Archives for August 2014

The Most Under-Rated of All Holidays? Labor Day

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If I were to think of all the nationally recognized holidays that define the USA “idea,” Independence Day is probably number one.

A VERY close #2?

LABOR DAY.

la·bor
noun
work, especially hard physical work
verb
work hard; make great effort
Capitalism is about many things.  
  • Innovation
  • Risk Taking
  • Leadership
  • Competition
  • Teamwork

At the heart of capitalism is flat out, pain-staking, grind away, roll up your sleeves WORK.  LABOR.  I think of it as HUSTLE.

The thing about Labor that is fascinating?

It is so different person to person.  And much of it is attitude driven, with choices made daily about how it is approached.

Think of the major league ball player that busts it down the line on a routine grounder, while another guy jogs.  I’m convinced that a ball player like Robinson Cano cost himself over $100mm for one simple fact:  He had  a tendency to NOT Hustle.  But I digress.

I also believe that EVERYBODY working….

  • Has value

  • Builds their dignity, self-respect with each passing work day successfuly completed.

  • Builds wealth, both for themselves (if managed properly) and that wealth creates more wealth.  A great circle of prosperity when money gets earned, spent, invested.

  • There’s a work opportunity for all humans, regardless of skill level, education, race, gender or ethnicity.  This is a massive world.

Rarely do things come easy.  Labor, could also be known as Labor “Pains.”  Some think work is a 4-letter word.
Some LOVE to work, and take it to extremes.  I personally have always struggled with striking a work-life balance, especially with young kids.  But I’d be lying to say I don’t get a massive adrenaline rush from being exhausted after a long hard days work.  Old-school pleasure in its rawest form.  

Some people are blessed to not only work in jobs that support themselves and their families, but that they actually would do for FREE they love it so much.  Those are probably few and far between, but they are out there.

Regardless of where you stand in life:  Labor Day is worth celebrating.  It’s worth exhaling, sitting back and appreciating how food makes its way to your table.  And it’s also worth taking a moment and recognizing that all Jobs, and the people that work them have value.

Happy Labor Day.

And if you happen to be in the NY/NJ area for Labor Day weekend, consider visiting one of NJ’s best kept secrets, the St. Bart’s 40th annual Italian Festival.  Mangia!

http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/

 

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Reflections on Non-Profit Leadership: #Icebucketchallenge

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Like many people, I am amazed at the viral social media success of the ALS #Icebucket challenge fundraising effort. According to the ALSA.org website, donations have reached $62.5mm as of 8/23/14.  It seems impossible to visit Facebook without seeing a video of somebody taking the challenge.  I can’t think of a better example of the NEW SCHOOL doing good things for a worthy charity.

As a former board member of the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis/Mid-South (DSAM), it brought back many memories of 6+ great years of non-profit service.

Every year in October, the DSAM held their annual “Step up for Down Syndrome” fundraising walk.  To say that it was a labor of love put it mildly.  Some rough numbers:

  • Well over 3,500 people attended
  • Nearly as many King Cotton Hot Dogs were consumed!
    • Monogram Foods (parent company of King Cotton) was always a fantastic supporter, and I was proud to call Monogram home for 8+ years
  • The number of volunteers that touched this event went well north of 50.  From high school kids looking to earn volunteer credit, to moms, grandparents and staff members that worked long hours with selfless dedication to the cause.  Ever try throwing a party for 3,500 plus people?   Not easy.  Which brings me to my next point.

Many of my fellow MALE board members would often joke about the weekend preparations leading up to the event.  Lots of physical activity took place, and plenty of sore muscles lasted for a few days.

The joke among my guy counterparts?  The role of the female staff leadership vs. the male board members organizing the event:

“To pull this off, what we need are strong backs and weak minds!”  

The guys on the board all joked about this.  Call this the Old School summary of our role helping out for the event.

These are guys that all had some type of managerial full time job, many with large and growing companies.  Suspending ego, playing a support vs leadership role is not exactly in our DNA.  But it was needed for success.

We’ve all heard the expression about too many chefs in the kitchen.  Organizations, whether striving to make a profit or striving to fulfill a service mission without one, need a mix of strong minds writing the playbook, and strong and dedicated people delivering it.  Neither is more important and without each other working together the mission won’t be achieved.

After fulfilling my #Icebucketchallenge, I looked back fondly on not just my years of service to a great non-profit, but the staff leadership I was lucky to get to know.  They were all talented, dedicated and driven.  I was happy, (at least on the weekend of the event), to value my back over my mind.

I hope with all the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, there can be a few leaders (or aspiring leaders) that are inspired to give back something more important than their money to any cause that hits home:  Their time.  Their talent.  Their energy.

When people make that choice to serve, they will almost definitely be blessed like I was.  They will meet those talents that personify the word HUSTLE.  

Their talent enriches the lives of the people they serve.

I couldn’t imagine better people to surround myself with, and hope others do as well.  

  

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The Power of a Text Message

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A recent text message exchange with a team member, I mentioned we should give some “thoughtful planning” to a company Labor Day celebration.  Labor Day is a time when our company comes together as one for BBQ, and since everyone is in the same place and away from the production floor, it’s a great opportunity to send and receive important messages about where we are at and where we are going.

There’s a problem, or opportunity however in this exchange, depending on your view of the world.

When asked:  “What shall we do?”  I did my best version of project management and wrote the following:

Cook.

Message.

Campaign.

Sell.

Laugh.

Eat.

Work.

Hustle.  Celebrate.

Live.  Hug.

Ball-Bust.

“That’s a rough outline.”  12 simple words.  

Text messages are great for free flow thinking, but not really project management.

For most people, this exchange can be infuriating.  For players that like to write a playbook and not just execute one that’s been handed to them, I would think this is energizing.

There’s a thing about project management I’ve learned?  It doesn’t motivate me.  But it’s important.  It breaks down a vision into concrete steps.

I always wish I had the project management skills of my sister.  She could PM her way off an island in any time-frame given.  

Sometimes, the best laid vision of success is a words picture.  As the great Stephen Covey once said:  “Start with the end in mind!”  

For me, Words help with that process.  

One of my best friends once declared in our college yearbook:  “Words are everything!”  

He’s right.

What else is “everything?”  PEOPLE.

Find people that can take an exchange like this and make a words picture a reality and you have something special.  

 

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Guest Post: The Longest Month of the Year

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If August were a person it would be my frenemy.

I love the nostalgia that is associated with “back-to-school” time.  It reminds me of my childhood and my mother stocking our “school drawer” with all of our school supplies, shopping for new shoes and clothes and later in life of me beginning a new chapter of my life and going off to college.

Now that I am a stay-at-home-mom to three of my own and living in coastal North Carolina, August seems to be the longest month of the year.

You see, school starts back here in late August but it is also our “monsoon” season as I like to call it; hot, rainy and kind of insufferable.  Patience are short and days are long when you can’t spend your time frolicking at the beach, pool or park because it won’t stop raining.

Just last Friday, my children were being exceptionally good.

I mean, “entertaining-themselves-all-day-with-my-foot-spa-and-giving-each-other-foot-rubs-good”; yeah, their idea of “fun” is different, I am aware.  It was 4:00 and I had been doing housework most of the day while they played together so when I was preparing dinner and realized that I was short two ingredients, I didn’t think that it would be much of an inconvenience to any of us to hop in the car and drive the two short blocks to the store to grab what I needed.

I think you know where this is going, right?  Mistake.  Big mistake.

Not having been in public all day, my children did not know what to do with themselves.  And as soon as I walked in the door there was a complimentary table set up whereby I was instantly distracted.  How could I refuse a sample of Hawaiian Moonfish/Opah that had been flown in from the Big Island that day (did I mention that I love all things Hawaiian?).

As I’m talking with the Fishmonger I turn in horror to find my three children on the floor like a pile of dominos!

They are tangled as if they were a pair of double-knotted shoe laces and I can’t tell whose arms/legs are whose or whose cries belong to whom.  That high pitched sound didn’t come from my oldest boy, did it?  Surely these are not my spawn!? With a mouth full of fish, panic sets in.  What the (bleep) would my Mom do?  Nothing!  My sisters and I would not dare dreamt of behaving like this in public.  People are looking at my children as I am frozen with a smile on my face. This is going to have to go further back than “What Would My Mom Do? “We’re talking “What Would Jesus Do?”  

So I look over at the other sample table. Water–>Wine.

The wine rep gives me an empathetic smile, pushes two sample cups towards me and offers, “I have 5 children.”  I calmly sipped my wine, gathered my children off of the floor and proceeded to the self checkout.

Sanity is optional but dignity will remain.

 

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The Crazy One’s: “Retail Negotiating”

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This picture seems innocent enough right?  A customer (who is also a colleague of mine) contemplating their order at the Golden Arches.

While working the graveyard shift (2:30pm – 5am) we made an 11pm run to Dunkin Donuts and Mcd’s to keep the troops fueled, productive and a very small thank you.

Negotiating at Mcd's

This is a fun little drill I subject select people too…..

“Retail Negotiating:”

Trying to get a deal for basic things, where deals are never cut.  It will drive 99% of the population crazy, and create a fair amount of embarrassment.  

And of course, I love it.  

Your looking to engage.  And Score.  And make a little life moment.  

  • A free donut.
  • A cheaper price on the $ menu.
  • Throw in something extra.
  • See what your server is made out of.

Here’s the Negotiating Drill in action:

  • $80 of Mcd’s is a ton of food.  What’s the average ring, $7?  Time to have some fun.
  • Shouldn’t they give us 4 large cups of ice for free?
  • Shouldn’t they throw in apple pies for free?
  • Wouldn’t walking away with just our $80 purchase put us in the rest of the 99% of America, the sane?

I put my colleague to the task, providing nice “encouragement” while she assessed me as borderline pathological.  But she was game to try….and here’s what we learned.

  • She needed to pull out her Spanish on the manager.
  • She also found out they do $10k in revenue per day, a number I would not have guessed (and I’m skeptical of).  And we were the largest sale of the day.
  • She got 4 extra large cups of ice thrown in for free.  And about 5 free apple pies.  But this was after being told we would be charged for the Ice.

To borrow an expression from the New School? BOOM!  She got something done.  We laughed.  We learned a couple of things we didn’t know.  

  • Dunkin Donuts was tougher.  Elmo was our server, and how can you not like a server named Elmo?  He said he’d lose his job.  I told him our people are working with heavy machinery and the caffeine he’s providing is an enormous safety issue, he won’t lose his job.  He laughed to himself.  He thought we were crazy.  He may be right.
  • We worked hard to get 4 coffee rolls put into our 2 dozen donuts without paying the incremental charge.  Maybe a $.75 win.  But a win nonetheless.

These are fun little moments in life.  Chances to interact with people and push them out of their comfort zone.  

Little moments make days stand out, for the negotiatOR and the negotiatEE.  

Opportunities are everywhere to learn something.  To make an impact.  To attack life with energy.  And maybe…. create a few smiles along the way.  

Hustle knows no off days.

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