Archives for December 2014

The Myth of a “Functional” Family or Business

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Fact:  When humans are involved, rarely will a textbook rule the day.  People will often

  • Act irrationally
  • Not do their homework, and shoot from the hip
  • Fail to look in the mirror for the cause of a problem or its solution
  • Not play well in the sandbox
  • Throw a fit, inwardly or outwardly.
  • Work great in isolation, terrible in teams.

In other words, the PEOPLE part of a business (or families) is often the hardest part to get right.  And it’s also the most important.  They will also do the opposite of the above if you create the right culture.  

Easier said than done.

Here’s one thing I remember growing up.  A term came to light, usually around divorce or family issues: “Dysfunctional family.”

Dysfunctional family

It’s a hard label to get your brain around, especially if you might consider your’s dysfunctional, but lets save that for another day.  Here’s something worth pondering:

Do you know ANY business (or family) without some challenges?  Struggles?  Drama?

I do not.  In fact, it seems that DYS-functional is the norm, not the exception.

If you believe that, why don’t we just accept the fact that dysfunction, or people problems…..

  1. Exist.  Whether we like it or not.
  2. Are manageable, but they won’t manage themselves by accident.  Business is a CONTACT sport.
  3. Can actually be a positive catalyst for change, if they are embraced vs. run from.

There’s a reason why Reality TV has found a niche and is not going away:  Human Behavior is fascinating, somewhat unpredicatble, and is downright entertaining.

Some of the worst spent “energy dollars” in business is put towards CURBING dysfunction rather than embracing it.  Wearing it like a badge of honor.

Many may be thinking “sounds like chaos!”  Maybe.

Or maybe, Leaders should think about….

  • The Human spirit, aspirations of the individual, and all the perils it creates, and how best to deal with it.

  • Emotion really isn’t a 4 letter word.

  • Conflict is not a bad thing.

  • Blow-ups happen.  Sometimes they are ugly.  Public.  Ever see the real housewives of NJ?  

  • Sometimes houses get knocked down intentionally and re-built with a new design, open floor plans and new fixtures.  But rarely, will a person knock down their own house and re-build it.  Sometimes, but rarely.  New owners are usually the re-builders.

If you accept the fact that a degree of “dysfunction” driven by natural human behavior exists, than leaders have clear choices to make.

  1. Embrace a Dys-functional reality.  Create a culture that celebrates “natural behavior”, in it’s rawest form vs. punishing it, as long as the values and forward momentum continue…..

  2. Spend significant time, money and energy trying to “mandate” or encourage what acceptable behavior is.  Reward it when you see it.

I’m not one for false choices and this isn’t meant to be an either or.

Time, money, and great talent are in rare supply at most businesses.  Spending any of the three going against the grain of the human spirit is like swimming against the tide.


Want an “animalistic” sports analogy?

I wrote “When Teams have Each Other’s Back” in May ’13.  You can watch the video below as well.  Any die hard Yankee Fan will tell you that the teams of the late ’90’s were very different than the team’s since.  In many ways, their talent was LESS.  But they had each other’s back like no other, and their results have never approached this teams achievements since.  This brawl illustrates it.  The boss (owner George Steinbrenner) had to be smiling seeing his players come to the aid of each other, in a fierce way.  Simply put, they wouldn’t stand for one of their own being put in jeopardy.  That’s what a team is all about.

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A Call to Leaders: Learn From Our Moms on A Mission

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What’s the most powerful motivator for a business?

  • Financial Results?  Incentives that follow?
  • Ownership/Equity shared with key players?
  • Caring/Serving others?
  • Achieving a businesses “BHAG” (Big Hairy Audacious Goal to credit the great Jim Collins)?
  • Fulfilling the businesses “Mission”?

The fact is I’m not sure.  But one thing I’ve been flat out stunned by one of the most powerful forces on the planet.

A Mom on A Mission

This force is not gender specific, it’s the “Mission” that is the key point.  A higher cause, beyond what your trying to do TODAY.

I first started to believe this in 2013, and I wrote about “Moms on a Mission” and the passion & effort to bring Best Buddies to Memphis, TN by couple of go-getters in Memphis.

It hit me again this month, same community of intellectual disabilities, but this time government is brought into the fold.

Congress passed the ABLE Act (Achieving a better life experience) in early December.  But what hit me is the following.

  • It was a landslide vote:  404 For, 17 Against.  When does Congress EVER unanimously support a bill to that level?  
    • Senate passed 76-16 too.
  • It wasn’t overnight.  8 years of frustration trying to get this bill passed.  Not 8 months.  8 YEARS.

Note:  I was proud to be part of a lobbying trip to DC about 6 years ago where Down Syndrome local affiliates from across the country to meet with their representatives.  Humbling and energizing, all at the same time.  Our democracy flat out works, with all of its problems.

A shout-out to another Mom on a Mission, Jawanda Mast, one of  the strongest advocates I know.  Jawanda personifies what HUSTLE is all about, and her journey is captured beautifully on her blog.


How many businesses would endure 8 years of rejection, sunk costs and countless denials for all of that effort?  Not many.  Businesses always cut their losses beyond some point.

Moms on a Mission…..people with a cause flat out never give up.  They will work until their last waking hour to get something done when OTHERS are at stake, not themselves.

In the case of Best Buddies & The passage of the ABLE act, both causes happen to be communities that aim to provide a better life for those that can use a little help.

Change for any disadvantaged community does  not happen by accident, as there is no free market incentive system built into our society that enables a kid to be included in the classroom, the Friday night pizza party, or a chance at a job or saving for college.  This type of change requires people that are driven by more than the almighty $.

Enter Moms on Mission.

The very few businesses that tap into the spirit of these 2 examples would be flat out unstoppable.  Who wouldn’t invest in those kinds of businesses?    

Getting people to work beyond their SELF-interest may very well be the Leadership challenge of the century.

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Thoughts on Building A Company With Heart

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I was a bit surprised when one of my colleagues said they were “dreading asking me for a half day off” a few weeks ago.

“What’s the big deal, we’ll survive the few hours right?”

Like most initial reactions, when you reflect with a little time that passes, you can relate a bit better.  There’s a lesson in that alone for all of us e-mailers!

A quick story of the past before going into the role of a leader…..

I often reflect on my fantastic 8+ years at Monogram Foods which I certainly consider PIVOTAL in my life, for a couple of reasons.

  • I started at the age of 31.  Enough experience and boundless energy to make a difference, but maybe too young (never thought I’d say that) to put relevance on anything big picture related.
  • My first child Hope was  18 months old, also a turning point in my life.  Becoming a parent is big for ANYONE.  Hope was born with Down Syndrome (DS), we wouldn’t change a thing about her.

The fact that Hope DOES have DS, meant I was opened up to a new world, a world where I needed to understand communities that may need a little extra help.

My wife and I divide and conquer very well.  She focused on direct care of Hope (school system, therapies/medical, etc) and I focused on the outside world (local community, fundraising, businesses, government to a degree).  We of course came together at the big points in both worlds.

What happened with me?

  • I joined the local Memphis Down Syndrome Affiliate as a board member.  Our goal was to improve/empower the lives of people with DS and their families.  Lots of ways to do this, and all can’t be done at once, and all of it requires time and money.

Back to motivation in business…..

  • We needed a place for board meetings.  I went to my boss and asked if he wouldn’t mind if I use my company’s conference room.  I kind of felt like my colleague asking me for a half day off.  I wouldn’t call it dread, but there was certainly “butterfilies.”

My boss’s reaction?  “ABSOLUTELY!  Make sure everyone helps themselves to the soft drinks too.”

While I wasn’t surprised at his support (as solid a person as they come), I WAS elated that the reaction was an “open arms” invitation to the organization.

It sent a message:  “What’s important to you, is important to us.”

That continued.

  • I asked if we could donate hot dogs to annual awareness/fundraising walk.  They sent a crew to cook them.  And we invited the entire company, and they showed up in droves.
  • They donated.  And if you’ve ever asked people for donations, you know how difficult that is.
  • When I went to DC for a couple of days to lobby in support of the community?  They were waiting at the coffee pot wanting the run down of the experience.  Taking precedent over SEC Football reviews is big.
  • The list goes on….

This wasn’t just my boss/President of the company.  It was my team members on the exec team (I considered them like “brothers”).  The team I was honored to lead.  The plants.  High and wide.

In short, MY journey with Hope and the DS community became their journey too.

I wasn’t the only lucky one.  People’s life journies/stories became part of the culture.

Fast Forward to Today, where we work to create something great beyond Monogram….

The lessons and stories I tell as I build a company elicit a common reaction:

  • “Well you WERE a VP you know!” as if to say “rank has its privelages.”

Fair response, if you believe that leadership level determines HEART.  I do not believe that.

Another learning lesson:[Continue Reading…]

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The Most Dangerous Button in Business

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It’s not the panic button.

We’ve all done it.  The alarm clock rings.  You either get up, or you hit the SNOOZE button.

Snooze Button


The snooze button is deadly for one reason.  It delays action.

Action (doing SOMETHING) is what separates people who merely set goals from those that actually achieve them.  

Answering the bell is hard at times.  Your bed is cozy.  It is safe.  Why not take an extra 10 minutes?  It’s only 10 minutes for crying out loud!


There’s someone out there that isn’t hitting the Snooze Button.  Even worse?  They are getting up an hour or 2 earlier.  They Start Early.

They have a name: Competition.

Maybe your lucky, and your competitors are few and far between, or they are miles behind you.  But chances are they are out there.  And there is someone HUNGRY, trying to make an impact.  To get noticed.

The fact is, everyone needs their sleep!  If I don’t get at least 6 hours I feel it.  If I get more than 6 I feel better.  If I get more than 7, I’m flirting with lazy and inaction.

If I hit the snooze button I’m avoiding action, avoiding the Start.  Nobody ever got the ball rolling with their head on the pillow.

Kill the snooze button.  And while your at it, find a few other things in your life that prevent action from being taken.  


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Kill the Energy Vampires!

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A friend of mine reccomended a great read:

The Energy Bus

Some books focus on “break-through research,” while others focus on common sense principles.  This one is that later.

One particular rule (out of 10) that resonated?  Rule #6:

“Post a Sign that says: No Energy Vampires Allowed!”

Business (and in some cases life) is difficult enough.  Attitude is life’s most significant choices, not traits.  Positive attitudes fuel energy, negative attitudes deplete it.

Negative Attitude = Negative Energy. 

  • There are people in your life, your business, your community that simply DRIVE you to step it up.  And there are people that are flat out toxic to your present or future.
  • Knowing the Energy Fillers tends to be easy.  However, sometimes we refuse to acknowledge that others can be depleting our energy, or at worst, TOXIC.

Achieving great things in business and in life is not easy, or everyone would do it.  

Having the discipline and courage to Kill your energy Vampires is like taking off 15lb ankle weights prior to running a marathon.  If you do, you will finish faster.  Check that, you WILL finish.  

Would it not be devastating to  train for a marathon and not finish, simply because you chose to wear ankle weights?

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