How Relationships Should Evolve (In My Eyes)

We tend to view the world from our own lens and rightly so.

So how does being built for human connection actually play out?

In my eyes relationships are an endless conversation. You pick up next time exactly where you left off previously.

But in my experience that rarely happens.

Factors such as effort, memory and focus determine the quality of exchange.

If one person puts in the energy, but the other doesn’t it ceases to grow.

If one person forgets where you left off, the next interaction is like meeting a stranger for the first time.

If one person has an agenda or task needed to be accomplished, it’s merely a one-time transaction.

I admit when my goal is to know someone deeper I put in the effort. I don’t always succeed, but most of the time I do.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, he uses the term “thin slicing” to make quick judgement of people. It’s a form of stereotyping, but it’s how our minds create schema.

It’s at the crux of how we decide to proceed.

In some cases people don’t have the soft skills to connect effectively. Technology is somewhat to blame, but intention, empathy and practice carry more weight.

Task-driven people believe others exist as a means to accomplish their ends.

Relationship-driven folk view people as an end in itself.

Similar to an ambivert, you can be both, but usually you lean more towards one side than the other.

Neither is better, but your personal life reveals which position is more important.

I joke with my friends that online dating has killed relationships, but that could be a generational preference. The reason I go there is because if I met my wife through a dating site, how much risk would I take getting to know her? (If the answers are already revealed, what’s the fun in discovery?)

Don’t get me wrong, I am more introverted than extroverted, so my goal isn’t to become close to everyone I meet. In fact I choose quality over quantity, so when I intend to “invest” in someone I dive in head-first not knowing if there’s actually water in the pool.

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Is that reckless behavior? Possibly.

But then again it’s my life, not yours.

No risk. No Reward. That’s how I see it.

Why Coaching Trees Don’t Work

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There’s a belief out there that leadership can be taught. Skills yes, but replicating no.

Take for instance two all-time basketball coaching greats: Phil Jackson & Mike Krzyzewski.

Both have disciples trained under them, yet given head coaching duties the success rate isn’t nearly as high. Why is that?

First of all, people can’t be scaled. You can have a mentor, but the goal of the mentee should never be to clone their model. Leadership is grounded in self-awareness so your style needs to be conducive to your personal strengths. You can’t be anything you want. You can only be the best version of you.

Second, there’s an art of leadership that is instinctual. Almost impossible to teach. Both Jackson and eventual Coach K successors have huge shoes to fill. Their replacements will be forever compared to their career success. Unfair as it is, each leader has to create their own legacy. Leaders are less focused on who came before them and more locked into where they want to go. As technology improves so does the sharpening of people skills. In sports the truly great coaches have a sound strategy, but what sets them apart is their ability to manage superstar egos. No book, online resource or manual can teach you that. You learn best through experience and since each individual is unique there’s no formula for optimal results.

Third, confidence in vision. Many would argue charisma, but that comes from a strong belief in self. The confidence in vision needs to be strong enough to take the team to a level even the leader hasn’t reached before. A leader’s vision should be bigger than themselves which further defends the idea of focusing on the future instead of looking back. Vision casting can be taught, but the size of the goal is directly tied to the confidence of the leader. Most successors aim to maintain past standards, but that’s peering in the rear view mirror. Beyond prior records, data and research, leaders must push on regardless of the struggle. That type of perseverance is a character trait developed over time.

Leadership development is real, but not as simple as following a set number of rules. Great coaches create a legacy that can’t be caught. Besides observing and having a deep appreciation for great leaders, it’s about identifying your greatest strengths and leveraging those on a daily basis for maximum results. Coaching trees don’t work because humans are too dynamic to be simplified down to a system. Train up leaders, but give them autonomy to spread their wings in the way they choose. That’s how a tree really blossoms.

 

Corporate America’s Missing Ingredient

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There’s something missing in Corporate America, but it’s not what you think.

Technology gives us the opportunity to work remotely and scale businesses.

Outsourcing labor multiplies growth while saving massive amounts of time.

Investors provide the resources to transform a hobby into an empire.

But the one thing that retains the top talent worldwide is: empathy.

In a broadcast-driven society, rarely do people put themselves in other’s shoes.

Managing egos and customizing messaging is the difference between success and failure.

Here’s why:

Even with the best technology you still need people to run it. Salaries are competitive, social impact is rampant and perks are plentiful. Therefore how you treat people defines their company loyalty.

Take for instance managers. The top reason most people leave their jobs is because they feel disrespected or undervalued. Simply viewing the impact of your decisions from the receiver’s point of view makes all the difference in the world. Most managers are ill-equipped to lead others. Just because you’re a great widget maker doesn’t translate well to a manager of widget makers.

Empathy is a learned skill (although it can be argued some have a higher ceiling than others). Kids are taught at a young age to think about how their actions affect others. Somewhere between preschool and adulthood that lesson is forgotten. Money and power corrupt our ability to serve.

Personally I’ve witnessed many conflicts started because of a failure to empathize. The same reasons countries go into war on a macro-level happens to co-workers at a micro-level. Stress has a tremendous drain on productivity and the majority of it can be avoided by showing empathy.

The downgrade of soft skills will only continue to get worse and at the core of the deterioration is a lack of empathy.

Empathy is not something HR can teach or a motivational speaker can inspire you to do. It takes making a commitment to servant leadership. Stop thinking positional leadership puts you on top. Instead understand supporting others from beneath actually pushes them to reach their fullest potential.

Will you do your part?

Where Scalability Doesn’t Work In Business

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If you really want to grow your profits asking how you can scale your idea is key.

With technology today there are several ways to outsource, automate and delegate tasks that are both time consuming and replicable by others.

But what if scaling isn’t the best option, then what?

For most business models to scale their parts its a very objective process. Making money depends on putting systems in place to maximize efficiency.

Yet there is one particular area that is almost impossible to scale: customer service.

Even the best training can only safeguard a business so much. In a data-driven world, how people are treated is subjective.

Take any fast-casual restaurant. Most frontline workers are paid minimum wage salaries, but expected to perform at a high level. Pay tends to attract relative talent so when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel you can’t expect the best customer-employee transaction for a low value.

I’ve always found it interesting how little priority is paid to hiring people with high EQ or soft skills. As a manager I could care less how much experience or technical skill someone has if they don’t know how to talk to or treat people. Believe me empathy is hard to teach.

I work at an education-based startup that is slowly systemizing their processes. Objective measurements are very important, but in the people business brand experience makes or breaks your company.

Believe it or not, clients pay high prices for deliverables, yet what converts them into return customers is: how you make them feel.

As a relationship-driven person myself I admit if you only focus on making people happy you’re running a hobby, not a business. But discounting each interaction both internally and externally will result in higher turnover and a weaker brand.

Scaling your business should be the goal, but how to achieve that needs to be high-touch. Simon Sinek said it best, “If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”

The 1 Thing You Have To Give Up To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

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Your relationships.

Anyone who has been a successful business owner has sacrificed their personal life at some point.

I’m not against working hard, but at what expense?

I hear a lot of 20 somethings say they want to focus on their career then get married and start a family in their 30’s. Well guess what: relationships don’t grow on trees nor come without a cost – mainly time.

It’s the same reason why most celebrities and professional athletes aren’t able to maintain a strong family unit because they’ve chosen to put their careers in the forefront and their relationships outside of work on the back burner. If you’re fortunate enough to have a selfless spouse who can hold the house down while you’re away then it can work, but that takes a special individual to put your needs before theirs.

When I look back on my career as a full-time entrepreneur I realize why I never met my own lofty expectations: I put people before profit. It’s your choice which one you choose, but rarely can you pick both.

I had too many boundaries in place to go “all-in,” therefore I would work up to a certain point, but cared about my lifestyle more than my possessions.

This post isn’t to mock those who have made it big nor is it putting those who are relationally-focused on a pedestal. It’s my observation of over 10+ years of reading, hearing and witnessing first-hand what it really takes to live the American Dream.

If there’s an understanding in terms of priorities that your career is first then those associated with you have to abide by it. Of course hard work alone doesn’t guarantee anything, but without it you don’t stand a chance.

The realization I came to is: people are most important to me.

When I first started my business I had financial goals in mind that I hit quickly, but over time I realized to reach the next tier I’d have to sacrifice the relationships around me. Since I wasn’t willing to do that, the numbers of hours I dedicated reflected in the amount of the paycheck (or lack thereof).

Fortunately I married someone who shares my values. I love that she is raising our two kids at home until they are full-time at school. We can make it on a single income because we live lean and value our time together the most. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy, but you do need to allocate a great amount of time to others.

It’s up to you to decide what currency is most important: time or money. Once you do, it’s easy to know where you should spend your energy.

The X-Factor For Employee Retention

x-factor

I admit I believe in work-life separation, but even an old dog can learn new tricks.

Being a corporate newbie (former FT entrepreneur) I can relate to that Scrubs episode where Dr. Kelso stepped one foot out the hospital and started whistling like he had no cares in the world.

Am I heartless? Far from it. But as I moonlighted as a contractor I walked into companies as a hired gun. I enjoyed getting to know people, but subconsciously I never mixed business with personal. It’s my way of keeping boundaries.

But now being an employee I’m starting to see things differently. I’ll never be that guy who grabs a drink after work with co-workers for 2 reasons: 1) I want to see my kids and wife as soon as work is over 2) I don’t drink. It’s not something I’m against, more so a different time in my life.

Yet what’s changed for me in the past month or so is my view towards friends at work. I’m completely fine with putting my head down, banging my work out and leaving unnoticed. But something happened along the way…

My role at work is to support our employees (online tutors). It happens over Zoom (video conferencing) weekly. Ironically I wasn’t taking the same approach to work relationships, but my shift in behavior has made me re-think work.

Maybe it’s the remote environment of the company I work for, but outside of compensation who you connect with at work is the X-factor of retention. This is a quality, not quantity issue. You can bond over work projects, but the natural foundation of a true friendship is built over common interests and reciprocity. Effort alone guarantees nothing, but without it you’ll get nowhere. The interest has to be mutual.

Honestly I’ll never be that guy who calls his work friends his best friends, but knowing there are more than a handful of people at my company I am interested in connecting with outside of work is a huge step in the right direction for me.

So where do you fall on the friends at work spectrum?

Why Industry Experience Is Overrated

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If you think you didn’t get hired at your last interview because of lack of experience, you’re wrong.

Lack of experience is a strike against you, but if that employer didn’t see potential beyond your resume you wouldn’t even have an interview in the first place.

Your resume is like a Driver’s License. It qualifies you for the job, but you have to prove your value to the company in-person.

In fact sometimes industry experience can be a bad thing. For example if you were at your previous job for 10+ years and didn’t know anything else, how adaptable and flexible can you really be moving forward?

In my current role as a Faculty Manager for an online test prep/academic tutoring company I was on the outside looking in. The tutors I manage remotely know way more about the SAT/ACT than I’ll ever care to know. So when asked if I had any experience in the education space during my interview, I responded by focusing on my strengths for the position.

Since I am managing tutors, not teaching students, I talked about leading people. As for former youth pastor I dealt with parents of teenagers (most clients are high school students). As an entrepreneur I am organized and specialize in time management (managing programs and learning the system is 50% of the job for our tutors). Knowing the technical skills of high school academia is irrelevant for me. As long as I can prove I can get the results from the tutors I add value to the company.

My situation may not suit yours, but my point is simple: know thyself.

Self-awareness is the most important trait of any leader. Know what you’re great at and also what you suck at. Most jobs ask you to multi-task, but within those responsibilities there are priorities. Nail those and now you have leverage.

Selling yourself is having confidence in your abilities and knowing who you are. Every time you decide to pivot careers you’re at the same place. You will switch careers frequently for the rest of your working life so get used to it.

An employer notifying you didn’t get the job because of lack of experience is a scapegoat. What they really meant is they don’t have the confidence that you can get the job done despite experience. If you understand that going in, you’ll focus less on what you don’t have and leverage your strengths to the fullest.

Don’t use lack of industry experience as an excuse. It’s only one if you choose it to be.

Why You Shouldn’t Set New Year’s Resolutions

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With the start of a new year, resolutions come to mind, but come mid-January (or February at the latest) you’ve already broken your promise. Why is that?

Resolutions, similar to goals, are set up to fail from the start. Here’s why:

The main reason why accomplishing your goals have such a low success rate is because even the best effort doesn’t result in perfection. This isn’t a scapegoat for not trying, but rather working the odds in your favor.

New Year’s Resolutions can be compared to starting a new business. The failure rate within the first 3 years is 80%. Now 3 years is longer than one month, but the concept is the same. Resiliency and patience are hard to come by. Call it a result of our fast-paced society, but we suck at waiting for results.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but making behavior changes is hard work.

If you’ve ever set a goal and failed at it, you remember the feeling. You’ll do whatever you can to not revisit that feeling because its debilitating. Hence the reason why we avoid goal setting in the first place.

Instead shift your focus to creating good habits. Not only are habits better than goals, but they are process-oriented meaning progress is the desired outcome not perfection.

For example: losing 20 pounds is a goal while living a healthy lifestyle is a habit. You may lose the weight (doubtful), but chances are you’ll gain it back and then some shortly after. But if you decide to workout 3 times a week (on average) and cut your weekly sugar intake not only will you lose the weight, but it’s a sustainable change because you give yourself grace for special occasions.

It’s popular to set New Year’s Resolutions in January because the calendar is a trigger for fresh starts. Beyond that there’s not a real good reason why then is the best time.

When you want to fix or achieve something following the the right process is almost more important than the desired outcome. At it’s core nothing is wrong with goals, but if you want to set yourself up for success in the new year focus on habits and the results will come in time.

Why Punctuality Makes My Blood Boil

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Time is the most valuable currency, not money.

Everyone has the same amount, but we don’t use it the same.

Even before I was married and had kids, being on time mattered.

Efficiency is one of my top values and working smarter means maximizing your time.

But at a deeper level punctuality is about respect.

If time is the most valuable currency, being late means you’re wasting someone else’s time.

It’s time you can’t get back.

My roots were planted by my mom who is extremely reliable. When I was a kid if I asked her to do something and she committed to it, it would get done. It’s had a huge influence on my personality.

In the workplace punctuality is part of your reputation. When you’re late people notice. In fact I’d argue it’s a sign of integrity.

If a meeting starts at 8 AM and you’re late, it’s a slap in the face to the host.

Nobody’s perfect so an occasional slip up is fine, but habitual offenders become labeled.

Even since I joined the corporate world, I’ve continued to network online (LinkedIn), via phone and in-person on my lunch breaks. It’s more than a goal, it’s part of my lifestyle. The worst way to ruin a first impression is to show up late. I do my best to be early or on time.

So what if you lack punctuality?

You have a choice: talk about it or be about it.

Words are cheap. Actions are what matters. Don’t tell me, show me.

Most people believe being busy is a badge of honor. I disagree.

The more successful you become, the more in control of your time you should be.

Value your time by meeting with less people.

Value others’ time by showing up on time.

Valuing time means respecting others’.

The Hiring Dilemma: Talent vs. Change

wall-e -eva

Think you can change someone while dating them? You’re wrong.

But in the corporate world for some reason hiring managers think they can.

Sorry, but minus the resume and experience you are who you are.

For instance, leadership skills can be taught, but that doesn’t make you a leader.

Maybe it’s the ego of the manager who thinks people can be molded, but intangible skills such as empathy, communication and taking initiative come attached (not sold separately).

If people get hired for competency, yet fired for character issues – the focus during interviews needs to change.

Back in 2008 when the recession hit, the first thing to go was training and we’re still suffering for it. But some things just can’t be bought (or taught).

I manage tutors remotely via video conference and even though academic improvement is what parents pay for it’s engaging personalities that breed results.

Take opposite ends of the spectrum examples using characters from Disney’s Wall-E: Eva (heart) makes emotional connections while Wall-E (head) goes for logical transactions. Who would you rather be your tutor?

In this teacher-student context the adage “they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” rings true. The receiver needs to feel a genuine interest from the giver. If he/she doesn’t, all information is lost.

In roles that require frequent human interactions the “engineer” type will always lose. On the other hand people with dynamic personalities are both charismatic and build confidence in those around them.

The moral of the story for companies is regardless how much you invest in training, attitude and refined soft skills are nearly impossible to teach. Content acquisition is overrated (plus abundant).

Interviewers need to focus more on “how” a candidate communicates an answer vs. “what” they actually say. Active listening is crucial at this stage.

Talent is inherently innate…and all the money and resources in the world can’t change that.