leadership dot #2786: high trust

I doubt that thought leader Simon Sinek reads leadership dots, but his latest video makes it seem like he does! His new work fits right in with what I wrote about yesterday (see dot 2785) when he shares what the Navy SEALs taught him about how they select their members – evaluating others on a matrix of performance vs. trust.

The SEALs have learned that the next best thing to a High Performer with High Trust is a Medium or Low Performer with High Trust – not the High Performer with Low Trust as I independently described yesterday. And, as we all know, there are many ways to measure outcomes, but “negligible to no metrics to measure someone’s trustworthiness” says Sinek. Amen!

Even without explicit ways to hire for trust, the trait usually becomes evident early in employment. Supervisors would be wise to reward and recognize team members who exhibit the characteristic and treat trust as even more valuable than other performance metrics.

Watch Sinek’s 2-minute video on the topic here.

 

leadership dot #2785: ruthless

The Founder movie portrays Ray Kroc as a visionary whose genius is offset by his ruthlessness. He took credit for others’ ideas. He went back on his word. He cheated the McDonald brothers out of hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties that he promised them with a handshake. He created loopholes to skirt his obligations and even had an affair with a franchisee’s wife.

And yet, he is held up as a model entrepreneur – someone who went from being a milkshake-mixer salesman to the CEO of a company that has a market capitalization of $134 billion*.

Kroc is by no means the only leader who achieved results in a less-than-admirable way. I personally know of several others who were despised by their staff, talked down by peers and seen as unethical – while in the next breath praised by these same people for what they achieved.

Wall Street runs on tangibles – earnings, outcomes, growth and many other organizations hold that which is measurable to a higher value than intangibles such as character and integrity. The ends will always outweigh the means if that is all that is taken into consideration during the final assessment.

*in September 2018

leadership dot #2784: real estate

The Founder movie tells the story of four visionaries: the two McDonald Brothers who were the first to understand that speed was a unique selling proposition in the food industry; Ray Kroc who recognized that the McDonald concept could be franchised, and Harry Sonneborn, the real genius who monetized the concept into its billion-dollar fortune.

Sonneborn was an enterprising businessman who helped Kroc understand that he wasn’t in the burger business, rather he was in the real estate business. Sonneborn had the idea for Kroc to buy the land that the McDonald’s restaurants were on and lease it to the franchisees. This provided capital before the restaurant opened, created an ongoing and lucrative revenue stream, allowed Kroc to accumulate hard assets to get more capital to open more restaurants, and gave Kroc leverage to ensure that franchisees followed quality control and standardization procedures or he could pull their lease. In addition, by creating a separate land acquisition entity, it freed Kroc from the restrictions he was bound by through the original McDonald’s contract which required approval from the brothers before any change could be made.

Kroc may have made a name for himself in the restaurant business, but it is through the reframing of his focus to real estate that earned him the prominence and real fortune.

When is the last time you deeply considered what business you are in? Is education for job preparation or life-long learning or citizenship? Are financial institutions there to safeguard your money or teach you to grow wealth? Should churches be in the spiritual business or focus on community-building and belonging? It may be time for a “Sonneborn Retreat” to reflect on the true purpose of your work.

leadership dot #2783: golden arches

I watched The Founder, a fascinating movie about the beginning days of McDonald’s. In 1954 when the McDonald Brothers opened their hamburger stand, the only “fast food” was served at drive-ins where there was nothing speedy about the service. The brothers created a revolutionary automation system that trimmed the wait from 30 minutes to 30 seconds, in part by reducing their menu from 27 items to just three: hamburgers, fries and soft drinks.

What seems commonplace today caused an uproar when they first opened. “We underestimated the learning curve,” said Mac McDonald. Early customers were furious that they had to get out of their car and place their own orders (instead of a carhop coming to take them). They were mad that there were no plates and that they were expected to eat off of paper wrappers. They didn’t like that they had to throw away their own trash. But they did like the food, and so the franchise grew (and grew and grew) until now it feeds 1% of the world’s population every day!

There are many lessons from The Founder (and I’ll share more tomorrow) but take two away today. First, consider whether your “menu” is too robust. The McDonald brothers found that 87% of their sales came from the three items they retained, allowing them to specialize and improve in ways that an expansive menu would have not. Are you trying to be all things to all people? Would you provide better value or service if you concentrated on a smaller range of offerings and did them better than anyone?

Thought number two: when you implement a change, be intentional about the learning curve that those who will experience it will encounter. You understand the reasons why eliminating your “car hops” makes it better for everyone, but have you shared that rationale? Have you tested your concept on users who aren’t familiar with the back story to see what questions they have or how they react?

There is organizational gold under those arches. Mine a bit of it for yourself.

 

 

leadership dot #2782: homework

The Iowa caucuses are a week from today – and by all accounts, the field is still wide open. Candidates continue to come into town; they are spending millions on ads; every day I come home to a different door knocker that a canvasser has left for me, and the mail brings little besides glossy brochures. It’s hard to sort through the propaganda and get to the issues, but the Washington Post has devised an easy way to help you narrow your choices.

The Post has developed an assessment of 20 questions about where you stand on key issues. The form will show you all the (Democrat) candidates who agree with your position and at the end tally your totals. I was surprised by some of my alignment, and it reaffirmed my top/bottom choices, but overall, I was glad that I seemed to have chosen “my” candidate based on substance instead of glitz.

It’s important to spend a few minutes to clarify where you stand on the issues and to learn which one of the candidates merits your vote in the upcoming caucus/primary. Homework isn’t just for those in school.

(Take the assessment here.)

leadership dot #2781: journey

When I was in Minneapolis, I checked ahead on my app to see how long it would take to get to a restaurant where I was meeting a friend for dinner. The answer: 20 minutes. Only when I went to leave for this engagement it was closer to the 5pm rush hour and the same app now said 38 minutes to travel the same distance. Yikes!

In my small town, it takes the same amount of time to go a mile no matter what time of day you are traveling. I never think about the time I am leaving or factor in traffic. “How long it takes” is a finite response, not variable. But in a big city, if I ask you “how long”, both 20 minutes and 40 minutes would be correct.

I think this simple example can serve as a model to help you express empathy. Instead of jumping in with an answer or thinking that you know what is correct, pause for a moment and consider the other person’s perspective. Are they leaving at Noon or 5pm? From a big city or a small town?

Everyone’s journey – whether literally or metaphorically – is influenced by their personal context.

 

leadership dot #2780: print this

Many emails come with a notice in the signature that includes “Don’t print this email.” or “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”

Thus, it was a surprise when I read the email from my printer who takes the opposite view:

Notice!  It’s OK to print this email.  Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees.  Growing and harvesting trees provide jobs for millions of Americans.  Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air & water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage.  Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.

 It’s a perspective that you don’t hear very often but one that caused me to pause.

Your point of view is shaped by the information that you have and how it intersects with you personally, so for a printer, printing is good, even if it is an email. The signature is very on-brand, even if it is environmentally controversial.

To print or not to print — Don’t overlook the role that your emails play in conveying your values and message.

leadership dot #2779: boundary

Setting boundaries comes with two challenges: first, you have to find the courage to speak up and articulate the parameters, and then you must come to grips with the frequent guilt that arises because you denied someone what they wanted.

People often allow themselves to be taken advantage of because of the difficulty in establishing limits that leave them feeling good. Never mind that the boundary was appropriate; it’s still far too easy to feel like you “let someone down” when you drew a line, so people often remain quiet.

I found myself in this situation recently: I said no to a request that I felt was unreasonable, then second-guessed myself, wondering if I should have just shut up and done it anyway. I felt bad for not doing something, and I would have also felt bad if I had given in and done it. Which is better?

I am working to reframe setting boundaries. Instead of seeing them as saying “no” to someone, I’m redefining it as saying “yes” to my needs. It feels good to say “yes”, and that habit can carry over to other disciplines where it is helpful to answer in the affirmative, such as with new experiences and taking appropriate risks.

Setting boundaries on small asks builds the muscle to create strength to say no when the situation truly warrants it. Say “yes” to what is reasonable for you, and opt for “let’s talk about that” when others draw the line too close for your comfort.

leadership dot #2778: while you wait

I’ve been paying attention to the waiting experience lately – what organizations do or don’t do to attend to their clients before they actually receive a service.

Restaurants often address the wait because it is implicit in how the model works that you are going to have to wait while they prepare your food. As a result, they serve you peanuts, bread, or hot rolls to mollify your hunger. It seems that waiting is inevitable at doctors’ offices, so there are usually magazines to make the time seem to pass more quickly, and many businesses now offer wi-fi as a way for you to self-entertain while waiting.

But often the standard methods that attempt to satisfy or divert you apply only for the in-person wait. The dog-DNA-testing site Wisdom Health changed that by providing reassurance, information, fun while you wait for your results. Their email:

Good news! Joan’s DNA sample has arrived safe and sound at our lab and is ready to be processed and tested. The first thing we’ll do is extract and clean Joan’s DNA. Once we have the pure DNA, we’ll place it on a special laboratory chip so it can be genotyped. That’s when we’ll analyze the sample for the 1800+ genetic markers that are used in our tests. The whole process will take about 2-3 weeks from today.

In the meantime, for a little fun, you can head over to the Learning Lab and take our Mixed Breed Quiz. You’ll find out just how sharp your breed identification skills are and see how your score stacks up against others.

 Don’t wait to start providing excellent customer care. Pay attention to those who wait for you – in whatever form that may take. You may create a loyal customer by how well you treat them before you ever provide your service.

Thanks, Meg!

leadership dot #2777: digging out

It’s so much better to stay out of the proverbial hole than it is to dig out of one.

  • It is more manageable to stay on schedule than to catch up after falling behind.
  • It is easier to preserve your savings than to build the account.
  • It is more straightforward to maintain your weight than to lose the pounds.
  • It is easier to maintain your position as a market leader than to initially establish your brand.
  • It is a clearer path to earn trust than to regain it after it is lost.
  • It is far better to protect your reputation than to repair it.

All the efforts involved in the initial acts require effort and sacrifice so we don’t always do them, thus forcing ourselves into working harder to undo them on the back end. It reminds me of the quote: “If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, why do you think you’ll have time to do it again?”

The more you are able to keep the long term in focus when making short term decisions, the better off you and your organization will be. It’s much slower when you have to go in reverse.