Don’t Point Fingers

That’s what I was taught growing it. It made identifying items high on shelves difficult but nonetheless it was the rule. It’s also a good rule to bring into the work place, especially during a crisis.

Over the past few weeks my current project has had a few bumps in the road. By sitting back and observing how different leadership positions react, I’ve learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons is not to place blame when the house is burning down around you. The natural reaction to any crisis is to figure whose fault it is. We’re human. It’s in our nature to pass the buck. What we should instead do is figure out how to resolve the issue.

Firefighters don’t show up to a fire and look for someone to blame it on before they pull out their hoses. They show up with hoses out, ready to tackle the flames head on. Once the flames have smoldered then an investigation takes place for the cause and how it can be avoided next time.

That’s what great leaders do. They show up to a crisis with the sole intent to resolve it. After the urgency has faded, and only after, do they start some post-crisis analysis. The last thing you want to do to your people is put them down or kill their motivation when you need them most.

Consulting 101: Flavor Infused Water

You’ve finally made it. You’ve hit consulting puberty and you’re finally a consultant. How do I know, you ask? Because you have an opinion about your favorite flavor infused water. It’s like your voice cracked and mom started buying deodorant hoping you’d get the hint. Congratulations. You are now a consultant. Soon you’ll be taking dinner orders!

I’ve compiled a list of the my top 3 favorites plus 1 word of advice.

Favorites:

  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Cucumber
  • Strawberry

Word of advice:

  • Don’t fill your water bottle with citrus-y flavors before bed. There’s nothing more shocking to your taste buds at 3am than lemon and lime. Bleh. So gross.

What are your favorite flavors? Let me know in the comments below!

Story Time: Get Your Facts Right

Senior year of high school I took Sociology as a filler class. The teacher played baseball at Vanderbilt to become a baseball coach, hence why he taught high school sociology. The class consisted mostly of watching sports movies and discussing the group dynamics. And by discussing I mean, him reading canned lectures in his best monotone voice.

I tell you this to bore you. Success.

The only interesting assignment in the class was a debate between groups. He picked the groups and we drew straws for what topics we would be arguing in favor of. After two weeks spent in a computer lab “researching” we were ready (to not care). My group’s topic was pro-euthanasia having to argue against an anti-euthanasia group. (Here’s the wiki link to Euthanasia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia) Neither group really had an opinion about the topic so it turned into free time. The debate consisted of both groups reading extremists views found on websites posted in the late 90s. Research in its purist form. At one point during the debate the other group gave this statistic.

“75% of people euthanized regret the decision afterwards.”

And then the debate went on for a few more moments until I called a timeout. I repeated the stat just to make sure I heard it correctly. It made no sense. How do dead people regret something? Where did they get this data from? Is there some sort of SurveyMonkey link you get after you see the white light? Did they not take a second to think about what they were saying? The debate quickly ended after that. I’m not sure who technically won but the sheer fact that I remember this story makes me think my group won.

Consulting 101: The Pack Mule

This is you. You are now a pack mule. Once a week you will identify enough belongings to last you for 4 days. You will then proceed to stuff them in as small a suitcase as possible because overhead space is limited. You’ll put your laptop bag on top of the tiny suitcase and wheel your pack through airports and airplanes, through offices and empires with ninja like reflexes. Pack mule muscles will be stronger than ever. After a few months you’ll feel as if you could sherpa a group of rich executives to the top of  Mount Everest. Expertly packing and schlepping their luggage from peak to peak, you have sculpted your body for this very excursion. It’s a strange routine but you’re not alone. The Diamond flyer next to you may seem as if he’s had his fair share of biscoff cookies but he is truly an expert pack mule.

The Pack Mule

The Pack Mule

Develop Your People

I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not the most technical nor the most social. I’m not the most athletic nor the most sedentary. But I enjoy helping people learn. Helping people grow.

In my view, there are two types of learning: structured and unstructured. Structured being the classroom setting with a set curriculum and standards which those goals are measured. Unstructured is the learning that happens when the teacher turns their back the smart kid next to you helps you understand a concept. Unstructured learning is equally as or more important than structured learning. Allowing groups to self teach has benefits far greater than the butts-in-seats environment corporations often try to emulate. A sense of community is born out of unstructured learning.

When I formed the Co-Op Community at my college internship I wanted to connect my fellow students and to provide them chances to explore their skills. It was important to me that the community members benefited not only by recognition but through personal growth. With monthly meetings, a co-op could present skills or topics they were passionate about. This allowed the group to learn from a peer and for our peers to practice their presentation skills. I remember one meeting where a programming co-op presented about Linux. This guy could talk Linux all day but he wasn’t comfortable in the spotlight. The presentation went OK. He was a bit shaky but I delighted in it. I understood I had fostered an environment where he felt comfortable to try something new. Now the next time he presents Linux to a group, I know he’ll be more confident and will perform at a higher level.

“Give them enough rope to hang themselves.” What a freaky saying but one I think presents an important message. It’s about fostering an environment which allows people to fail. Through failure we’re taught many lessons and learn more about ourselves than when we succeed. I have a failed plenty of tests – most of which never made it to the kitchen table – and through that I learned how I learned best. The same idea can be applied to the work place. If you never let your employees get into a little trouble every so often then they’ll never grow personally or professionally which means your business will never grow. Where’s the fun in that?

*I’m pretty bad about staying on topic and fully developing my ideas but I’m running out of WiFi on the plane.

Consulting 101: Be a Sponge

I haven’t been at this consulting thing for very long but I can already see huge personal growth in my self. I contribute this to being a “sponge”.

What do I mean?

When I say “be a sponge” I’m not talking about the fry cook from Bikini Bottom. I’m talking about absorbing as much knowledge, experience, information and advice as possible.

Listen.

Close your mouth and open your ears. Listening and observing are the keys to absorbing as much as you can. As consultants and employees we’re paid to have opinions and sometimes we’re all too anxious to share them. Be patient and let the other half of your conversation express their views. And listen. Instead of assuming you know what they’re going to say and then be seen as rude, let the other party tell you what they think needs to be said. This is important for two reasons: 1. the speaker feels listened to and understood before you begin to construct your response; 2. you can observe a lot subtleties in how a person presents their point of view.

Be inquisitive.

And ask more questions. The more questions you ask, the better you get. You’ll begin to start asking the “right” questions and learn more.  I don’t think college grads ask enough questions. They’re too intimidated or scared. They don’t want to seem unintelligent or uniformed. But in my experience, it’s the opposite. When new employees, especially college grads, don’t ask any questions it’s concerning for managers. It is your responsibility to get clarification when you’re unsure of some aspect of your work. When you begin to ask better questions, you become more informed.

So be a sponge. Eat some sponge cake. And welcome to the club.

Getting Lost: A Brief Introspection

There’s something about getting lost on a drive that feels right. Not knowing where you are almost feels dangerous. We could all use a little more danger in our lives. That’s what I love about Atlanta. I’ve had to use a GPS two miles from my apartment in an area I’ve been driving through the past four years. I’m like the Evil Knievel of joy rides. Next I’ll be jumping over buses.

I tend to get lost in thought when I write my blog posts. It doesn’t help that House Hunters is on. I don’t get HGTV at my apartment so I have to watch it while I am on the road for work.

Traveling every week has been interesting. The key to consistent travel is routine. The first week back on the road is always hard. About midway through the second week the routine begins to set in. I’ve got my packing routine together. My body begins to adjust to the time change quicker including my stomach. As I stay up later (going East to West), I have more time to kill, ideally becoming more productive.

Driving around and learning the new city is strangely rewarding. I feel like Lewis of Lewis and Clark the great explorers. Or maybe I feel like Clark? One dies early and the other one goes crazy. I should find new explorer role models.

During these explorations my goal is to get lost just so I can have feeling of danger again. That’s why Walter White really sold meth: the danger. He should try getting lost on a joy ride.