Archives for March 2014

Loaded Question: Does Employee Morale Matter?

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Of course Morale Matters!

Ask 100 people in business this question and how many would you think would answer with a resounding YES?

90? 95?  Maybe even 100?

So here’s the real question, if you agree that YES, Morale matters.

What % of business leaders truly keep their finger on the “Morale Pulse?”  

I guarantee this % would be lower than the answer to the first question.  Wouldn’t shock me if the gap was greater than 30 points.  You don’t need to be a statistician to call this gap “significant.”

Morale is a byproduct of organizational culture.  Some cultures inject oxygen and energy, others deplete it.  Oxygen is not just life sustaining, it’s business sustaining.

Morale is also highly INDIVIDUAL.  One person may be highly energized, while another person is down in the dumps.  Morale at its core is a function of attitude, a person’s general “optimism level.”  Like simple tests can be applied to asses culture, same for someone’s individual level of Optimism.  My favorite is my Wake-Up test, which I learned from my 6 year old.

So back to the leaders, who have a key role in all things culture……

If Morale matters, what are you doing to at least UNDERSTAND the level of morale among the people running your business?

Observing?  Taking a “climate” survey?

Wandering the halls?  Tom Peters explains MBWA:  Management by Wandering Around

I love simple tools like MBWA.

Here’s another one, I’ve recently started:


It’s simple.  It forces people to take a stand and give their own opinion.  And that process alone is sometimes motivating for the troops.  Here’s how it works:

  • Ask them to score the organizational morale, give it a number from 0 to 10, 0 being “organizational death” to 10 being “couldn’t imagine any place better.”  Make them assign a number.  Thank them.
  • Then probe and ask them to add some color as to why.  Shut up and listen.  Then ask them to “tell me more.”
  • Repeat the shut up and listen step.
  • Go back to your office and write the name, number and date down, and a couple of take-aways.  Invest the minute to put something on paper.  Or a cocktail napkin if you’re having drinks.

This is now a baseline for the individual.  Don’t try and solve the world’s problems in this conversation, just listen and get a number.  Do this with multiple people in different functional areas and you will start to paint an organizational picture.  You can keep track of this over time, which is even more enlightening.

But measuring for measuring sake is pointless, measure to understand impact of some future CHANGE.

The Morale Meter only works if you keep a couple of “WATCHOUTS” in mind….

WATCHOUT #1:  Put your BS meter on high alert.

Not everyone will be candid, some people don’t “tell it like it is” and may give a score that is a lot higher than they really feel.  If your BS meter goes up, challenge it.  Ask them how many people they have referred to come work at your organization?  Someone that rates the place >7 should feel pretty good about their job and want their friends to come along right?  If not, why?  It only takes a couple of these challenges and people will know you’re serious about getting honest feedback.

WATCHOUT #2:  Understand THEIR BS meter is on high too.  

Never under-estimate people’s BS meter.  Having people answer a question like this, by definition raises the stakes.  They will expect you NOT to just listen, but not waste their time.  They will expect SOME action.  If you are NOT prepared to do SOMETHING with the info, don’t start the process.

Leadership at its core is about Caring.  Caring is about listening & learning.  But that’s not enough.  

Leadership is a contact sport.

When you listen and score and don’t like what your seeing, but fail to ACT, you’re not a leader.  You may be a shrink.  You may be a numbers geek.

Leaders Listen.  They Measure.  But most importantly, Leaders ACT.

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Life’s Decision Scale: Time to Chase Your Entrepreneurial Dreams?

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Is there anything that personifies America & Capitalism more than owning your own business?

It is the epitome of the American Dream.  Yet so many people dream of it, so few will pursue it.  I bet the % of people that become entrepreneurs dwindle as people get more established in their careers.  Here’s a few reasons that could drive the in-action:

  1. Lifestyle is really OK!:  Paycheck, benefits & perks that may be growing and there are plenty of future demands on the way (college for kids, retirement).
  2. I like my job!: Great people, a culture that’s strong, rewarding results that you help drive.  It’s comfortable by golly and I love what I do!
  3. Overall state of predictability.  You know in 6 months, if you continue to work hard and generate results, your job will likely be there and things will be a bit better overall.  Nice steady improvement.  

I’ve focused on 1-3 myself, and they are all nice benefits.

Stay put, and do NOT pursue your Entrepreneurial dreams IF:

  1. Not doing so will produce the future you desire

  2. Not doing so will not yield one of life’s biggest regrets:

Never Taking That One Big Shot 

People can have a “dream” to own their own business all they want.  But until they envision conflict with #1 & #2 and if their current job will yield what they want, they probably won’t take action to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

There comes a time when regret or wanting a brighter future won’t be attained by “doing nothing.”  When that happens, inertia gets agitated and massive action begins.*

*Warning Sign:  I’ve witnessed people “lower the bar” on a future that is desired, dialing back expectations that can be met with the classic 9-5.  Chances are, if you follow a blog called “Hustle or Bust.” that is not an option, but I have witnessed this.  Let’s call it a “Hustle cheat.” 

What’s instructive is asking WHY those reasons for IN-action exist?  Force yourself to give 1 word that explains why you won’t take that leap:

  • Risk?
  • Uncertainty?
  • Un-knowns?
  • Insecurities?
  • Capabilities?

All valid concerns, fear-based adjectives.  They are real and powerful motivators for in-action that can’t be denied.

If you’ve gone through your acid test test and your scales have tipped towards PURSUING your entrepreneurial dreams, CONGRATS!  Now you’ve entered the stage where you need to figure out the how’s…..and build a roadmap against a solid understanding of the process.

What’s first needed to create action is often just a recognition that the scales have tipped in one direction.  Once you recognize they’ve tipped, the rest becomes about learning, planning and execution.  But the scales need to tip first.  Be honest with yourself and start weighing the scales. 

Stay tuned for what that the entrepreneurial process looks like in months ahead.  Make sure you subscribe to HustleOrBust (top right box) so you get those posts delivered to your inbox. 

Make it a great day & I look forward to your comments on “Life’s Decision Scale!”

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The Trifecta of Goodbyes

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Yesterday capped an unbelievable 8+ year run with Monogram Foods, a company I love dearly.   When I started in 2006 there may have been 15 people.  Today, north of 1,500 people.  That’s a ton of growth.  The lessons learned are burned into me forever, and I hope the relationships are as well.

So today I woke up a few hours later than my prized 4am routine, after a pretty long Goodbye and tons of emotional energy spent.

Goodbyes are never easy.  In fact, it may be one of the harder things to do in business and life.  In business there are 3 kinds of Goodbyes and they are not all created equal.  

The Trifecta of Goodbyes

  1. Terminating: Parting ways and FORCING a needed goodbye.
  2. A valued colleague leaves: Saying goodbye to a friend who decides to leave
  3. YOU decide to leave.

Let’s focus on #3:  When YOU decide there is a need to say Goodbye.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned:  There’s an internal trigger you need to listen too whenever something “BUGS” you:

When you feel that internal challenge, slow it down, take the time to get it right

A Goodbye is certainly in the “BIG” category.  Think through the process and do it right.

Never wing a big deal.  

Here are some things to consider….

  • Call me Old School, but 2 weeks may not be enough, sometimes far from it.    

    • In general, the greater the impact of your position, the earlier you want to alert people of your intentions, even if they are not fully known.  A month is not too soon….
    • Understand the needs of your company (your boss), your team to handle what your leaving behind.  Think through this before you sit down and develop your best thinking for how to help with a transition.  It doesn’t need to be perfect.
    • Sound risky?  Does this risk your income?  Maybe.  Money is certainly important and different for every person. What you need to weigh is “what is right?” vs. what you NEED.  Then balance that against the value of your reputation.

Income (or lost income) is black and white, there’s a max value associated with a Goodbye timing. Reputation value is not measurable, it’s infinite, and in the Grey.  This is one area where you want to be in the Grey.  Never gamble with your reputation. 

  • Get brutally disciplined with whatever time frame you decide to go with.

    • Now is not the time to squander minutes. Break your day into minutes, not hours.  Make them count, they are now finite.
  • Focus more on PEOPLE than tasks.

    • Yes, you need to get work done and there is risk to “mailing it in” after you state your intentions.  Fight like hell to avoid that.  See the point on reputation…
    • If your deciding on getting a task done (“work”) vs a connection with PEOPLE, choose the later.
  • PEOPLE – Force yourself to try and make others better, yourself.

    1. Share any thoughts/ideas/constructive criticism you have for people you’ve worked with.  Leave it all on the field. People will listen a bit harder knowing you are a bit less guarded.  You can be candid without burning bridges, but be CANDID.
    2. ASK for advice in the context of the future you are pursuing. People you’ve worked with are in the best position to guide you and the same candor you give will usually be reciprocated.
  • Plan your parting message.  Make it count.  If every person were to remember you by your parting message, are you going to be proud of it?

    • We’ve all seen the obligatory “farewell message,” some are better than others.  My only advice is to speak from the heart and express gratitude for those that matter (everyone).  Everything else is style points.

When I sent out my final message at 6:45am yesterday, one of my fellow early bird colleagues bounced back and asked “you did that in 45 minutes?”  It was a long one, & I hate long emails!  I just couldn’t sound bite the final message.  His question was more along the lines of “can you write that much in 45 minutes?”

I answered off the cuff and told the truth:  Of course not, wrote a couple drafts and cleaned it up this morning!

The truth is, while I was technically accurate, I couldn’t be more WRONG.

A solid farewell message, and PROCESS for your GOODBYE should not be the product of a few drafts and few days.  It should be the product of your entire journey, your impact, some lessons learned, and a sincere appreciation for those that made you who you are.

This type of Goodbye process can be a bit painful, and there’s a simple reason:  

Goodbyes aren’t easy.  And that’s the point.  

In sports, in victory OR defeat, there is no better feeling than the exhaustion that results from leaving it all on the field.  Your Goodbye is the equivalent, so do it right.

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The Oxygen Test on Culture

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In Assessing Organizational Culture, I proposed the Relationship Churn Test to start to add rigor to one of the most critical areas of a business.  Nothing is harder, and at the same time, more critical than figuring out a businesse’s culture.
While the Relationship Churn test was meant to add structure and quantify culture, here’s another method.

The Oxygen Test

When you walk through the business, do you get a sense that oxygen is being injected, at a constant level, or at dangerously low levels?

Oxygen is an appropriate metaphor.  It’s odorless, colorless, and critical to life.  You rarely think about it, unless you were short of it.  Culture can be thought of the same way.
Let’s Deal with The Extremes, businesses with abundant oxygen and one’s that are short of it.  Here’s some of the traits:
A Business ABUNDANT with Oxygen, here’s what you’ll see….
  • A vibe of positive energy.  Smiles.  Laughter.  LOUD laughter that could be heard way down the hall
  • Optimism rules the day.  Today may not be great, but there is universal belief that tomorrow is bright.
  • Results and “good work” matter more than who is performing it.
  • A feeling of “Stature” does not permeate the air….
  • The pace feels faster, not slower.  Sometimes even frantic.
  • The break room and the people in it are enjoying each other’s company
  • There is a vibe of a game, kind of like a pickup basketball game where there is score being kept.
  • A feeling that people have each other’s back.  Helping hands, positive vibes, small gestures.
  • Meetings:  Tend to be lively.  Debate.  White boarding.  Active discussion and listening.  No feeling of dread…
  • If there are mantra’s on the wall, the oxygen level supports the mantra (it’s not just a slogan)
  • More doors are open than shut.
  • If there are NO doors and it’s an open environment, than the people actually look like they are happy it’s that way.
  • There’s a scoreboard of results.  Somewhere, simple to understand.  If it works for sports, it works for business too.
Businesses WITHOUT oxygen?
Basically are missing the above.  In some cases, you can reverse each of the above and you have your business in desperate need of an OXYGEN INJECTION.

Business is no different than life.  Oxygen is life sustaining to a culture.  Make sure yours has an abundant supply.  

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