Lucky's Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

The World’s Greatest Teaching

This week's article is about the greatest teaching of all time. It is the one teaching that transcends religion, income level, political standing, or any other possibly separating ideals or background. It is one of the best teachings for leadership, parenting, internal happiness, and any other motivating force. This teaching will make you richer than you could ever imagine, yet costs nothing to obtain. So what is it? The answer is to: “Do on to others as you would have them do unto you”.

In the spirit of the holiday season this article is all about giving back. If you live your life according to the principle of ‘do onto others’, you will have a substantially positive impact on other people's lives and will reap a greater reward than any monetary gains you could ever achieve. All the greatest leaders not only knew this principle, but they practiced it every day.

Too many people today focus on what they don't have and follow more of a ‘do onto others before they do onto you’, philosophy. You will find a much more fulfilling life and be a much better leader, spouse, friend, parent, etc... If you spend more time counting your blessings and paying it forward. This time of year is not about spending and what you will receive. It is about giving and how you can make other’s lives better.

While the people who really know me, already know the amount of time and money I dedicate to giving back, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision for you. However, there are no excuses for not giving back. Just start out with baby steps. Instead of walking by the ringing bell in front of the stores, go ahead and drop your spare change in the little red pail. Instead of scowling at the homeless person sleeping in the park, stop by a local drive-thru, and give them a meal.

It doesn't have to be about money. In today’s economy many people are strapped for cash, but are blessed with talents, and time. Donate your time or talents to a local charity or to your church. Again, baby steps at first, just plan on spending one hour a month making someone else’s life better. Come on, anyone can find one hour a month, right?

Heck, sometimes something as simple as a smile and some encouraging words can completely change another person’s day. You have been given the greatest gift there is, life. So why not exercise the greatest teaching of all time and pay it forward?

Thank you and Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to those who celebrate another way, or not at all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What Is Your Succession Plan?

In my previous article I spoke about delegation and the importance of having internal succession plans in place. In today’s article I wanted to quickly expand upon succession plans and the importance of always training your replacement.

It has been my experience that having a succession plan in place is a key factor missing amongst many companies. However, there is no greater value for internal structure. A strong, well defined, succession plan allows your internal team to clearly see the path to career advancement. It allows everyone to know what is required, and what needs to be accomplished in order to move up the company ladder. Furthermore, it allows team members to transition from one position to another, rather than being thrown into the pool and left to sink or swim with little to no training.

While there are many internal benefits to having a well defined succession plan, the largest benefit is with the customer experience. In many companies account managers are left in charge of an account with no backup. This requires them to be on-call 24 x 7; I even heard a story about one account manager that was taking calls on his wedding day! Eventually they will burn out and you will lose them. Meanwhile the customer still has needs and you are scrambling trying to fit someone into an account manager’s position with no training for that account. This causes stress on the customer’s side as well as adding to your daily anxiety. By having a well defined succession plan and having multiple people cross-trained with each position, you take the pressure off the single account manager, allowing them to reboot and take needed time off. This will avoid the burn out stage and hopefully keep them happy in their position and more productive. However, if an account manager does decide to leave for another reason, you will be in a good position to continue the same level of service and the entire transition will be invisible to your customer.

I am not going to get into specifics on how to build a succession plan, there is plenty enough information on the web if you are so inclined. However, hopefully this article has expressed the importance of building and implementing such a plan. If you do not have a plan in place and you are not currently cross-training your managers, you will eventually find yourself in a very difficult position and franticaly searching for a replacement, at which point you will remember this article. While it takes months, even years sometimes, to win a new customer, it only takes seconds to lose them. So take the time now and prepare a succession plan for your business. You will be in a much better place structurally, your customers can continue to receive the same level of service they have come to love and your team will be much happier and more productive.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

To Delegate Or Not To Delegate?

One question I receive quite often is; how are you able to get so much done when there are so few hours in the day? I usually answer with; I don’t waste any time sleeping. There will be plenty of time to rest when I am dead. While yes I do spend many hours working on all the different hats I have in the ring (usually about 16 hours a day), I spend little time being non-productive. I don’t waste much time watching TV or reading fiction. If I do watch TV or read it is usually something non-fiction or based on factual information that I can use to improve an aspect of my life. However, even though I do have a few weaknesses for mindless TV entertainment, I try to keep the time sitting in front of a TV to a minimum and am still trying to cut it out completely so I can gain a few more hours a week of productive time. I have often wondered if there has ever been a study done that correlates the relationship between hours of TV watched and a person’s average income and/or success. If anyone does know of such a study please share it with me, I would love to look at that research.

Now don’t get me wrong and please don’t start posting that I am missing out on life and family. Part of what I call productive time includes personal and family time that I schedule in the same as any other important tasks. I spend a lot of time with my family and several hours a week on myself. I have always tried to keep a well balanced life. But enough about how I schedule my time, let’s get to the meat of this article.

One reason I am afforded the luxury of being able to accomplish so much in short amounts of time, is because I don’t major in minor things. I have a phenomenal team around me, whose talents are exceptional. I have made it a point to surround myself with the best team in the industry and I know they have my back and the company’s best interest at heart. So I make sure that I delegate many things to this team and allow them the opportunity to shine. By empowering my team I allow them to feel the experience of hitting the homeruns and keep them striving for more. Also, by delegating tasks it leaves me more time to focus on places that I feel need my special attention.

So how should you decide what gets delegated? Good question! I don’t claim to have the perfect formula, however, I will share my method of deciding what to delegate. While there may be many more reasons, below are the three basics that I have used over the years to decide on what needs to be delegated.

  1.        Don’t do any job you hate doing. You will only get frustrated, put it off until the last minute, and do a bad job once you complete it. Delegate it to someone who loves that job and is an expert. They will enjoy doing it and the end product will be exceptional.
  2.        Don’t waste time doing something someone else can do. Too many times I have seen examples of executives spending time on tasks that anyone can do. You should only focus on things that require your level of expertise and experience. Just the other day I was speaking to a VP who told me he was delivering materials to the job site. This is a perfect example of wasted talents.
  3.        Is what you are working on going to improve your business, the customer experience, or your team’s work environment? If it doesn’t encompass these areas then you are getting involved in the day to day operations and spending your time doing the job of your operations manager. If you spend time working in your business, no one is working on your business.

While I realize that these rules apply to business owners, the same logic can be used for whatever position you hold. You need to understand your role and make sure your time is invested in the tasks required to be successful in that role. Unless the job you are doing can only be done by you, you should consider delegating that task and focus your time on efforts that require your special skills.

Over the years I have had many managers that didn’t want to delegate tasks. In part they felt they had better job security if they were the only ones who knew how to do those specific tasks. I can tell you from a senior manager position, that is extremely frustrating and the easiest way to get on my bad side. Nothing in a business should be dependent on one person. As I have mentioned in previous articles, you need to have cross-training built into your standard processes. Your ability to properly build and implement a solid succession plan will gain more value than anything else you can work on when it comes to internal structure. It will also take a lot of pressure off your team and give a clear career path to each team member, which in turn, will make for a better work environment and better team morale.

So don’t get caught up in fear and stop putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. I believe that the true sign of a great manager is the ability to know what and when to delegate. So if you want to be successful and still have time for balance in your life, then you need to learn when to delegate or not to delegate, that is the question!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

You Never Know Where Your Next Customer May Come From

In my previous article I mentioned how important it is to act professional because you never know where your next big opportunity may come from. In this article I wanted to dig a little deeper into that statement because it is about more than just being professional.

Don’t ever kid yourself, you are always on stage and you are always being judged, as I pointed out in two previous articles “First Impressions” and “Stage Right”. In those articles I expressed the importance of always acting professional because of the fact that you are always being watched and judged. However, another key reason is; that you never know what circumstances may lead to winning the trust of your next customer.

I have developed many lifelong relationships with customers. However, I never knew where I was going to meet them or where the next one may come from. In many cases they were referrals from relationships I had made, but one outstanding customer that comes to mind, came from an unexpected source.

I have always loved my job and for one specific reason. I am in the business of helping people. Whether it is helping internal team members accomplish their career goals, or helping customers by providing them with solutions to their problems, I have always loved helping others.

The one area most people over look when it comes to helping others, is other businesses. I have always made it a point to do what I can to help other businesses succeed. Not just businesses where I can gain a benefit, but anyone I can help, in anyway. This held true with a salesperson I met who was with Stanley Steamer Carpet Cleaning. Now in most cases, an electrical services provider would just grin, nod and move on when they met a carpet cleaning company sales person. However, staying true to my personal commitment to try to help everyone, we connected, and I was actually able to really help him out by sending him a lot of work when I had customers that needed those services. (Let me clearly state, this was only after we had a serious talk about how important my network is and how I will not jeopardize the trust of my network by recommending someone that doesn't follow the same guiding principles to which I strictly adhere.)

Once he had earned my trust I was able to freely recommend his services knowing that he would do what he promised and provide an excellent, quality service. I did that in an effort to help him and the company he worked for, not ever expecting that there would be any return on my efforts. However, as it turned out, nearly a year later, this particular sales person ended up having a relative that received a job managing two 40 story towers in the downtown area. He recommended us to his relative and it has now turned into a great relationship where we provide electrical and systems services to both buildings. I have many examples of similar circumstances where I received a recommendation from an unexpected source, yet I am always pleasantly surprised when it happens.

I have attended more networking functions than I care to admit, and I always see the Feeders working the rooms. However, I believe, that you must give four times as much as you take if you want to build a meaningful relationship. So if you stop “selling” and start helping you may just find an unlimited amount of true partners within your network, singing your praises. If not, at least you helped others, and there is no better feeling. So stay honest and try to help others every chance you get, because you never know where your next customer may come from.