Archives for October 2014

Is Your Hustle Tank Over-flowing?

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A question from a friend and past colleague and key executive of a consumer products company.

“If my tank is too full, how do I keep it from bursting?”

Anyone asking this question probably has no shortage of energy, motivation, drive or desire to points on the board.  And having the benefit of knowing him, he belongs to the elite right hand corner of the business world’s bell curve, the top % of performers, thinkers and doers that companies are built around.  All questions should make you think.  But questions coming from someone you respect and admire are show stoppers.

So here goes…

First:  “Where I come from?” as I attempt to answer it:

  1. I FEEL this question often.  I’m a magnet for wanting to do too much, and actually acting on that desire.
  2. I have NEVER successfully conquered it!

My Hustle Tank has probably be on E < 10% of the time.  “BURSTING” 75% of the time.  And the remaining is probably “on balance.”

That’s why the question is intriguing.

My answer?

I’m not sure a Hustle Tank on the verge of bursting is an emergency.  I could probably create an argument that the tank bursting and the reasons behind it is what got you to this point in life.

Having said that, stress of all sorts can create a barrier to truly excellent performance, so dealing with it is important.  Also, it is possible to overplay one area of life (business), at the expense of the other.

First thought that comes to mind?

  • Take care of your life’s #1 partner:  Spouse/significant other.  I’ve been lucky.  I call my wife my life’s greatest SECRET WEAPON.  I’m FAR from a marital expert, but DO know that a rock solid partner in your Hustle endeavors is a tremendous asset that will keep the tank from bursting.  Enough said there…..

Second, WITHIN your business:

  • If you believe that a responsibility of LEADERSHIP is to create more LEADERS, than there is probably an opportunity to serve others, and in the process, have a “side benefit” of reducing one’s own stress.

  • Sometimes, great potential lies in hidden corners where leaders either have NOT looked, or haven’t successfully discovered them.  Finding them takes intentional effort, out of your office and getting to know where the fire is in the organization.  Finding that person within your organization is the golden opportunity….start now.

Make sure they have runway in front of them.  You are about to invest in someone, so you need a real return.  Get the right person, one with a Fire in the Belly.  To sum it up, they need the Killer B’s.

  • Carve out a meaningful portion of your role, (5 hours + per week).  
  • Look for some activity, you consistently do that consumes hours and try and give it up to this person.  I’m not talking about “delegating” I’m talking about transferring a major activity that can be closely replicated and if screwed up by this high potential, your business is not at major risk.
    • Run a weekly results meeting that you participate in (maybe lead)?
    • Spend time dealing with vendors?
    • New talent scouting?
    • Reviewing investment options? (cap ex, acquisitions, etc)?
    • Putting out fires?  The latest turnover issue, R&D issue, audits, etc

All of these are important, you are doing them for a reason and probably are very efficient.  And guess what?  They all can be done by someone else even if it’s “not as good.”

Lets say you pick an area that consumes on average 5 hours of your time.  Commit to INVESTING 20 hours with this person to ramp them up. Don’t just show them HOW, show them WHY.  Roll with them for a few weeks.  Than pull away, have them lead it.  Have them report back.  Coach.  Counsel.  Challenge.

  • After your up-front investment, is it fair to say you can turn 5 hours a week into 1?
  • 3 months down the road, how’s your high potential doing?  Do you have a stronger bench?

Can this approach turn a Bursting Hustle Tank into just a full one?  Maybe.  But I’m SURE of this:  If someone were to take 5 hours a week off my plate so I could concentrate on bigger picture activities, I certainly would have less of a “bursting” feeling.  

Worst case scenario?  A high potential team member has been developed far more than NOT trying to deal with the bursting tank at all.  And that matters most in the Leadership game…  

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Your Hustle Tank is on “E”? Now What?

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Hustle Tank on E

A recent post discussed the career dangers that result in a Hustle Tank on “E.”  The purpose was just to raise awareness that if you find yourself there for an extended period, you are in a REAL AND PRESENT career danger zone.

Than someone dropped me a line and said, “I’m there, any advice to get out of it?”  I always appreciate readers engaging, and this is not an easy question!

So here are some thought on how to attack a Hustle Tank on “E.”

First, let me assume (could be dangerous) that things in one’s personal life are relatively stable and not in a state of turmoil.

Everyone has challenges beyond work, but let’s assume those challenges are not EXTRAordinary.

Step # 1

1)  Analyze Your EXISTING Daily Routine:  How you use your time can be a major contributor to a tank on E.

  • How much “dead” or wasted time are you spending per day?  (Take a look at your TV habits for a starting point)
  • Are you working out?
  • Are you reading new things?
  • Having conversations with trusted people?  Old Friends?  New contacts?  There’s a coffeehouse on every corner, use it.

Key Point:  Getting your tank beyond “E” will likely involve utilizing your time in a very different way.  Start small, 20 minutes a day with something different.  Write it down, whatever that new activity is, each day.  Nothing fancy, a cocktail napkin works.  But do SOMETHING different each and every day.

What “bigger chunks of time” or new experiences are you consistently engaging in?

  • Service to others?  Non Profit service is a great way to charge your batteries and get the attention off yourself and onto others
  • New “side projects?”  Start yourself a blog, new hobby, a free on-line course from Wharton or a bunch of other elite institutions, etc

This one is harder to do daily, so you may want to think of this as a WEEKLY activity or bi-weekly.

2)  Get a Plan Quickly And Approach Your Employer

  • Nothing infuriates an employer more than someone that is clearly on “E” and doesn’t seem to care.  If your in this situation you need to deal with it head on and start sitting with your management.  The more well thought out your meeting the better.  More solutions you bring to the table the better.
  • The point is to not let “E” be long term, it will diminish your reputation, get on top of the situation and confront it.

There is risk involved with sitting down with your employer and telling them “I’m burnt out!”  Many people don’t want to approach it for fear of losing their job.  Maybe the emergency funds are not built up?  Maybe the confidence is low?  There could be a hundred reasons why people avoid the conversation.

Balance the risk of “looking the other way/ignoring the problem” vs. confronting the reality head on and a being in the room while the problem gets discussed and worked.

I’ve never met a high achiever that prefers to let OTHERS make a decision (especially negative ones) behind close doors vs. having a seat at the table.

There is one obvious solution I’m leaving out:

Expand your options, find alternatives.  Translation?  Find another job.  That is intentional.  Most people don’t analyze the root cause of what gets them on “E.”  Or some do, but they never confront the situation with their Employer, for whatever reason.  Lets say you jump to a search and find another job, great, Congrats!  How long will it be before that tank finds itself on “E” again?  The answer is not “IF”, it’s “WHEN.”  What’s the solution going to be then?

Working towards Excellence is not an easy road.

Business is a CONTACT SPORT.  There’s no shame in having your Hustle tank fall to “E.”  The only shame is not figuring out why, than developing an action plan to fix it.

Good luck, and I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on how you refill an empty tank….drop a comment below!

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Career Warning Sign: A Hustle Tank on “E”

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HUSTLE is core to everything I think about, talk about, practice and study.  It’s a borderline obsession and why my blog is named “Hustle or BUST!”

3 reasons come to mind why it’s the cornerstone of my philosophy:

  1. It’s one of life’s massive difference makers.
    • People of “average” ability that outwork someone with tremendous NATURAL talents, will flat out level the playing field.
    • Give me a factor you are competing with, HUSTLE can play a massive role squaring up the so called “disadvantage.”
  2. It’s 100% controllable.   Like attitude, it is a choice.
  3. Massive Hustle is really not that common.
    • Hustle is not just “working hard” as many people can claim that.  It’s about working hard on things that make a real difference, that generate results.  Than MASSIVELY out-working people in those areas.
    • Many waste time on things that if they stopped, no difference would be felt.  Think 80/20.

In short, Hustle is within everyones reach, and as they embrace and craft it, life improves.

The reverse is also true.  People’s “Hustle Factor” is not a constant level.  It ebbs and flows, especially in the workplace.

If one’s HUSTLE comes into question in the workplace, they have entered a very real career DANGER ZONE.

Hustle is a vital organ of your career.  Think of it as your career HEART.

When the heart stops beating……blood and oxygen stop going to other vital organs.

The problem with the metaphor however is the TIME factor.  In real life, your heart can’t stop beating for long, or death is imminent.  In careers, when hearts slow (or stop completely), death can be quick, or it can be painfully slow.

Slow and painful deaths are never fun, especially when you can control it by recognizing warning signs and taking immediate and deliberate action.

Warning Signs- Hustle on

Warning Signs:  When Your Hustle Indicator is on “E.”

  • The clock seems to consistently move slower.  Each day…

  • When you leave more tired from the same effort

  • You fail the Optimism test I learned from my 7 year old waking up each day.

  • You spend significant time thinking:  Does my effort create tangible results?

  • When more energy goes into politics/drama vs. generating results, serving customers, or helping people over extended periods of time.

  • When you feel like your on auto-pilot, have “leveled off” on your development.  You’re not GROWING.

  • When people stop seeking you out to solve problems.  Especially one’s that used to in the past, and your not thrilled with those changes.  You don’t ask why, because you’re afraid of the answer.  

  • When there’s a body part that seems to be getting sore:  Your heels, because you are always on them, playing defense.

This list is not exhaustive.  And the key point?  The Blue are internal to how YOU Feel, the RED are external to OTHERs recognizing you are on E. RED warning signs are therefore more critical.  

People are human.  We all go through valleys where we can answer along the lines of “E” on the above warning signs.  Recognizing what’s a valley that you will pull out from vs. a permanent “E” with little chance of replenishing is key.

But make no mistake:  Having a Hustle Indicator on “E” can’t last very long.  Recognize your warning signs….

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An Employer’s Perspective: On-line No Pay MBA vs. Traditional MBA?

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I am fascinated by the market for higher education.   My views of the market are shaped through the eyes of 3 roles I currently play in life:

  1. As a father of 2 youngsters (7 & 10) having the challenge of figuring out how to fund what will likely be north of a half million dollars, wow!

  2. As the writer of a leadership/business blog: Hustle Or Bust:  Where Old School Meets New School.

  3. As CEO of LM Foods.  A company that aspires to be one of the great little manufacturing plants in the USA.

In January of 2013 I wrote my longest post ever (1,500+ words) on Hustle or Bust:

4 Reasons the College President Sleeps Well at Night….While Their Industry Awaits Disruption

If you don’t want to read 1,500 words, here’s the summary:  The higher education market is showing all the signs of being in the middle stages of disruption.  There’s plenty of reasons why they will avoid the fundamental shift to a new, more efficient model like the record industry, book industry all experienced (and didn’t end well for many in the “don’t change” mode).

To say that I’m fascinated by the movement towards MOOC’s (“Free on-line courses”), and in particular the structured approach profiled on No Pay MBA is an understatement.  That’s from the perspective of a Father, and the perspective of a student of business.

But I play another role in life.  It consumes 65+ hours a week.  It consumes 90% of my mental “think time.”  It’s that of company owner, CEO.  And from that vantage point, the audience of No Pay MBA may be interested in my thoughts related to the following:

Can a MOOC education translate to employment opportunities the way a conventional degree can?[Continue Reading…]

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