Bob, buddies from Westside Sisters, to use his mother's John Deere tractor and snow shovels to find the guy's vehicle, dig him out, and fix him up with some necessary supplies. 

There was another time during a Giving Tree event before Christmas 2016 when Sheila, the girls, and Mark came across a homeless woman living in her small RV under a pile of snow and did the same for her.  Dug her out, started her vehicle, charged her batteries, trained her on how to use the motorhome, got her some clothes, and took her to his mom's where she could shower and stay a few days.

PAUSE and think about that. 

What would America, and this world be like if we all shared Mark's empathy and willingness to serve others?

Mark is not the only person who does this type of thing, and he would not boast about it.  However, these two stories are good reminders that most of us could better notice people in our community who have sincere needs and give them an occasional hand up.

Mark and Pete helped us pack our truck to move back to California.  It brings tears to my eyes.  Jerry, Mark and two other guys helped us unload on one of the coldest days of this past winter - January 13.  (I feel badly that I can't remember the other two guys' names.) 

Jerry stayed outside the entire time in sub-freezing weather, unloading a fully packed 26' truck, 20' truck, a Suburban, and Toyota Sienna van.  He prayed over every package as Mark, myself, Jeff our son, Ted his friend, and two friends of Jerry's worked inside or outside to get through it all.  I sure miss those guys...

(d)  Last example of how Mark lives his life:  Mark believes in memories.  He and his family enjoy Lake Shasta for a week each summer with one or more other families.  They regularly do other trips together. 

My favorite activity of Mark's:  He, his buddy Todd, and son-in-law did a "trifecta" in early June - In the morning they snow skied on Mount Bachelor;  midday they played 9 holes of golf;  and to close out the afternoon, they went waterskiing on the Prineville Reservoir. 

Mark reminded me that to have friends and be close to your spouse, you have to invest time with them doing fun and/or meaningful things.  

Don't let the busyness of life crowd out the joy of life.

I got to know my last Sisters' friend, Kevin, just before leaving.  However, I hope he joins my buddy list for years to come.  He's a special guy too.

3 Voices...  3 tips for today.  

I hope something here gave you inspiration to try something different in your personal and/or professional lives prior to year-end.

Be comfortable with positive change and uncomfortable with drudgery.

Choose joy, because you can.

Monday
Jul312017

7 Choices in Less Than 10 Seconds

These writings are an exception to my typical style. Nevertheless, I have met many leaders who need to commit to change.  These inspirations I received may help you.

Here are 7 Choices you can consider in less than 10 seconds that will make you a better leader:

  1. Feel the progress, not the pressure. 
  2. Choose to compliment, not to condemn. 
  3. Apply past lessons to succeed now, not to believe the lie of never. 
  4. Break your chains.  Cross your chasm.  Be the positive agent of change (you were designed to be).  
  5. "... If any of you lacks wisdom let them ask of God, who gives to all without finding fault, and it will be given to them."  
  6. "... but they who ask must believe and not doubt..."
  7. You can do it. 

Month 7 of 12 is almost gone for 2017.  Make a course correction now if it is needed.

Buddy-up if you need help, with me or someone else you trust.

Make the most of 2017 before this window closes.

Wednesday
Jul192017

Passion & Audibles

It's another day in the trenches...  Picture this: You are on the line of scrimmage playing professional football against some incredibly large human beings. 

They want to hurt you.

You know the play.  You can visualize what you need to do, and the outcome. But something else has your attention.  The play you are supposed to implement has drifted into the background of your thoughts.

Instead of focusing on what you're supposed to do, you are distracted by the sound of, or waiting for, an audible. (An audible is a change of the play at the last moment by the quarterback.)

The audible is...

The idea that just came to you...

A Client "emergency..."

An employee who needs your attention...

A family matter...

That cool new...

Do you ever have a problem with focus? Here is a simple test for how focused you are:  

Do you spend 2-4 hours a day doing the one thing that will grow your organization the most? If we are candid, most will admit "no."  I'm not consistently there yet, but much more often this year.

If you're answer is no, then why not? Because we get distracted with our wants, our wounds, and the words of others that beat us down, berate for help, and block our ability to focus on what is truly most important.

Yet, if we just paused and reflected, we know what to do. Forget the audible! Get back on track. No excuses.  We do not have time for excuses.

If you truly want to be your best, then your best time needs to be focused on what you do best that is related to your passion.

What if you lost your passion? 

 

Here is a simple process to rediscover your passion:

  1. Take a break.  Get away to think.
  2. Consider what excites you most about what you do today.  Can you identify how to do more of that? If not, get advice from people who will give you the hard truth.  Not people afraid to hurt your feelings.
  3. If nothing you are doing today really is a PASSION, then you should know what that passion is.  Identify it.  Cultivate it.  Develop a plan to transfer your career to it.

Then do this...

"If you think you are beaten, you are

If you think you dare not, you don't,

If you like to win, but you think you can't

It is almost certain you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost

For out of the world we find,

Success begins with a fellow's will

It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are

You've got to think high to rise,

You've got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go

To the stronger or faster man,

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the person WHO THINKS THEY CAN!"

Walter D. Wintle (Quotable Quote)

Life is too short to be stuck in the Doldrums. (See geographic definition, or my favorite, from The Phantom Tollbooth.)

Avoid the audibles, unless it is protecting you from risk. Don't just find your passion, cultivate it.  That's where the deepest joys and greatest laughter resides.

Enjoy the journey.

Wednesday
Jul122017

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I'm working on my next book which details my hiring system. Here is an excerpt: 

Who you add to your team is critical to your success.  After you get the best people then you have to manage, develop, and retain them.  But you have to start with the right ingredients to get a great outcome.

Look at it this way: If you have the greatest invention in the world but do not have the best people to develop, sell, deliver, and support it, then other advancements will pass you by. If you are incredibly wise and an expert with unique ways to transform the world, but do not have a great team to help reach your audience, then your wisdom will probably die with you. If you have the strength to work harder than anyone else, and the persistence to overcome any obstacle, but do not have a great team to help you expand beyond your individual limitations, then you will gain nothing.

Sports Illustrated online recently told the story of the Golden State Warriors after they lost the NBA championship in 2016.  They were ahead of the Cleveland Cavilers 3-1 after Game 4, but then lost three straight games and ultimately the title.

The team was deeply disappointed and quickly left Oracle Arena, except for Draymond Green.  Rather than sink into depression, Green was working on a solution.

Draymond Green

Green was texting Kevin Durant, a great player whose contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder was being negotiated.

Now, Draymond Green is not a "perfect" employee.  He is a great player, but his emotions on the court often draw technical fouls.

However, Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr works diligently with him because Draymond is a team player and performs well in critical situations. More importantly, Green is smart.  He had been talking with Durant for months.  This was not an emergency call to beg.  He had been building the relationship with Durant in advance.

The Warriors signed Durant.  This year the Warriors again were ahead three games to one against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Championship, but in 2017 they won.

The takeaway is this:  It is important to Hire the Best.  Do not begin a hiring process without having a goal of hiring the best possible candidate. 

You need the best people on your team to win your championships.  

Who are you going to call / invite to join your team?Don't miss the fact that a PLAYER on the Warriors was the catalyst for a strategic hire who enabled them to beat the Cavaliers in the 2017 NBA championship and be labelled a potential dynasty.

Employees in strong organizations constantly recruit because they want other superstars to join them.

Hiring is just one of the few critical systems your organization needs to master. I hope to give you a proven system for how to Hire the Best with my next book.  Stay tuned...

------

In the meantime we would love to help you hire and interview job candidates.  Our team has saved Clients millions in losses, and enabled greater revenue growth by providing unbiased advice on whether that person you want to hire is a great actor, or a true superstar.

Contact us if you want help hiring the best!

Thursday
Jun012017

3 Questions for a Leader

Here is a simple test of your leadership skills.  I suggest you not only rate yourself, but ask 3-5 people who have the strength to be candid how they would rate you.  Please do not request feedback from people who tell you what you want to hear or lack the guts to tell you the truth.

There are many ways to assess your leadership skills.  These just happen to be three strengths or weaknesses that I find recurring often with leaders whom I meet.

Gauge your leadership skills in three areas.

#1 - Do you ask for advice on how you can improve?

Most leaders are so busy they never check-in to confirm they are at their best.  They assume they are doing the "right things" and focused on what is "most important," yet rarely is this 100% true.

In reality, everyone is making mistakes.

According to Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, Never Go Back, highly successful people realize their mistakes and develop habits and systems to avoid them, whereas average performers might acknowledge mistakes but continue to make them.

Therefore you have a choice:  Continue to make mistakes, and overlook your bad habits because you are so busy, or ask people whom you trust for advice and discipline yourself to develop new, more powerful habits that overcome your bad habits.

Ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  • When did you most recently ask someone for candid feedback?
  • How many times have you asked for feedback over the past month?
  • How often do people give you unsolicited feedback?

#2 - Do you accept feedback or reject it?

Whether you get sincere feedback depends on how you respond to it.  People whom you berate or debate will avoid being candid with you.  And why should they? Your behaviors communicate you do not care about their opinions anyway.

Feedback is also referred to as "constructive criticism."  Isn't that an oxymoron?  (Air exhaled by a moron...)  I suggest you avoid that term because it is kind of passive-aggressive.  Feedback should be a balance of sincere, positive comments and insights focused on improvement.  Being open to both positive feedback to build your strengths and negative feedback to address weaknesses is a very important soft skill.

Unfortunately many people lack the ability to receive feedback in a healthy way.  As others start to give feedback they immediately shift to fight or flight mode.  The fighters often aim listen only to debate or deny.  The flighty folks might listen and then walk away muttering to themselves about how wrong the other person was.

Unfortunately, most people naturally believe they are a victim, villain, or hero, or a combination of two of these personas.  Often the natural response of a:

  • "Victim" is to whimper away or debate the feedback as an attack.
  • "Villain" is to defend and not even consider the feedback.  They may even twist the other person's thoughts into an opportunity to attack them.
  • "Hero" may be to fully consider the feedback and act upon it because they have positive self-esteem and want to build on their strengths;  or they might have such a huge ego that any un-positive feedback is simply disregarded.

Each persona is different. Ask yourself these questions to determine which persona you are:

  • When you get feedback, how do you fully consider it?
  • What questions do you ask?  Are they to explore the comments further, or identify flaws in the other person's conclusions?
  • Do you document the feedback and consider it further?
  • Do you thank the person sincerely for their opinion (hero), or debate to help them understand what you believe are misperceptions (fight - villain/victim), or end the conversation to leave as quickly as possible (flight - villain/victim)?

#3 - How do you follow-up on their advice?

Leadership is all about integrity, communication, and follow-up.Great leaders translate feedback into better personal habits, next generation solutions, and win-win outcomes.

Simply listening is not enough.  It does not matter how sincerely you listen.  If you do not act upon the feedback then your "sincerity" is pointless.

You win today by how you adapt your schedule to focus on what is truly most important while retaining your character.  Feedback plays a critical part in your success.  Do not underestimate it.

However, let's be candid, not all feedback is correct.Sometimes the other party is wrong, at least partially.  This does not mean you need to debate.  It is actually more beneficial to ask questions to fully understand how they came to their conclusions.

Sincerely exploring and considering their perceptions may lead to improvements. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have you changed with a new, powerful habit or system in response to feedback you received (you listed in #1 above)?
  • How have you changed the way you receive feedback, document and evaluate it, and act upon it based on recent feedback?
  • How are you tracking your improved behavior and/or outcomes?
  • Specifically what will you change now to improve your ability to proactively seek and sincerely receive feedback, and act upon it?

Give yourself up to 10 points for each of the 10 questions above to rate yourself as a leader.  100% is the maximum score.  How did you do?

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again." Are you partially insane? I have been. It takes discipline to be our best.  Receiving, fully considering, acting upon, and measuring the results of feedback is a powerful habit to develop.  It takes time to develop new habits, but the rewards are HUGE.

I encourage you to give it a try.  Stop the craziness.  It adds unnecessary drama to your life.

Thursday
May252017

Leadership lessons from Reed Hastings and Netflix

You can make a great profit, maybe a HUGE profit.  The project is legal.  It is unique.  Plus, the content could spill over into more revenue streams.

But... is it ethical?

In 2007, novelist Jay Asher published a book involving teenage suicide called 13 Reasons Why.  I do not know why he thought it was a good idea, but darkness often sells in today's marketplace.  

Here is the problem (from The Parent Resource Program):

More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.

Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12.

Actress Selena Gomez co-produced the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, based on Jay Asher's book by the same name.  The focus of the series and book are 13 videos created by a seventeen year old girl to explain why she commits suicide, which she does in the last episode.  

I have not read the book nor seen the series because I refuse to have full nude images of a teenage girl being raped and a teenager's bloody suicide in my brain.  I still have images from the movie, The Exorcist, which I watched about 44 years ago (Not recommended).  I don't need any more toxic waste in my brain.

Co-producer, Selena Gomez, blows off critics of the series in a NY Daily News article.  It is disappointing that Gomez, who has been in rehab to overcome some of her life wounds, could not have the wisdom to kill the series rather than promote it.  One of her comments is:

I just wanted it to come across in a way that kids would be frightened, but confused...

I have talked with leaders, parents and kids who have seen the 13 Reasons Why series.  There is a growing wave of people, including many suicide prevention experts, who are upset about a television series available to young children that promotes suicide at any age.    
 
In Central Oregon where we are visiting, people are deeply concerned about teen suicide motivated by the show - article in The Bulletin.  We were told recently that two 12 year old children committed suicide in Redmond and Bend within the last two months.  

Shame on Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO

In 2011 Reed Hastings was already four years into testing streaming video and changed Netflix subscriptions to separate DVD delivery and streaming subscriptions.  There was a huge uproar over what people perceived as a price increase, whereas in truth he was adding a new service that had passed its market test.  Part of the issue was also he was ahead of the trend.  

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix
I retained my Netflix subscription through that uproar.

This week's Harvard Business Review hails Hastings and Netflix as tied for #1 as a transformational business leader because of the revenue they generate from streaming content.

The article evaluates businesses based on three sets of metrics: (1) new growth, (2) core re-positioning, and (3) financial performance. I wonder, would they name a porn king as a transformational business leader because of phenomenal revenue growth in their new web business?  I seriously doubt it, because it would be inappropriate.  Yet a growing amount of original Netflix content is eerily inappropriate.

What is the more important standard for a truly "transformational business leader":  ethics, growth, or a combination of both?

Wait... is this consistent with Netflix Values?

Netflix has 9 core values, each of which are defined more specifically by four statements.  Here are some Netflix values that indicate why 13 Reasons Why and other objectionable content is exactly what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wants of his people:

  • Passion  |  You care intensely about Netflix' success
  • Impact  |  You focus on great results rather than on process
  • Impact  |  You exhibit bias-to-action, and avoid analysis-paralysis
  • Selflessness  |  You seek what is best for Netflix, rather than best for yourself or your group

I regularly help companies define what I call "company culture cornerstones". They include a mission, vision, values, and accountability to live them out.  Most people are aware of having a mission, vision, and values, however without accountability to live them out your company risks becoming an Enron.

I have used Netflix's values as an example.  Nevertheless, there are two concerning flaws with Netflix's values that increase the risk of serious mistakes as Netflix grows:

#1  -  Each value statement starts with the pronoun "You," rather than "We" (my preference) or "I."  "We" or "I" is a statement by an individual, or group of individuals committing themselves to behave a certain way.  "You" demands others to live by your standards, which may be higher than the standards you exhibit in your behaviors.

#2  -  Every Netflix value is narcissistic towards Netflix, their growth and profit.  None of their values commit a Netflix employee to be a good steward of the power they possess as a leading media company.  None speak of integrity, ethics, empathy, serving others, values of moral character, or are outward-focused.  

When it comes to Netflix values, they scream "It's all about me!"  There seems to be a total, intentional, blind spot to communal responsibility.  The standard is profit and growth without regard for how any negativity of their work could hurt others.

I have said for years that most of America and the secular, highly civilized world have three core values, consciously or subconsciously.  Netflix sadly demonstrates them without remorse:

#1 - It's all about me
If it's good for Netflix, we do not care who it hurts.

#2 - It's not my fault
It's not Netflix's fault that teenage suicide rates are way too high in America and worldwide.  It's not Netflix's fault that social media and Hollywood propagandize actors whose bodies and faces which have been edited to be thinner, younger, stronger... and who act out fake relationships no one will ever achieve.  

It's not Netflix's fault that 5th graders are watching 13 Reasons Why episodes with repetitive scenes of hopelessness, a full nude rape scene of a young teen, and a blood-spurting teen suicide.  Our local 5th grade classes are filled with kids who talk about the series, yet it seems many parents are not aware their kids are watching.  In reality, younger kids probably are too.

#3 - It's not my problem
I was told a 12 year old Central Oregon girl committed suicide a few days after Easter this year...  after watching 13 Reasons Why.  But that's not Netflix's problem.  It's a free country with free speech, unless of course, you have an opinion that disagrees with recognizing a third or fourth gender.

It's not Netflix's problem that people cannot appreciate the creativity of the 13 Reasons Why series without becoming depressed and killing themselves.  It's not Netflix's problem that as a company they did not even provide a notice to parents about potentially objectionable content, or remind parents that the service includes parental controls.

But wait, Netflix IS selective about their content

Earlier this month, The Truth Seeker and other media reported Netflix banned the documentary, The Red Pill, from their service.  Now, it's likely that Netflix simply decided not to list the movie on their platform. But it begs the question: Why?  Is it too violent?  Is it promoting death?  It is inspiring rape?  Is The Red Pill poor quality?

No.  The Red Pill is an award-winning documentary on the Men's Rights Movement.  I guess Netflix is more concerned about suppressing topics controversial in today's society than saving teenagers from despair, rape, and suicide.  Wow...  At least you can say Netflix lives out its values.  It makes you wonder if Netflix can recover the next time its stock goes in the tank.  Companies without ethics that are obsessed with profits do not last forever.

If you are interested, here is a Reddit post that provides a list of 18 video streaming platforms where you can watch The Red Pill instead of Netflix.

Time to cancel Netflix

I stuck by Netflix when they had their pricing debacle years ago.  However, earlier this month I cancelled our Netflix account.  I'm done with the company.  Why support a company that puts profit above the safety of vulnerable kids and people who struggle with depression?

"Anything goes as long as you make money" is not the measure of a GREAT leader.  It is the justification of a fool, and quite possibly, an evil person.  I hope the Netflix team behind 13 Reasons Why is the former, not the latter.

Unfortunately keeping a Netflix subscription endorses content like 13 Reasons Why, and more dark media similar to it.

Consumer Reports offers five alternatives to Netflix.  Find a company that has and lives out better values for the common good, not the selfish good.  CR recommendations fail to endorse Amazon Video, which I have, or Hulu - the other two leaders.  If you want DVD's, try Redbox.

What could Netflix have done differently?

First, they could re-evaluate their company values.  Great leaders say "no" to immoral profits.  Second, Netflix could have looked at teenage suicide rates and decided to use their power and influence to fight it, rather than exploit it.

People who contemplate suicide share one or more of a few attributes:

Second, some professionals conclude people who contemplate suicide may have a chemical imbalance.  I don't believe this is 100% accurate.  My understanding is the actual number of people who suffer from a chemical imbalance is less than many healthcare professionals would like us to believe.  Still, it is a cause of the problem.

A 20 year old cousin of a friend of mine committed suicide this week.  He was on antidepressants to help with a chemical imbalance.  Too many people commit suicide when on antidepressants.  I am not an expert who can join the debate as to whether suicide is a side effect of antidepressant drugs, or people who commit suicide were chemically going to make that decision anyway.  

The bottom line is Netflix could have helped further the debate on the pros and cons of antidepressants.  It could have reinforced solutions for life, rather than increase profits by dramatizing despair and death.

Third, my understanding is people who commit suicide want to end a story that is occurring in their life and start a new one.  The intense emotional desire for change blinds them to the fact that suicide does not just close a chapter of their life story, it concludes the book of their life story.  

Basically the desperation to close their current story makes them believe a fool's choice.  A fool's choice is when you think there are only two bad options.  In this case, a person can either stay in their unhappy situation or commit suicide, and anything is better than their current situation.

Russell Moore delves deeper into ending your story in a recent blog post.  Instead of profiting from misery, Netflix could have creatively and effectively taught people how to comprehend the lie that suicide closes one chapter.  They could have taught how it ends a life story, and they have other choices.

Fourth, it is common for people contemplating suicide to view themselves as victims.  In life we consider ourselves a victim, villain, or hero;  or a combination of two.  The victim is narcissistic.  No one has problems like mine.  No one is as bad as me.  It's all about me.  It is an amazing dynamic of human emotions that a pity party can feel so good, so self-justifying, so right... when it is wrong.

The message of a victim is that others caused my problems, rather than I can take responsibility for my actions.  Another victim message is, "I'm not good enough."  Some therapists motivate patients to extend therapy by convincing them they are victims.  The pity party sessions can be captivating.

This is wrong. Instead of encouraging people to feel like victims who can take an "easy way out" because they are not good enough, Netflix could have taught people how to overcome these feelings and better understand their worth as a human being.

Fifth, Netflix glorified suicide as a revenge strategy.  Someone raped and/or otherwise abused you.  You were neglected.  You were bullied.  Make them feel bad by killing yourself.  Unfortunately that does not always happen.  Even if it does, you paid too much to open the abuser's heart to their own mistakes.

Instead of encouraging suicide as a revenge story, Netflix could have exposed how this is a lie.  Netflix could have empowered people, instead of encouraging them to kill themselves.

Sixth, this is a personal belief of mine:  Netflix eliminated God, from 13 Reasons Why.  No version of God is given.  Jesus only gave one command - to love one another.  Couldn't there have been at least one person in the series at least attempting to demonstrate this foundation of human meaning?

When I was 21 years old I had two best friends, in addition to my wife.  One of them, Smitty, invited me to lunch one day.  As we drove home I remember a moment as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge when he asked me what I believed about God and who goes to heaven.  I did not have a solid answer, and Smitty let the conversation move on to other topics.  Thinking back, he was very troubled and trying to get answers.

Within one or two weeks of that lunch, Smitty committed suicide.  It broke my heart.  I had an emotional crater in my chest for years and still regret that none of us, his friends, perceived what he was planning.

It is so common for people contemplating suicide to question their spiritual beliefs about God and heaven.  They also give hints.  By leaving out God, Netflix avoided many of the reasons NOT to commit suicide such as:  You are unique and valuable.  God designed you.  God has a plan for you.  God ALWAYS loves you.

Unfortunately, Netflix had one objective in mind that massively overpowered any other:  PROFIT.  And people are taking notice.

If you want to hear more reactions to the series, I recommend reading articles in Family Life, Crosswalk, and the NY Post.  Concerns are rising rapidly.

In Conclusion

Anyone can create trash TV with nudity and violence.  It takes a truly great company, with truly great leaders, to say "no" to profitable, yet potentially dangerous content.

Decades ago I participated in cell-to-cell ministry in San Quentin State Prison and was the first volunteer director of Prison Fellowship in the San Francisco Bay Area.  One inmate I met had done time for creating illegal pornography.  Back then, more than just child pornography was illegal.  I remember he desperately wanted to find a real job.  He admitted to me that he could make a lot of money creating porn.  He knew how to do it, how to sell it, but he did not want to hurt people anymore.

As I read about 13 Reasons Why and it's disturbing imagery, I could not help but recall my conversations with that inmate and wonder if media companies are exploiting people for profits.  This guy took a stand.  Too bad Reed Hastings did not do the same.  What about now, Mr. Hastings?  How many kids have to die for you to change your standards at Netflix?  What if it was your child committing suicide after watching 13 Reasons Why?  (I hope that does not happen.)

I understand the value of creative cinema and pushing the envelope.  However, I completely disagree with the narrative, tone, and presentation of the character issues in this show.  It is a sign that Netflix is headed in the wrong direction.

It is unfortunate that Netflix's leaders did not think twice before giving 13 Reasons Why the green light.  If they had, perhaps a few young people might still be alive, and parents not wounded for life by the loss of a child.

What kind of leader will you be when you have to choose between easy profits and doing what is right?

Every leader has to make this choice, and some have to make it often.

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