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Several years ago, a guy shared with me a mind-bending perspective of cathedrals.  The great cathedrals took anywhere from 100-600 years to complete. The average life span at this time was 33 years.  This meant that the average "working years" would be at best 20 years.  At best, the original visionary's kids, kids, kids, kids would be the benefactors of the vision.  This perspective has stuck with me ever since and has become a catalyst for me.

My guess is, to pull off a cathedral, the visionary would have to paint a picture that all the towns surrounding the cathedrals would buy into and get them to understand what their role was in building the cathedrals.  Everyone had to be focused on the end goal - the cathedral.  Each individual would need to not only find out how they were each going to contribute - but more importantly, they needed to realize that HOW was second to WHY.  If you were a lawyer, a store owner, a school teacher, a mother, or a craftsman, life wouldn't have meaning if you didn't embrace the why, the cathedral.  What was it going to look like? What was life going to be like when it was complete?

With this view or mindset, self becomes less relevant.  It's not the how, it is the why that really matters.  It makes sense too, the why gets us off of our selfish focus.  The school teacher is just as important as the architect, or stone mason, or the wood carver.  Craftsman or workers who work on the structure of the cathedral aren't more important than the others who contribute to the communities supporting the project.  It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling insignificant or lacking purpose if you are focused on the wrong things.

Take some time this week to process the why to your work.  How does your work contribute to the communities you live or work in?  Are you viewing your work as the cathedral or as a contribution to something bigger? 

Monday, 25 January 2016 19:42

“Growth doesn’t just happen.” – John Maxwell

At our last quarterly meeting I led a growth strategy session called The Law of Intentionality taken from the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, by John Maxwell.  The session started with a simple question; Do you have a plan for personal growth?  One of my take aways after the session was less about our conversations and more about the revelation that as we enter the workforce there seems to be a door that slams shut from outside influences on our individual growth.  As a father of 4 kids, I have seen my kids grow as a result of different teachers and mentors driving them to grow.  Between school, sports, music lessons, youth group leaders, and family, our kids are bombarded with growth input.  What I hadn’t noticed though, is often, once we enter the workplace, the demands of reality rise to an all time high and yet individuals pressing into our growth are few and far between.  There is a perceived expectation that we are on our own now and we need to figure it out.  Maxwell’s 15 laws are helpful and I believe as individuals we do need a plan for personal growth.  And as leaders, we have a responsibility for mentorship as well.

Take a moment this week and evaluate your key direct reports.  Do they need to grow to meet the demands of reality within their roles?  How much intentional time are you investing in them?  Set up a weekly one-on-one, read a book together, vision cast, or just talk.

Growth doesn’t just happen; it happens when you invest your time.

Monday, 21 December 2015 23:05

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Like most everyone in Kansas City, I have joined the Royals bandwagon and their quest to Take the Crown.  I have to confess though, my love for the team has been bred more out of intrigue to what they have accomplished over the last two years, than a love for baseball.  Specifically what has fascinated me is the players' willingness to play unselfishly for a team instead of individual accolades.  What is going on seems to be stumping the world of baseball as well.   After losing the first game of the ALDS playoffs the media all but wrote the Royals off completely saying that the fluke has finally reached its course.  But here we are, in a familiar spot with the Royals continuing to show the grit and determination that led them to a game seven in last years World Series, playing again tonight, the only way they know how – as a team.

In the introduction to his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni shares a quote from a friend and business owner, “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”  He immediately adds that although most every business leader agrees, they seem to simultaneously surrender to the impossibility of making it happen.  This is probably why the media struggles so much with the Royals success.  Everyone fantasizes about teamwork, but resign to its elusiveness at the same time.  In his book, Lencioni shares five dysfunctions that he believes makes teamwork so elusive.  The five dysfunctions are very intuitive and literally build on each other.  The foundational first dysfunction is the absence of trust.  Without trust there is a fear of conflict.  Without conflict it is difficult to get commitment.  Without commitment holding each other accountable becomes strained and without accountability results are rarely achieved.  If the team members trust in each other, engage in healthy conflict, commit to the decisions they make, and hold each other accountable to those decisions, there is a pretty good chance that the results will be positive.

We shouldn’t just be surprised when a group of individuals come together and accomplish amazing things, we should be inspired to do the same.  The Royals play has not just engaged my interest; it has challenged my resolve to build teamwork in my business.  I need to recommit to overcoming the dysfunctions that thwart teamwork and apply the lessons we are all learning from the Royals – if we believe in each other, the results will speak for themselves.

Go Royals!

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 19:04

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A few years ago I read an excerpt from the book Blue Ocean Strategy in the Harvard Business Review.  The article gave a summary of the blue ocean concept, as well as some of the key points the authors make in their book.  After reading the article, I purchased the book to learn more.  As I read example after example, I was intrigued by not only the creativity and innovation, but the number of examples as well.  The blue ocean concept seems intuitive, and yet, as I look around, so few companies seem to be focused here.

A quick definition of terms.  Blue oceans represent all the companies, products, industries, etc., not in existence today.  A space void of competition, and thus offering tremendous opportunity for profit and growth.  Red oceans represent all the known companies, products, industries, etc., that exist today.  Boundaries are known and competition exists.

In most cases, blue ocean is created from within a red ocean when a company alters the boundaries of an existing industry.  In the automobile industry, for example, Chrysler decided to break the boundary between car and van, by introducing the minivan and ultimately creating an entirely new type of vehicle.  As innovative as the minivan was, today it seems that Chrysler has become content to compete in the red ocean that was created when other auto manufacturers ran to get their share of a market that they created.  Companies' focus or strategy seems to be on winning against their competition instead of doing business where there is no competition.  The book paints a very compelling picture so why does Chrysler, or I, revert back to competing instead of innovating?  How do we overcome the assumptions that the conditions are given and we have to compete within them?  Is it possible that, part of the process of developing blue oceans, is gaining the perspective or mindset that they exist?

I pulled some great tips from the book.

  • Never use competition as the benchmark
  • Reject the notion that trade off exists between value and cost
  • Look across industries
  • Look across the supply chain
  • Look for opportunities to reconstruct market boundaries

I have decided that looking for and creating blue oceans is not a strategy, it is a mindset.  Sooner or later imitators will appear on the horizon.  Ultimately we will have to compete.  All companies need a strategy to compete, but since we seem to already know how to compete, I need to develop a mindset that is constantly searching for and creating uncontested market space that will make our competition irrelevant.  When I press into and apply these tips, potential uncontested market spaces begin to reveal themselves.  Because this new space is uncontested, there is no competition so competitors become irrelevant.

Friday, 02 October 2015 14:11

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In the movie Rudy, Rudy Ruettiger overcomes all odds to play football for Notre Dame.  Fueled by his love for Notre Dame football, a young 5’6”, 165-pound kid from a small Pennsylvania steel town, overcomes many obstacles to play one play, in the last game, after the games outcome was secure.  Clearly Rudy had some incredible attributes, and the coaches saw value to his heart and determination, but come game day, the players that took the field were the ones that had the gifts and talents to win games.  What if Rudy’s heart was leveraged with his strengths instead of limited by his weaknesses?  As inspiring as the story is, the road to overcoming at all odds, at the very least, is the path of most resistance.

Often I find myself in a similar place at Laminate Works.  I’m drawn to the employees that have heart and determination and end up attempting to help them overcome at all odds instead of stepping back and assessing whether their gifts and talents line up with their role.  I think a better reward for heart and determination would be more of my time.  As a leader and manager, there are things I can do, such as asking questions or using behavior profiles, to identify employees strengths.  Detailed job descriptions that identify the skill sets that a specific position needs is also a helpful tool.  By aligning the skill sets of my “Rudy” employees with specific roles, they will not just overcome, they will thrive; leveraging their hearts and their unique gifting while traveling on the path of least resistance.

Thursday, 17 September 2015 20:18

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"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - John Maxwell

A few months ago I was working through the book, Integrity by Henry Cloud with my sales team. Near the end of the book is a chapter called "getting better all the time".  Cloud makes the point that we must be growing and increasing our abilities, skills and capacities in our lives for a simple reason - to meet the demands of reality.  This is where Maxwell's quote ties in.  The changes in the demands of reality are inevitable.  Whether it is the demands of the realities of my children, marriage, business, or even technology, I am left with a choice to grow or not.

As an entrepreneur it is easy to get caught up in growth.  And to be clear, I am not suggesting to focus on growing business is not a sound practice.  But using this perspective, the why grow becomes less about a lust for more and more about becoming more.  Not becoming more for more sake, but for my children, wife, and business' sake.

As hard as it is to focus on growing, it is even harder to focus on where I need to grow.  Take some time this week to evaluate the areas where the demands of reality are calling you to grow.  Make a plan to get out of your comfort zone and address the areas.  Change is inevitable.  Growth is where the magic happens.

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 15:06