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The glorification of busy.

always-open-closed11Has anyone ever qualified a question with the following: “I know you’re busy, but…”?

This happened to me the other day, and I had two immediate reactions.

My first reaction—> I was glad they recognized my schedule was packed with busy and important things.
(Confession: that observation made me feel important and popular).

My second reaction—> I was frustrated that my busyness made them think I wouldn’t have time for them.

Too often, I over emphasize my busy schedule.
When people ask me “How are you?” usually my response includes something along the lines of “Good, I’ve been staying really busy, etc etc etc.”
We live in a world that masters the glorification of being busy.
While busy seasons come and go, defining myself by my busyness will communicate that I’m unavailable.
So even though I desire for others to know that I am always open, my actions show that I am closed.
What would it look to communicate a more open and flexible schedule?

I’ve set a new goal—> To stop defining myself by being busy, and to be more approachable and flexible so people don’t begin conversations by first acknowledging my limited availability.

That’s been on my mind this week…I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions you all might have!

 

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What an Entrepreneur can Learn From The Seahawks Victory Over The Redskins

seahawks victory source komo news

Image Source: KOMO News

This post is about the Seahawk’s versus Redskins playoff game and why it was amazing. The Seahawks faced off with the Redskins but in the very first quarter the Seahawks found themselves down 0 – 14, held scoreless in the first quarter with no apparent chance of winning.

Seattle’s defense just couldn’t stop the Redskins, nor could their offense move the ball leaving the Redskins to totally dominate the field. But in the second, third and fourth quarters, the Seahawks pulled out their magic to  turn the game around, preventing the Redskins from scoring and eventually winning the game 24-14.

When I see that level of play, I have to ask myself what happened. Just how did this team go from zero to fourteen to win the playoff, especially at an away game where the Seahawks have been known to be at a disadvantage?

Pure skill leads Seattle Seahawks to victory

One of the aspects of this particular game that made it remarkable was the fact that the win wasn’t the result of mere luck. They rightfully won because of pure skill and their ability to pull together to become the better team.

Seattle didn’t enjoy a lucky fumble or a sudden runback to touchdown. Neither did the winners benefit from injury to the opposing team that might have taken one of their star players off the field. It really wasn’t luck that lead the Seahawks to victory, but that the Seahawks simply proved themselves to the superior players.

Leadership by Coaches & Players

Another noteworthy aspect of the Seahawk win was the evidence of leadership both on and off the field. Finding your team down 14-0 in foreign territory can quickly break your momentum and make it almost impossible for your team to function effectively.

In order to come back from a deficit like that, clear leadership has to be in charge, not only of the defense and offense, but of the entire coaching staff. If the team hadn’t been confident from the top down in their ability to overcome, they would have never been able to come from behind to win the game.

Play callers adapted their strategy

The Seahawk’s ability to respond in real time, and adapt their game strategy accordingly, proved to be a major contribution to their strong play and eventual victory. At the outset, seemingly none of their game plans worked as intended.

Their offensive strategies didn’t work and their defensive strategies were no better. Thinking of the players on the field as chess pieces, you understand that their job is to be moved and to follow the instructions given by the coaches. So when Seattle found themselves down by 14, the play makers and coaches had to identify not only what was wrong but how to fix it.

It’s fair to say that  the coaches’ clear ability to adapt their game strategy eventually lead the team to victory. Of course, that was only possible because the players respected the coaches enough to listen to them rather than take matters into their own hands. That was evidence of teamwork at its finest, a quality that any Super Bowl bound team should have.

What really made this game enjoyable to watch was the level of sportsmanship at work; the entire team functioning as one in order to overcome a 14-0 deficit and dominate the rest of the game, advancing the Seahawks to the next round.

What  can a business leader learn from this victory?

Seeing these qualities and noticing what contributed to this win makes me want to compare this game to winning in business. In the world of business and entrepreneurship, how does the Seahawk’s success compare to how we function as business owners? You can imagine that being 0-14 in the first quarter of a playoff game would be comparable to trying to make a $40k payroll in seven days, fully knowing that you’re $20k short with no obvious solution in sight. It’s the same gut feeling as having to ask yourself “What am I going to do if I can’t pay my employees?”

Generating new revenue

In such a case, in order to pull yourself out of that apparent defeat, you might have to rally your sales force and back them with the full support of your entire team; providing leadership to do what appears to be impossible without demoralizing your entire office by telling your staff that you’re having difficulty making payroll.

Close open projects

Instead of making more sales, it may prove simpler to increase your cash flow by completing open projects or stepping up efforts to collect on accounts receivable. In order to execute that you may have coordinate between your accounting and operations staff to reach your goal. Close communication with your employees can be instrumental to everyone contributing their best efforts, even beyond the usual scope of their job descriptions.

Investor Relations

One final solution to make payroll possible would be to speak with your bank or the investors in your company who have a clear and vested interest in the stability of your workforce and the company at large. Key stakeholders may be able to help you source the necessary funds that would help get you over that hump if they’re willing to act from a long-term perspective.

No matter how you look at it, whether you consider the Seahawk’s victory or this business scenario, the key takeaway here is your ability to remain grounded despite your impulse to panic when you’re staring defeat squarely in the eye. Maintain your ability to visualize the win by understanding that you’ve build the team and have your team around you to support your mutual goals. Together you can shift impossibility to reality by never losing sight of what you’ve set out to accomplish.

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”We always marry the wrong person.”

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

relationshipsA recent NY Times article asked, “Is marriage headed for an overhaul?”  The author was responding to what experts are saying, that “there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.”  Some even suggest that short-term marriage contracts may be the answer.  But does favoring till awhile do us part versus till death do us part offer an answer to the marriage dilemma?  Or does our culture simply misunderstand compatibility?

Blink [see a new perspective]

Maybe marriage’s fatality rate doesn’t stem from commitment issues, but compatibility issues. We have no problem committing to people that we are in love with. But what happens when that love changes? The root of the matter is, for better or worse, can you commit to being compatible with the same person 10 years from now? 20 years from now? Forever? Stanley Hauerwas, an Ethics Professor at Duke University, comes to a similar conclusion:

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become ‘whole’ and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”

Shift [try it out]

As busy people, we make commitments all the time. Whether it involves a project, a job, or a person, there are various levels of commitment: informed, interested, highly motivated, as well as uninformed, uninterested, and unmotivated. The bottom line is this: what you commit to matters and how you commit matters. Contracts might be realistic for some matters, but relational contracts might not be the best idea. When it comes to any kind of relationship, commitment and compatibility must be at the forefront of your mind. After a commitment is made, the relational chemistry will most likely shift. Marriage is an excellent example of this, but other relationships – i.e. business partners, clients, customers, friends – change, too. The challenge with commitments is continuing to be aware and intentional with the dynamics within the relationship. People are not contracts, and they must be treated with care. Imagine if you spent the same amount of time and energy that you do with your career as you do with your husband or wife. That kind of devotion could change everything. In any relationship where you go above and beyond, people are bound to notice. And in turn, they will notice if you aren’t going above and beyond.

Listen [hear from our community]

I met my wife in college. When you marry a person it’s not about being perfect and compatible for each other forever. It’s about making a commitment to each other to take that life journey together for the rest of your lives. The stage that we met at in college is way different than the early working years while starting a career. That stage is completely different than the stage when we started to have a family. It’s always changing and people are always changing. The key thing is relationships; it’s about total commitment and putting the energy into the relationship. If you think you just have to put the energy in at the beginning to win the person’s heart you’re wrong. In business, it’s all about relationships. A co-founder  an employee, a customer. A customer doesn’t do business with a company, it’s a person doing business with another person. Once you recognize that it’s all about people you understand it’s all about relationships. Once it’s about the relationship there isn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for a co-founder, employee, or customer as long as there is a relationship. Once it becomes unconditional it becomes special and that’s where the magic is.  

-Peter Chee, CEO and founder of Thinkspace 

Leading From The Middle

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

Lead from the middle box of crayonsLeadership is important, and among the ever-changing workplace, a new kind of leadership has emerged.  The traditional model of hierarchical top-down leadership is effective, but this different type of leadership includes people from the bottom up.  Empowering people to lead gives them more than just another responsibility – it gives them authority and assures them of their value.

Blink [see a new perspective]

Leadership is not positional.  Some business models have adapted the servant leadership approach, acknowledging that leadership is more about relationships and influence than it is about control.  Some even argue that leadership comes more from the middle of an organization than it does from the top.  Fast Company posted a recent article which states that organizations need not one, but multiple leaders in order to “steer their companies, and modern business, toward more sophisticated models.”

Shift [try it out]

Even if you’re not the head of an organization, you can still influence those that you work for, those that work with, and those that work for you.  Leading from the middle is not only effective, but necessary.

Listen [hear from our community]

I’ve observed a lot about leadership over the years; some by being led, some by successfully leading and some by failing. What is clear to me is that there is no single way to lead. Sometimes leadership is so transparent and effusive that everyone is inspired and magically moves as a group in the “right” direction. Other times the leadership is overt – giving strong and obvious directions that everyone must follow, in a silent single-file-hand-to-shoulder-march in order to be brought safely out of harms way.  A good leader knows how to fit the leadership style to the circumstance. 

-Howard Mahran, CEO and Founder of Deep Domain

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There’s no weakness in forgiveness.

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

Forgiveness is not a natural human response. At times, it’s even easier to forgive people for being wrong rather than being right. In a competitive environment like a workplace, forgiveness can seem more like a sign of weakness rather than a helpful step towards resolution. With so many reasons of why it’s hard to forgive, are there any arguments that can be made for forgiveness?

Blink [see a new perspective]

Studies completed by the scientific community (such as the Mayo Clinic) illustrate the positive effects of forgiveness. They have found that resentment impairs your thinking and negatively affects your health (i.e. high stress and blood pressure). Therefore, freeing yourself of resentment by practicing forgiveness can actually benefit your health. It also creates a more effective work environment where communication flows more clearly (and without the passive aggressive undertone).

Shift [try it out]

Keep in mind that forgiveness is a choice. No matter how you feel about the situation, you can always choose to move through it and take steps towards forgiveness and reconciliation. A book that I’m currently reading explains this process perfectly:

“You must forgive in order to understand. Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding…If you forgive you may indeed still not understand, but you will be ready to understand, and that is the posture of grace” Home, by Marilynne Robinson.

This week, do a self-check and ask “Who am I resentful towards?” If a person comes to mind, remind yourself about the benefits of forgiveness, stop defining the situation based on emotion and hurt, and take the steps to forgive.

Listen [hear from our community]

Forgiveness is the choice to not hold the wrong-doer accountable anymore. Holding a grudge only hurts the grudge-holder, but forgiveness frees you up to have more and better opportunities. Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciliation or closeness, although it can in the best case scenarios. Forgiveness means that you give up your right to be angry, bitter or vengeful toward the wrong-doer. The result is peace and personal power.

  1. Identify the wrong that’s been done.
  2. Identify what justice would look like.
  3. Choose to forgive and let go of your right to get even.
  4. Be released of the power that person’s wrong-doing has had over you.
  5. Verbalize well-wishes for the person.

– Michelle Holloman, Eastside Counseling and Coaching

Thankfulness vs Stressfulness

I'm thankful for...

Enter [what’s been on my mind]

Many of the things that I’m thankful for also tend to stress me out.

Blink [see a new perspective]

As an avid list maker, I recently made two lists.
The first list: ten things that stress me out.
The second list: ten things that I am thankful for.
In comparing the two lists, I noticed crossover between them. Because while family and friends stress me out, they are also the source of my deepest gratitude. And yes, finances can definitely be stressful. But at the end of the day, I am so thankful for the roof over my head and the resources I have access to.

Shift [try it out]

This Thanksgiving, keep your stresses in check. Chances are they might also be what you’re thankful for.

Listen [hear from our community]

“I am so thankful I have a daughter. She is the greatest gift God has ever given me. But having a daughter is also stressful because I have to make sure she is taken care of, and I am responsible for her growing up to have strong values and work ethic. Plus, make sure that she is good to others and is a contributing member to our society.”
-Anne Marie Bachman of Hammerhouse

Strongest. Referral. EVER

I was reading this article “The 6 People You Need In Your Corner” by Jessica Hagy (@jessicahagy) a Forbes contributor. The six types are: 1) The Instigator; 2) The Cheerleader; 3) The Doubter; 4) The Taskmaster; 5) The Connector; 6) The Mentor. The one that I appreciate most is The Cheerleader. This person happens to be my ex-boss — he’s the guy that I hope to become half of what he is and I’ll consider myself successful. Jessica Hagy describes The Cheerleader:

The Cheerleader: “This person is a huge fan, a strong supporter, and a rabid evangelist for you and your work. Work to make this person rewarded, to keep them engaged. This is the voice of motivation”

Recently, he said to me “Pete, I want to make an introduction for you”. While it’s cool that the person that he wanted to introduce me to is someone who could potential open doors for me that I didn’t know existed, that’s not what I appreciate most. It’s how he made the introduction.

Standard Way

[listcheck]

  • Email Introduction
  • They Respond
  • You Respond
  • Meet For Coffee

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The Cheerleader, Advocate, Rabid Evangelist Way

[listcheck]

  • Email Introduction
  • They Respond
  • You Respond
  • Cheerleader says: “Pete, I’m going pick you up and drive you to his office”
  • Cheerleader says in the meeting: “Pete is one of the best hires I’ve ever made in my life… gush, gush, gush.”
  • Cheerleader stays in the meeting for the entire time (meeting was scheduled for 1/2 hour, but, goes 2 hours!)

[/listcheck]

Generosity With Their Time

Discussions between me and the person that I got introduced to are still progressing. Regardless of the outcome, what I appreciate most is the support, belief in me, and generosity with his time. Time away from work, family, or anything else that is important to him. Time is the most valuable thing that anyone can give. Not to minimize the email referrals that I’ve received over the years (which I certainly appreciate), but, who does this kind of thing for another person?! He’s the one that gave me an opportunity early in my career and believed in me like no one else ever has. I feel like he took a chance on me when there were plenty of other people that were more qualified, had more experience, and smarter than me. He’s the ultimate cheerleader and if I didn’t have any of the other five types of people in my corner I’d say this one person was enough for my life.

I hope in the future I’ll be able to do the same thing for someone else.

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Building Your Startup with a Mom Squad

At Thinkspace on October 18th I met Edward Hechter, former Web.com executive who helped take a company public as the COO. One of his biggest challenges was going from a super low point of having only enough cash flow for six days but had a workforce of 300 employees — of which he had to trim down to 80 employees in order to survive. Not only did he manage to help turn the company around from the low point, but, he helped rebuild that company into a very successful company.

Mom Squad

Edward’s, current company Party Pail has a fascinating story. He bootstrapped the company from zero revenue to over $4.43M in 2011 and was ranked 9th on the PSBJ Fastest Growing Companies List and recently sold the company in July 2012. That’s a very interesting and inspiring story, but, there’s another story that is just as interesting. It’s not that he did this, but, how he did this. He did this with a workforce that is 80% moms. Moms is defined as women who left their professional careers to raise children for a healthy period of time — some as long as 12 to 16 years.

Mom’s Are Reliable

Edward described some of the people and said that “Mom’s are reliable. They are hard workers. They get their job done in the amount of time that they have. They are loyal. They multitask”. From their blog: “They care for each other in the same way they care for their own families. And they care for each of our clients in the same way! They think about problems we face with love, and sensitivity, and they act on their maternal instincts.”

What Mom’s Want

“We found that the one thing almost each of these people wants in flexibility in how work intersects with their personal and family lives. As such, we’ve striven to create flexibility in our staffing to allow each of these people to work as many hours as they need, while also allowing them the opportunity to stay active in their family, school, and community interests.”

Can You Build a Startup With 80% Part-Timer Moms?

What do you think? Do you need to hire people that are working full-time? I think startup CEO’s think they need people that don’t just work full-time but work 60-80 hours a week. It’s very obvious that Edward has found a way to build an amazingly successful company without having to hire purely full-time staff. I am wondering from Edward or someone else who has done something similar, what is the biggest challenge in hiring so many part-time people. Are the positions primarily in overlapping positions? Were they positions of leadership? What would a startup need to have in place in order to be successful in doing something like this?

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Think You’re a Risk Taker?

I like the thrill and rush of doing things but this one is way outside my comfort zone. My friend Nicole Donnelly shared this on her FB page, but, I thought it was worthy of posting over here as it’s CRAZY. Watch the video at the end of this blog post… even though you know he lives it still is pretty nerve wracking.

Physical and Mental Pounding

As a person running a company I think it’s important to push your limits. It’s important to know how far you can push yourself and know that you won’t break if you push just a little bit harder. Being an entrepreneur, I know I’ve stepped into situations where I had no clue how challenging it would be to get through it, but, because of my attitude of I can power through anything I just step in and do it. Last year when I ran my first Half Seattle Marathon, during the last three miles of run, I remember thinking this is the hardest thing I’ve ever put my body and mind through. At the end I had the feeling that I am pretty sure this experience is going to help me overcome future challenges.

What do you do?

What do you do to prepare yourself for the unexpected? In startup life and over the course of the first few years of running a company so many thing can go in directions that you least expect, it seems like you have to be both physically and mentally strong to get through all craziness!

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQef06srBeQ&feature=related”]

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Everyday Leadership In Your Startup and Lollipop Moments

Drew Dudley presented at TEDxToronto and gave a speech that completely resonates with me. Drew spoke about “Everyday Leadership“. When I think about today’s leaders, I think about President Obama, Richard Branson, my ex-boss Stuart Mckee and the list goes on and on. Drew believes leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary. He believes that each of us can discover the leader within ourselves.

“We’ve taken this title of leader and we treat it as if it was something that one day we’re going to deserve, but to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do that we’ve convinced ourselves that those are the only things worth celebrating, and we start to devalue the things that we can do everyday. – Drew Dudley”

Last week I wrote about “Transparency: Too Much Or Not Enough In Your Startup Culture?“. I mentioned that we have a daily huddle and we share one thing that we appreciate about someone on the team. For me, I see leadership every single day in every single one of my employees when they are able to share what they appreciate about someone. Each of my employees has the ability to be extraordinarily powerful in each others lives.

In Drew’s speech he talks about how he was giving out lollipops. I’m not going to even try to paraphrase the story that he shares so I would highly encourage you to just go watch the entire TED talk. I will quote Drew one more time:

We need to redefine leadership as being about lollipop moments, how many of them we create, how many of them we acknowledge, how many of them we pay forward, and how many of them we say thank you for.

In our thinkspace culture we have three core values, one of them is:
[listplus]

  • Wow Customer Service, Every Engagement, No Exception.

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When I think about this core value, I also think about how my team is creating “lollipop moments” every single day for each of our thinkspace members and their customers. There’s something really special in that. Every single day we can be leaders.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Tom Peters:

“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”

What are some of your “lollipop moments” in your startup company?