Kobe Bryant’s Transformation Into A Leader

As a 17 year old recent high school graduate Kobe Bean Bryant was drafted 13th by the Charlotte Hornets, but traded to the Los Angeles Lakers immediately.

Back then fans didn’t pay attention to youth sports like they do now, so it was up to professional teams to send their scouts to watch players and invite them to workouts. Jerry West, the Lakers General Manager then, said Bryant’s workout was the best he’s ever seen. West was known for having a keen eye for talent so with his endorsement the deal was as good as done.

Fast forward to December 18, 2017 when Kobe’s two jerseys (#8 & #24) were retired and the question asked was: which was better #8 or #24? Bryant hesitated to give a definitive answer, but when forced he responded with #24 because the journey was harder.

Bryant’s career in either jersey is Hall of Fame worthy, but what impressed me most is the maturation of who he has become over the years.

In his teens and 20’s he was an athletic, arrogant and brash individual that would do anything to win. In 2004 when the Lakers lost the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Kobe pondered jumping to another team, but once his counterpart Shaquille O’Neal was shipped to Miami he was talked into staying.

This was fresh off his sexual assault case in 2003 and the years to come were not fruitful as a Laker. Kobe’s best years individually came while the Lakers were down and before the 2006-07 NBA Season he changed his number to #24.

Once they acquired Pau Gasol at the trade deadline in 2008 the Lakers won 2 championship in the next 3 years. The end of his playing career saw him endure 3 season-ending injuries on bad teams, but here is where the real story begins.

Asking recently what advice he would have given his younger self he said “empathy.” Coming from an anti-social, ego maniac driven person in his prime that’s huge. Bryant was always a solo artist, working harder than teammates and chastising those who didn’t share the same values. Sure, he was great, but few wanted to be around him or play with him.

But sometime after his court case and Shaq leaving town it clicked. Bryant’s last 2 championships were sweeter than his first 3 because of how he did it. Yes he won Finals MVP in his latter two, but it’s more about how he embraced his teammates. Watching all his former teammates gather for his final game and jersey retirement ceremony shows how he has evolved as a person.

His retirement speech had more to do with his family and message to the youth than it did about his accomplishments. Bryant is arguably one of the smartest basketball players and you can hear it in his words. He’s at peace with his career transition and done what few professional athletes have after retiring: move on.

The funny thing is even before Kobe became a leader, he didn’t strive for adoration. Why he’s adored so greatly in China is because of his work ethic. Although selfish at times, you can never fault him for not trying. He played every game like it was his last.

Over the years he’s softened his approach towards media, fans and critics. That’s because he’s at peace with who he is and his priorities have shifted to his family. Never has their been an athlete so polarizing from the start transform into a truly likable individual over time.

Bryant’s transformation is inspiring because his story can be ours too. No matter where you are, you can always change for the better. It starts with the small choices you make daily. Kobe is starting a new chapter in his life and with 2018 here so can you. #mambaout

Trust The Process: Does The Type Of Your Startup Matter?

Being an action oriented person I’m not afraid of starting things.

Pros: get stuff done, make tangible progress and don’t overanalyze before taking action.

Cons: don’t always do the market research, making money isn’t the priority and I get bored quickly.

What I learned as an employee at my former company is: the size of the market/demand makes all the difference.

At the same time I realized you can be unethical, yet still make a profit.

The reason I left the last company I worked for is because of how they treated people (me included).

Starting a test prep company wasn’t something I was passionate about doing, but understanding the market size (online education is a $100 Billion industry) and realizing how I would run a company culturally I pulled the trigger a few months ago.

Here are the core values that guide us:

Relationships First – by valuing our relationships with employees and customers first, we will create long, genuine relationships that are about more than making a profit. I am partners with my tutors. They don’t work for me. I work for them. Without them I have no business.

Be Unique – acknowledge and express the unique contributions your strengths and style can make. It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” I leverage the strengths of the people around me.

Be Efficient – we will constantly evaluate our work processes and priorities to work smarter. We make a better system together. Constantly communication means you value other’s opinions.

Create Freedom – our decision making will help our employees and customers get it done, their way. Giving people autonomy means you trust them. Without trust you have nothing.

Constant Growth – we will encourage our employees and customers to constantly challenge themselves to continue setting goals and pursue learning opportunities. Focus on leadership development. Period.

The reason I share these core values is because I believe they can be transferred to any type of business. Having a serial entrepreneur mindset it’s only a matter of time before I find a new idea to implement, but what I’m experiencing in my current venture is: keep your eyes on the long-term success of the company and make decisions accordingly.

For example, a big part of my business is forming school partnerships because they are the gatekeepers to parents of high school students. The process of prospecting includes: cold emails, follow up communication, phone calls, sending proposals, finalizing agreements, contacting parents, supporting tutors, repeat.

Whenever I get impatient and want results yesterday, I remind myself relationships are at the heart of what I do and they take time to build. I can’t predict the future, but I can say with confidence I trust the process.

In ways, this endeavor is an experiment of sorts. Implement the “why” and “how” you run a business and once you identify the “what” you plug them in.

You Can’t Be Successful Without Growth

Collaborative post – may contain affiliate links

Everyone starts somewhere when it comes to business. So unless you’ve inherited one, or worked your way up through an existing company, you’re going to start at the bottom. So, if you are a new business owner that’s starting from the bottom, then fear not. It isn’t that hard to actually start growing your business, you just need to know where to start and what to do. Because without steady growth, you’ll never truly have a successful business. But the thing about business is, you always need to be pushing for growth in order to stay ahead of your competitors. If you’re struggling at the minute, then have a read of these useful tips to help growth.

Loyal Customers

No matter what business you’ve got, you need to have a set of loyal customers to keep your business afloat, let alone support growth. One thing you’re bound to soon notice is the spike is sale due to ‘seasonal customers’. This is where you can make the most money, but it is also where you can gain the most customers. In order for them to stay longer than the seasonal period, you need to catch their attention. Here’s 6 tips for converting seasonal shoppers into repeat customers if you’re looking for help. Most businesses issue is this. The customer will purchase a product from them once, but they’ll never market themselves towards that person again. If you’re a small business, they’ll likely never remember you either. Another vital way of building loyal customers is to treat them with the respect they need. If they have complaints, deal with them in a professional manner. If there’s issues with your product, offer them a full refund or replacement. You need to give them what they want to keep them loyal.

Better Products

If you aren’t constantly improving your products, you aren’t going to be constantly growing your business. As technology evolves, so does the rate that products become better. They become more durable, interesting and innovative. If there’s one way to improve your products, it’s to see what your competitors are doing. This information is invaluable in terms of growing your business. You could also look again at what your customers are saying. Reviews on websites such as Amazon showcase all the bad and good points about products that customers have purchased. Leave a review section on your website and take every comment on board, it could be the difference between the make or break of your business.

Employees

Employees are going to be at the forefront of your business, so you need to hire people who are going to do good for you, not make production drop. When conducting interviews, try and hire people with relevant qualifications and who seem to have a real passion for what your business does. Make sure you’re giving regular incentives to try and spur them on to work harder. Treat them with respect and they’ll help push your company and give it the growth they need. Your employees can mean the difference between failure and success.

3 Requests From Millennials To Managers

Millennials get a bad rap.

Sure, some of the stereotypes are true, but what about taking an empathetic viewpoint?

Technology has changed the game forever, therefore management needs to step up accordingly.

Here are 3 ways managers can maximize Millennials:

1. Show me, don’t tell me

Coaching works. Micromanaging doesn’t.

According to research, auditory learning is the least effective yet traditional education teaches us otherwise.

Modeling correct behavior is more efficient than any handbook, Powerpoint presentation or lecture can ever be.

Millennials need mentors, not bosses. The difference between a leader and a manager is how they deal with people. The one size fits all approach is dead.

Managers need to approach supervision like a tutor. How to show the content is more important than knowing it. Customizing a message to fit the receiver is more work, but it also gets better results.

2. Learning is more valuable than perks

Free food, remote work and ping-pong tables are nice amenities, but they don’t increase retention.

Millennials care more about developing their careers by learning new skills than being enticed by external rewards. In fact, companies who base their culture around perks are promoting fool’s gold.

If you want to retain your best young talent, you need to invest in them. Similar to teenagers, if you want to teach independence you have to give them responsibility then respond accordingly.

The reason semi-annual and annual reviews don’t work is there’s too much time in-between feedback. Daily to weekly feedback may sound overwhelming as manager, but without it you risk quality control.

Leadership is about making those around you better, not priding yourself on being the best. Look no further than team sports to know your value increases as your team wins.

3. Listen, before judging

Entitled. Lazy. Narcissistic. Millennials have heard it all.

Before you judge a book by it’s cover, open it.

As a manager if you don’t get to know your workers, you default to believing stereotypes. That’s called ignorance.

Millennials may struggle with interpersonal skills, but peel back the skin and you’ll get down to the root of the issue.

People are people. Sometimes we over-trivialize that. The most effective thing any manager can do is listen.

If you don’t know the story, you’ll never be able to positively impact it.

In the end it’s the connection between the manager and Millennial that determines results.

People don’t leave companies they leave managers.

Sincerely,

Millennials

3 Interview Questions For Hiring Remote Workers

Hiring onsite employees is tough enough, but when it comes to hiring remote workers don’t overcomplicate it.

Before considering to hire remotely, trust is monumental. Without it you’ll fail.

Managing people virtually shouldn’t be much different than in-person since what works face-to-face tends to work over video/phone.

Keep in mind retaining workers is costly when the wrong person is hired, so use the following three questions as a guide to weed out the amateurs and hire the best:

1. Why?

Start with a candidate’s character. Why questions get to the motivation behind an answer. You won’t be physically present to witness how someone spends their time during work, so figure out how driven, self-aware and organized they are ahead of time. Why questions hit at the core of who someone is. Asking past behavior scenarios tend to be the most popular during interviews, but past success doesn’t always translate smoothly to new endeavors. If you need more context watch this Simon Sinek video on why.

2. How?

You can have the most knowledgable person working for you, but if they don’t fit your culture you’ve made a bad hire. Without downplaying competence, style questions are a must when it comes to hiring the right people. If you’re unsure how to define your culture, stop and figure it out before hiring anyone. How questions really come down to identifying personal strengths. The best leaders in any industry are self-aware. That means generic answers on an interview just don’t cut it. As an employer you want to know how they prioritize, interact with others and communicate orally/written just to name a few. Most of a manager’s time is spent dealing with interpersonal issues, so if you’re seeing red flags when it comes to personality quirks don’t proceed. Another helpful exercise is hiring based on your company’s core values. They can be even more powerful than mission or vision statements because they are measurable in behaviors. Zappos is a good example if you need a place to start.

3. What? 

Typical interviews start here. Tell me about your last job. Describe a time you failed a task and what was your response. What is your biggest weakness? Candidates can rehearse these answers and interviewers can critique every detail. The truth is what questions don’t reveal nearly as much as “why” or “how” questions. When asking “what” questions find out: experience, industry knowledge and their decision making process. Interviews are just a preliminary phase to understanding on-the-job performance. Even the best questions can’t possibly cover future mistakes by workers. A judgment call must be made here: do you want to hire for experience (less training, higher salary) or potential (more training, lower salary)? The answer to this question comes back to your core values.

Consider this: treat all your future interviews as potentially remote hires. Not only is that the way our economy is headed, but if you can trust someone working virtually you definitely can in the office.

Hire the best. Don’t settle for less.

The Presidents Cup: Millennials At Their Best

Golf is an individual sport, but annually the best golfers in the world gather to play team competition.

Similar to playing doubles in tennis, team competition brings out the best (or worst) in you.

This year Team USA dismantled the International Team so badly at the Presidents Cup it was over before the last day of competition.

Strategy can be debated, but what was clear is this team dominated by Millennials showed what happens when personal strengths are unleashed.

Chemistry and connection trump competence.

The US team was heavily favored, but in the Ryder Cup (played alternate years from the Presidents Cup vs. Team Europe) the Yankees have struggled in a similar scenario. Talent provides a huge advantage, but without camaraderie you can get beat by lesser foes.

What’s evident in sports and business is Millennials thrive in teams. Whether a professional athlete or young professional, Millennials are better together.

Team USA has struggled for several years in team competition where their individual talent did not match their team unity. The difference this year was the off-the-course friendships were the foundation for victory.

Millennials take a beating from the media (mostly from other generations) and even if some of the criticism is justified, you should choose to focus on the positives.

Veterans can play the mentor role in any setting, but results not style, should be emphasized.

Age shouldn’t be a prerequisite for leadership roles.

This year’s US team led with enthusiasm, togetherness and execution.

In sports or business to maximize Millennials focus on creating a strong, team culture based on accountability then step back and let them go to work.

3 Ways To Generate New Ideas

Most people are drawn to entrepreneurship because of the potential of new ideas, but what happens when you run out of them?

It doesn’t matter how creative you are, your mind becomes a blank canvas at some point (yes, it even happens to the best of them).

So when you’re looking for new ideas, but can’t find them what should you do?

1. Read

Most ideas are not original, so don’t put added pressure on yourself to be an inventor. My ideas tend to be inspired by what I read on platforms like Medium. Whether it’s an article, book or video tutorial, “bettering” an idea is much more efficient than creating one. Certain authors will resonate with you and you will follow them more because of their similar mindset. If it makes you feel better the most successful companies rarely create their own industry, they just dominate it with a differentiating point. When all else fails read…

2. Network

To build off reading, people are where ideas come from. Some of my best networking experiences focused less around trying to sell myself and more about just listening. True networking is simply connecting. A friend of mine said it best: “the people you keep in contact with are the ones whose point of views you find stimulating.” Networking can be the best way to learn about an industry you don’t know about. Understanding someone’s process can be a game changer. Also, if you’re a sole proprietor one of the worst things you can do is stay in isolation. No matter how introverted you are, make it a point to connect with others in person, on the phone or through the internet. Nothing great is accomplished alone so don’t be a hermit.

3. Do

People have asked me, “how do you know what to write about weekly?” My honest answer: I don’t. I just write about what I’m learning currently. I mean isn’t that what a blog is? It’s a public journal of your thoughts. Sure, I like hearing success stories and formulas that have worked before, but it’s as inspiring to hear people’s journeys. I like the idea that you’re never ready; the choice is whether you’re going to start or not. I admit I’m not a ready-aim-fire guy. It takes too long. I’m learning to get better at aiming, but my natural instinct is to stop talking about it and just do it (potentially at the core of my obsession with Nike). If you wait for the perfect idea, you may never act. Failing is what the most successful companies have embraced better than others, not success.

So the next time you’re struggling to come up with new ideas try reading, networking and taking action. Chances are the idea will come to you during the process, not prior to it.

The Best Manager I Ever Had

The criteria for “best manager” is quite subjective, but hopefully everyone’s had (at least) one by now.

As I mentioned in a previous article, managing people is a completely different skill set than technical job skills. Just like food, what you think is “best” can differ tremendously from someone else’s perspective.

For this post I’d like to share who my best manager was and how he treated me. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but besides being my own boss, I haven’t ever felt more free under someone’s care.

Back in 2002 on my first official day as Youth Director, my supervisor at the time gave me a job description, yet instead of saying look it over and sign it he said “edit what you like and don’t like about it.”

A bit dumbfounded I started reading over the bullet points, highlighting areas I wanted to tackle and crossed out tasks I felt were outside my wheelhouse. I remember giving it back to Keith and he was, “ok looks good, let’s get to work!”

Most people dread meetings, but because I’ve experienced some great ones, it really comes down to how the meeting is run. Keith and I differ in terms of our leaderships styles, but weekly check-in meetings usually consisted over lunch. As a guy, let me tell you, there’s no better way to talk business than over food. The meeting actually has a clear ending time (unlike most) when the check is signed.

I was given tons of autonomy which I appreciated. There was an excel sheet that I tracked all my hours in different categories. Programming was up to me as long as I explained what I was doing to the staff, parents and students. Office hours were at my discrepancy also, which was great because I believed the more I was out on the field with the youth, the more effective my work was.

Now Keith and I did have a friendship years before when he was my Youth Director and when he moved back to Arizona for many years I did visit him a couple of times and stayed with his family. That may sound soft, but I can’t emphasize how much “liking” someone outside of work makes a difference in how hard you work for that person (see my last boss).

Most managers scoff at the idea of giving away trust freely in fear they will get taken advantage of, but that’s completely tainted by your personal worldview. For example as a remote manager, you actually don’t have a choice when it comes to trust. You either give it and expect it back or withhold it and it’s never gained.

This experience of having almost complete autonomy faired extremely well for me, even influenced me to start my own business years later. Others may have preferred more hands-on leadership from their manager, but not me.

Like most things in life, you never fully appreciate things until they’re gone. Less than 2 years later Keith moved on and I was placed under his boss. Things were definitely not the same (including the relationship) to the point where I would often skip team staff lunches because of the awkwardness around the table. (Note: if I pass up free food, there’s a problem)

A manager’s job is to bring out the best in his/her team which usually takes a style adjustment for each individual to some degree. Leadership is truly an art and if you’ve ever experienced a masterpiece environment treasure it because it won’t last forever.

The 1 Question Managers Need To Ask

Managing people isn’t for everyone, but if taken seriously one question will give you all the answers you need to maximize productivity:

How can I best support you?

Here’s why: support isn’t defined by the giver, but the recipient.

I asked this question in my previous management role and it did wonders for morale, engagement and performance.

The best workers are self-motivated. As a professional if you need to be externally motivated to do your job, even the greatest perks/benefits won’t make a huge difference.

Once hired in a role (assuming you’re qualified), you need to be trained with the skills to do the job, but when that on-boarding process is complete it’s your turn to soar.

As a manager you don’t need to be smarter than the team you lead. In fact, if you facilitate and support well technical skills are just a bonus.

Support is something you feel. When you are being supported you know it. If you have to think about it, it’s absent.

Your job as a manager is to help your teammates shine. At a deeper level it’s making them look better than you. If there’s too much ego involved as a manager, you’re destined to be in competition with your team rather than holding hands across the finish line.

There’s a simple way to gauge if the workers under your care feel supported: ask them.

Be specific. Ask this: on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being not at all vs. 10 feeling like a champion rate the amount of support you feel?

In a performance-based world, this approach may sound soft, but that’s exactly why it works.

A manager’s job isn’t to tell their team how to do something, it’s to clarify objectives and remove all the obstacles in their way.

Going back to my “best workers” example, when giving support you also offer respect, care and autonomy. Think about the best boss you’ve had. I highly doubt they rode you like a horse. Instead I guarantee you’ll describe your relationship with them (soft skills).

Management isn’t easy, but it’s also not rocket science. Take the servant leadership approach to managing others and you’ll be amazed at how people’s strengths will rise to the top.

Why Most Managers Fail

Are managers born or made?

The politically correct answer is made, but there are certain traits that can’t be taught.

To better understand what a manager’s role entails we’ll use the image above to guide us. Disregard the industry (information systems), but focus on the three levels: operational (technical), tactical (management) and strategic (executives).

Managers fall in the middle category which places them as supervisors of the technical workers (catalysts of the employee-customer transaction).

Why most managers fail is because they don’t realize promotion equates to learning a different skill set.

Let’s say your company makes widgets. Technical workers get better at their job when they figure out how to be more efficient (increasing productivity). But when a technical role shifts to a leadership role, it doesn’t matter how well you were able to produce widgets anymore.

Your job as a manager is to lead people who make widgets. A subtle, but powerful change that most companies overlook.

The same skills that made you a great widget maker do not translate to being a manager. If you’re trying to out-do your subordinates you’re not actually fulfilling your new job duties.

A manager’s responsibility is to oversee, support and make his/her workers under them better. This takes skills such as: motivation, empathy, time management, conflict resolution, etc.

Managerial duties are vastly different than technical skills.

Can they be taught? Yes, but the real issue is most managers weren’t hired for their leadership abilities, rather their technical prowess.

In my last role this is where my boss failed. She believed telling me what to do and keeping me on a short leash was her job. Instead what she lacked was listening skills, innovation and vision to name a few.

My message to managers is this: clarify what is expected of you.

Using a sports analogy, most managers want to be all-stars (individual high performers), but what your organization really needs from you is to be MVP (making your teammates better around you).

Managers need to be self-aware about what they can and cannot do. The quicker you realize that, the more effective your company will be moving forward.