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Seen Any Red Flags Lately?

red flag warnings

The new year is always full of new possibilities. Yet sometimes we drag old situations into the new year. One big area where I see people struggle has to do with identifying and managing “red flags.”

What is it about red flags? You know, those subtle warning signs that a new situation is going to have problems.

Whether a new relationship, a new business arrangement, or just a new possibility in our life, the first signs of a red flag should give us pause. Yet too often they don’t. Why is that?

The answer lies in the gap between the “known” and the “unknown”. As you move toward anything new, you will be leaving the known factors and circumstances to move into the unknown. This transition is also why people have difficulty facing change. Change causes this same movement from known to unknown.

Dealing with Comfort Zones

Comfort zones come from the “known” parts of our life. Experiences from the past establish our sense of the known elements in our life. Some experiences are good, some are bad, but all are known.

With the unknown, we establish our own set of expectations. Perceptions about “what could be” start to look very appealing. That’s why we decide to make a change.

Red flags always appear in the “known”. Some fact point is presented right now, today, and it is easy to declare it a red flag. Here’s the rub.

The new red flag, although it is now a “known” item, is weighed against the perceived value of the new deal (the “unknown”). When you choose to ignore a red flag, you have decided the benefit of the unknown is greater than what you know to be true; right here, right now.

 

Relationship 101

Relationships are the easiest examples of dealing with red flags. Entering into a new relationship there is always the phase of getting to know the other person. You make a date, you go out, you spend time talking about each other, sharing experiences and values.

As time goes on, behavioral habits are displayed. Is the other person on time, do they dress well, do they treat other people kindly? The list of possibilities is long. As each item is demonstrated or expressed, you do a mental check off of whether each trait is good or bad. Are they appealing or appalling? The bad ones are red flags.

Sure, no one is perfect, so we allow a certain few red flags to remain. Why, because the potential (remember this is still perceived value) for a better relationship outweighs the red flag.

Occasionally, we look at red flags and think “Oh, we can fix that after we settle down.” Bad idea! My experience says red flags only get worse. They were at odds with one of your values when they were introduced, they will only get worse as time goes on.

Here’s how to burn red flags:

1. Be true to your own values –  Stay centered in your core beliefs and values. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed into a new line of thinking or a new standard of behavior, unless that new direction is a choice you make.

2. Recognize today’s reality –  Make decisions based on as much fact as you can possibly collect. A known, demonstrated behavior that is not acceptable must be rejected. That new life partner or business associate will not change the bad behavior. It might even get worse.

3. Check your perceptions –  The excitement of a new possibility is wonderful. However, if the steps leading up to the new relationship are littered with red flags, take caution.

4. Be assertive –  If you have standards that are going to be compromised by the red flag traits in the other person, stand your ground. Speak the truth. Try to talk it out, be firm. If it costs you the relationship, so be it.

5. Be confident, don’t settle –  Most of all, be confident that you do not have to settle for red flags. Just because that person is available today, if they come with a bag full of red flags, walk away. Search for a better deal.

Managing the red flag scenario is one of the toughest life choices we make. Usually, there are so many reasons to carry on thus ignoring the red flag. However, the red flag is a universal symbol of caution. Why wouldn’t you treat it the same in your personal life and at work? Establish a method to identify and deal with red flags. Your final outcomes will be far more rewarding.

10 Great Benefits for Your Remote Employees

remote workers

by Kimberly Valentine on December 26, 2021

Building a robust employee benefits package used to be relatively easy for most companies: Provide decent health coverage, offer a generous 401(k) match, allow for several weeks of paid time off, and sprinkle in some genuine perks – perhaps tuition reimbursement or even on-site daycare.

Your physical office space itself enabled many other benefits, such as a fully stocked kitchen and maybe an on-site fitness center.

But now? Some or all of your employees are working remotely full- or part-time, unable to partake in the free coffee and exercise equipment. They may live in multiple states across the country, unable to participate in the same health plans. And the ongoing battle to attract and retain top talent demands more valuable, meaningful, and surprising benefits and perks than ever before.

“The benefits we used to offer our in-office employees just didn’t make sense as we transitioned to supporting a remote-first workforce,” says Andrea Morales, senior director of total rewards for financial technology company Affirm.

Related article: Guide to Building a Better Employee Onboarding Checklist for Your Remote Workforce

If you haven’t yet reinvented your employee benefits package specifically for remote workers, now’s the time. Find inspiration in these rewarding employee perks – from stipends for eco-friendly home offices to virtual fitness classes – offered by remote-first companies and others that have shifted to remote work during the pandemic:

1. Technology, Furniture and Supplies for Home Offices

Setting up a home office can be an expensive requirement for remote workers, and many companies provide technology and financial assistance to enable their employees to do their best work. Company-issued laptops and stipends for office supplies are just the first steps to equip your remote workers.

The online job search platform FlexJobs takes the office set up a step further. In addition to a budget for office furniture and technology devices, the company’s Green Office Stipend allows employees to create an eco-friendly home office with energy-efficient heating and cooling appliances, air purifiers, and more.

Carol Cochran, vice president of people and culture at FlexJobs, explains, “When we look at some of the key benefits of remote working — having control over your space, better for the environment, more flexibility to take care of yourself in a more holistic way — these stipends are a way to support those things and communicate the values of the company in a tangible way.”

2. Monthly Internet Stipend

An easy factor to overlook: Your employees need high-speed internet service to work from home efficiently, but the expectation that everyone pays for sufficient speed on their own is inequitable. Offer employees a stipend to cover this monthly expense.

Cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean, for example, covers as much as $200 of each employee’s monthly internet and phone bills. This practical remote work benefit ensures employees are reliably connected and ready for all those Zoom meetings.

3. Ergonomic Guidance

It’s one thing to provide a stipend for your employees to upgrade their home office furniture – an excellent benefit. Step up a level with this perk by also providing the ergonomic expertise to buy and set up furniture properly to alleviate physical discomfort and the associated loss of productivity.

Take a cue from the globally dispersed company Automattic, the team behind WordPress.com, Simplenote, and Tumblr, among other tech platforms. Automattic offers each employee an ergonomic evaluation that can include a full analysis of the employee’s work setup, observation of work habits, and suggestions for personalized stretching exercises.

4. Reimbursement for Getting Out of the Home Office

Not every remote worker finds home to be the most suitable place to work. Remote-first companies have long been aware that some employees work best in more social environments — even if only occasionally. Consider funding the use of co-working spaces (once it’s safe to do so, of course) to offer alternate office environments for your remote employees.

For instance, Buffer, a social media management platform company with a remote-first workforce, covers employees’ membership fees to their local co-working space. For those who prefer to work in a coffee shop instead, they are reimbursed up to $200 per month to cover their lattes.

5. Fitness and Wellness Classes and Coaching

Mental and physical wellness perks for employees have become more common in recent years. Subscriptions to mental health apps such as CalmHeadspace and Ginger allow employees to tap into a meditation session or connect with a behavioral health coach on demand.

And while in-person fitness perks like on-site gyms became unavailable with the transition to remote work during the pandemic, forward-thinking companies shifted to offer their teams virtual fitness classes.

Rewards platform Fetch hired a full-time wellness coach in September 2020 who teaches daily virtual fitness classes, including yoga, barre, HIIT and strength training. Fetch also offers its employees mindfulness exercises, regularly scheduled breathing breaks and individual health and wellness coaching. Participation rates: 35% of employees are active in the company’s wellness program, and the average participating employee attends 4.5 classes each month.

You don’t need to hire an in-house wellness coach to offer your employees virtual fitness perks, however. Corporate memberships to Gympass and ClassPass, for example, include on-demand and virtual live classes. Give your employees the chance to experience new ways to stay fit, either as a group during the workday or on their own time.

6. Free Lunches

At the office, there really is such a thing as a free lunch, and savvy workers rarely miss out on such events. (Savvy leaders, likewise, know free food is a terrific way to lure staff into the same room for team-building or coaching activities.)

Remote-first companies are still scheduling lunches as a team – with pizza on the company’s dime. Popular food-delivery apps are now catering to the remote workforce with services such as DoorDash for Work and Uber for Business.

PizzaTime — with corporate clients such as Casper, IBM and Adobe — offers coordinated delivery services to make sure dispersed team members receive their pies in time for their virtual meetup. Host virtual team lunches to reward employees or celebrate a team accomplishment, or provide lunch during a mid-day team meeting or company-wide conference.

7. Book Allowances

The employee book club at Drift, a remote-first company that offers a revenue acceleration platform, doesn’t actually meet to discuss the same titles. Launched in 2016, it instead allows employees to choose books from an evolving list of about 250 titles, including The New York Times’ 2020 anti-racist reading list. Each employee can order one book every month; on average, about 75 employees order books from the list each month, reports chief people officer Dena Upton. “Learning is a way of life, and there are so many great books our team can dive into,” she says. “We want to support that growth.”

8. Streaming Music Subscriptions

Some employees work better when fueled by music. Consider funding remote workers’ subscriptions to Amazon Music, Spotify or Apple Music – a perk offered, for example, at SeatGeek, a live event ticketing platform.

Bonus idea: Pair this perk with a set of noise-cancelling headphones so that your team members can keep the music in their own ears and avoid distracting a significant other or roommate, or tune out the surrounding noise for more focused work.

9. Grocery Allowances

Just as many offices stock their kitchens with employees’ favorite drinks and snacks, remote-first companies are also making sure there’s no shortage of food in their remote workers’ home pantries.

In January 2021, fintech firm Affirm began offering employees a digital spending wallet – broken down into four categories (tech, food, lifestyle and family planning), each with a monthly allowance and a list of eligible items employees can use the funds toward. The $220-per-month food allowance can be used for groceries and food delivery. “We want all of our benefits and programs to embody our value that people come first, and giving Affirmers the flexibility to pay for things that make their day-to-day lives easier really supports that,” Morales says.

10. (Extra) Flexible Hours

It’s not uncommon for remote-first companies to set core hours when all employees, no matter their time zone, are expected to be available online. This allows just enough flexibility for employees to work when they’re most productive and balance family responsibilities, while also enabling real-time conversations for as many hours as possible.

Some companies have embraced fully flexible hours with a “no core hours” policy.

DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused internet search engine, allows its globally dispersed team of more than 135 employees to choose their own hours of work. Gabriel Weinberg, CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo, explains, “We understand everyone has their own working styles, as well as certain times of the day when they’re most productive, so we offer freedom and flexibility to organize their individual work schedules.”

Coordinating primarily through the task management platform Asana, the company operates with limited scheduled meetings including no-meeting Wednesdays and Thursdays. “We’ve found that team members do their best work, have the greatest work-life balance and are happiest when they can choose where and when they do their work,” says Weinberg.

If your company isn’t ready to experiment with a fully flexible work policy, consider establishing limited daily core hours, such as 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in a key time zone, when everyone’s online and available. Allowing your employees the opportunity to choose remaining work hours that are best for their individual schedules can provide the work-life balance they need to make the remote work environment successful.

Defining Customer Service in 2022

Starting fresh in the new year might be a good time to rethink your views of customer service. For businesses of all sizes, the first question is simply “Who is my customer?”

The word customer usually applies to the end-user; the person paying for the goods or services. However, in larger corporate settings, your team’s customer may not be external at all. You may be serving an internal ‘customer.’

Either way, the notion that there is someone out there to consume or receive what you do should be important to review on a regular basis.

Small Business Coaching @ DougThorpe.com

The Myths

First, let’s do a little myth-busting about customers. Leading the list is the age-old favorite “The customer is always right.”

This myth was busted for me many years ago by Herb Kelleher, the infamous founding CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb told a story one day.

There was this disgruntled and somewhat drunk customer waiting to board a flight at the Southwest hub in Dallas (their home). The weather had caused delays throughout the system. As one delay after another was announced, this one customer got more and more belligerent. He yelled at and belittled the gate agents. Then he event took to spewing abusive rants at fellow customers.

Finally, the flight was ready to board. He pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be greeted by two Dallas cops. They cuffed him and escorted him behind the line. The crowd in the terminal cheered.

Herb said while they (his crew at Southwest) made one customer really mad, they made 300 others very happy.

This stuck with me.

Myth #2 – ‘So long as customer needs are met, we’ve done our job well’

Supplying the customer with what they asked for is one thing, but in reality, it’s only half of the service. To build a real customer experience, it is all about how you make the customer feel — from the moment they become acquainted with your company, to the last interaction you have with them.

This includes everything from their surroundings and environment, your employees’ tone of voice, extra facilities, availability, the speed of service, and so on. Everything about the customer’s experience must be as close to perfect as possible (and yes, if something goes wrong, you can indeed still achieve this).

It is not enough to simply satisfy a customer’s primary request. The customer experience is made up of tons of micro-interactions that all influence how that person will see your brand. In short … it really is the little things that matter.

Myth #3 – ‘Our customer service should be built and governed by policies and procedures.’

Policies and procedures are indeed necessary for a business to run safely and smoothly, but following them rigidly to the letter can often be the reason a customer leaves dissatisfied. This might involve the hours that you’re open, your policy on returns, or a simple customer mistake based on human oversight. Rather than play rigidly by the rules, your employees should be empowered to make independent, on-the-spot decisions in favor of the customer, without consulting a more authoritative member of staff first.

Employee empowerment is not about breaking or ignoring the rules, but about bending the rules to keep customers happy. If employees are afraid of negative consequences such as losing salary, losing their job or simply being belittled, then your customer service will quickly become stagnant and unresponsive to customer needs. Instead, it must be creative, free-flowing, reactive, and dynamic as new solutions are sought every day.

Going out of the box to make customers happy lets them know you value their custom. It is naive to worry about what side-stepping rules and policies might cost you. These same customers are likely to return more frequently and spread the word of their experience to others, making this practice a worthy investment.

customer service

Myth #4 – ‘Low customer complaint numbers mean we are doing well.’

There are several flaws in this one. First, your complaint count might be low because your customers are too frustrated to care about reporting it.

Or, your customer service process may be so bad that the real complaints are not getting through. Either way, don’t get complacent about low complaint counts. Be sure you’re getting the right picture.

Ask questions. routinely, get in touch with your customers. Ask why they like working with you. Find out what they expect. Be sure you fully understand what they want, why they picked you, and what it will take for them to stay.

Myth #5 – ‘I can’t fire any customers. They’re too hard to find.’

This is a lie straight from Hell. A bad customer should be fired quickly. What is bad? Well, any customer who makes unrealistic demands on your time and the time of your team members. Any customer who expects to be first in line regardless of the other business you have in progress.

If you are delivering on your word and providing good service, a customer who constantly gripes and complains about the service should be fired. Plain and simple.

The time you take trying to coddle these clowns can best be used to land and support good customers.

New Year: Same Results?

Are you expecting better results but planning to do the same things? Now is the time to renew your thinking about your business. Review what worked well and what didn’t work.

Set a fresh course for where you want your business going in 2022. If you’d like to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to learn what business coaching can do for you, then click the button below.

Local Business Owner Doug Thorpe Named to NSBA Leadership Council


Houston, Texas – Doug Thorpe was recently named to the National Small Business Association (NSBA) Leadership Council. NSBA is the nation’s oldest small-business advocacy organization and operates on a staunchly nonpartisan basis.

Doug Thorpe, a recognized leader in the small-business community, joins the NSBA Leadership Council alongside other small-business advocates from across the country as they work to promote the interests of small businesses to policymakers in Washington, D.C.

“As a small-business owner, I see daily the importance of being involved and active when it comes to laws and regulation,” stated Mr. Thorpe. “Joining NSBA’s Leadership Council will enable me to take our collective small-business message to the people that need to hear it most: Congress.”

Doug Thorpe is an advisor to small businesses and a certified executive coach, helping already successful owners and business leaders improve their leadership impact. He helps small businesses by leveraging his 20+ years as a banker, entrepreneur, and visionary.

He is the founder of HeadwayExec, LLC, dedicated to growing leadership effectiveness in the workplace by delivering coaching, consulting, and advisory services to small businesses of all sizes. His mantra for 2022 is helping 10,000 owners/executives become better bosses thus improving work-life balance for the modern workforce.

Mr. Thorpe joined the NSBA Leadership Council as part of his efforts to tackle the many critical issues facing small businesses, including tax reform, regulatory restraint, health care costs, and how the Affordable Care Act will impact small businesses. The NSBA Leadership Council is focused on providing valuable networking between small-business advocates from across the country while ensuring small businesses a seat at the table as Congress and regulators take up key small-business proposals.

“I am proud to have Doug Thorpe as part of our Leadership Council,” stated NSBA President and CEO Todd McCracken. “He came to us highly recommended and I look forward to our coordinated efforts for years to come.”

Please click here to learn more about Mr. Thorpe and his advisory work.
For more on the NSBA Leadership Council, please visit www.nsba.biz

Leaders: Setting a New Standard

best boss

Be a Better Boss

Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.

As for me, I have chosen a noble task.

I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.

For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.

The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.

I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.

It’s Tradition

First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.

“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”

WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)

In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.

Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.

In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?

Nature or Nurture?

Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.

I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.

These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.

I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.

On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.

Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.

Back to Human Resources

I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”

While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.

The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.

Today’s Situation

Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.

Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:

Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.

In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”

Should You Be Surprised?

If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.

Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.

First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?

More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?

When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?

Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.

Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.

Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?

Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?

Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.

Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”

Communication is King

Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.

This is a line I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.

With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.

Finally, learn how to read the room.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.

The New Year

Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.

Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?

Launching 2022

To wrap up 2021 and boost your launch for 2022, I am sharing some leadership quotes I’ve collected over the years.

Many come from a friend and fellow Silver Fox Advisor, Hank Moore. They are featured in his newest book, “The Big Picture of Business,” Book 4, just nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Let’s begin

See the value in others that they cannot see in themselves.

When you give, you also get your share.

Self-worth is not equal to or determined by net worth.

Persistence beats resistance.

Footsteps in the sands of time are not made by sitting down.

Choose the road to go where you wish to grow.

Things that were not achievable in early careers are now yours to master.

Opportunities will come your way when you believe they will start happening today.

It’s about time

It’s almost tomorrow. Today will be yesterday tomorrow. The minutes into the future will soon become cherished memories of the past.

Tomorrow might not come when dreamers dream too late.

How can you know what’s possible, until you try.

Use the system for the betterment of society. When a business does the right thing, it’s good for society and for business. Right things matter and payback in goodwill.

Internal strength

Define who you are. Do not let others define you.

Be stronger than your excuses.

May you always be a dreamer. May your brightest dreams come true.

People worry so much about the cost of living. Concern yourself with the value of life.

Ask yourself: what more do you want. You’ve earned it.

Recall and build upon the teachable moments that influenced you.

Hope and influence

Hope for the year: healing, recovery, and valuing each other.

Hope inspires us to do the impossible & carry on during difficult times.

There will be tough times, and they will pass.

Mentoring guides your success.

Leaders

Effective leaders don’t have to be lonely at the top.

We are all caretakers of something.

Show gratitude often. Notice other people. Reward yourself.

Prepare for and nurture your future.

Serve your community.

It’s about time, place, and attitude.

People who are adaptive and adaptable get further.

Celebrate others. Stand up for others.

Learn the secrets of successful people.

Closing thoughts

The more that we remind others of the worth of life and positive opportunities, we remind ourselves as well.

Reinforce truths every day. Otherwise, vacuums will be filled with lies and misinformation.

Quote from Winston Churchill: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”

Quote from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”


Here’s wishing you a joyous and prosperous New Year. As you plan your new year activity and strategic ideas, think about these offerings I’ll be delivering this year.

Best Boss Ever – I am focusing my messaging and coaching on helping business owners and corporate executives become the best boss ever. People join companies but quit bosses. Don’t let that be you! Visit BestBossCoaching.org to learn more.

Mastermind Groups – Join a peer-to-peer advisory group to gain the benefit of working with like-minded, motivated leaders who are growing their businesses. Visit DougThorpe.com/business for more info.

Building Team Trust – Studies have proven the highest performing teams operate with “psychological safety.” Most of us know that as “trust.” So the study says we need it, but how can a leader build it? I have the answer .

For all of these and access to any of my other books, articles, podcasts, or resources, visit DougThorpe.com. Or click the button below to reserve your slot for a free, no-obligation discovery call.

Blessings to you and your family. Happy New Year.

Positivity vs Negativity

As I sit down at my trusty old PC to write some thoughts on this, the week before Christmas, I was tempted to “mail it in” by digging into my archive and dusting off an oldie but goodie.

Yet as I pondered what to do, I started thinking about the early Christmas we just finished celebrating in my family. The wife and I like to alternate Christmas day each year to allow our married kids to swap with the in-laws. Spreading the wealth if you will. Not hogging ‘the day’, but rather willing to be flexible in alternating years.

So this was the year for early Christmas. The whole clan gathered for the day to meet, eat, swap gifts, and let the grandkids get the maximum benefit from our brand of family Christmas. It was simply great.

Thorpe family Christmas

The jolly crew is pictured above. BTW we do ‘themed’ celebrations. This year was a Camo-Christmas.

Anyway, one of the gifts the grandkids got (the boys, that is) was a set of building pieces based on a little STEM learning. The kits were to teach the basics of electronics. The parts would snap together to complete a circuit. There were buzzers, bells, motors, and gadgets to plug in-line to feed off a battery pack. The successful accomplishment was realized by a whole range of noises, beeps, buzzes, and whirrs.

I coached my 8-year-old on the principles. In no time, he was building pretty amazing layouts. The first, most basic concept he mastered was to follow the flow of the circuit, starting with the positive side of the batteries, winding thru the model, and ending on the negative side. Positive and negative.

There it is – the Muse for this Message

Thinking about the positive and negative made me start thinking about the world around my little family unit. Today, there is so much negativity. Seldom do we focus on the positives.

Speak with any colleague or friend and it won’t be long before something negative comes up. Maybe I’m writing an indictment on my circle of friends. However, I really don’t think so. Too many good people are getting beaten down by the negative rhetoric and the cynicism in the daily news.

I decided to take a quick poll, just within my own head. Here are the scientific results I just made up.

There is good in the world

My neighborhood goes all out decorating for Christmas. Yards are strung with all manner of “exterior illumination” man can buy (thank you Clark Griswald). Then beginning right after Thanksgiving, hayrides begin cruising the streets taking large groups on tours. It’s a fun, enjoyable human experience.

Last year my street started hosting what we call Candy Cane Lane. Our cul de sac turns into a unified theme park adorned with large 6′ lit candy canes. Every night, Santa appears in person along with several elf helpers to hand out candy canes to the hayrides. OK – yes, it’s taking things up a big notch, but the neighbors on our street love doing it.

Yes, that’s me and Susan, my wife

Being on the front line, looking at humanity from behind a fake Santa’s beard can be very cathartic. You should try it sometime. The little kids stare in amazement. Even the adults melt into memories of childhoods long ago. Times when things were not so complex or demanding. It’s easy to see.

It offers a brief break from the otherwise crazed world we live in. And people LOVE it.

By doing something positive, our little group is restoring joy and harmony.

Volunteerism is alive

I have the joy of working with several non-profits. The spirit of giving and serving is alive.

It’s not easy, nor are the finances bountiful, but dedicated souls to can identify with causes they love are still coming out in droves to help, serve, and give.

We all can make a difference

You’ve likely heard the story of the boy and the starfish. A small boy was walking on the beach. The high tide had washed hundreds of starfish onto the sand. An old man saw the boy bending over, picking up a starfish, and then throwing it into the sea.

As the man came up to the boy, he said “Young boy, what are you doing?”

The lad said, “I am saving the starfish.”

The old man said, “You’ll never make much difference.”

The young boy looked down at the starfish in his hand and said “I’ll make a difference for this one.”

We can spread positivity one person at a time.

Just show up

I thank a fellow coach, Mike Van Hoozer, for helping me learn the concept of focus in the moment. Every human endeavor is not really about the long journey, but rather the way we show up in the moment. Our legacies and reputations are built on moments not big projects or programs.

As an example, professional baseball players build careers after a long run of moments. Moments when they come to bat. Bottom of the 9th, ballgame tied, two outs, and two strikes. One pitch, one swing can make the moment. Strikeout, you might be forgotten. Hit a home run and you will forever be remembered.

The same is true for good managers and great leaders. You build the reputation as a good boss by the moment by moment steps that happen every day.

Good people show up in the moment. When your moment happens, you can choose to be positive or negative. Choose positive.

Please join me

For 2022, please join me in choosing to be positive. Let’s drown out negativity. Sure there can be differing opinions. But when it comes down to it, why not decide to be positive?

Lift people up, don’t tear them down. Even your so-called enemies. How hard will it be to at least hear them out?

Right now I am thinking of a few people I know who have sunk so low into the muck that it will be hard for them to read this. Heck, they’ve probably already scrolled past. That’s ok. But if I can get hold of them, I’m going to do all I can to be positive, encouraging, and helpful toward them.

There is a better way. Please join me in spreading a little positivity. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year. Leave a comment or share with your tribe.

Best Boss at Christmas

As we run screaming into the end of the year 2021 (where has this one gone?), it’s always a good time to reflect, regroup, and renew our thinking for the year that is just around the corner. The best bosses I have known use this time to make reflections.

There are those among us that do very little reflective work. What I mean is, they seldom stop to look at their own impact and effectiveness. Instead, they meander through life doing what they want to do, choosing what they choose, and paying very little attention to the consequences.

In my mind, I am fortunate to never work with that kind of client. Why? First, because they never call for coaching. Remember, they are NOT reflective. More importantly, they wouldn’t be a good coaching client. I’d likely get blamed for producing no results. So to that end, I am happy they never call.

The Good Guys

However, it is my good fortune to work with clients who want to make a difference. They want to become better bosses. These heroes are willing to stop and ask the tough questions like:

How did I do as a leader?

What could be better?

Which things worked well, what didn’t?

What should I do more of?

And what should I STOP doing?

It is by allowing these reflections that one can achieve growth. Change is inevitable. So why not be intentional with the changes? Build a plan for mastering your skills as a leader. You can’t do it all in one giant leap forward.

Rather, you have to decide on specific behaviors or skills you want to use to become the leader you want to be. Decide on a few key things that can make the most difference right now. Then get help understanding the details about what you can change.

It’s in the Bag

When asked about leadership, I like the analogy of the golfer. In the bag is a set of clubs, 14 by regulation. Each club is designed for a specific purpose like hitting long or hitting short with finesse. Good golfers know how to use each club with varying degrees. The golfer will ‘bend’ or ‘shape’ shots depending on the course in front of them. Choosing the right club and the right swing in the moment is what differentiates good golfers from great golfers. Or in my case, pretty mediocre weekend golfers.

Building a leadership skill set is like the golfer. You can add tools to your leadership bag. But one size does not fit all. You have to practice to learn how to shape the moment with the tool you’ve chosen.

As an example, communication can be one of those leadership tools. Your communication can be very direct if you must make some form of announcement to the group. On the other hand, if you are coaching an employee, your communication may be very warm and empathetic.

Examples

Other examples of leadership tools (or clubs – no not lethal weapons) used by the best bosses are delegating, accountability, decision making, motivation, listening, speaking, planning, giving feedback, nurturing, coaching, character, integrity, etc.

The list can be long. You need to decide the elements and attributes that you want to define your leadership style and substance. The longer the list, the more work you will do to improve your skill at applying these behaviors in the moment.

This is why you simply cannot work to develop all of the skills in one big push. You have to work with them throughout your career. In my experience, you will have whole seasons of work where certain skills will dominate the situation. A select few of your leadership skills will be needed to win the day. You won’t ignore or forget your other leadership skills, you just won’t call on them as often.

Year-End Tune-Up

The calendar year-end is always a convenient time to remember the need to look back, evaluate, and make new plans.

I’m not talking about funky new year resolutions. Instead, I mean valuable reviews of what has happened before and a focus on what can lie ahead.

The best bosses include just such a look at their own ability to lead. Having the self-discipline to sit down and prepare a year-end review is a great start to making next year your best year ever for the best boss ever, YOU!

PS

Let me also wish Happy Holidays to all my friends and colleagues who do not observe Christmas time celebrations. Blessings to you and your families!

Becoming the Best Boss Ever

What would it take to make you the best boss ever? If you get promoted into a supervisory or management role, you might be asking this question. That is if you get past the “Oh snap, what do I do now” stage.

But seriously, wouldn’t it be better if you really could be the best boss ever to your team? It is said people join companies but quit bosses. How can you avoid being ‘that guy?’

The best place to start is to think about the good bosses you have known. Certainly, you knew some. Maybe it was a coach in school or maybe your first boss who took you under his/her wing. For me, the idea of the best boss ever is more of a collage of many; a patchwork quilt of skills and abilities demonstrated in the trenches by bosses I have had.

As I work with my coaching clients, I often ask them to do this same exercise. Think about leaders you have known or know about. What attributes make them good leaders? I have the client write out the list they identify.

Key Themes

In no particular order, here are the common themes I get.

Interpersonal skill – having the ability to connect with employees. The time we spend at work should not be ‘all work’. There has to be some connection that happens. Otherwise, people lose interest.

I was told about a senior leader at a company who had the uncanny ability to recall names and details about workers’ family matters. It was not uncommon for him to see someone in the hall and ask “How did Jimmy’s project go at school?” He was following up on a small detail shared with him in a prior meeting.

Being able to relate to your people is not simply calling them by their names. It’s about getting down to earth with matters that mean something to them.

Integrity – This theme comes up a lot. People simply trust a person of integrity more than they trust anyone else.

Integrity has many layers. It starts with doing what you say you’re going to do. It also means staying away from the petty politics that can happen at work.

In addition, it means not cutting corners or making shady deals to get ahead, win the bid, or get your way.

Being decisive – This one has power. If you want to be a great boss, you have to make decisions, then stick by them. When you take on management of a team, the people need a leader who can make the call. When things happen, decisions must be made.

If you want to earn the respect of your people, you cannot shy away from making the decision when the time comes for one to be made.

Still More

Know Your Stuff – easier said than done. Good bosses contribute by knowing something about what they are leading. On occasion, you may be asked to move into an area you know very little about. When that happens, you should make every effort to learn about the critical aspects of the work being done there. Get coaching, mentoring or other advice from the senior experts on the team.

Don’t fake it. A false effort will be sniffed out. You’ll lose all credibility. But people can accept the new manager who is showing effort to properly learn the scope.

In my banking days, I was recruited to join our real estate lending group to build a team of administrators and take over some operations functions. I told the department head I had a little experience in home building but had no idea what commercial real estate lending was about. He said “No worries.” Then he called our lead counsel at the law firm that supported the bank. He asked for what eventually became my tutoring.

For about three months I had regular weekly sessions with the attorney. I got a first-hand look at all aspects of proper lending and governance of loan agreements. With that learning, I was comfortable leading my team, working with bank executives, and even negotiating with customers. To this day, I value that opportunity. (In subsequent negotiations I’ve even been asked where I got my law degree.)

Process and People

Create the Process – scalable, sustainable work requires a reliable process. This doesn’t matter whether you are building cars, drilling for oil, or pushing paper. A solid process gives you the ability to train, equip, and prepare your people for success.

If you ask your team to do things differently every day, they will get very frustrated. You won’t be able to build accountability. Nor will you be able to build reliable output.

Deal with People – as Jim Collins put it, having the right people on the bus is critical to success. Work on your hiring process and build a solid evaluation system for maintaining accountability. Be clear in setting expectations for the team. Then inspect what you expect.

As potential performance issues arise, deal with them swiftly. A languishing problem employee sucks the life out of your team. Plus if you delay in making the right moves to resolve the problem, the good performers you have will lose respect for YOU.

For those on the team who perform at high levels, celebrate the wins. Give recognition where and when it is deserved.

Summary

There are dozens more to list, but these are the common ones I hear within my own coaching practice. They make sense. Take these ideas to heart and you just might be on your way to being called, the Best Boss Ever.

When Was Your Last Paradigm Shift?

Ah, the now infamous paradigm shift. I learned about “paradigm” at a Stephen R. Covey seminar back when he was alive, touring, and promoting his 7 Habits book. The word wasn’t even in my vocabulary at the time. It became a popular buzzword for business for many years afterward.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the basic definition of the word.

A paradigm is a standard, perspective, or set of ideas. A paradigm is a way of looking at something. The word paradigm comes up a lot in the academic, scientific, and business worlds. A new paradigm in business could mean a new way of reaching customers and making money.

It’s safe to say that the past two years have caused many paradigm shifts in the business world, the way we work, and the way we may continue working.

The Shifts We Know

The massive lockdowns and shutdowns caused by the pandemic sent small business owners, shop keepers, and service companies scrambling. Those who found ways to survive usually did it through massive restructures of their business models.

One story was about an Asian family shifting their business away from a sit-down restaurant style Chinese food establishment. Instead, they found a niche market for take out and delivery of Lousisiana style gumbo. By eliminating the overhead of the restaurant, they tripled margins and doubled gross revenue.

Another company I know about was in the business of creating high-end bath soaps. The pandemic squashed that market. With creative leadership, the owner assembled her team and did some brainstorming. They landed on the idea to produce hand sanitizer liquid. Their manufacturing arrangement was easily retooled to support that production, plus many of the ingredients were already on hand. Within weeks they were delivering wholesale quantities to essential work places.

Larger enterprises had even bigger shifts. I did work for a large national bank who had to send 95% of the workforce home. How do you perform banking transactions remotely? What must be done to secure customer information over the Internet?

Leaders at this bank got very creative. They identified an encryption device that employees could attach to their home based computer connections. The device provided a virtual private network (VPN) connection that was extra secure. With this setup, employees could login to on-premise bank networks and continue to serve customers.

Productivity actually increased by double digits. Yet it was a paradigm shift many thought could never happen.

Why Shift Perspectives and Paradigms?

I mention these examples because they represent external forces that dictated the need for change. The paradigm simply had to shift.

But what if you are operating in the ‘zone?’ What if everything seems to be working well? Should you entertain a paradigm shift?

Or what if you are operating a legacy? I mean managing a piece of an organization that has huge capital invested in assets that are income producing. Turn on the lights and you make money. That’s a nice place to be, right?

Should there be any paradigm shift in these situations?

I submit you should at least entertain the idea periodically. The sand might be shifting underneath you. Without having an open mind and a discipline about revisiting the current paradigm, you might be setting yourself up to fail.

Kodak is the cautionary tale for this exact situation. Their paradigm was manufacturing high end photo film. Yes, I said film. Not digital.

As the digital transformation unfolded in the market, Kodak held firm in their paradigm. It is said they even went so far as to call the emerging digital technology a fad.

Making the Shift

How do you know when it might be time to make a paradigm shift? Given the vast capacity our brains possess, it is often hard to sort through the details to decide it is time for a shift.

We get into habits that keep our thinking going in one direction. In scripture we are encouraged to “renew our minds.” Here are several patterns that could suggest it is time to shift that paradigm.

Group Think

Anyone who has been part of a work team has likely experienced this form of operating. A decision needs to get made. The choice is put up to the team to decide. One person floats an idea. The next person is not wild about it, but doesn’t want to make waves, so says yes.

As the next person gets a turn to weigh in, they start thinking ‘well two folks agree so I don’t want to be an outlier.’ So they say yes. And so it goes. The decision is finalized. It gets implemented and produces bad results.

The group starts dissecting the outcome. One then another says ‘I didn’t really like that idea.’ Well why did we all agree to do it that way? And things spiral downward.

Avoiding group thinking is a great time to allow a paradigm shift. Share an opposing idea. Ask why not?

For more on this topic, visit The Abilene Principle

Self Talk

The discussion we have inside our minds just might be the most influential voice we ever hear. That cuts both ways. The message can be empowering or it can be derailing.

Watch the tone and content of those little talks you give yourself. Limiting beliefs can hold you back. On the other hand, pride and arrogance can stifle the best choices.

Reframe the Matter

Reframing is a great technique to aid in creating a fresh line of sight. When you start feeling stuck with a certain way to think about something, force yourself to reframe the idea. Bust through the structure of the thinking you used to get where you are. Ask challenging questions about the method you used. Allow yourself the luxury to explore wholly new ideas to address the situation.

This is called reframing. You take the old framework you’re used to using and turn it around. The diagram below demonstrates how viewing something from different angles can create different conclusions.

paradigm shift reframe

Seek Counsel

If you start to feel stuck where you are, look to someone else to add another perspective.

There’s an age-old joke about how men never want to stop for directions. When my wife and I took our first major road trip after we were married, I pulled over one day and asked a local for directions. Once I had the information, I was ready to proceed to our destination. She was amazed. Other men in her life (before me) had apparently never been willing to stop and ask.

I learned a long time ago that having a guide or a mentor was a perfect way to get valuable information for greater success. Try it sometime.

In Conclusion

The need to make a paradigm shift might be more frequent than you think. Add a simple question to your leadership toolkit. Ask yourself, “Am I thinking about this the right way?” Be willing to take the turn, ask for help, and consider the different angle.

Above all, coach and train your team to avoid group thinking. Create an environment where dissenting opinions matter. Promote the value of trust among team members so that decisions can be made with the best input.

Let that paradigm shift happen.

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