Whether you lead a football team, an international corporation, a local restaurant or a dance scene, one of the issues that comes up is: How do you keep your team moving forward?

I want to propose the good old idea of a book club. In my opinion, it is well worth the cost of the right books if you give a copy to each person on your team and then use that information in the running of your group. Bring the books up in meetings. I am not mentioning what book to have them read. It will depend on your situation. I would say that YOU as the leader in your organization should pick one that promotes your values, method of leadership and goals for your organization.

When your whole team is on board with the vision of your organization, when they believe in what you corporately are doing, then your team will surpass the competition that is just going through the motions. Your lowest level employee or volunteer will move your group forward as they have a feeling of ownership in the success of what you are attempting to accomplish.

To put that in concrete terms, say you run a coffee shop. (I am typing in one now, so it shall be my example.) You are the owner or store manager, but your team seems disjointed and uncaring about things like showing up on time, high absentee rates, un-attentive to customers etc. You could threaten them, tell them to shape up or they are fired. (I am not against firing people if it is needed.)  You could have them read a great book on the subject of customer service, or perhaps one that helps them see the value of coffee in American society or to the world economy. When the barista sees herself as a part of something bigger instead of just working a job that pays barely over minimum wage, she is much more likely to take that job seriously, putting in the extra effort to show up on time every time. She will greet each customer with a smile. She will make that customer’s drink with pride and serve it in such a way that it makes a positive inspiring moment that the customer will want to repeat. This makes the manager/owner’s job much easier. People with a cause are much more valuable than people with a paycheck.

In order to pull this off, you, as the leader, cannot just pull a book with a nice cover off the shelf. This means that you need to be reading like crazy in your field in order to find the right book to motivate your team.

Have fun reading!

 

In a few weeks, I am going to be moderating a round table discussion on the future of liberal arts education.

Webster defines Liberal Arts as: areas of study (such as history, language, and literature) that are intended to give you general knowledge rather than to develop specific skills needed for a profession.

I have to say, I don’t like that definition. I get the point, but in a world where people change careers every 7-10 years on average, shouldn’t we be preparing people for whatever profession they end up in? I know, that isn’t as catchy as an RN program where in two years, you get a job as a nurse. (What do you do with that interdisciplinary B.A. in Physical Education/Spanish?)

The struggle I see is that too many schools are treating liberal arts education as if it were vocational education. They assign a set grouping of courses and upon completion, VOILA!  You are educated!

Sadly, the average american doesn’t pick up another non-fiction book after completing their formal studies…so are we succeeding in that goal of educating people liberally with general knowledge for life?

I wish I had more answers. Most of the answers I do have are so against the grain that I dare not push too hard for the reform. A few of my tamer ideas:

  • Upend the general education to core study ratio. At my school, an average degree is about 130 credit hours…with about 30 of those hours being in the core area of study and the rest are general education or “supporting” courses. This isn’t odd or unique, most liberal arts colleges and universities would have a similar structure. What if we switch that around? What if we gave more emphasis to the core of the major? Would it be better? Or would the student miss out on all the general knowledge they are supposed to glean from the liberal arts education?
  • Instead of just having an academic adviser, have life mentors for the student. It might mean that one degree ends up being 250 credit hours and another one is 45 credit hours. Who cares? Have a person who takes an interest in the student’s life individually and helps them achieve their goals in life. (Just a side note, the students with whom I have built real relationships with while they were in college did much better after college than those who simply took classes and didn’t connect with a professor.)
  • If you would like to follow up on this, fee free to e-mail me
 

When given options A or B to choose from, sometimes the best action is to choose C.

When you follow Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher. He had a dispute over a trade slogan with Stevens Aviation. Instead of choosing to go to court or settle out of court in a traditional way, he chose C. He challenged the CEO of Stevens Aviation to an Arm Wrestling match to solve the issue. They undertook the competition in a packed stadium full of cheering employees from their respective companies. Whether he won or lost doesn’t matter in this story. He chose C and you can bet that moment was much more memorable in a positive way for all involved than a court ruling in front of a room full of corporate lawyers would have been.

When Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance faced the dilemma of ignoring or capitulating to Wall Street analysts request for quarterly profit expectations. He chose C. Under his leadership. Progressive Insurance began publishing monthly financial reports which would more honestly allow investors to make predictions.

Maybe your option C has yet to be discovered. That is your job. When your town needs something that it doesn’t currently offer. People tell you that you have to choose between option A or B…you can choose to say, nope, I am going to build a C option!

 

In the last few weeks, our world has seen trucks mow people down, racial unrest, Pokemon Go taking over the streets, police being shot, government coups, and people coming together for peace…so I am taking a break from my normal blogging fare to share some thoughts from my heart.

People, by and large are going about their daily routine. You are likely reading this before, during or after a day at work where you do your job to make a living. Most people have hobbies and interests they like. People volunteer to help causes we believe in. People love their families. We all have people we care about. Most of us just want to get through the day without anyone close to us, or ourselves, being hurt or killed.

So what makes some people make a plan to take the lives of others? Who sits down one day and says, “Gee, I think I will do my best to ruin everyone’s day by killing a bunch of innocent people?” I don’t have an answer. I don’t believe anyone just jumps to that idea. Most sane people would revolt internally at the mere thought of it.

This brings me to one thought. We must all do our job. Not just the one that keeps food on the table. The one of looking out for our fellow humans. What can you do today to help someone else’s life be a little more manageable. Can you give a kid a word of encouragement? (It might make the difference in their life that keeps them from growing up to be a terrorist.) Can you buy lunch for the person behind you in the drive thru? Can you tell a woman that you like  her earrings? What good deed can you do today? You might not change the world, but you could change the world for one person.

 

If you are the leader in your organization, you can’t afford to put your head in the sand when the crisis hits. You need to hit it head on.

In 1982,  Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Tylenol hit a major bump in the road. Some crazy person was adding cyanide to the Tylenol capsules and then returning the product to the shelves for someone else to buy. Johnson & Johnson took action and recalled ALL of the Tylenol bottles. It cost them. They took a loss hit of over $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars). They weren’t at fault, but they took decisive and clear action. When they re-introduced Tylenol to the market, they had added tamper resistant bottles and the caplet which is harder to mess with. This along with a great PR campaign helped restore the trust that was lost in the public eye.

In 2002, When rumors spread that Caribou Coffee that  was partially owned by Atlanta-based Crescent Capital, the investment arm of the First Islamic Bank of Bahrain, was funding terrorism, the CEO Michael Coles, (Who interestingly enough is Jewish), didn’t respond decisively. This meant that rumors flew around the World Wide Web over the next few years. It is the opinion of this blogger that this rumor and the lack of hitting it head on is the primary reason that the name Starbucks has spread far and wide as the king of coffee while Caribou Coffee isn’t even in close now. (It was solidly in a position of second place back in 2002 and could have challenged Starbucks for the leading position in the specialty coffee industry.)  In Coles’ defense, he felt that there were operational issues that needed to be tackled first thing when he took over and he didn’t’ come on as CEO until about half a year after that rumor was already in circulation.

When Odwalla Foods found that  E.Coli was found in some of their apple juice bottles leading to one death and a handful of sick people, they promptly recalled all the bottles at a cost to the company of around $6,500,000.00 (Six and a half million dollars) The company gave daily press briefings about their progress…they didn’t shy away from the press in the time of crisis. They year of this disaster was 1996, in 2001 they were bought out by Coca~Cola for $181,000,000.00 to be part of Coke’s Minute Maid brand. They came a long way from the small upstart company that was nearly knocked dead by a few bad bottles of apple juice.

The point of these stories is that when you take on the crisis the leader of the company needs to make fast decisions and not try to duck the issue. Hit it head on and do whatever you can to restore the public trust in your organization.

 
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