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Broken shovels and new handles.

 The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

The poor old shovel . . . yellow fiber-glass handle finally gave out!

Sometimes you just gotta do it. I was replacing my mailbox post when it happened. The old shovel handle broke. I've been expecting it. This old, yellow, fiberglass handle was never the best. It quickly began to weaken; the digging becoming a maddening-test-of-stubborn-resistance as the handle flexed, twisted, and alternatively held it''s rigidity as a project progressed.

Now it was caput. Finished. Should I "pitch it" in joy of the cessation of the frustration and hold a wake to it's demise? No. I would replace the handle with a good, solid, wooden one. I grew up in that era. Don't through away things that still have value. Even if the time, the replacement parts, and ultimate finished product are less than ideal.

Changing that handle (see the finished product below) reminded me of the process of helping professionals with "old" skills upgrade to "new" ones. Learning to add contracting or consulting to their professional practice. The tools essentially remain unchanged but the experience is transformative.

Check out our no-coast, no obligation, webinar on Private Practice through Contracting!

 Almost makes me look forward to digging.

Almost makes me look forward to digging.

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Free Summer Webinar!

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Contracts don't suffer from summer slow downs, no shows, client cancellations, or school holidays . . . like the typical private practice can. This is one, among many, reasons why I started and continue to use contracting as part of my private practice.

On Sunday, June 24th, we are offering a no-cost, no-obligation Webinar to professionals who want to learn more about contracting or ask questions about their own professional situations. 

The Webinar, will cover the step-by-step process to get a contract. This will be followed by a question and answer period. 

Sign up is free through Gumroad and attendees will get an email with instructions on how to connect. Attendance will be limited and acceptance is on a "first-come, first-served" basis.

For more information, or to sign up, go to our Gumroad page.

 

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The Neighbor, Grandpa's Gun, Reputation . . . and Authenticity?

 Photo by  Lucas Minklein  on  Unsplash

The Neighbor, Grandpa's Gun, Reputation . . . and Authenticity?

A Boy Finds his Neighbor . . . and his Dad's gun.

My Dad was only 12 years old, when, on his way home he passed by the family's wood pile, and there, laying facedown on the ground, was his neighbor. It may be surprising to you, that "finding one's neighbor facedown on the ground" didn't exactly surprise him, but it didn't. In 1934, it wasn't entirely unexpected to find a neighbor drunk and passed out. After all, everyone knew about the "moonshiners" that lived down the hill in his small Arkansas town . . . and the fact that some neighbors, including this one, liked to "hit the sauce."

It also wasn't that odd to find this neighbor in that state. He was an occasional hunting-companion of my Grandfather's, and truth be told, was known for consistently, if not regularly, "tying one on." To my Dad, at that moment, the only odd thing about finding this neighbor, in this situation, was . . . that there was a gun lying next to him, and . . . that It was his Father's gun.

Authenticity. 

Authenticity is often cited as a characteristic for professional success. I confess, at times I feel quite confused about what writers in the fields of business, professional studies, or consulting mean as they tout this authenticity as a trait necessary for success. What does it mean? Is it "being a man, or woman, of your word?" Being honest or humble (in a Patrick Lencioni sense) in not thinking first of your own safety above the needs of the organization?  Does it mean just being a "good person?"  Is it as simple as what we used to call "guarding your reputation?"

I think of my father's story when, occasionally, I ask myself, "Does reputation really count for anything anymore?" To me, growing up in a small town in the midwest, reputation meant everything. As a kid, I knew, just by observing, who the adults considered  "good people" and who, well, were not--people in whom they placed their trust.

But, I no longer operate in a small village and the clear linkage from reputation to success is less apparent. So, is this need for authenticity even true in our new cosmopolitan world?

A couple of years ago, my wife brought me a book touting some new "revolutionary" ideas she had picked up at a used book sale. She said "this is kind of interesting, maybe you'd like to read it." I instantly recognized the name. It was a T.V. pitch-man that I had seen extolling many different products over the years. I told her I didn't think he was credible, then found--on the internet of course--articles that talked about his history as a con-man, his prison sentence for fraud, and on-going "business" propositions. We tossed the book. But, just as easily, I could have not heard about this promoter and the marketing certainly made it look legitimate.

Does it still matter?

So today, does your reputation really matter?  Stories abound, across industries, that seem to imply that many who abuse this "truism," that you authenticity is important, go on hiding their true nature, fooling people who come under their sway. With the advent of on-line business, new questioning old moral absolutes, and with an expanding population, it doesn't seem that there has ever been a time when it is easier to operate in anonymity--and without accountability. 

Yet, I still see business gurus talking about the importance of authenticity. So, does it matter or are they parroting values of another age?  I don't know.  What I do know is this; I don't want to operate with anything less than the belief . . . that it does matter. I've benefitted, and watched others benefit from, great acts of personal integrity and leadership. Even if one could "get away" with being less than authentic they would still have to look at themselves in the mirror. Oh I know, the con-man is not "troubled" by feeling bad about the harm he does to others. But, I still think, down deep he knows exactly who he is, and more importantly, who he is not.

I was entering a store today in "the city" as a woman exited. She was being followed by a couple of store employees--one, of whom, was filming her with his phone. A black truck waited her at the door. As she rushed to get in the truck, she was frustrated in her attempt by the locked door. Through the open window, she barked, "Let me the *&%# in!" Her companion complied, as the employee continued to film and, moving behind the truck, transferred the focus from the woman to the truck--a truck that I now noticed had no license plate. What had she done to warrant such surveillance? I don't know. But I suspect a visit with the police is eminent. 

Coming from the small-village that I do, it is hard sometimes to justify that "world" with what happens today. Store clerks tell me that it is company policy to not interfere with shoplifters and let them walk out the door with merchandise. Educated people advocate to not prosecute various people/groups that clearly have violated laws. Too often I have heard the phrase, "What's right for you?" in collegiate discussions about cultural problems as solutions, as if, all things are subjective to the individual whims and preferences of each individual person.

The psychiatric hospital was bought by a big corporation, staffing problems became an issue, accusations were made and the state came in to investigate. Colleague stated, "You know Bryan would be the first to report it if this was really happening."

The Court and the Outcome

What happened with the neighbor? My grandfather, probably sensing what had happened, told my father to go inside and wait. Presumably, he checked out the situation, then contacted the authorities. Later, there was an inquest to follow up on this "unexplained death."  My father, as the person who found the body, was called before the judge as a witness. He told me that afterwards he had no idea what his 12 year-old self had said on the stand because he was so afraid they were going to "lock up" his Dad.

They didn't.

The ruling from the court was that it was a suicide. The neighbor, knowing where Grandfather kept his guns had evidently gone into the house, took one of the rifles, and used the woodpile to help him discharge the gun. My grandfather's reputation, behavior, and actions on that day --and before that day--as well as the neighbor's reputation for inebriation, all protected Grandpa from the fears my father entertained.

Authenticity was not an option but an expectation in my home. Watching, my father, along side my mother, as they served a small midwestern college, in a small community, over the course of 51 years, it was a lesson he'd learned long ago. It served them well.

 

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Seeking . . . Licensed or License-eligible Psychologist

 My office at BPFTP . . . early morning, ready to start the day!

My office at BPFTP . . . early morning, ready to start the day!

Many of our readers know that aside from the business consulting that we provide at HSC, Bryan also maintains a limited private practice with the Behavioral Pediatric & Family Therapy Program (BPFTP) in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had the please of working with the professionals and staff at BPFTP for 12 years and it has been a great team. If you have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, a willingness to work hard, and a desire to be part of an innovative and pioneering private practice, in the Lincoln, Nebraska area, then you might want to check out our opening for a Licensed or License-eligible Psychologist.

 

the position description . . . 

The Behavioral Pediatric and Family Therapy Program, an established and growing outpatient psychology group, is seeking licensed or license eligible PHD/PSYD applicants for part time or fulltime clinical practice.  Since 1988, our program has developed strong clinical relationships within the Pediatric, Family Practice and Pediatric Specialty clinics in Lincoln, Nebraska, a University community of nearly 300,000 residents, as well as the surrounding region.   The majority of our referrals come from primary care physicians who utilize our services to assist in the anticipatory guidance of young children as well as to support diagnostic and treatment needs from childhood through early adulthood.  Clinical services include consultation with physicians, school, and community personnel, psychoeducational assessment, behavioral parent training, treatment of learning and intellectual disabilities, enuresis, encopresis, autism, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, complex medical conditions and pain management, as well as biofeedback, neurofeedback, mindfulness and other strategies to promote adaptive self-regulation across the developmental spectrum.  

Our shared office arrangement offers practitioners liberal and flexible scheduling options, weekly patient staffing and ongoing clinical support from experienced senior providers, in house professional administrative support, unmatched collection rates and highly competitive earning potential.   Our reputation for clinical effectiveness and communication within the medical and educational community provides a reliable and consistent referral stream, allowing our psychologists to build a practice that best fits their own interests and skills.  Given the growing demand for our services, we will be expanding for the 4th time in 30 years and are in need of skilled psychologists who are interested in establishing a thriving, enjoyable, self-determined clinical practice within the first three months of fully paneled practice. 

Applications: please send materials via email to: diane@bpandftp.com

1.  Letter of interest.

2.  Curriculum vitae

3.  Three professional references

 

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Quick Take-Aways from the Prairie Family Business Conference

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I should be attending day two of the Prairie Family Business Association's Annual Conference. Unfortunately, pending blizzard conditions prompted an early exit from the PFBA Conference finishing today in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But, I got to enjoy one day of the conference and I'll share a few quick take-aways . . .

 

 Craig Culver talks about the history of Culver's Butterburgers and Custard.

Craig Culver talks about the history of Culver's Butterburgers and Custard.

Stacey Cunningham, Co-founder of Aegis Performance Group

Stacey, following up on last year's presentation from Captain Mike Abrashoff's Keynote presentation on the turn around of the USS Benfold reminded us of the importance of "crew interviews"--empahasizing the importance of really getting to know employees and communication among family business families. She also talked about "after-action reviews" to try and get to the root of problems and fix them so they don't reoccur.

Craig Culver, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Culver's Restaurants

Craig emphasized that at Culver's "the most important people are the team members." He noted that "guests" or customers are also important but prioritized the importance of the organizational culture. Part of the success, according to Craig, for Culver is "getting the right people" and they have a significant screening process and 17 weeks of training for new franchise owners.

De Vee Dykstra and Tyler Custis from the USD Beacom School of Business

Presenting on family business research findings from surveying PFBA members, the University of South Dakota (USD) researchers noted that 60% have some type of advisory board, consisting on average of 5 members with slightly more than half, 2.6, being family members. The boards meeting typically 2-4 times a year. They noted, cautioning that these were preliminary results on a small sample, that these boards were effective at resolving business issues but not effective at dealing with the family's issues.  They noted that only 9.3% of the Family Businesses had a family council.

Wayne Rivers, Co-founder and President, Family Business Institute

Presenting on "No B.S. Family Business Planning, Rivers noted that their is a crucial difference between FBA's that operate as a "Family-Business" versus those who operate as a "Business-Family."  He emphasized the need to prioritize the business aspects and by doing this well many family problems will be avoided. He also noted that the "Business-Families" do better on multiple business factors as well stating that BFA organizations return $6 of net worth as opposed to FBAs which, comparatively, return only $1. He highlighted the need for good business planning and focusing on people as two factors in success.  Finally, he noted that a mission statement should be simple and no longer than one sentence.

Dr. Justin Anderson, JSA Advising

Dr. Anderson presented on Leadership & Next Generation Development. This break-out session was of interest because it was operating within the "wheel-house" of our own expertise here at HSC. However, being an informed consumer did not make me a great "recorder" of the points in this presentation.

Thus, a caveat, I am not the average consumer of this material. With a Ph.D. in the same core area as Dr. Anderson, much of what was presented was already familiar . . . emotional intelligence, cortisol levels and the "fight or flight" response, trust and communication."

I say this, to preface my next comment for other FBA advisors who come from the world of Psychology . . . What is being utilized to work with professional athletes, fortune 500 companies, and family businesses is parallel to what your do in your practices every day. The techniques, tools and delivery may be more sophisticated (using video for recording meetings) but the content is not. (I had the same reaction working with an international research company and a manufacturing facility back in 1998.  This international company of experts were simply using t-tests and p values . . . the most basic of statistical analysis. But that is another story for another day.)

The above statement is not intended as a criticism of the presentation, which was done well, and I am sure, was new information to those without my background. But the biggest take-aways here related to what we emphasize as human systems consultants . . . Psychological safety is critical to communication and trust. The best leaders have high emotional intelligence. Focusing on the Situation-Emotion-Response equals Result process.  All-in-all it was a good presentation of the importance of Leaders developing good emotional intelligence as a critical factor for success.

So that't the "quick takes" from the conference. I love attending this conference! It'a a great mix of service providers and family business owners.  This year I got to meet and chat with a father-mother-daughter family, who run Triview Quality Communications. It is inspiring and informative to have these contacts. If you are a family business, or a provider to family businesses, in the midwest, I would encourage you to check out the PFBA!

 

 

 

 

 

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Leaders . . . Trust and Control

 Photo by  Jenn Evelyn-Ann  on  Unsplash

Leaders . . . Trust and Control

Leaders, like other employees, want to feel trusted. Too often, leaders see relationships, both between employees and between employees and the leaders, in a dichotomy of trust vs mistrust. This duality, masks that a certain amount of mistrust is healthy and the viewpoint promotes behavior--when faced with the fact or fear of losing trust--that often turns a workable breach-of-trust into a struggle for control. Who will be blamed for the loss of trust? What will be the fall out? Will it be swept under the rug?

Nan S. Russell, in a 2011 Psychology Today article about trust in the workplace, wrote that the opposite of trust isn't mistrust . . . it's control. She's right. Or, partly right. When trust fails, many leaders, as Russell notes, fall back on control. These leaders don't see grabbing control in these situations as, what they often are, self-defeating behaviors. They focus on their good intentions . . . of protecting the workplace, correcting wrong viewpoints, or introducing reason into emotional interactions. It never seems to occur to these leaders that if employees have lost trust, they may no longer accept good intensions as the defacto position of the leader. 

But here's where I might differ from Russell's assessment. Not all leaders, I'm not sure Russell is assuming this, grab for control. Some leaders, in my experience, don't step in with control; instead, they will "flee the field"--hiding in their office, avoiding issues and/or the people . . . in one case, an executive began scheduling himself "out of the office" daily for meetings, but the board eventually found out that he was leaving to "go to the boats" and gamble. Perhaps this in control in the sense that the leader is choosing to avoid, but it certainly does not feel like control to the employees. It's more like avoidance, or abandonment.

When leaders lose trust, they need to admit their mistakes, face the consequences of their actions, and lead their employees to a new plane of transparency, openness, and daily effort to make right what was wrong. Anything less is emotional or cognitive cowardice and not leadership.

 

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Ten Reasons "Controllers" Don't Recognize their self-defeating patterns

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Photo by Moja Msanii on Unsplash

 

Ten Reasons "Controllers"* Don't Recognize their self-defeating patterns

You've seen it. The person who tries to control a situation when they ought to just leave it alone. The guy or gal who can't see that their actions are causing more harm than good. Why do they do it? Why can't they recognize their own fear? Is it "poor insight?" A lack of psychological sophistication? Poor people skills? A bad childhood? Perhaps. But here are some more pragmatic ways to look at it . . . 

  1. It has become a habit. Controlling people control. In their minds, they are helping and often they are. So, the success of "making things happen" creates a Pavlovian-conditioned state (perhaps more Skinnerian) where the behavior is likely to reoccur.
  2. Other people respond to it.  Face it. A lot of people don't want to be in control. They don't want the responsibility for the outcomes and they are happy to give up that role to someone willing to step in and take it. 
  3. It masquerades as knowledge and wisdom.  Confidence, assertiveness, bold initiatives often give the impression that the person "must know" what they are talking about. Right or wrong the controller often is, defacto, given some credit for knowledge or wisdom by reason of their action.
  4. Controlling prevents facing internal pain.  Control is a way of avoiding uncertainty, inefficiency, judgement . . . a host of states that may cause the controller to feel ways they do not want to feel. "Taking the reins" for the sake of preventing these bad outcomes is often done "for others" but really is the controllers way to avoid these emotional states themselves.
  5. It looks like confidence and leadership. Since controlling is an active process, others have to secumb or fight to take an opposing point of view. Controllers, over time, tend to win by attrition as others "give up the field" and simply choose not to fight. The controller "gains ground" simply be their natural tendency toward being on the offensive.
  6. Negative consequences are not immediate. The consequences of the controlling behavior is often accommodated, tolerated, or dismissed . . . in the early stages, especially if the desired outcomes are positive. The organization is growing, the business is making money, or the family is thriving. However, over time the impact of the control implodes. People begin to react to the control. As outcomes diminish people begin to question the controllers behavior, motives, and vision.
  7. It is often disguised in humility and openness. Controllers who don't have good people skills are simply bullies. Those who do have these skills often cloak their control in positive ways. "I only want to help." or "You can, of course, do whatever you want to do. But, I think . . ." implying often that their answer is best.  One CEO, dealing with a benevolent controlling consultant told me, "She's so nice you almost don't mind the way she pushes you around."
  8. Criticism is not allowed.  By "criticism" I mean the critical process of examining ideas thoroughly.  Many controllers are good at making logically sound, quick decisions. They may under-value the process of allowing others to evaluate the decision-making process. This leads to unilateral decisions. Not fully getting other's on board and committed and when the outcomes turn negative leading to blaming the controller for their decisions and behavior.
  9. The motivation is to help. Hard as it may be to believe, one of the reasons controllers don't see themselves clearly is because when they look inwards they know that their motivation is good. They want to help. They clear away the confusion. They prevent inefficiency that is frustrating or hindering others. They get things done.
  10. It works. Bottom line. Controllers control because it works. It achieves the short-term needs of the individual, the team, or the organization. The question controllers fail to ask themselves however is, "Yes, it works, but at what cost?" Often it is at the cost of developing the leadership skills of people working for them, developing an achilles heel of a single vision, or in family business, trampling on relationships. Long-term what works maybe be antithetical to what works in the immediate moment.

Leaders, who tend toward control, need to find ways to check their natural instinct. This does not mean downplaying their strengths or abdicating the need for "controls" in their leadership. It means having good "checks and balances" on their natural tendency.  Develop ways to get feedback from other team members, take time to get an outside perspective, create habits to incorporate others into the decision-making process. See yourself as a resource, an encourager, an enabler . . . and less of a director, tactician or decision-maker. Recognize the leadership need others have for inclusion, affection, and their own control as you lead. Long-term the likelihood of success is greater.

Others working with controlling leaders need to firmly assert the need for the leader to develop a more rounded way of leading. This may not be easy for all the reasons cited above.  The controlling leader is not likely to "see" the need for changes. The appeal is often best couched in terms of the needs of the team or the organization. "We know that you have a lot of strengths. We need to you continue to build on those strengths to meet the future demands," is one way to approach this conversation. Don't wait for the crisis, where the deteriorating conditions force this leader to "admit" that something is wrong. Challenge them to grow and demonstrate a willingness to lead in a way that is often uncomfortable for them but of great value to those they are leading.

 

* "Controllers" in this context means, "minimally well-adjusted, mentally healthy" people who value control. Controllers here does describe sociopath control issues who control out of a need to dominate others, create win-lose scenarios, and/or who are mentally unhealthy.

Get more . . . Download an eBook from HSC!

Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

 

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I'm a Quitter! Ending Contracts . . . Finding Freedom!

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Becoming a quitter . . . ending contracts . . . and finding freedom.

I've become a quitter . . . and it's good!

I am, by nature, a loyalist.  Quitting feels like failure, disappointment, weakness. You see, I have an over-developed sense of responsibility, combined with a very strong bent toward avoiding risk, that makes quitting bad . . . very bad.  I'm also a midwesterner and, as such, we have the farm mentality; you don't quit you find a way to make it work. Bailing wire and duct tape. You can't quit on the crops or your equipment when you're out in the field. You gotta, "Getter done!"  All of which is why I am more comfortable with keeping contracts than ending them. I'd rather overcome problems (like the time I failed my basketball team), learn from mistakes if they're made, and create long-term trust and relationships. It's the path to success. Except when it's not.

A Story about Quitting

I tell a story on myself . . . that includes my oldest son (I don't think he has even heard me tell it) and a time when he wanted to quit detasseling.*  In short, I was so concerned about him quitting, that I called my Dad--who taught me a lot about leading, including the greatest leadership act I ever witnessed--seeking confirmation that I should make my son finish his commitment to detassel for the summer.  My Dad listened, then said, "He'll have to work the rest of his life, I think I"d let him quit."  "WHAT??!!!" I thought. " Did I call the wrong number?" This can't be my Dad. The guy who had us cultivate the garden every couple of weeks, all summer long, to keep us "busy and out of trouble?"

Well, it was my Dad, and his thoughts made me rethink how fearful I was about letting my son quit.

The end result was . . . I let him quit. I did, however, as a compromise, require him to set some goal for his summer (He decided to read the greatest 100 works of literature. Privately, I figured he had already read half but I let that go.) . . . and "that was that."  The summer wore on. He accomplished his goal. But no detasseling. No outside work experience. No savings.

I say that I tell this story on myself because I would have forced the issue and made him finish his commitment. Wouldn't that be best?  Well, here is the rest of the story . . .

My son went to college and found a great English mentor in a college professor.  The professor, himself, told me that he had never had a freshman student with such a grasp of literature. My son married the professor's daughter (no, I'm not making this up!), and, last year, he completed a Ph.D. in English.  

Wish he would have detasseled.

Learning to Quit

It's a lesson that has been hard to learn myself.  Quitting can be good. It still feels sooooo wrong. But, I read mentors and they often talk about "dumping" the bottom 10-25% of your "bad business" periodically.  I'm slow, but I've done it, and it has helped a lot.

For instance, I have one contract, for EAP services, that has been in place for 14 years, I like it, and its comfortable.  It checks all my boxes . . . loyalty, responsibility, safety. But other contracts had become more burdensome and did not lead to the future work I wanted to do.

So, one of the best things I've done--and for me the most courageous--is to end contracts. Me.  Myself.  Good contracts that would have continued if I didn't . . . I hate to say this . . . quit them.

In the past few years I have: 1. Quit a contract of 15 years that provided about 30% of my revenue but that had steadily become more time consuming and less fun, and 2. Quit a contract of about 12 years where I enjoyed the interactions with the staff but the work wasn't in line with my professional vision/goals. The revenue I lost has been replaced by work that is in line with the future business I want to do and has created more freedom, new energy, and helps avoid burnout..

So, I've become a quitter and it's good.

 

Have you benefited from quitting? Share your story about quitting in the comments and help encourage others!

 

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Contracting Quick Tip . . . for the good guys and gals out there.

 Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Today I had, yet another, conversation about how to establish a price for some contract work. As always, in my world of nice folks who didn't grow up in the business world, I found the conversation filled with fear about asking too much.

Despite having been told that the job was already bid out at a price probably twice what they would ask for the job . . . the doubts about losing the work, fearing the customer to think they were trying to take advantage of them if they asked too much, and a lack of information about creating a fee structure . . . was driving the price down to the point I questioned if it was really worth doing.

Once again, I found myself talking about the costs of Labor and Overhead, the risks of underpricing and never becoming a real viable business, explaining how a profit margin is like insurance for the business protecting it against risk, and encouraging, consoling, directing, these nice young people into charging the full value of what they were providing.

"Don't cheat yourself," I said. "Develop a real price structure that can give you the confidence that what you are asking for is fair and then stick with it." "Don't give in to fear."

Afterwards, I though to myself, "I should have told them to take a picture of their newborn and post it on the computer" where they were writing their proposal. I should have asked them, "Is it fair to your son to give away your labor and give away the future support you can provide for him?" Too many good people sacrifice in this way.

I think original advice is what they really need . . . a well-thought out price structure to boost their confidence and ward against the "push back" of customers wanting to get a "deal." But until then, maybe it's time to post those pictures next to the computer.

Bryan

Trying to create prices for your services? Try out our trial Consulting Rate Calculator!

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VA to give Mental Health care to ALL veterans!

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I remember reading, years ago, that 12-18 months post retirement is a "risk period" for men.  Incidents of depression, suicide, and other problems peak during this period as men deal with losing their work identity. Imagine, for those of us who've never faced this, transitioning from "soldier" to "civilian" at the same time.  Well the VA has taken a bold step . . . .

Have you seen this?  The Veterans Administration is now going to give all new veterans one year of mental health care upon completion of their service--regardless of their disability status!

This is a major "sea change" and will require the hiring of 1,000 new mental health professionals to meet this need.   The VA is already seeking qualified candidates and it is possible that this may also raise the opportunity for professionals outside the VA system, in some areas, to provide services as well.

If this is your area of interest or expertise, check it out!

Bryan

Below is the page announcing this program and seeking qualified candidates.

Here's the link: 
https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/46452/va-to-increase-veterans-access-to-mental-health-services/

 

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Failing the team . . . 0 for 6 . . . and learning about yourself.

 Photo by  Max Winkler  on  Unsplash

Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash

Failing the team . . . going zero for six! How I lost the game with our rivals . . . and learned valuable lessons about myself.

It was my Junior year. I wasn't, as yet, a starter on my high school's varsity basketball team, but I was the "sixth man," and expected to start playing "some minutes" during games. But I had not experienced anything like this . . . getting put into the game at a critical moment . . . with the game on the line . . . and it wasn't expected . . . not when all the starters were available and ready to play.

We were playing the "River Rats"--at least that's what we called our hated rivals--they called themselves the Bluejays. We were in their gym, "enemy territory," and the atmosphere between the two teams, and their fans, was electric. From the time we entered the gym for warm ups, we heard a lot of derisive comments and taunts from the home crowd. Our fans, having commuted the 30 miles in opposition, responded in-kind. Incidentally, our rivals insisted on calling us the "Ducks" while our mascot was properly called the "Dukes." I guess fair's fair. 

The game was a very close one through the first three-and-a-half quarters. The lead transferring, back and forth between the teams, while the player's effort, in line with the "energy" in the gym, was intense on both ends of the court. I sat, on the bench, absorbed in the action. I had been in the game but only briefly--to give one of the starters a "breather." 

The game was now coming to the critical final minutes. The score was still tight, our team was only a basket behind, but our starters, playing the entire game, seemed to be experiencing some "sag" in their intensity and, in our final time out,  the feeling that this game could easily "slip away" hung in the air.

"Miller, check in!" the coach barked. Caught off guard, but more than ready to join the "battle," I tore off my warmup and went toward the scorer's table as the horn sounded, and play resumed. The official at the scorer's table checked me in, and I sat on the bench at the scorer's table waiting for a "dead ball" when I would be buzzed into the game. Finally, the moment came, the scoreboard operator activated the buzzer,  the official on the floor waved me in, and I headed toward the court . . . then I heard coach calling, stopping me, and he waved me over . . . I changed direction and went to the coach . . . "It's your job to win this thing!" he said. "Now, go in there and do it!" he urged.

"Yikes!" I thought, "He's counting on me to win this game!" 

I moved out onto the floor and took up my position. At the time, we were on defense. "Easy enough," I thought.  Just "dog" my assigned player and make sure he can't get the ball. Play resumed, and the point guard, attempted to set up their offense by coming my way, dribbled toward my position. I "fronted" the forward, preventing the pass to start their offense, and the guard reversed the play to the other side of the court . . . leading to an attempted basket away from my side of the court. Job done. We boxed out, took the rebound, and took over the ball. Down the court we went toward our basket.

Our offense was designed to have a forward (I was one of two) start the "rotation" by taking the defensive player toward the basket, then popping out, to the wing, to take the first pass on the left or right side of the court. I dutifully took my player toward the baseline, popped out, and received the pass.  As the point guard cut to his left, setting up a screen for the other forward coming toward me at the free throw line, I faked a pass to the middle. The defender bit, hard, on the fake, and I drove, wide open, toward the basket.

As I reached the basket, and leapt to complete the lay-up, the center defender crashed down hard and smashed into me--raking my arm and sending me under the backboard toward the end-line.. The referee blew the whistle and the blatant foul was assessed. I had missed the lay up but I was awarded a "one-and-one." Meaning, for those not familiar with basketball, that if you make the first free throw, you would get a second attempt.  Convert both and it is no different than making the initial lay up. I went to the free throw line. My coach's words still ringing in my head. I had missed the easy shot. But getting fouled was a nice consolation. I was good at free throws.  I missed. The attempted shot, powered by too much adrenaline, hit the back of the rim and bounced away. No second free throw and no points. I was 0-2.

The next time down the floor was almost a repeat of the earlier play. I popped, received the pass, only this time the defender was not so ready to "over-play" the pass to the forward coming across the lane, and did not bite hard on my fake. I began to drive anyway, quickly gave a head-fake, as if to pull up and shoot. He went for it. Off his feet, I easily continued my drive to the basket and my second lay up. This time the center was helped by the off-side forward. They converged and I felt my arms, once again, raked by hands trying to stop the "easy basket." Again, the whistle blew, and again, a one-and-one was awarded,  as I had once again missed the lay up. I was now 0 for 3. 

Cognizant of the last free throw, I attempted to give this shot a little more touch. The ball arched gracefully toward the basket, hit the front of the rim, hesitated, then dropped, outside the basket. It was short, and I was 0 for 4. The other team rebounded the ball and headed the other way.  Surprisingly, they were no better at capitalizing on our lack of execution, and soon we were back on offense, the game still within reach.

One more time, I dutifully popped out, and once more I received the ball. The defender, aware by this time, I think,  that he was not quick enough to tightly guard a highly motivated "I'm-going-to-win-this-game" fanatic, crouched a couple of steps away and eyed me warily. I faked the drive, then a pass to the middle, and drove with the ball, once again, toward the basket. The defender anticipated this, however, and moved quickly to try and get an angle where I would not have another opportunity at a lay up. Seeing him drop back toward the hoop, I stopped--the player was out of position and it opened up the opportunity for an easy 10-foot jump shot. I barely got it off. The player, in desperation, grabbed at me, causing the shot to go wild, and the referee's whistle to blow. This meant I was now 0 for 5 but giving me, what I thought was, an intentional foul and 2 free throws.

Inexplicably, the referee told me that it was going to be, yet again, a one-and-one. Surprised, and wondering if the player had tripped when he grabbed me, if the referee had just got it wrong, or this was some home court advantage--I took the ball, bounced it three times, relaxed, bent my knees, and shot the ball. I missed . . . again. I was 0 for 6 and far from winning the game I was a significant part of why we lost that game in the final minutes.

I'll spare you the agony of the failure, the critical self-review, as well as other people's attempts to heal my wounded ego. But I will share how this utter, degrading, humiliating failure made me a better player . . . a better leader . . . and perhaps a better person.

I should say, I didn't learn all this that night. The walk to the locker room, the comments by other players, coaches, parents etc, the looooong bus ride home. It was not a night of inspiration or insight. It was a grueling ordeal to be endured. But returning to practice with my team, preparing for the games to follow, competing and once again being trusted to be on the floor during games, even when the outcome was uncertain, I began to learn from that failure.

Through this failure, I learned:

1. Confidence. Really? Yep! It took time but eventually, I realized that what had happened was not entirely a failure.  Before I had failed to perform, my Coach saw me as someone capable of playing both when the game was on the line and with the ability to take over and win a game. As we used to say, he recognized "He has game," meaning ability. My teammates were "sagging" and at least I had "good looks" at the basket. My shots were not necessarily forced or bad decisions. They were not executed successfully however. The following year, my senior season, the Coach implemented two plays for critical moments like the end of a game. Given my earlier failure, the two plays (see below) were counter intuitive, Never-the-less, Coach demonstrated, once again, his confidence in me as a player. 

2. Effort. Varsity players, even starters, could not stop me if I was determined. Only I could stop me. I frankly was surprised at how easy it was to get all 3 of my "open" shots on the basket. The defender simply could not prevent me from getting open. There was a problem however. When I went in for those first two layups and was pummeled by those senior players, I believed that I would not make those shots. After all, I was fouled! No one could be expected to make those baskets. I needed to learn some tenacity and how to complete a shot when I was fouled. I began to take pride in "going up hard" and making those baskets even if the defender "mugged me," making contact with my body, arm, or shooting hand, and seemingly making the lay up impossible.  My playing time increased along with my effort and soon I was playing "significant minutes" regularly and converting those lay ups . . . and the bones free throws if the foul was called.

3. Success is controlling myself. I didn't want to fail like that ever again!  I realized that my mistake was playing "out of control." I was trying to win the game. Me alone. Was my teammate open cutting across the lane? I don't know. I was planning my move to the basket. When the center crashed down on me, where was our center? Perhaps standing, open and unguarded, only a few feet from the basket? Probably. But I was going to make that lay up! I was going to win the game for the team, the coach, and--of course--myself. I played to win and my lack of playing with self-control hurt the team's chances.

4. Expectations are a two-edged sword. Trying too hard can be as bad as not trying . . . but I will never be okay with low expectations. It's a trap. How do I have "lower expectations" and still succeed?  The trick is, making sure the expectations you have are yours and they are reasonable. You control the effort you exert . . . but not the outcomes. Had I made all of my shots in that game would we have won?  Maybe. But I wasn't the only one playing that game. Taking on the projected expectations of others, or putting unrealistic expectations on yourself--the outcomes you hope for--is a recipe for failure.

5. Stay within Yourself. Don't listen to outside pressure.  I took Coach's words too seriously. I should have ignored them.  Afterwards, I realized that I accepted the premise, that it really was my job, and mine alone, to win that game. After all . . . that is the stuff of dreams isn't it? Hadn't I spent countless hours in my driveway, practicing for this exact scenario--taking the "winning shot"--and now I was asked to perform and I was ready to live the glory of winning the game. But the stress of accepting Coach's premise,  and my own expectations, failed me. I should have said to myself, "Right Coach, it's my job to win this game. Not the starters who played 90-95% of this game.  Not the team's job. It's mine." (Hear sarcastic tone of voice) Then, I could have ignored what he had said and just "played ball." I probably would have been more successful.

It was a painful experience but one that taught me a lot about myself and stood me in "good stead" for the future.  The next year, my Senior season, Coach had two standing plays for when the game was on the line. Called by our school colors, Blue and Gold, the plays were essentially the same play--mirror images of one another--one to the right side of the court and the other to the left. Both called for the team to get the ball to me, then the players would clear the floor--to one side or the other, and I would go, one-on-one against my defender. It was a role I learned to cherish.

 

Epilogue: Social scientists have noted that "finding positive attributes in bad experiences--even ones that are painful" is one indicator of resilience in children. I think the same is true of adults and of leaders. Too often, leaders faced with a failure spend their time trying hard to spin the failure into "non-events," finding someone to blame, defensively explaining their motives and avoiding responsibility or simply trying to hide from the repercussions of the experience altogether; rather than facing it, publicly, head on, and learning from it.

Failure is most often a complex situation. Rarely, is it as simple as "someone failed." It's a core belief in our work with leaders that failure often is an opportunity for a leader to learn and to grow  As Mohammad Ali put it, "You don't lose if you get knocked down, you lose if you stay down" and "Real success comes when we rise after we fall."

 

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Mistakes . . . Vulnerability . . . and Developing a Good Product

 Photo by  David Beale  on  Unsplash

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

I was confused. I sat watching a choir practice at my kid's college. As they practiced, I noticed a student raise his hand, the conductor nodded, then he put his hand down . . . in the middle of a song, what? . . . then another raised her hand, and quickly dropped it, then three students in quick succession did the same. This pattern of hands raising and lowering continued, as if I was watching a human hands leaping like popcorn being roasted, through out the song--a continual violent punctuation of the air as the directer continued, apparently seeing, but mostly ignoring this phenomenon--to direct the musical piece to its close.

I waited. Ready for the conductor to address this strange phenomenon.  "What is this . . . a prank?" I would hear him say. Or,  "You guys need to focus . . . and if you have a question, quit raising your hands until the song is complete!"  It didn't come.

Now, I was even more confused. It's not like the entire experience was new to me. I have had a fairly extensive background in choir rehearsals.  I grew up on that same college campus and had seen practices--with more than one conductor--many times. I was in choir myself, both in High School and College. But never had I seen this behavior, or anything remotely like it.

They started practicing on a new piece--a fast-paced spiritual--and once again the "pop, pop, popity-pop" of hands began.

Slowly, I realized the connection. Students raised their hands every time they made a mistake!

Like an athlete watching "film" of their performance, here was a live-action critique of how well the chorus was performing this piece.  I watched and, despite my limitations in musical ability, I began to anticipate when and where the next hand or hands would rise.

I asked my son about it after practice. "Oh, he said, that's a way for Dr. R. to know that we are aware of a mistake and so that he can see when particular parts are giving someone troubles, without having to stop the practice every time to correct something."  Voila! Nailed it.

Now, I began to reflect . . . This choir was good, no doubt about it.  They receive glowing reports, awards, financial backing, and acclaim and had for several years. I began to wonder about how the climate of "signaling errors" came to be accepted, comfortable, and the norm."  A few things came to mind . . . 

First, mistakes were expected. There was no false sense that someone was doing it right all the time.

Second, identifying mistakes was seen as a process to creating a good product. If you know that you made it mistake then you can fix it. If you don't know, or try to pretend you didn't, you are less likely to fix it.

Third, it made individual members aware of their mistakes and focused on what they needed to improve. Undoubtably, no one wants to keep making the same mistakes, so acknowledging them in this public fashion leads to accountability to improve.

Fourth, it allowed the leader to have a good read on how well, or poorly, the team was performing at each stage.  The conductor was not having to take his focus away from his tasks to try and discover who wasn't getting the music correctly. They kept him informed through signaling the errors.

It was nearing the end of practice. I had become quite used to the hand raising and felt some what comfortable with the "what and why" of this new and odd technique. Then, the conductor made a mistake. He turned two pages, instead of one, and pointed his baton toward a section of the choir, there was a moment of hesitation, but the choir corrected and carried on. The conductor, noting something was wrong, quickly flipped back two pages, then forward one. He was back on track now . . . and he raised his hand. The choir laughed.

When I myself, or when I use another consultant on a project, I always save time at the end of each step to do a "post mortem." I want to assess what went well, what was just okay, and what could be improved. These reflections and discussions are invaluable to continuing to grow and increase our value to customers.

I encourage leaders to do the same. Those that can honestly do this critical self-analysis, noting the successes and admitting the mistakes, are much more likely to see growth and improvement in their work teams.

But, it starts with the leader.  Employees will ask themselves, "Is it safe?" and "What does the leader really care about--quality or their ego?" before they themselves will risk being vulnerable.

If you want others to join in making the quality of something great, if you want them to be transparent about their mistakes and improve, if you want them to figuratively raise their hands then you have to lift up yours.

Yes, you can get good quality at times through control, coercion, fear and other factors but only leadership, transparent and honest leadership, will harness the good will, loyalty, and extra effort to truly develop a high functioning team and a top-quality product.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

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