It's an uncertain time so we put this together for others to learn and share how we might navigate these times together.
As I was reading/listening to some of Daniel Ariely's great work I was reminded of something.
Everyone Works for Themselves
Regardless of how much you pay someone or have bonuses and perks in place, everyone works for themselves. They may choose to collect a paycheck from you each week, but in a world of increasing options for our employees or teammates, it is worth remembering that they can do that in many places.
And in fact, they will only do it with you, to the extent that they want to.
Providing a "good" paycheck for your team is now just table stakes.
Simple things like do they like and more importantly trust their manager or supervisor really matter.
Things like acknowledgment and culture continue to top the list of why people stay at their job.
If you have read all the books attended all the conferences and say all the right things but your actions don't back it up...you could be in trouble.
If your actions make it seem that you believe all employees are interchangeable...you could be in trouble.
If you still manage by command control...you could be in trouble.
The way you speak to people matters.
Of course, the secret that the great leaders have always known...these things have always mattered.
Quick tip for the new year!
Ever get frustrated by the seemingly insurmountable amount of low relevancy emails you have acquired over the years? It all seems too much to combat?
I have heard said, that your inbox is a "to-do" list anyone can add to.
Given the way many of us work and manage our activities this is so true.
We have been trained to have pavlovian responses to email, misunderstanding the difference between the urgent and the important.
The time we blocked out on the calendar gets overridden by the all-powerful buzz on our phone or the ping of our laptop.
The habit that is created and up wrecking our productivity, few of us learn the correct way to use email or even our calendars.
Worse is we end up giving our email address or we get on lists and though we may not have planned to and our inbox becomes cluttered.
We lose the signal because of all the noise.
Compounding this for me the squirrel in my brain takes over and I waste 15 minutes on interesting but not always productive stuff.
So what can you do?
Each January for the last few years I just take a few seconds per email and instead of just deleting them I hit the unsubscribe button. By the end of the month, you will have made a huge difference to your inbox.
This difference has a noticeable difference in how I work, my inbox and my productivity, After a few years I feel like I have gone through a digital cleanse.
So there you go. Happy new year.
I hope this year is your most productive yet.
So, the ancients had a word "Sympatheia".
Basically, it was all about how we should care for one another because of the interdependent nature of things.
Ryan Holiday has a great breakdown about it here.
But I was thinking about it this week because I was at a conference and surrounded by so many people that had truly connected the dots about how to do work that lasts.
In most industries (and communities in general) there are a few individuals who take the time to move in an altruistic nature. Usually, they have achieved some measure of success and then take the time to pay it forward.
If you want to know who they are here's how I spot them.
They usually show up in a few ways.
They are the teachers. They are the mentors.
They are the community, association builders.
They are the ones that always seem to have time to talk and share.
They hold their knowledge in an open hand.
Why do they do it? So, the truth I suppose is that it is different for all of them.
But I heard one expression that makes sense...
"What is good for the hive is good for the bee"
Meaning, it does not matter how well they do individually if everything around them crumbles.
So, if the industry suffers that means that we may face a shortage of qualified and good people...so the custodians do their bit to build up others knowing that the net effect is greater.
Sort of like that saying that a rising tide lifts all boats.
I suppose I am saying thank you to all the people out there that always try to bring more to the table than they take, the givers.
Also, it leaves me with a question...Do you build up?
Do you take time?
PS extra points if you figured out that this also goes way beyond careers and industry :)
You are not as smart as you think you are...
Of course, neither am I.
I have a fascination with cognitive issues. Fallacies and bias that we all have and lurk beneath our conscious thinking. I heard a stat the other day that stated that something 99% of our thinking is unconscious. This may or may not be surprising to you, and you may think that number is inflated, or you may think it should be higher.
If I had my own way, I would probably spend the rest of my life digging into stuff like this, but here are my takeaways from that stat. If the % is that high, how many of us dig into what is really going on under the hood?
If so much of our lives, relationships, and choices we make are determined by our decisions and thinking doesn’t it make sense that we should all maybe take a look at the drivers?
I have written in the past about stuff like this. I talk about the default factory settings, check it out here. The quick version is this, if you are not putting an intention to something then you are choosing the default intention by the omission of effort.
So, one of the most fascinating cognitive biases is the “Dunning-Kruger effect”. You may have heard of it or you may have heard of it by a different name, “Dummy curve” or even “Modern Jackass”
Here is the quick Wiki introduction to it.
Think about that!
This is a “measurable deficit “in our ability to objectively evaluate our knowledge.
What this can look like is when we start out in a new endeavor most of us can recognize the fact that maybe we don’t do much.
So, when we start out if asked a question, we might not really feel like an expert, so we defer.
We can often deflect by asking a question for example when asked does this come in brown, we say” I don’t know is that important to you?”
From there the person we are chatting with can say yes or no either way you are in good shape.
Compare that to how we respond after we have even just a little training or knowledge.
We jump right into answering. “Oh yes it comes in deep Savanah brown, you will love it. It is number one on the brown charts” from there we can hear someone say, “That’s a pity, I hate brown”.
Instead of truly trying to understand whom we are speaking with we subconsciously switch our focus to giving a great answer. It stops being about them and starts to become about us. We go from trying to help people to trying to impress them.
The issue is that we can’t see what we are doing because we judge ourselves at better in our ability than we actually are.
Bottom line is poor performers can’t tell that they are actually poor performers.
After a while of being like this, we are less "successful". This is not an issue if you can honestly evaluate yourself and take corrective action. However, for many, the Dunning Kruger effect impedes this ability. It gets worse.
Instead of improving ourselves we often start to blame others. This has a toxic effect. It can be slow and insidious.
So how can we avoid this cognitive blindside?
Start with the simple admission and mindset "I may need to listen to others on this” Being mindfully aware is very powerful. It is a beginner’s mind or the learner's mind.
“It is impossible to learn what we think we already know”
Another useful habit to keep this effect from leading you astray is data.
We all have opinions. Lord knows we all probably have too many. A great filter to help with this is using data. Like, actual date. Not gut, not a hunch, but actual empirical data.
This allows us to speak clearly and can help move our speed of decision making up.
I could write more and maybe I will, but for know just start thinking about this subject.
These are just a few of the tips you can use. But the biggest thing is probably just being aware of your ego and keeping it in check. You will be surprised by the impact on all your relationships. (bonus points for realizing this is more than just a work thing).
After all, you may just not be as smart as you think you are :)
THIS POST ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE HVAC NEWS. CHECK THEM OUT HERE
You’ve heard it a hundred times — at every seminar, and every guru has told you the same thing. You may have heard terms like “Customer experience” and “Customer journey.”
Ring a bell?
Here is my follow-up question. It’s almost 2019 … so what does that mean today?
If you have been in this business long enough, you remember when just telling customers that you used drop cloths and shoe covers was enough to make you stand out. Maybe you went crazy and even performed background checks and drug-screened your team. That was what customers said they cared about.
How is that working out for you today?
Customers have moved on … they have been taught to move on by all their other consumer experiences.
Don’t believe me? Which of these features have you used in your everyday life?
Even worse, which of these seem familiar?
If we were to look at how your business is functioning today, is it wildly different than it was 10 years ago? Still calling people to see if they are home before dispatching the tech? Still sending postcards to remind them to schedule that PM? Maybe a “few” follow-up calls to remind them?
A couple questions: How many of us still have a landline? And how many of us answer an unknown number on our cell phone?
“It is no secret that our industry is in a unique place. For those lucky to have rebuilt or been unscathed by the last economic downturn, we may be set to head into another economic recession, depending on who you listen to for forecasting. However, this time it is in conjunction with a decade-long streak of a shortage of ‘qualified’ help.”Don’t get me wrong, I still do some of this stuff, too, but we should all be aware that there are many companies and even industries that are making a living from our inability to change or adapt.
Industry veterans like Charlie “Tech Daddy” Greer have been telling us for years to “Evolve or die.”
So how are we doing with the “evolution?”
Not to be the bearer of more bad news, but I believe it will get worse before it gets better. There are many companies looking to take advantage of us. Now, if you have been in the industry for more than a decade, you may have heard stuff like this before.
“Yeah, yeah, Eddie … we know the story: The big-box stores are coming to take us all away … the utilities will swallow us up … the consolidators will steal the market.” These are all fair points. My counterpoint is, they did. They all have a share of our business in small and large ways.
At this point, you may be thinking, who is this guy to be telling us this stuff?
Please know that it comes from a place of love. Having worked in many positions in the industry, I can appreciate all the hard work, dedication, and passion we put into our businesses these days. If anything, it seems like we are working harder and harder, and we all seem to be getting squeezed a little bit more.
It is no secret that our industry is in a unique place. For those lucky to have rebuilt or been unscathed by the last economic downturn, we may be set to head into another economic recession, depending on who you listen to for forecasting. However, this time it is in conjunction with a decade-long streak of a shortage of “qualified” help. If you add all of this up with the onset of new technologies and lead generation tools, it makes it easier for a new and small shop not just to compete, but actually, from the consumer perspective, look every bit as good as you, and sometimes better.
So, now that I have dispensed all the doom and gloom, what is to be done?
Well, the good news is we are not alone. We are seeing partners who are joining our industry and looking to equip us with the tools needed to deliver a modern, frictionless consumer experience. These tools are like all the other tools in our truck; we have to use them to get the benefit, and if we do, they will improve our businesses.
If we look at the whole arena of the home services “customer experience,” we see many opportunities that contractors have to take advantage of when they understand and leverage the concept of the “customer journey.”
Customer experience is a really broad term that should be defined.
First, we should state that customer experience should be intentional. You should have a defined and documented intent for your organization of what you want your customer experience to be.
Now, bear with me because this sounds obvious, but check around with two or three of your team members and ask them to define, in one or two sentences, what they think you want your customer experience to be. I’ll give you a hint: The small ambiguities in the different answers matter. Anything less than 100 percent clarity from you can leave room for interpretations. This difference in and of itself is not bad. However, if you want to scale or if you have any turnover in your staff, you may run into problems. Trust me: I learned this lesson the hard way.
I think it was Aristotle who said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Guess what … so does your team. If there is not a written, trained, and tested goal for what you want your perfect customer experience to be, then you may want to replace that vacuum with your intent.
This does not have to be complicated. I am a big proponent of the simpler, the better. Plain language along the lines of “We want to keep it easy for our customers at all costs,” “We want to remove anything that feels like friction to our customers,” or “We want to be the most convenient company in the area to do business with.” Think about the power of those stated intents.
Everyone in your organization can now take real, actionable steps. This clarity unleashes your team to have agency in their role and for them to feel really engaged in the overall company goal. Isn’t this knowledge — and the related activities — the definition of synergy? Your team is performing many tasks throughout their day. All of them impact your customers’ experiences.
It can start by affecting the way customers find you: Is your website set up to be easy to read? Can people look at it for 10 seconds and get a sense of who you are, what you do, and what they should do next? To learn more, Google “website grunt test.” Donald Miller has a lot of free content that can lead you through the process.
Again, if you feel like this is too high a standard to aspire to, merely fall back to how you use websites. When you are planning a night out, how long do you spend on a restaurant website? Minutes? If it’s a poor, cluttered website, chances are you are using the back button, and you’re on to the next restaurant. Unfair? Maybe. To be clear, it could be the best restaurant in the world, but if you never get there to order the food, you will never know.
It is similar for all of us in the home services business. If we don’t book the call, it really doesn’t matter how technically proficient your or your team are. The customer has to decide to use your company before they can have the fantastic experience and become a raving fan.
Now, this is just one example, and it really is just the start of your customer journey.
Every single one of your customers has a unique experience that they bring to you. Understanding the customer journey is critical for you if you want to move the customer seamlessly from a prospect to a loyal customer.
The good news is that it’s 2018, and the tools and partners exist to help you with all of this. More than ever, you can run your business by playing to your strengths and allowing partners and associations to help you in the areas where you need it.
If all of this still seems like too much work or not something that you want to focus on, I understand. I truly do. It would do us well to remember the cautionary phrase: “If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you there.”
Publication date: 12/17/2018
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"Complexity Demands A Tax" - David Christian
Do you ever find yourself having to tell your team about things multiple times? Do you ever have to keep coaching on the same topic? Do you ever wonder why? Do you ever think “why are these people not getting this”?
I have a theory, well it’s not mine it can be found in the study of cosmology, biology even geology. It’s kind of a science thing. It’s the theory that all things move towards entropy.
Everything wants to break down. Always. Leave something alone and untouched, and it will break down.
Try it, leave a piece of fruit on a table for a while and come back and check on it and see how it is doing…it will break down. It’s a universal principle. Business is no different, without intervention the machine we have built will deteriorate. Now, the level of intervention we are discussing may be different, for well-oiled machines it may be as little a strategic planning session once a year or a quarter, for others, it may be a daily or hourly hands-on effort. That’s okay. It's natural.
The thing is that you can impact the amount effort and attention required.
There are two main ways to impact how much time you have to spend on combating the regression.
The first way is by far the preferred, simplify. That’s it. Simplify.
You probably see the whole business or maybe your department and understand the interplay and dependencies of all the different process you have. but this changes as you grow.
As you grow and can no longer manage everything on your own, it is widespread practice to place other people in the middle of the business and the process’ required to run your business. This addition of people certainly frees you up, but the tax you pay is first the cost of what you have to pay these people. However, there is an additional and less obvious tax that you have to pay. It is complexity.
There is a shortcut that we take as we grow, we sometimes add personnel without really looking at the process that we have “developed” to see if we can simplify them.
Truth be told we don’t “develop” our process, they tend to evolve, and in many cases, they grow to fix outliers.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Something happens, maybe something bad, in truth it could be better described as painful. We decide we don’t want to have it happen again, so we create a “process.” We get everyone together and have “meeting” about it and make sure everyone knows just how serious we are. This is fine; it can even be positive, the trouble comes as we scale. The more process we add together, the more complex we become, that complexity shows up in so many places. It is the tax we pay for not simplifying at all turns.
Adding people to handle the complexity of your business has its inherent issues. How easy is it for you to communicate a change in your organization? The more people in the chain, the more you can do but the harder it can be to communicate, It's tempting to think this is normal and preferred. I see so many companies head down this path as a way to scale. Its okay, but it is no alternative to simplifying.
It can show up in how long it takes you to onboard a new hire, ask yourself, how much different is that timeframe today than a few years ago? Can people jump into help others on the team, without knowing a lot of specialized material? Don’t get me wrong, if we are talking about brain surgery I want someone to go through a long process, but how many of us do brain surgery every day?
It can show up in frustration within your team if you don’t have a handle on that frustration it may start to show up in employee turnover.
So what's the key to moving towards simplicity, next time you are thinking of adding a team leader, supervisor or manager ask why. Ask what options you have to make the current process simpler. Ask what if I couldn’t find the right person, what if did not have the money to add this person.
You may end up adding the person, but the compound effect of organizational simplicity will pay off in more than just dollars.
Turns out we really should just keep it simple.
As my kids have grown older, or maybe as I have just grown older, I wanted to collect some of the things I have found useful over the years.
Some things people were kind enough to share, more often I had to learn the hard way.
Each of these things could be expanded upon, and maybe I will one day.
Hope you enjoy.
Update October 2018 - I did end up giving that talk, here is the deck. Enjoy.
Millennials aren't that different from us, this may be an unpopular position, but hear me out.
I don’t remember when I first started hearing about Millennials, but after the first time, I pretty much listened to the same thing every time.
Concerning those that hold different opinions,
I believe Millennials are not different, times are.
We get mad because they want what they want.
Sure they may not want to start their day at 7 am. So what?
They don’t want to work past a particular time of day. I get it.
They want to feel they can make a difference. Who doesn’t ?
Sure they value their time and their agenda. Don’t you? Insert all the other things you have heard at the sessions about the millennial generation and their work habits…
Here is the thing though…
It is the times that allow these choices.
Maybe we are just mad because we couldn’t get that choice. I grew up in a different time.
I was conditioned by a job environment that meant I couldn’t push back as much on employers to make concessions. Fair enough. I wasn’t mad it was just the way it was. I worked in an industry that expected certain things, and everybody around me seemed to be ok with that. So I got in line.
We all signed up for a great promise. Millennials watched that promise dissolve for their parents in rare, unforgiving financial times. So they drew their conclusions and made their corrections in the way they want to balance the scales.
No, I believe that generations are the same. People are pretty much the same. Same needs and wants. Same desire.
Just the times make us different.
Here’s the thing, we need this generation in the places we work, and we don’t make them feel welcome when we keep using tropes and stereotypes…very rarely does describing differences lead to unity.
I could write more, but I think you get what I am saying…
Let me know your thoughts in the comments, am I wrong, if so tell me, if you agree, let me know.
Almost any technology we buy these days comes from the factory with default settings.
What are default settings? These are the settings that the factory thinks the majority of operators will find useful.
They have much utility. We do not have to take the time to determine basic things like font size or programs we might want to use. There are so many decisions made that allow us to pull it from the box and start using it.
In addition to default settings, there are programs that "run in the background." Again these programs are great because they allow us to maximize our usage with limited input.
Here's the thing... we are just like that laptop.
We have programs running in the background and factory settings that determine our operational effectiveness.
These background programs affect most areas of your life, the relationships you end up with, the salary you have and the job you take, even the car you drive.
Like most programs, they are not necessarily bad. Many are useful, but we need to know what is running in the background.
Left unchecked these factory settings and programs can limit your performance.
Every fact you learn is filtered past, processed, and compared to every other thing you have "learned in the past."
The factory in our case is the environment we were exposed to in our formative years.
How you think about money, you better believe that you picked up those ideas from the things you heard or experienced as a kid.
The health of the relationships you accept, we need to understand where the ideas about what we thought we wanted or even deserved in the relationship were set.
The good news is like all settings they can be changed. Sure you may need to learn a little hack here or there, you maybe even need to learn a new operating language or install a patch over some damaged code.
However, that is okay because as long as we stop long enough to look at what we have running in the background, we can make changes.
What new upgrades will you install?
these are just the thoughts of someone who used to know more but now knows less...
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