Why Labor Day is My Favorite Holiday

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A 2011 Harris Poll Caught my eye, ranking America’s favorite Holidays, and then segmenting that info by generation and gender.

I’ll admit it:  Labor Day is MY favorite Holiday.

In the past I’ve called it Under-rated.  Misunderstood.  Now I’ll just call it my favorite.

Religious convictions aside, I have to wonder why it doesn’t crack the top 5, at least in 2011 it did not (it ranked #8).

  • Economic pressure?

  • No religious affiliation?

  • End of something great (summer)?

  • The stigma associated with “WORK?”  It’s a four letter word not just literally, but metaphorically.

Who knows.  And really, who cares!  People have the right to call whatever holiday is their favorite.

Here are my reasons, kind of off the top of my head.

  1. It has been said that the greatest social program known to man and government is a job.  AGREE.

  2. All jobs, regardless of pay matter.  If you think hard enough, many of your values and life lessons can trace back to your early years working.

  3. When you receive compensation for anything (products, hours, etc) you are exchanging one thing of value for another.  This exchange system is as old as the dawn of civilization.  There’s something special about anything that goes back centuries.

  4. There’s something democratic about capitalism.  The free enterprise system, with all its flaws tends to find a price/value for all jobs in demand.  The greater the demand, lower the supply, the higher the price.  These laws almost always ring true.

  5. The USA is a country of immigrants.  Not a debate.  Immigrants come to the USA in search of a better life.  What was tops on their mind to do that?  A JOB.

  6. Our economy moves at light speed.  A profession today could be wiped out in 2 years for a number of reasons.  That creates risk.  It also creates opportunity.  Either way, it should keep you on your toes.

  7. Maybe I just think of “Labor” or work, as the back-bone of our country and it’s free enterprise system.  FREEDOM.  CHOICE.  Land of OPPORTUNITY.

The nightly news has always puzzled me.  The sentiment always seems to be so negative.

Personally, when I think of America I ALWAYS have a smile on my face.
  • I see so many people work, struggle, succeed, help each other, grind away, figure it out, and generally move forward.  I see people with seemingly average ability go on to be wild successful.  I see people that (on the surface) get lucky, but when you hear their story, they usually found a way to create that luck by choices they made.
  • I see people struggle to figure out how to pick up their kids at school when their employer asks them to hang in an extra hour or 2.
  • I see the overwhelming majority of people get up in the morning and WANT to put a good, honest days effort and provide for their families.  And many of these same people have a fire in their belly to improve on their current lot in life and grow, from wherever they are today.

“Work” to me is something you DO.  It’s a choice.  It’s a skill.  It’s the path to whatever life you hope to live.  Sure, Turkeys and Goblins are fun.  But if I’m going to give you my number one holiday, Labor Day gets my vote.  

 

Base: All adults (Source:  Harris Interactive, Link Below).

Generation

Gender

Echo Boomers (18-34)

Gen X

(35-46)

Baby Boomers

(47-65)

Matures

(66+)

Male

Female

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Halloween

Halloween

Fourth of July

Fourth of July

Fourth of July

Halloween

Fourth of July

Fourth of July

Halloween

Easter

Halloween

Easter

Easter

Easter

New Years

Halloween

New Years

Fourth of July

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/878/Default.aspx

 

 

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Thoughts on an 8 Year Opening Day Missive Ritual

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One of the most exciting parts of business is building a culture with a team.  Taking part in events, and some of those turn into traditions.

Before I acquired LM Foods, I was lucky to be part of a great little Memphis based company, Monogram Foods for over 8 years.  When I started there were no more than 12 people in the company (today they have over 1,300!).

Every year I decided to write an annual Baseball Opening Day “Missive.”  I will admit they were obnoxious and probably annoyed more than a handful of people.  I would try to convert southerners to not only become a baseball fan (try that in the South!), but also to become a YANKEE fan.

For the appropriate context, Yankees are not a baseball team to southerners, they are a Species, and many would prefer that they were the endangered type!  Bless their heart…..

I felt bad for my fellow Memphians.  You see, they did not have their own baseball team.  And this didn’t bother them.  But it should have.    

Sure, they can get in the car and drive 3+ hours to claim the St. Louis Cards as their home team, but what a pain, and built in factor not to fall in love with baseball.

PS:  If you ever want to REALLY experience life, I recommend signing a 1 year lease no more than 10 blocks away from 2 stadiums:  Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.  Life will be forever changed, to the good.

Enter the solution to a modern day sports/city/complex crisis……the Yankee is in the house!

I needed to at least TRY to enlighten them to the greatness of the game AND the greatness of the worlds best sport franchises despite their geographical challenges and built in sports biases.  I cared too much for my brothers and sisters in Memphis and in the plant locations to let these things continue.  So I tried.  For 8 years I put my best case forward.

For the record, if the goal was to convert one person from a passive fan to more active, AND to adopt the Yankees, I was an outright failure!   Can’t win them all, especially in baseball.

The Opening Day Missive gave a platform to unsuspecting talent in far away places outside of our headquarters.  One that comes to mind is my dear friend in Accounting in one of our plants, affectionately known as “brother Dave.”  Dave is a pro.  He’s also a character.  A technical whiz in a lumberjacks body. He’s also a sniper behind the bushes waiting for my annual Opening Day Missive so he could destroy me and leave his buddy bleeding in the streets.  He did it well.

As it turns out, and much to the risk of my fragile ego, more people looked forward to Brother Dave’s counter argument and dismantling of everything Yankees than they did to the missive itself.  The rant became the avenue for bloodshed in the airwaves.  His replies were painful to read, but hysterical.  Hysterical to everyone.  Except me.

Small things define cultures in business.  Many times they don’t cost a ton of money.  It could be a cook-out celebrating great results, or even a simple recognition publicly for a small victory.  As long as they are authentic and not overly scripted, traditions matter.

Old School? Maybe.  But it matters.  Just like Baseball.

On a slow Sunday morning, I was curious to see how many times I wrote about America’s past time on Hustle or Bust.  Out of the 173 posts as of this date, 11 of them sprinkle in Baseball (below are the links).  Hustle is not confined too business, it cuts through all of life.  In fact, it probably originated in sports.

Yankees & A-Rod:  I Didn’t Charge The Yanks for this Advice

And perhaps the deepest, most important one?

An email I sent to my former team (with their heartfelt thoughts attached as well) on one of the country’s defining days.  What does that have to do with baseball?  Simple.  Baseball is what brought the country back together, when it needed it the most.

What is important about opening day is revealed in the Remembrances post.  Any opportunity to bring people together on a human level is one worth capturing.  

Happy Opening Day.  Where everyone starts in first place and anything can happen on the long road ahead.

Best of luck to your team!

baseball opening day

image credit: baseballism.com

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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.

http://www.thesassysoutherngal.com/

 

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.

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/12/03/congress-able-act-chip-gerhardt/19855449/

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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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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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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/

 

American Flag

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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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A Leader’s Obligation: Deal With Your Employees Mental Freight Train

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One of the more anxious events in someone’s career is enduring a change of control & leadership transition.  People’s fears tend to go sky high when a new Leader takes over, with many thoughts along the lines of:

  • Will I lose my job?

  • Will they bring their own team in?

  • Will they change everything about how I do my job?

  • Will my pay/benefits be cut?

  • Will my quality of life go down/up/sideways?

It’s natural for people to let their mind race, and it may be racing in “packs” as they talk with their co-workers and supervisors.

Change is mandatory in business, but it needs to be managed aggressively.  An employee’s mind can be like a freight train when it starts to run.  A leaders role (and in my opinion, OBLIGATION) is to NOT allow it to become a freight train if it heads in the wrong direction.  It is the leader’s role to tell them….

  • What their leadership principles are (how they manage)

  • What a vision for the future could be.  Make it a better tomorrow than today

  • Start ACTING in accordance with both who you ARE and where you want to GO.  

Last, a novel concept:

Catch people doing something RIGHT.  Not wrong.  Call them in.  Celebrate it.  Make it a habit to recognize the productive behavior.  

Another reason why leaders should do this?  It feels pretty darn good for all those involved.

Recognition injects Oxygen into a culture, something a business can never have too much of.

Catch them doing something right

The Great Production Team of LM Foods, LLC, Celebrating An Everyday Positive Moment

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HUSTLE or BUST: Not Just a Blog Name Anymore!

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Sometimes the walk up to the starting line takes a while….4+ months that started with a series of exploratory conversations with some accomplished pro’s turned into an acquisition of a Food Company.

Buying a business is a bit like training for a marathon.  Lots of preparation, long runs, and the lead up to a massive test of endurance.  Not an easy process, and one that requires skill, and like most things in business, a great team is critical.  

I have been privileged to work with a great Private Equity team that worked tirelessly on the deal and will continue to add value over the years ahead.  In life, who you surround yourself with is one of the life’s greatest difference makers, and the team I worked with are nothing short of life’s A-Players.  Can’t say enough good things about my partners at Salt Creek Capital.

With this acquisition comes a series of life events

  • Moving back home to NJ after 8+ great years in Memphis
  • A transition of company and roles:  From CMO of Monogram Foods, to the new role of President/CEO for a niche manufacturing company.
    • More to follow on specifics and how this business will continue to do great things and new things in months ahead….

What else comes with acquiring a business and assuming the top role?

RISK.  Putting your name and every financial resource you have on the line.  The banks call it a Personal Guarantee (of the debt).

Over a year ago I started Hustle or Bust.  I loved the name, and it came to me quickly.  

If forced to describe my career, and maybe life in ONE word, HUSTLE would be that word.

Hustle is 100% controllable, it’s a choice.  I’ve always believed that you either Hustle, or BUST.  Unless you’re an absolute genius, lucky, or born with a silver spoon, Hustle is mandatory.

Now for the BUST part:  Back to guaranteeing debt, RISK.

First, RISK is present in everyday life whether you sign your name to it or not.  It’s why we have emergency funds.

What’s the worst thing that can happen to someone in a job?  You get fired.

That’s risk, you just didn’t sign your name to it.  It happens to very talented people, sometimes without cause.

Is risk scary?  Yes.  Is it manageable?  Usually.  

Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone.  When you sign personal guarantees you are basically saying that you are comfortable with the worst possible financial outcome.  Not many can stomach that kind of risk.

Life and careers are about a series of choices.  Weighing the scales of what is important, understanding risk, and how that risk compares to reward.  And a host of intangibles always factor into the process.

Today marks a turning point in this blog.  When a life event or transition happens, it fundamentally changes your point of view, outlook and perspective on things.  Having the good fortune to lead a company, the responsibility, risk and opportunity to build something great……I would say that qualifies as a defining “life event” that is sure to change my outlook and view on the world.  

I hope you join me on this journey and share your insights and comments as well.

Here’s wishing all of you success on YOUR journey.

Life is short.  May you always live each day with HUSTLE…..or Bust.

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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:

THE MORALE METER.

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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