Monday, July 30, 2012

Heading north?

"True north" was a wildly popular term in the late 20th century. So popular that dozens of companies, organizations and products incorporated the term into their name.  Paradoxically, it became so widely embraced and adopted that its usage in recent years has gone south

True North is, literally, a physical place.  It refers to the earth's geographic North Pole.  It is unmovable, immutable, constant, consistent.  It is, not literally, the polar opposite of Magnetic North, which varies in time and place, and by your perspective.

So, navigationally, literally and figuratively, it is best to know True North, or you may be traveling off course.

Metaphorically, it is also necessary to find and understand your True North if you wish to end up where you want to go metaphysically.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What's next?

Back when I was just beginning my climb up the corporate ladder, I had a boss who infuriated me.  We had little in common, except our employer.

I was young, confident, dedicated, eager to please and hungry to earn my stripes yesterday.  I was the proverbial young man in a hurry.  After all, I had joined the corporate world with a passel of collegiate achievements, a brain full of book-learning and ideas out the wazoo for how to do things differently and better.  Full of piss and vinegar, as they say.

He was ancient forty-something.  A West Pointer who had served in 'Nam.  He was a hard-ass and I was just a plebe.

Whenever I finished some project or assignment or report, he'd give a quick, cursory thank-you and then ask, "What's next?"  Every. Single. Time. 

I wanted a pat on the back, an acknowledgement of my brilliance, an atta-boy.  I wanted some show of gratitude for the contribution I thought I was making.  I wanted recognition.  After all, that was what I expected after being a BMOC.  Who did he think he was?

He would have none of it.  Peering over his readers, he'd ask "What's next," as if I had an actual clue as to what he was talking about.

He stifled me. I hated him.  I called him "Big Brother."

Monday, July 16, 2012

We, the leaders

Is business ethics an oxymoron such as "open secret,"act naturally" or "exact estimate?" Sure seems that way as the list of misdeeds grows.

The Libor scandal continues to gestate like that deadly virus from The Andromeda Strain.

(Even if you can't differentiate Libor from a Labradoodle, you should be paying attention as it affects pretty much everything in the world of commerce.)

Other recent transgressions include faked CEO resumes, bribery, and outright theft, to name a few.

While businesspeople acting badly is certainly not the norm, the lack of business ethics is not a new subject. The portrayal of businessmen (and women) as murderers, conspirators and villains is one that apparently never grows old.  The list of business-related morality-tale movies is long and notorious illustrious.

None of the business owners I coach or consult with are sociopaths, fortunately, and I think it is safe to say that more business owners are focused on doing good, as opposed to doing well. They're more likely to be Rotarians than recidivists.

Monday, July 9, 2012

About time

"Everybody's talking at me.  I can't hear a word they're saying." - Harry Nilsson.


Do you practice management by tuning out?  

There's the tuning out that Harry Nilsson sang about:  unhappy with your current situation, you shut out the world because you just can't handle one more request from yet another needy person.  You long for more control, a better situation, a clearer path, but aren't sure where that place may be or how to get there.  You are stuck in neutral; you know that there's a road not taken for you, but you can't find your keys.

There's also the productive kind of tuning out, one that's sadly not immortalized in song.  It's where you actively limit your distractions, focus on your priorities and feel a tangible sense of accomplishment.  You are in control, in balance, working on your business rather than in your business.  You make some progress every day, and hit your goals over time.

We all live in the same age of distraction.  It affects us all, and especially for those of a certain age, time seems to be accelerating away from us.  There's too much to do and realistically, not enough time available to do it all.  We are constantly running to catch up to our to-do lists and not making progress.  I call it the one head, many hats syndrome.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Business Scene Investigation

The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the disappointed.

The facts:

It looked like the perfect evening:
  • A summertime shindig at a recently-opened lakeside bistro;
  • A world-class chef at the grill; 
  • A pre-holiday weekend;
  • A perfect weather forecast, and
  • A renowned local band providing entertainment.
With more than a month of preparation and provisioning invested in the event, expectations were high.  Instead of a perfect evening, it was a perfect set-up:  only 35 patrons showed. A crime for sure.

The loss the house took that night is still being counted, both financial and psychic.  Certainly, the crowd was far below estimates as indicated by the number of staff on hand. While the diners were oblivious, the pain was clearly evident on the proprietor's face and in his voice.  He had been taken. Big time.