Who is Stevie Ray

Aside

Stevie Ray has been a columnist for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal since 1997, making him the longest running local columnist for the publication.  Not long ago, his column became nationally syndicated to all Business Journals across the country.

Stevie writes from his perspective both as a business owner and man-on-the-street customer.  He is the author of four books and has his work published in the Harvard Business Review.  If you like what he has to say, leave a comment.  If you don’t like what he has to say, leave one anyway.

Work and Play Go Hand in Hand

http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2014/11/how-play-can-boost-your-business-skills.html

I’ve Got to Get Back to Play

“You can go out and play after you finish your work.” “You can have dessert after you finish your vegetables.” This singular approach to life, and to work, defines our attitude about duty versus pleasure. You can’t have one until you complete the other. Admittedly, adults do have cause to impose a certain discipline on their children with this philosophy. Without it, homework would get put off until it was too late to even get a good start. There is, however, research that suggests our misunderstanding of the brain is creating a workplace atmosphere that is counter to our ultimate goal; get a lot done and enjoy doing it.

His is book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Stuart Brown discusses both the effects of play behavior on the brain as well as modern attitudes about play. Play behavior and work behavior both have a place in our daily routine, and they work side by side to create a healthy, productive individual. Work behavior is outcome-based, is done for a finite amount of time, and most often leaves a person feeling tired. Play behavior has no outcome attached to it, there is no set time limit, and it leaves you feeling energized.

Work behavior is crucial for a well-adjusted human, we need to know we have accomplished something in order to build self-esteem. The problem is, because play behavior is non-outcome-based, we think of it only as a reward. The mistake here is not understanding how work and play go hand-in-hand in the brain. Behaviors need the other in order for the brain to flourish. Play behavior releases different chemicals to be released in the brain than work behavior. These chemicals lubricate the brain’s thinking mechanism; keeping us functional and happy. If play is removed, the brain ceases to release necessary chemicals, causing a shut-down of certain functions. As such, the opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.

The other wonderful benefit of play is its effect on our professional skills. Play behavior actually causes a sharpening of our skills in strategic thinking, mental flexibility, and creative problem solving; which are necessary skills in every profession, whether it is arguing in court, handling a last-minute design change, or dealing with customers. I am constantly asked to help companies train their staff to deliver better customer service. Most of the time the company has only done the first step by telling staff members what they are specifically empowered to do to satisfy a customer. That is the easy step. Customer service happens on the fly, and sometimes the plan doesn’t fit. If the employee has to call in a manager every time a unique situation arises, both the employee and the customer are frustrated. On-the-spot challenges is when a play-enabled mind kicks in and creates a solution. The outcome is a happy customer and an employee who is on top of the world; ready to take on the next challenge.

The mistake people make in separating work and play is they try to train staff to handle challenges using only the work part of the brain. An attorney preparing for court will consider every possible contingency and prepare a response. This is a crucial step, but not sufficient. Preparing for every contingency is enabling your conscious brain, but when a surprise happens (and it always does), your subconscious abilities must be fine-tuned; this is where a play-enabled brain shines. Only employing a working mentality is like a coach forcing his or her team to only practice the plays from the book. A lot of work is getting done, but there is no preparation for the unexpected. Letting the team free-play develops the last-minute strategy-and-response needed to win.

The solution is clear, play behavior must be blended with work behavior, not separated. Putting in a long day at work cannot be balanced by a quick trip to the gym or tennis court. Brief moments of non-outcome-based, social activity throughout the day can be a part of any workplace culture. And you don’t need to take an hour away from your desk. A thirty second game passing each other in the hall is enough to re-lubricate the brain and get you back on track.

Yet, even with all this evidence, there is still the biggest obstacle to overcome, this is the way we have always done it. Play has always been a reward after work, not a part of the work day. And yes, things have turned out fine with that approach. However, evidence proves things could be even better by blending instead of separating. So, if fine is good enough for you, so be it. I want better than fine, so I’ve got some play to get done.

 

Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management.  He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or stevie@stevierays.org.

Want to Help the Competition? Bad-Mouth Them

Some time ago I conducted a workshop for an executive retreat for Really Big Company, Inc. Charles, one of the committee members for the retreat, had e-mailed me to inquire about my programs, fees, etc. Rather than e-mail him the information, I followed the advice of a colleague who said she rarely replies to an initial e-mail with an e-mail response. She picks up the phone and calls them back within an hour of the e-mail, if possible. So that’s what I did. Charles was surprised at getting an actual phone call.

At the end of the call he said, “Okay. We’re down to you and (he gave the name of another company that provides similar training). I’ll call you in a week or so and let you know who we decide to use.” Isn’t it funny? Even though we business owners know we are constantly being compared to the competition, we almost never hear about it. We rarely hear that the job is down to just us and one competitor. I waited anxiously by the phone for two weeks. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep (my wife did make me shower occasionally). Finally Charles called and said, “I spoke with the committee and we decided to go with you.”

I thought we would jump right into the details of the event. Charles surprised me by saying, “We at Really Big Company, Inc. like to give feedback to our vendors. Would you like to hear why we choose you instead of your competition?” Would I? How often do you get a chance like that? Charles said, “I presented both you and your competitor’s information to the committee, but I also gave my immediate recommendation that we go with you.” I started thinking of all the reasons why he would recommend me; price, my experience, he was more familiar with my company, client testimonials. “I told the committee,” he continued, “that when you call Stevie Ray, you get Stevie Ray. Not some assistant who will take a message; leaving you wondering when you will hear back. Heck, Stevie Ray even picks up the phone and calls you! We have enough work to do putting this event together; wouldn’t it be nice to have one element that doesn’t cause stress?” That was it. I didn’t get the job because I am experienced, effective and devilishly good-looking; I got it because I picked up the phone.

Two weeks later I met with the committee to work out the details of the workshop. When I arrived Charles pulled me aside and said, “Like I said before, Really Big Company, Inc. likes to give feedback to vendors. I already told you why you got the job. Let me tell you what your competitor said when I told that them they didn’t get the job. Since the head guy is never in the office, I had to talk to his assistant. I told him the reason they lost the job wasn’t because they didn’t have a good program. They didn’t get the job for two reasons; they were difficult to get in touch with, and they seemed really arrogant about their program. Their attitude was like, if we didn’t go with their system we were fools.”

Charles continued, “When I told him we were going with you, he lost it. He said, ‘Stevie Ray. We never lose business to him. We work with bigger companies, higher level executives, and offer a broader range of services.’”

Charles looked me straight in the eye and said, “I stopped that little puke mid-rant and said, “We at Really Big Company, Inc. have a philosophy; we never allow any of our employees to bad-mouth the competition. Negative comments are usually untrue, and always unacceptable. We don’t allow it among our staff, and we certainly do don’t business with anyone who does that.” Now Charles smiled, “You should have heard him try to back-peddle his way out of that. ‘Well sir, I didn’t mean to imply anything negative about Mr. Ray. I’m sure his programs are really good.’ But I had heard enough. Not only did they lose this job, but they are off my list for good. By the way, Stevie, you have grounds for slander, since none of the statements the guy made were true and could hurt your business.”

I was certainly not interested in going to court over some administrative assistant’s ranting. I was interested, however, in learning from my conversations with Charles. The first lesson, an e-mail can never sell you better than your own sweet voice. People don’t buy services or products, they partner with people. Second, say only nice things about your competition. I am a member of the National Speakers Association (for professional speaker/trainers). I had a phone call from one prospective client who said she was considering me or a couple of other speakers in my field. She added, “When I mentioned that you were in the running, they both said “You can’t do better than Stevie Ray! Whether you choose me or him, you will have a great event.” She added, “Their willingness to speak so highly of you made me trust them all the more. It actually made the decision more difficult because now I wanted to hire all of you.”

Sometimes the old advice can’t be beat. Don’t be lazy, pick up the phone. And if you can’t think of something nice to say about someone else, say something nice anyway.

Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management.  He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or stevie@stevierays.org.

If someone forwarded this article to you and you would like to have Stevie Ray’s column sent to you each month absolutely free, click here.

Help your employees learn firsthand the techniques Stevie Ray has gained from working with corporations around the globe.  Click here right now to go to the web site for Stevie Ray’s Improv Company and see what he can do for you.

If your company is planning an event and you need entertainment so this one doesn’t feel just like the last one, click here.

Learn to deliver powerful presentations, think on the spot, and other valuable skills by clicking here and ordering books authored by Stevie Ray.

How to Trim an Alpaca’s Tooth

I have some old friends, Dave and Joan, who live in Northern Minnesota. For years they have raised sheep and goats because, hey, they live in Northern Minnesota. What else do you do there? On a recent visit they were excited to show off the newest member of the flock, an alpaca. If you are unfamiliar, an alpaca looks like a small llama. Alpaca wool would add a unique offering to the sheep wool they sold from their farm. There was only one problem. The rancher who sold them the alpaca had not taken great care of the animal. Apparently, alpacas do not have upper teeth. They have lower teeth that constantly grow throughout the animal’s lifetime. The lower teeth grind against a very hard upper palate, which keeps them at the proper length for eating, biting, and whistling at pretty female alpacas.

This particular alpaca’s lower teeth had, at one point, shifted. The two front teeth lost contact with the hard upper palate, so they kept growing and growing. By the time my friends got the animal, the two front teeth were so long they looked like a horn growing out of the animal’s mouth. The teeth curved from the lower jaw all the way to the alpaca’s forehead. The alpaca was able to eat, with some difficulty, by biting off grass and hay with the side of its mouth and chewing with its molars. This of course, wasn’t ideal, and made for an uncomfortable animal (not to mention all the other animals not letting him play in any alpaca games).

They chose the weekend of my visit to try to fix the problem. I was glad for this because I was afraid we were just going to sit around and, you know, talk. The big question was, how do you trim an alpaca’s teeth? I forgot my Camelid Dentistry book at home, which was a good thing because I didn’t need the embarrassment of having to admit I didn’t know if their alpaca was a Suri or Huacaya breed.

We did what all modern humans do in situations of crisis, turn to YouTube. A search for Trimming Alpaca Teeth actually turned up three, count ‘em, three videos on the subject. One video showed an Australian alpaca rancher using a device specifically manufactured for trimming alpaca’s teeth. Apparently, alpaca tooth misalignment wasn’t that rare. (A common result of domesticating animals is that they lose the ability to live without ongoing intervention, which is why my dog will eat Jell-O Pudding unless instructed otherwise.)

After viewing the video a few times, we called area Home Depot and Lowe’s stores to see if they carried the alpaca tooth trimmer. It became a game to see how long the silence was from the time of our request to them hanging up on us. Stuck with no access to the proper equipment, Dave and Joan took another look at the video. Dave said, “You know, that trimmer looks like nothing more than a Dremel tool.” (A Dremel™ tool looks like a handheld dentist’s drill and can “cut through anything.” If you don’t have one in your home, seriously think about getting one. I have built an entire treehouse using nothing but a Dremel.)

Being good farmer/ranchers, Dave and Joan had a Dremel in the shop right next to the sickles and chaff cutters. The next thing you know we have the alpaca laying on its stomach, I am sprawled across its back haunches to keep it steady, Dave is sitting on its shoulders so he can hold its mouth open, and Joan is holding a small hose to provide a stream of cold water so the teeth won’t overheat. The alpaca was actually quite calm as Dave sawed off and trimmed the two offending teeth. I was less calm; partly because the process created that unmistakable smell you get when the dentist drills a cavity, and partly because I was lying across the haunches of a 180 pound animal that was getting its teeth ground.

Within a few minutes the job was done and the alpaca bounded happily toward the feeding trough. At least, I assume it was happy. It’s hard to see an alpaca smile through all that wool. What is the lesson in all of this? One: finding a video on trimming an alpaca’s tooth gives me the confidence to claim that YouTube does indeed have a video for everything. If there is something you don’t know how to do and you haven’t checked YouTube, you have no excuses. The second lesson came from Dave and Joan. If you don’t have the tool someone else tells you that you need, go make one.

 Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management.  He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or stevie@stevierays.org.

 If someone forwarded this article to you and you would like to have Stevie Ray’s column sent to you each month absolutely free, click here.

 Help your employees learn firsthand the techniques Stevie Ray has gained from working with corporations around the globe.  Click here right now to go to the web site for Stevie Ray’s Improv Company and see what he can do for you.

 If your company is planning an event and you need entertainment so this one doesn’t feel just like the last one, click here.

 Learn to deliver powerful presentations, think on the spot, and other valuable skills by clicking here and ordering books authored by Stevie Ray.

 

If You Need a Class In Ethics, It’s Too Late

I rarely use this forum as an opportunity to respond to readers who disagree with my point of view. I figure if I want to engage in a pissing match, that’s what Facebook is for. There was a comment made by a number of people about last month’s column, however, that I had to address. If you didn’t read my last column, it related to an incident in which a delivery company failed to deliver an appliance by the agreed-upon time. One reader called me a fool in the first place for believing that any delivery service would be on time. In so many words, he claimed that most trade professions are untrustworthy. That sentiment is not only inaccurate it is insulting to the tens of thousands of trade workers in America who bust their backs to get a job done on time and on budget.

The more troubling sentiment came from those who said that I got what I paid for. They claimed that, since I bought the appliance online and saved a lot of money, it was obvious that the appliance company was only able to provide such a discount by using a cut-rate, unreliable delivery company. Some readers called me a fool for expecting anything better. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t believe in the principle that you get what you pay for. I believe you should get what you are promised. In this particular case, I was promised phone calls that weren’t made, and a delivery time that wasn’t kept. I only complain to companies who promise one thing and deliver another.

I was raised to believe that, in business or one’s personal life, if you make a promise you keep it. You aren’t allowed to say, “Well, it was a cheap product. What did they expect?” If you aren’t happy with an arrangement, you re-negotiate before you make the promise, you don’t find ways to short the deal afterwards. This is the reason I think classes in Business Ethics are pointless. Frankly, if someone doesn’t know right from wrong; if they aren’t willing to do the hard thing because it is the right thing, why would you hire that person in the first place?

I conduct dozens of low- or no-cost workshops for non-profit organizations each year. No matter what the fee is, I show up early, wear a suit and tie, and deliver the best session I can. I don’t say, “These guys aren’t paying much, where are my jeans and sandals?” And it’s not because I am afraid of bad word-of-mouth or a poor evaluation. I give the same effort for a low-cost job as a full-fee client because that is what I promised to do. And it is the right thing to do. I didn’t need an ethics class to learn that, I had a mom and dad.

In the movie, K-PAX, the character of Prot claims to be from another planet. A psychiatrist is interviewing Prot to try to find inconsistencies in his story and prove he is actually human. When the subject of crime and punishment arises, Prot says that the planet of K-PAX has no laws; that there is no need for them. When the psychiatrist asks how, without laws, they are able to know right from wrong, Prot says, “Every being in the universe knows right from wrong.”

It isn’t often you can gain wisdom from a movie (Ghandi notwithstanding), but I agree that everyone, at almost every age, truly knows the right thing to do for any situation. When we hesitate to act, we are not confused about what to do; doing the right thing just seems like such a hassle. I receive a monthly magazine about the speaking profession. One section poses a new ethical question each month; issues like “How would you handle being offered a fee that is higher than what you typically charge for the same service?” Members are invited to chime in with what they would do in that situation. I always find that section useless. Everyone knows the right thing to do—without question—they just find it difficult to do. How often have we adults used the same tactic as children by seeking support for inappropriate decisions? We ask others to see if they have done the same thing. No matter how many people do it, wrong is wrong. If any of my employees excused their poor performance with, “You get what you pay for,” there would be serious doubts about their future with my company.

Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management.  He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or stevie@stevierays.org.

If someone forwarded this article to you and you would like to have Stevie Ray’s column sent to you each month absolutely free, click here.

Help your employees learn firsthand the techniques Stevie Ray has gained from working with corporations around the globe.  Click here right now to go to the web site for Stevie Ray’s Improv Company and see what he can do for you.

If your company is planning an event and you need entertainment so this one doesn’t feel just like the last one, click here.

Learn to deliver powerful presentations, think on the spot, and other valuable skills by clicking here and ordering books authored by Stevie Ray.

Sometimes Crap Flows Uphill

My wife, Kanitta, and I stared blankly at our electric range. It was eleven years old and, as is often said of friends, “He died too young.” It was an electric model, which I thought would be better for my award-winning baked goods (if you taste my home-made baklava you will never buy store-bought again). I was mistaken. The burners started deciding for themselves when they would turn on or off. Kanitta loves to cook; she also has this unrealistic expectation of deciding for herself when to turn on the burners. To top it off, the handle on the oven door popped off. Normally I would grab some tools, buy some screws, and start drilling. Something told me that I probably shouldn’t mess with a major appliance that reaches temperatures of 500 degrees. Besides, dumping the old range would allow us to switch to a gas model; maybe even one that would let us determine our own cooking temperatures.

After much shopping, we found a model we liked. Since Kanitta has this odd aversion to paying more for something she can get for less, she checked for online deals. We found the same brand for $400 less than at the store. I had never purchased a major appliance online before, but I thought, “That $400 will go a long way toward finishing that statue of myself in the back yard.” The only downside of an online purchase is that you are never sure of the delivery date until a day or two beforehand. In our case, that made the process tricky because we would need to schedule a plumber to run a new gas line and hook up the range. Plumbers are difficult to book with only a day’s notice. We were stuck waiting to hear from the delivery company and hoping we could get a last-minute appointment with a plumber (or we would be eating microwave dinners). Here is where the customer service crumbled.

The day I got the call from the delivery service, “Hi. This is Trixi from No Name Moving. We have a range ready to deliver. Will someone be home Tuesday from Noon to 4:00?” I said, “We have to schedule a plumber for a hook-up. Is there any chance someone could deliver earlier in the day?” “No. We have the day’s deliveries already scheduled.” “Any chance of making us the first delivery of the day, then you could get back to the rest of your schedule?” The ensuing sigh on the other end of the phone told me I was asking for something akin to rescheduling the launch of the space shuttle. After a pause, the woman said, “Let me check and call you back.” (Not, “Is it alright if I check into that and call you back?” Just, “…I’ll call you back” followed by a dial tone.)

The rest of the day went by with no word from Ms. Sunshine. The next morning I called back. “Hi, you were going to check on an early delivery. Were you able to find out anything?” “Yeah. I guess he’s going to try to make it that morning.” “I need to schedule a plumber to hook up the range, is there a specific time I can expect the delivery?” “He said he would do his best to get there before 9:00.” “That does leave me in a bind because if he doesn’t get here by then, I’ll have a plumber here for nothing.” Another sigh. “Okay. I’ll check and call you back.”

Four hours later, no word. I called again. “Hello, I was told I would get a confirmation about a delivery time.” “Yeah. He’ll make it the first delivery of the day.” Silly me, I forgot to Google Clock Times for First Deliveries of the Day so I had to foolishly ask, “And when would that be?” “First deliveries are always at 8:00!” I felt so bad for wasting this person’s valuable time. I almost sent a letter of apology, but I realized that, too, would take time to read; and this was obviously a very busy woman.

The day of delivery arrived. I found a plumber who could schedule a last-minute job (I’ll save that story for next month). The plumber was set to arrive at 1:00 p.m. I was up and ready at the house by 7:00 a.m. anxiously awaiting a new gas range at 8:00. Then 8:30. Then 9:45. By 11:00 I called and asked, “Hey. I was supposed to get a delivery at 8:00. Any word on that?” “He was supposed to be there. If he didn’t show up I don’t know where he is.” I knew it was foolish of me to ask, she was too busy pissing off other customers to check on the ones she already pissed off. At 12:30, just 30 minutes before the plumber was set to arrive, the truck with the range pulled up. The drivers were very apologetic; actually much nicer than the woman on the phone whose job is was to take care of customers.

Here is the deal. The delivery company is hired by the online dealer to handle all their accounts. As a result, the delivery company is super nice to the online dealer. Since I am not paying them directly, they have no reason to be nice to me (other than it is usually better to be nice to people); they had no fear of losing my business. What they don’t know is that I have written a letter to the online dealer letting them know that, because they don’t do a good enough job vetting their delivery service, I can no longer trust the online dealer. The dealer loses a lot of potential business (I have other appliances that are beginning to develop minds of their own, too), and the delivery service may lose a major account and never know why. They may have to start marketing to residential customers and actually being nice to people. The old saying that Crap flows downhill sometimes works in reverse.

 

Footnote: After this column ran in the Business Journal, I received a few comments that should be addressed.

Some folks said I could have avoided the time crunch problem by simply scheduling the plumber to run the gas line the next day. Without getting into a big, Don’t you think I thought of that? debate, suffice it to say there were many reasons why that was not an option.

Other folks said, “What did you expect for a less expensive option?” Some even said, “You get what you pay for!” And still others said I was naïve to plan my life around delivery services; which are typically unreliable.

So, before you send similar e-mails, I was not upset because we had unreasonable expectations that could not be reasonably met. If the delivery company had said, “Look, there is no way we can meet your request” I would have made plans accordingly. The entire point of the story concerns business ethics:

1)      You don’t get what you pay for, you get what you are promised. The delivery company promised to call by a certain time, and didn’t. They promised to deliver by a certain time, and didn’t. It is that simple. No company, or person, should make a promise and not deliver on that promise. Claiming that such behavior is acceptable based on the price of the service is unethical.

My company has, regrettably, fallen short in the past. In such cases, we have apologized and tried to compensate for our failure. We also provide our services to non-profit organizations and charities dozens of times each year at substantial discounts from our standard rates. Every customer and client receives the same attention, regardless of how much they pay. If any member of my company excused poor service because “you get what you pay for” I would fire that person on the spot.

2)      The appliance provider thinks their job is done once they hand off their product to the delivery company. We never received a follow-up asking if everything was done to our satisfaction. Companies that fail to do this can make all the excuses they want, (“It was the delivery company’s fault, not ours”), but in the end, the appliance company will suffer the drop in sales.

Finally, one reader asked why I was “whining” about my problem. I let him know that I don’t treat my column as an opportunity to whine to the public about my lousy day (that is what Facebook is for). I take business seriously. As a business owner, I only get to eat what I kill. When I notice a poor business practice I first examine my own company to make sure I am not committing the same error. Then I write about the situation in my column so other business leaders can have the same opportunity for self-examination. Sharing experiences and holding each other accountable is the best means of growth for us all.

Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized corporate speaker and trainer, helping companies improve communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management.  He can be reached at www.stevierays.org or stevie@stevierays.org.

If someone forwarded this article to you and you would like to have Stevie Ray’s column sent to you each month absolutely free, click here.

Help your employees learn firsthand the techniques Stevie Ray has gained from working with corporations around the globe.  Click here right now to go to the web site for Stevie Ray’s Improv Company and see what he can do for you.

If your company is planning an event and you need entertainment so this one doesn’t feel just like the last one, click here.

Learn to deliver powerful presentations, think on the spot, and other valuable skills by clicking here and ordering books authored by Stevie Ray.

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…

I received quite a response from my column a while ago that dealt with effective teams. My article emphasized that teams thrive in an atmosphere of support; that team members are responsible for creating a safe feeling among the group so that everyone would feel confident to do their best work. An atmosphere of fear creates a situation in which employees will only do what they know works; they take fewer chances, which inhibits individual growth and an ultimate flat-lining of productivity.

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Want Some Fudge? What Key?

My family wanted to surprise our mother for her birthday this year, so we took her for a weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. As tourists, we did our part to contribute to the state’s annual tourism revenue of just over $16.5 billion. If you visit most places that rely heavily on tourist’s dollars for revenue, you see a kind of love-hate relationship with visitors. The locals know that their livelihood depends on the kindness, and generosity, of strangers and this can foster gratitude, as well as resentment. I have visited plenty of tourist traps where the staff “thanks you for your business” with such apathy that you feel like cattle being moved through the stalls at an auction house.

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Manage Behaviors or Lead to Outcomes: Only One Means Profits

I am tired of hearing, “There is a difference between being a manager and a leader.” Whoever created that phrase didn’t know anything about running a business. Sure, there is a difference between simply managing people’s time and leading them to excel, but the phrase above gives managers the excuse to ignore the big picture and leaders the excuse to stare at mission statements while overlooking the everyday life of the company. Everyone leads, or should. An employee who has been on the job only a few weeks longer than the new hire will lead the new kid on the block. The question is, will that leadership be in the direction you want?

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Why Some Jobs Will Never Be Automated

I would guess about 90 percent of the services I receive from people could be replaced by automation. There are ice cream dispensers to replace the guy behind the counter. Reservation websites can hold your theatre tickets as easily as the box office personnel. In fact, the battle rages as to which people prefer; someone answering the phone and directing you to the appropriate department, or a phone menu that lets you self-direct. Which-ever side of the issue gets your vote; there is one reason that so many jobs will never be automated with any success. It is the answer to the question I ask groups at workshops all the time, “What is the only difference between you and automation?”

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The More You Give, The More You Get

I was reading an inflight magazine recently (yes, I had run out of real things to do) and saw a quote by an executive that reminded me of the one of the oldest business lessons around. A woman was asked for one piece of advice she would offer busy executives. She said, “Be generous with your time. It will always pay you back in spades.” I use that sentiment to compare experiences I have had with two different companies in the past month. One was with a tree service. After years of letting the tree in our front yard grow unchecked, my wife and I decided we didn’t need flora that reached the stratosphere. Being typical consumers, we got bids from several tree companies. We didn’t go with the cheapest one, we went with the one that was responsive to our call, reasonable in their price, and had an air of professionalism.

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