Author Archives: russell_j_white

Working With Someone Who Drives You Nuts

Working with someone who drives you nuts can range from the co-worker who is simply too loud to the one who has no control over their “personal habits” (Did he just hack up a hairball?) to the person who is an outright ogre to be around. Every one of these employees obviously make some contribution or they still wouldn’t be there (we hope.)

So how do you work along someone like this?

Listen more and talk less.

We spend so much time trying to convince the other person we are right, we fall to actually listen to try to truly understand where they are coming from. The division of political discourse is falling into our work communication. Compromise is becoming a sign of weakness, instead of a sign of strength, and this is making finding common ground much more difficult.

Anticipate the discomfort and prepare.

Instead of fretting over the impending confrontation, why not strategize how to find something you can both agree upon and build from there? Through relationship building, words become clearer and intentions become known, therefore, constructive criticism tends to be received better from friendly acquaintances than from combatants.

Focus on what you enjoy, instead of what you find frustrating.

Thinking “If only he would…” is an exercise in fantasy and a waste of time and energy, not to mention creates a mindset rife with disappointment. Focus on what the other person does well (there is always something) and give that greater weight in your thoughts of this person than in the habits that frustrate you.

Ask for their help on something they are very good at.

When you invite people to help you out on something that is in their wheelhouse, you get to have a common victory. Winning together builds bridges.

I’ve had to remind myself over the years, “No one can make me have a bad day, unless I let them.” If I allow them to drive me nuts – they win. If I can find a way to get beyond that – I win. If you work with someone who drives you nuts, it’s an opportunity for you to find a victory.

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Decision Scrutiny is Upon Us

In the age of over-reaction and ever-present cameras, every decision is tested under the bright lights of scrutiny. While watching a football coach get grilled by the press immediately following a crushing loss by his team, I wondered how most business leaders would be able to handle that type of close inspection for their day to day decisions.

Like high profile football coaches facing decision scrutiny from the press and social media, business leaders must employ the following three ideas when making solid decisions.

Don’t let vague emotions dictate decisions.

A coach is under a ticking clock when making tough, in-the-moment decisions. There is no room for second-guessing. All eyes are on him to demonstrate his leadership. Being firm in your decisions for your team says you are in charge, good or bad. Surveyed employees indicate one of the worst traits of bad managers is being wishy-washy. When you are firm in your decision it tells your team that you believe in what you are doing. Vagueness breeds apprehension throughout the business. Make sure your team isn’t guessing what is going on — be decisive.

When a decision goes wrong, take the blame.

The quickest way for a leader to lose his team is to throw someone under the bus when a mistake has been made. Active leaders are always going to make mistakes. When decision mistakes happen, be solution-focused and not blame-focused, then evaluate the event for what can be learned to prevent it from being repeated. Anyone can lead in the best of times. True leaders demonstrate their character in tough times. Be the leader the team wants you to be.

Have a plan.

Decision are never made in a vacuum. Every decision has multiple facets of impact and consequence. Be sure to be informed and aware of the impact of your decisions and how they fit with your overall plan for the business.  Decisions should never appear to be random or reactionary. Frequently I ask my client how a particular action supports the overall direction of the business. So often it’s easy to get lost in fighting the battle and lose sight of the war. Follow your plan so your leadership shows where you are taking your team.

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3 Family Business Owner Pitfalls to Avoid

Most family-owned businesses are small businesses, and inherent in most family businesses are a unique set of challenges. Be careful to avoid these common pitfalls that can plague a family business owner.

You can’t escape the stress of your job.

The line between the family business and the family get blurred easily. Unplugging from the business can be very difficult. Dinner discussions become work-related. Late night phone calls from family members frequently are work-related. Even your dreams can become work-related, and it will feel as if you are never away from the business — even when you are away from the business!

Solution: Develop the next level of management and set boundaries. Owners in family businesses have a tendency to want to do it all and resist delegation. It’s important to develop the next line of leadership with incremental delegation of duties, allowing them to grow into their next positions.

Also, set boundaries. You have to establish “workfree” zones. The dinner table. After 9 pm. While on vacation. If these solutions are not brought into the business/family, the family business owner will suffer from burnout.

You aren’t adapting fast enough.

Time flies, the world changes and business owners can quickly fall behind. I find many family-business owners can get lost in the weeds (minutiae) of the business. They spend so much time focusing on the micro that the macro side of the business can pass them by.

Solution: The culture of your business must include trying new things. New products, marketing methods, scheduling of employees, customer contacts, etc. The same ol’, same ol’ is a failed approach to business today. As I’ve heard it said:  Winners don’t wait for their chances, they take them.

You are no longer fully committed.

As the years go along and the leader of the business approaches multiple decades in the same position, he or she starts to play safe instead of playing to win. The desire for risk taking to grow gets replaced with the desire for stability and routine. This is not an effective approach to growing a business.

Solution: Take a hard, objective look at your approach to the business. It’s time to make a choice. Either jump all the way in or all the way out. To thrive in today’s business climate, the business owner has to be focused on creating a future, not milking it.

Running a successful family business can be very challenging, but done properly it can be life-defining and extremely rewarding.

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4 Habits for Managers to Break

Experience can be very helpful in many ways when leading a workforce, but not changing with the times can make that experience obsolete quickly. Following are four ingrained managerial habits I see being used in my client organizations that need to be broken immediately.

Bad Habit #1: Going with what you know

Tried and true ideas don’t always re-create previous success in current climates. Look to the NBA; Phil Jackson’s triangle offense no longer is a success in the current climate of the NBA. Not long ago a great center was the key to success in pro basketball. Today the center position is the least valued of all positions on the court as the game has embraced speed and shots from beyond the 3-point arc.

The savviest managers know to adjust with the times and be agile enough to recognize when new talent and processes are needed.

Bad Habit #2: Always picking experience over youth, or vice versa

It is well known: Most managers select employees most like themselves. By predictably going in one direction most of the time, your team will end up with the same strengths and weaknesses and miss out on the best balance of talent that creates success.

Youth and experience both have benefits and concerns. Balance your team, balance your abilities, and ride your developing success.

Bad Habit #3: Turning your workhorse into the do-everything person

Have you ever wished the rest of your team was like the person you go to for everything? This person never fights back, always steps up when asked, and probably is being worked into the ground. Say what? It’s great to have a reliable person who gets things done exactly how you want, but it’s easy to rely on them too much.

We tend to overload those we rely on the most and the rest of the team may step back and let her take on the load. Make sure you aren’t the one causing them to wait on the “superstar” to do everything.

Bad Habit #4: Having predictable routines

The difference between a groove, a rut and a grave is only the depth. I have had a client who tells me how he was told to manage his business by his mentor back in 1975. Times have changed, and so have what it takes to be successful. In today’s business climate, agility is required for all businesses to stay fresh, current and able to maximize opportunities.

Step back and look at your managerial style. Are you relying on the tried and true (and maybe stale and less effective) methods you’ve been using for quite some time? It is probably time to upgrade your managerial skills for a new time, a new employee and a new business climate.

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Dealing with Entitlement

Dealing with entitlements of customers and employees is a growing concern for business leaders. For example, in an online discussion, a person was upset about a restaurant wanting to charge for extra lettuce on his sandwich. How dare they! I watched the thread as people grew angry because a restaurant dared to charge for requested extra ingredients. As restaurant customers, we now feel entitled to request a drink to take out after the meal is over at no additional charge, we want adjustments or modifications to most meals we order, and we expect additional food to be added to our order at no charge with the exclamations:

“It’s only a couple of lemon wedges.”
“Of course I get a refill, that is why it is self-serve.”
“How much could lettuce cost?”

What about as employees?

He has been fired for poor performance after being employed with this company for less than a year. He expects the employer to give him a three-month severance package.

She shows up for work high, but tells her boss not to worry because it won’t affect her abilities on the job.

He steals company property and says it’s acceptable behavior because he’s decided he doesn’t get paid enough and the company owes him..

As head-scratching as these examples are, these are actual examples of entitlements I see in my client businesses. Business leaders are encountering a new wave of expanding entitlements from customers and employees.

Managing entitlements

Whether you are working with customers’ entitlements or employees’ entitlements, communication is important. Will we ever get rid of the free refill or drink to-go after the meal expectations? In short, no. That is now an embedded part of our culture. But communicating with customers is important. If, as a restaurant owner, you’ve decided not to increase your prices even though your vendors have, and decided to only charge for “upgrades,” let your customers know. You were looking out for most of the customers who don’t ask for the extras by keeping your prices down. Most will appreciate the honesty.

Today employees are rarely being taught what being employed means. Leaders are wise to invest training time with newly hired employees about the culture of work in your establishment. This doesn’t only apply to those making minimum wage. I’m seeing many young people fresh out of college get their first job when they begin their careers.

Begin with your interview process. Inform potential employees of your expectations of employment. We are in an age where we need to teach people what work is, before we teach them what is required to be successful in their job performance.

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3 Steps to Improving Your Determination

Determination is your ability to align your energy and attention into a sharp focus. Want to deepen your resolve? Try these three steps:

Choose practice over luck. Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the need for devoting 10,000 hours to performing a task to master it. How many of us have heard how it takes 15 years to become an overnight sensation? Sure, there is an element of luck, but I’ve always believed luck is opportunity meeting preparation. Your dedicated practice will properly prepare you for your opportunity.

Be aware of distraction and obstacles. These are the weeds that can choke out determination. Complete determination requires a monomaniacal focus on the success you want to achieve. Olympic athletes are a terrific example of determination and being monomaniacal. They devote their entire existence to achieving the pinnacle of their abilities. I know entrepreneurs who are the same in their focus. Now, think of the great athletes who fell at their peak because of the distractions they let get in their way. Fame and fortune can be very distracting. For the rest of us, social media, your phone and TV are all weeds we need to prevent from derailing our success.

Feed your intention. Good habits feed the proper preparation for determination. Make sure healthy choices for your body, mind and soul are your routine. They may not be the most popular choices, but they are the best choices.

As the quote says, “I like hard. Hard is where other people give up. The more difficult things I complete, the less competition I have.”  Make the right choices and improve your determination.

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Are You Ready for Your Facebook Live Moment?

Recently, we’ve seen employees come under social attack for video-recorded incidents of horrendous customer interaction. This is a trend that will grow. Are you ready? Follow these three ideas to better prepare yourself for the Facebook “Live” era.

There are no secrets. The overshare culture has taken hold of our society. Nothing is off limits. People talk about their paychecks, health habits, even bedroom habits. People have few secrets in the social media generation.

The same goes for what happens in the workplace. There should be little expectation of confidentiality. As a leader, if you are playing fast and loose simply trying to grease the squeaky wheel employee to hush it up with changes in salaries and perks without a consistent plan, you will be exposed. If your leadership style is to say one thing behind closed doors and then do something else in the public eye, be cautious. Conduct your business as if cameras are in the room.

Your worst moment could be broadcast live. We’ve all had bad days, and it happens when someone steps on your last nerve and you explode. Previously, a sincere apology and a lesson learned where how those mistakes were handled. Not today. Imagine what would happen to your career or your small business if the social media world witnessed your outburst or poorly chosen words? United lost mega-millions because of their bad decision on removing someone from a plane. Every day people lose their jobs because of a hasty tweet. Be in control – at all times.

We are all potential celebrities. Ambush video is a growing trend today. Are you ready for your close-up? As leaders, we have to be focused on how we behave in public. Back in the day, leaders would joke about what would you do if 60 Minutes was knocking on your door. Today media cameras are in everyone’s phone and a video can take on a life of its own once uploaded to social media. Be aware your reputation is one video clip away from being scrutinized.

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Dealing with Conflicts of Interest in the Workplace

I recently read with horror about employees at a North Carolina restaurant serenading a group of police officers with a foul-mouthed rap song degrading these customers.

I’m sure most of my readers who saw that story shook their heads and thought, “Who thinks that is considered acceptable behavior?”

Many executives I work with are realizing the younger the workforce, the less social interaction skills exist. Social interaction judgment is lost when you are used to communicating with an electronic interface. Trolling has become a pastime for some individuals on social media, and those individuals forget personal interactions are different. We are in an age where the awareness of acceptable face to face communication in the workplace is lost and will create conflict.

Conflict of Interest

How much will this location suffer because of the actions of these few employees? Once this became a national news story, the owner of the restaurant is thrown into a public relations nightmare not even of his making. Most small businesses are not equipped for this type of negative attention. What is going on here?

In a widely diverse workforce, a multitude of interests will exist. Business interests, personal interests, and customer interests will intersect. Today, people feel empowered to express their personal opinions, regardless of where they are. Protests for many different agendas are now as common as thunderstorms in the summertime.

What is your policy on conflicts of interest?

Each business should establish their expectations of customer interactions and employee interactions. Clearly inform your employees on your expectations of how you expect employees to conduct business. In the polarized climate we currently live in, we need to teach our employees, while on the clock, setting aside personal agendas is critical while serving an employer and customers. In fact, employees should be made aware that countless people have lost their jobs even when not on the clock for social media transgressions. Business are being forced to take a stand on employees’ expressed attitudes.

Make sure you have stated policies on how you expect employees to deal with irate customers, on dealing with customers you may not see eye to eye with, and with fellow employees with whom who you have a difference of opinion. Professionalism should be defined and become the minimum expectation of all employees of any organization.

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Small Business Charisma

Do you think your small business is successful because of your quality products? You might be missing the most important part of success for your small business: the charisma.

Charlotte had an amazing restaurant many years ago called Dikadee’s Front Porch, where people would line up into the parking lot to enjoy dinner. It was considered worth the wait. The menu was a basic chalkboard just inside of the entrance, and the owner, Nick Collias, would describe each dish to each set of guests about to be seated. His descriptions were as amazing as the food, (trout piccata, tournedos marchand de vin, steak au poivre, and saganaki, to name a few of the signature dishes) and those descriptions were just as important as the food.

Years later the restaurant was sold to a new owner. The menu remained the same, the chefs stayed, but the charisma vanished. Within a couple of years, the restaurant closed.

What happened?

The most effective small business leader has the talent to draw people in, and that is largely the foundation of the business’s success.

Here are three ways to build your small business charisma.

Make people feel special

When you have frequent customers, remember them. They want to be noticed, called by name, and served as a “regular.” Loyalty from customers happens when those customers feel special when visiting an establishment.

The same can be said for employees. When an employee makes the extra effort, demonstrates loyalty or steps up in the midst of a challenging situation, recognize them immediately. Not necessarily demonstratively, but sincerely. In both of these cases, when you engage with people and show interest, they will respond positively.

Display your personality

People gravitate toward confidence, upbeat attitudes and warmth. But most importantly, be authentic. People can detect fake attitudes quickly and they will create a distance from you if they feel you are being disingenuous. Be yourself, even in professional settings. Be the friend they want to do business with.

Deliver positive impact

Ask this of yourself; right after people deal with you: How do they feel? Are they glad to have encountered you or are they wishing they had never met you? As we walk through life bumping into others, are you focusing on leaving a positive impression? As a small business owner, whether you are dealing with a complaint from a loyal customer or having a simple daily interaction with a stranger, you want people to feel better after having spent time with you. When you make people feel good, they will continue to return time and time again.

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Entrepreneurs Need to Pick 3

To be a successful entrepreneur, you only have so much bandwidth. Most people don’t understand the plight of successful entrepreneurs — how the company is a full life-consuming project. For the vast majority of these business leaders, you have to pick 3 from your life’s menu of work, sleep, family, fitness, and friends. You can only successfully manage three of these areas at a time.

– This beast must be fed, nurtured, grown, guided, and driven to achieve sustaining success. For most successful entrepreneurs, this is a love relationship and the willingness to devote the time to it comes naturally. Without the proper balance, however, business success can come at the cost of the other aspects of life.

Sleep – Rest is rejuvenation for the business leader. Without enough of this in your life, you will eventually break down physically and mentally and put your life in jeopardy.

Family – The family of an entrepreneur needs to be a forgiving and supportive group. Otherwise, the choice is forced to pick between the business and the family. Statistics show, more often than not, the business wins.

Fitness – Running a successful business is hard. It is demanding. Being in the best physical condition helps with making better decisions, not tired ones that can cause huge mistakes. We often compare businesses to sports with analogies, but we fail to compare the need for fitness the same way.

Friends – Rarely do I see successful entrepreneurs have friendships outside of the worksphere.

So how do you make choices if you can only pick 3 at a time to be successful at? Balance, priority and rotation.

All five areas of an entrepreneur’s life are important and require a constant juggling act. Each person values each of these five life choices differently. For some, especially startups, work, sleep and fitness are all they really have time for, and with that in mind, families should be consulted before diving into a startup situation!

I find the same three become the top priority when the business hits truly rough times.

Personally, I have found a rotation of “seasons” has worked best for me. There are times when family, rest and work are all I have time for. Once I get through that crunch time, I reach out to friends more, spend more time with family, and work on my fitness, all the while knowing the business is suffering a bit for this “season.”

I’ve even reached “seasons” of a week in length, when I turned off my phone, shut the computer and put away the clock for a week to focus on sleep, mental fitness and friendships. Following that week, I am so ready to focus on work, fitness and sleep because I am totally focused and rejuvenated.

Be sure not to fool yourself into believing you can manage all five properly at the same time for an extended period of time. Find your best rotation of your Pick 3 seasons to maintain success in all five areas of your life.

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