What Can I Do to Improve?

Most of the time we wait for someone to tell us…because that's what we've been taught. Rarely do we take the initiative to ask (our boss, customer, friend/spouse) this question without solicitation…mostly because we're afraid to. Asking the question invites criticism of our work, our world view and what we stand for. Asking suggests that we aren't good enough and that we have issues to correct. Perhaps the questions should be rephrased…how can I help make things better?

As a leader imagine if your front line employees came to you with that sort of initiative. Now imagine what the employee might say if you came to them with the same question…what can we do to help you realize your goals, dreams (different than asking how can we help you improve)?

We're taught that as leaders our job is to get the most out of people…that's management. We're taught to teach, measure and correct…to improve productivity and yield. We're taught that as followers we should do our best to meet standards, fit in and follow the game plan. And if we're not doing so, our bosses will tell us. But what would happen if we moved the waiting game out of the way? What if everyone every once in a while asked themselves (then those around them)…how can I make things better? Imagine how refreshing that would be.

Your Style Matters

If you consider that people always do their best work when they are treated fairly and with enthusiasm, why would anyone in a leadership position (boss or peer) treat someone any differently? How many times have we seen someone (or been someone) getting chewed out, diminished or made fun of? Treating people with a lack of dignity and respect is probably the single greatest threat to being anything.

If you can only spare enough time to make one adjustment...this is the one.


Heaven on Earth

Sitting here drinking an authentic Mexican Coca Cola (yes, there is a difference) while peering over the top of my Macbook Air at the ocean (I have my priorities)...I came across this little riff from David Wolanski 

I've been working on making changes myself so that mine isn't a colorless cubicle shaped stew pot. Part of it is preparing mentally, and part of it is thinking about how to use the tools at hand to shape something that is my own version of heaven on earth. Bring beauty and encouragement to others. Give of my time talent and treasure to make a heaven here on earth and leave a legacy behind that outlives my time this side of the veil.

Amen...and don't settle for anything less.


Forgettable Work

July, 1998...that's when I drew my line in the sand. That's when I (and my bosses) decided I wasn't going to do any more work that wasn't meaningful. It was then that I worked my last "job" (managing the hotel pictured above) where I was paid to show up and manage what someone else had concocted. I decided to start doing things that mattered, to help create stories that would outlive me.

Pretty much all the work I had done to that point was forgettable. Fifteen years of progressive hotel management...nice hotels, great locations and of course I met some wonderful people along the way.  But, by most accounts my work was pretty standard. I managed assets, processes and people. I didn't create much, I managed what someone else created. And, by traditional measurements I was successful. I received regular promotions, pay raises and more and more responsibility. With each occurence I was fulfilled...or so I thought. It wasn't until much later that I recognized I wasn't really making much of a difference. It wasn't until my last traditional hotel management assignment that I understood the path I was on...and it wasn't for me.

If you're anything like me (and you might be if you're reading this), your wired to do something other than follow a plan that someone else puts together. You're more likely to dream up your own plan, put together your own team and act it out. You're willing to live or die by it, knowing both the risks and the rewards.

If you're not like this, I encourage you to consider this seemingly risky and obscure path...just for a moment. Consider that when it comes to making a difference, enriching people's lives, giving your children and grandchildren a story to tell, forgettable work is not an option. Only legacy work counts. The other stuff is window dressing that eventually fades away.

Go out and create some legacy work...pretty please with sugar on top.

Choose Hard

Choosing hard is important. Hard defines you...much more than easy. No one remembers you for going through the motions...writing a work schedule, sending a store bought birthday card or mowing the lawn (unless you're in a wheelchair). Hard shows the rest of us that you care enough to do something meaningful and follow-through. Even if you fail, the act of trying matters. It shows the world you make tough choices, are willing to put some skin in the game and that you'll slug it out to be better than average.

The key then is to define hard in your be the one everyone else points to as the measuring stick. Whether you own a restaurant or are a freshman in college, defining the standard of hard has the same get noticed.

Some to get you going...

Lindsay Clark...the anti resume
Howard Hughes...flying an airplane that couldn't be flown...Spruce Goose
Nelson Mandela...almost 30 years in prison to end South African apartheid
Dean Karnazes...50 marathons in 50 consecutive days

Awaken Possibilities...the New Grind

As a boss, you have a choice...hire Labor to produce what you want, exactly how you want it. Give them a road map, and mandate they work as hard as they can to get you there...first. For this, you need Labor that values the trade-off between pay and the grind more than the idea of directing the outcome. Generally, you need people that are least while at work. If you're lucky, you'll survive and get that 3% margin, enough to hang on for another year.

The other choice is to hire people who care about your idea and are emotionally engaged with the outcome...people that are awake. Your job isn't to direct what these people do everyday, but to keep them awake...energized and ready to take on new possibilities.

Choosing the first path is dangerous. Not just because of diminishing returns associated with increased efficiency, but because the robot labor supply is also shrinking. While you can still find a fairly large group of rule followers willing to trade eight hours of being bored to tears for a paycheck today, this group is dwindling. Labor is figuring it out...they don't have to settle. They can get paid for for something other than working in a box...they can get paid to think...and to lead, even if their tribe is a group of one. In the process, thinking will become more valuable than doing.

As more and more of your competitors choose the latter...what's your choice really?

Awake...the new order, the new charge...the new grind. Best get started.

Happy Labor Day

Why Are You Doing It?

Companies spend a lot of time, energy and money answering this for themselves. They hire consultants, develop mantras and mission statements. It's the latest thing in a meaningful, self-reflecting, find your true north sort of exercise. They used to call it branding.

A more important question and answer might be...what are you going to do about it when you find our you're not doing it?...whatever the it was when you defined it in the beginning. Let's say for example you set out to "make people happy" because the "make a profit" answer sounded too shallow and self-serving. Question is...what are you going to do when people (both your employees and customers) tell you they aren't "happy"? Are you prepared to stop or change course...180 degrees if necessary? Would you do whatever it took to get realigned with your core values? While codifying your "why" is important, I think it's equally important to understand the likelihood that you will need to change or scrap the idea altogether. Otherwise, it's just some fancy words in a handbook...perhaps a big lie.

Actions always speak louder than words. 

First Hospitality Linchpin Award

At least as far as I know it's the first. Inspired by Seth Godin's latest book, Linchpin, I was determined to replace the traditional and tired "employee of the month" award with something more meaningful. We awarded the first one yesterday...


Idea Tanks

For me, there are certain places that just seem to foster better idea tanks. Moving vehicles happen to be at the top of the list. I suppose it’s because I’m forced into fewer activities and distractions while in them. No kids or colleagues asking for a favor, no surfing the internet (although you can do that for a small fortune on most planes now), etc. It’s an office which forces me to focus on what’s gong on in my mind vs. worrying about what might interrupt me next.

I guess there are tons of idea tanks. Some people probably use hammocks, or a small corner of the beach. In any form, they breed creativity. Where’s yours?

Sorry, gotta go, we’re about to land.

Micro Learning

Monika gets it. Learning isn't about how much and how fast you can cram into people's brains. Rather, the best learning occurs when you pair a student with someone with a perfectly matched skillset tailored just to them.  Better yet, the process occurs at the micro on one or small groups.

We call this tutoring. Previously, your search for an algebra expert or guitar master was limited to finding someone nearby. Not any more...

In Search of Expert Individual Tutors

Your project can work the same way. Why limit solving problems to those around you when there's a better way?

Why Your Company's Performance Matters

Your company wants you to perform at the top of your game. When you do, it greatly improves their chances of winning. But, why should you care? What's in it for you?

If you have 3 or so minutes to spare, here are my two cents on the matter...

Corporate Office

I recently chimed in on a conversation about the value of a corporate office...let me know your thoughts.

My 2 cents on Corporate Offices...the great ones do five things really well:

  1. Talent- They      hire the brightest, most passionate people they can afford. And, ones they      can trust. Great companies understand you can't really teach passion,      personality and caring...all a big part of delivering a meaningful      hospitality experience. So, they focus on recruiting people who are great      at this naturally.
  2. What, not How-      They, along with these passionate people, develop and agree on the BHAG      (big, hairy, audacious goals...borrowed from Jim Collins). They focus on      the objective, not how to get there (those really smart people they hired      figure that out). They don't worry about the minutiae, like precisely what      to say to each guest at the front door. Rather, they  focus on the      big stuff, like guest satisfaction of 90% or greater, etc.
  3. Support- They      give people the tools and training to do the technical part of the job.      The mechanics of service can be taught (how and when to retrieve luggage      from a vehicle).
  4. Value Driven-      They stay out of the way (of the smart people), offering support, not      necessarily guidance. Rather than control every move, they allow people to      prosper and add value to the organization.
  5. Care- They put      people first, the business second.

After reading that list again, it really boils down to hiring passionate, competent people who you can trust...and who are generally interested in the same things you are.

Don't Quit...Connect

A lot of people with talent quit...and they often quit because they listen to people they know and trust. Problem is...many of these people are fear based decision makers who are always looking for the safe, quick and least stressful route. People like Paul somehow get past that, take a chance and try to connect with new people who will value the talent they have.

Watch the video. Thanks to Seth for the pointer.

Raw Talent

I recently read this quote in a WSJ article..."A good employee or a good sales associate might be worth five or 10 times an average one.". It's a very good article about the value of service...definitely worth the read. But, it's this quote that really garnered my attention. I think a great employee is worth far more than five or ten times that of an average associate...probably a hundred times more, maybe higher. Here's just part of my basis...based on my short twenty-two years in the biz:

Great Employees

  • don't need to be managed
  • don't break important rules...and break the less important ones for the right reasons
  • think and create
  • are accountable and responsible
  • have passion
  • don't need to be motivated by you...they're self-propelled
  • make you look good
  • are trustworthy
  • have fun
  • think first about the team, then of themselves
  • seem to get it that the customer and their co-workers are more important than they are
  • leave when they know the time is right...for a better experience
  • they smile a lot...and get others to do the same

They play to win

Average Employees

  • spend an inordinately long time in training
  • work for pay, not for the experience or the ride on the bus
  • break rules for selfish reasons
  • hang-on to the job because it's owed to them
  • blame everyone else for things that go wrong, especially the customer
  • need constant motivation and incentive to do a good job
  • are afraid to fail
  • do just enough to get by
  • take risks to benfit only themselves
  • are late a lot
  • often seem troubled about things
  • they frown alot...and get others to do the same

They play not to lose

You've noticed that my list is based on personality, traits and character...not on job skills. My list is based on raw talent...what a person comes equipped with before you get your hands on them. Raw talent  is based on how people see themselves and what they want to accomplish in's the seed for passion and remarkability. And, unfortunately, it can be the foundation for average. Your job is to sniff out what's underneath...before they get on board.

Average people need jobs. Extraordinary people want them.

Mine is just a partial list. I would love to see yours. I'll be spending more time on this subject in an upcoming podcast...and will be happy to highlight your add-ons.

Are You Having The Time Of Your Life?


Earlier this week, we lost a person who perfectly examplified how passion, enthusiasm and smiles make work look like play. Steve Irwin indeed always looked like he was having the time of his life...and showed us that it's the easiest way to get things done, be heard, influence others and yes, sell something. While some may think less of his overt nature, I personally enjoyed the show.

I believe that education is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message., Steve Irwin (1962-2006).

Thank you Steve for showing us how it's done.

And, thank you Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen blog, for reminding me.

Memorial Video found on You Tube.

Setting People Up

Are you setting people up to win…or to fail?

If you’re in control of a property, department or shift, you need to think about this.

Are you fostering an environment of creativity, passion and energy? Do you really listen to people and thank them for their ideas? Do you give credit for mistakes? Do you care about their dreams…do you even know what they are?

Or, do you hope no one disturbs the flow of things? Do you wish people would just show-up, shut-up and “do their job”? Do you hope that everything just goes according to plan?

If you aren’t living and working in the first section, you are doing yourself, your staff and the organization a huge disservice. You are setting them up to fail.

You’re primary responsibility as a leader is to set people up to win. If you do that well, the rest of the plan has a chance.