The Dangers of Alone

We’ve all heard it’s lonely at the top. The real danger is being alone in your convictions.

As a leader of a company or an institution, you can be surrounded by the best people with the best intentions, yet be alone in your convictions. Your “best people”, be it a perception they’re doing the best thing for the company or institution for whom they work, there’s is a conviction they’re right.

They think they know more about the issues. Maybe they don’t know enough about the issue to tackle it on their own and are afraid to ask for help. Maybe their ego clashes with your own. Maybe there’s a personal bond between you and a key person that has been broken. In any or all of these cases, as their leader, you’re left alone.

The irony is you may start down the same path, initially want the same things but lose somehow, one or the other person(s) loses their way.

The danger is, if you are left alone in your conviction your decisions will be undermined. You will experience outright rebellion, where its obvious where you stand. You can deal directly with the issue and the person or persons who oppose you on the issue. The danger is the person(s) may be a valuable asset and leave, or simply refuse to work with you on the issue.

Compromise is by far and away the best alternative. The less desirable alternative is to replace the person(s). This will result in all sorts of new challenges let alone delays, even if in the end, you get the results you need and want.

The person(s) who think they know more about what’s best on an issue, may say “Yes”, do nothing, or stall a process to keep the initiative from moving forward. Basically, they’re blowing smoke up your behind. The danger is the stall. Delays will doom an initiative to fail. This is also the case when they are in over their head and are afraid to admit it.

Ego is always a danger in as a leadership issue. If you have someone you depend upon who’s ego gets in the way, it’s a complex situation. It could simply be personal, a matter of respect. The person(s) believes they’re the smartest person in the room and there’s no room for anyone else’s opinion. Worse it could be jealousy or contempt which boils down to a lack of respect.

To deal with most if not all of these issues, first look retrospectively into your own objectives, and communicate with the person(s). Be honest and forthright in your convictions and your own doubts. A compromise may be the result. Be honest about your concerns about the person(s) motives outlined here as well. Considering the resolution is to move forward in your convictions you have to make decision, regardless.

Do you get a “yes”, a commitment to move forward with your initiative? Great. If you get the affirmative, but see there is a lukewarm reception towards moving forward, closely monitor the results. If there’s a bigger issue, a lack of the skills necessary and most likely an ego clash, you need to find someone you can trust, someone capable of carrying forward your initiatives.

If you feel like there’s a problem with the person(s) leadership skills, I recommend enrolling the person(s) in a Dale Carnegie leadership/management course and recommend they read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey.

Finally, if is a personal bond broken between you and another person(s), quickly mend the fences. This may require great personal sacrifice. You acquiesce through humility and forgiveness on your part. If there’s no healing salve, find an exit strategy for that person(s) as quickly as possible.

The alternative is, at the very least lack of focus at the very worst, a chasm amongst and between you and anyone whomever supports that person(s). If that person(s) is otherwise a great asset to the company or institution, you have to decide what’s best all concerned. If you let someone else drive a wedge between you, your people and the business, all will suffer.

And that my fellow leaders, are the “dangers of alone”.

Successful business people stand on ground that is “crumbling beneath their feet,” Joseph Schumpeter

Uber – Sign of the Times, Ride Sharing Boosts the Economy

DeLorean time machine provided by Uber

DeLorean time machine provided by Uber

Ride Sharing Boosts the Economy Letter to the Editor – Tampa Bay Times – Small businesses are the engine of our economy. They create jobs, generate revenue, and embody the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in cities across the country. And that holds true right here in Tampa where small business plays a vital role in our future success and driving the city forward. Our transportation ecosystem—which is in serious need of improvement—is one example where innovation and entrepreneurs can have a real impact on bringing about positive change and greater options for consumers. Competition in the marketplace results in better products and services, lower costs, and more choice. We should embrace competition and new ride sharing services like uberX that expand transportation alternatives, offering safer, more reliable and affordable ways to get around town. More and better choices for consumers is a win for the city. Beyond the clear benefits to riders, Uber is also contributing to the local economy by providing new and greater opportunities for residents to start their own business, make a living, and pump money back into the market. Uber gives Tampa residents one more opportunity to leverage technology to be entrepreneurial, build a career and increase earning potential. The company is already creating 20,000 new driver jobs every month—we should welcome opportunity like that and offer the people of Tampa one more way to earn a living. The New Yorker – Just a couple of weeks ago, Uber (which also runs services allowing you to book livery cars and cabs) disclosed that it had raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars in venture-capital funding, most of it from Google. The flood of new money into all these new businesses feels like a mini-bubble in the making. But beneath all the hype is a sensible idea: there are a lot of slack resources in the economy. Assets sit idle—the average car is driven just an hour a day—and workers have time and skills that go unused. If you can connect the people who have the assets to people who are willing to pay to rent them, you reduce waste and end up with a more efficient system. James Surowiecki, a staff writer at The New Yorker goes on to write, “If these companies become more established, they’ll have to reach some kind of accommodation with regulators, perhaps along the lines of rules that California’s Public Utilities Commission recently proposed, which would let Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber operate if they implement certain safety and driver regulations.” The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission should put consumer choice and opportunity first—to embrace safe, reliable transportation alternatives like Uber. Restricting competition and limiting options for Tampa residents will only inhibit future growth and economic success. Modern technologies require modern regulations. The PTC should take a common-sense approach to regulating ride sharing and signal to the rest of the state that Tampa is indeed an innovative and forward-looking city. Peer-to-peer businesses like Uber are nothing new.  eBay was the firth peer-to-peer business which has exhibited an extraordinary capacity to self-regulate.  eBay’s success is built on their on-line reputation of reviewing and commenting that rewards good behavior and outs the bad.  The same will be the case for the ride-sharing industry. Innovations like Uber will solve many problems politicians and regulators refuse to face.    With internet start-ups able to self-regulate, stringent laws to govern start-ups such as Uber and Lyft are unnecessary. Next up, driverless cars and RoboTaxi whereby a fleet of self-driving cars will pick-up commuters on demand.  It’s time to get with the 21st century.  Technology waits for no man. 

Defining a Small Business

Osmar_Schindler_David_und_GoliathLet’s face it, we are a small business, under 50 FTEs.  We’re no Goliath.  We’re not an Apple, a Google or a Microsoft.  We are a David, and to a degree, a family.  We actually make a difference.  People are our rocks and our products and services are our slings.
Today when technology changes in a blink of an eye, we would maintain the Goliath’s with the heavy armor and the shield may have the heavier burden. Every day there are new challenges.  The challenges we face with regard to technology, products and customers are also interwoven with life’s challenges.
Often they relate to challenges we face at home with our families and friends.  So how we perform as a business can affect how we perform at home.  In retrospect, if we are helping each other at work, we are helping each other at home.  More so than at a Goliath, we depend on each other. Everyone who works for a small business has to become a leader in some respect. We have to take a leadership role in order to insure our own success and that of others.  Where someone may be strong others may be weak.
It’s always a hard choice to make when we have work responsibilities that take time from family and friends.  These choices are not taken lightly.  We depend on each other.  Consequently there’s little room here for failure or mediocrity.  Isn’t that the way it should be? Many small businesses believed they could successfully run a business, make a fair profit, compete with the big boys and still provide a personal touch.  What a novel idea!

Small businesses have built their business predicated on personalized service.  They have survived the white box commoditization and low margins of off the shelf products and services and transcended the call center case number, whereby if your case number was called and a problem was solved it was like winning the lottery…”

Our work affects the people we are close to or have close ties with including our customers and fellow employees in a way much more intimately than in a large corporation.  Our customers and partners take a chance doing business with a David.  Each employee has the opportunity to help a small company succeed.  We see and hear from customers every day, instances where fellow employees are stressed out and still come through with a win. This is most often a collaborative effort. To put it in the right perspective…

Our greatest achievement is the relationships we have developed over the years with our customers, employees, partners and friends, of which many are synonymous. 

You Cannot Govern Leadership

individualism

While small business owners are putting up their houses and their life savings to survive, to cash flow their business, to hire employees, President Obama was and still is, greasing the palms of his political donors in the name of greentech failures, spending billions of our taxpayer dollars.

The alarming failure of big government was never more evident than when President Obama publicly and carelessly joked about a trillion dollars (stimulus (taxpayer) money) wasted on “Shovel-Ready Was Not As Shovel-Ready As We Expected.”  Where was the red flag then?  Where is the red flag now?

The only hope I see for this country is individual responsibility, and leadership that creates prosperity, not big government. You cannot govern leadership.   Today individual responsibility, leadership, and American exceptionalism are too often political talking points and empty words. When individual leadership fails, or fails to materialize, it creates dependency.

Leonardo da Vinci said it 480 years ago and he said it in Italian. Here is the clearest translation:  “People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.”

I don’t do what you’re passionate about, but be passionate about what you do.  Don’t follow your passion.  Let your passion follow you.  That’s leadership.

As a small business owner after 25 years it has been my experience, the most important life decisions you make, have to be made on your own.  I built my business and leadership is key.

Others will pontificate as to what a leader is, what a leader must do and how a leader must act.  I don’t have time for all that and neither do you.  The best way to find out if you are a leader is to deal with life’s biggest challenges when it comes to crunch time.

Decide on your own and act accordingly.  You’ll no doubt get plenty of advice, but no one is going to know better than you, what to do.  You are better qualified than anyone or anything to make the decisions that affect you personally and those who depend on you.

There’s a disturbing trend in our day-to-day lives towards dependency on others, big institutions, big labor and big government.  Sweat equity has been replaced by entitlement equity.  People measure success based on what they can get, not what they can give.  

A major new study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, however, shows things haven’t changed all that much. “Children entering the labor market today have the same chances of moving up in the income distribution relative to their parents as children born in the 1970s,” it finds.  “That doesn’t mean politicians can’t improve people’s chances of rising. It’s just that the best way they can do so is by getting out of the way.”  The Foundry

The problem is the more you lean on the government, the more your life depends on government.  You are governed by more  laws, more regulations and more public policy today than ever before.  Who you become, what you do, and how you do it, is shaped by public opinion and the mainstream media.

In this new era influenced by mass media and public opinion, big government is their divined solution to all your problems.  American exceptionalism, entrepreneurship and the multitude of small business success stories that built a thriving post WWII economy, are too often ignored, discounted and discouraged with crippling regulation and  laws that are the new normal.

What if a typical family spent like government?

What if a typical family spent like government?

Individualism and leadership are sorely needed.  People, not big government, can make a difference.  You and I need to step up to the plate.  Our country’s in peril as is our next generation.  Take on the career politicians who have created roadblocks to personal responsibility and leadership.  Our country is on the line. Vote them out in 2014 and 2016.

Career politicians passing laws that control our lives severely curtail the entrepreneurial spirit and small business startups, the little engine that could, that should and does grow the economy.   Consider the cost of healthcare has virtually doubled for small businesses in the past 5 years.  

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of free enterprise. Their heart is beating for their next customer, for their fellow employees and their families.  Their soul is intact.  They epitomize what comprises the backbone of our country, small business.  In their shadows are the real leaders, the chief cooks and bottle washers; the real risk takers that stand behind their champions, small business owners.  Small business owners are essential to the future success of the US economy.

Entrepreneurs are not the only leaders.  Leaders are people I see when I come to work before dawn.  I see them after dusk, when darkness settles.  They are resourceful.  They don’t think twice.  If you say something to them about the long hours they keep, they will readily commiserate with you, complain if you will, but there is a sense of pride in their voice.  There is a smile on their face.  These hard working people who are the heart and soul of the US economy.

In an atmosphere where people lean more on government, blame others and institutions for their circumstance, we need more leaders. Whether you are a parent, employee, small business owner or CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation; people depend on you for guidance.  You are accountable for the success or failure of others.  You have to make decisions that affect other people for better or for worse. 

In business or in your personal life, when the time comes, no one will make the important decisions for you.  Don’t get me wrong.  You will get plenty of advice.  “If I were you…” “You should…”  “You could…” “You might…” Later on, after the decision has been made, you will summarily receive the same words, only in a different context.  “If it were me…” “I would have…”  I could have…”  “I would have… Draw on your own experience.  Make your own decisions.

The most important decisions you can make, are made by you alone.  That’s leadership.  You can change the world, change you can believe in.

Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part II

Laptops are doomed

Laptops are doomed

As I stated in Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part I, when I began researching “rock my world” innovations and how it affects us and our workplace, the hardest part for me is I couldn’t stop. It’s because in the course of studying innovation, much that you read and hear about today is already old news.

I found some rock my world innovations but more often than not, I found new stuff we can live with.  Stuff here today, possibly gone tomorrow…

I’m a big fan of the future and enjoy learning all I can about new innovations.  In studying innovation in my work I quickly discovered you can erase the past and create the future as quickly as you can erase chalk from a chalkboard.

One of my favorite recitations is that as a CEO in the technology business, we as a company must constantly reinvent ourselves.  We need new technology to keep up with the existing technology and the tsunami of information we have to deal with every day.

We live in a world of plentiful accurate data, and massive storage capacity and processing power.   So anything’s possible. here is Part II.

Game changers include Tablets.  So laptops are doomed.  In the next five years, tablets will displace notebook-style computers to become the dominant personal computing platform.  And the transition from laptop to tablet has already begun. Tablets are expected to outsell laptops in 2016 as tablet shipments increase by 5x from 80+ million in 2011 to 425 million by 2017.  A third of those sales will be directly to businesses, as tablets become standard tools for executives, sales staff and other information workers.

Another driving force, China and other emerging markets will drive tablet growth because they aren’t already saturated with laptops and smartphones. Emerging markets will account for 40% of tablets sold by 2016.

Here’s a great example of how technology can supplement and even trump government run programs who receive taxpayer dollars and quite honestly many of the non-profits too, who receive charitable contributions and government funding.  More money could be invested in entrepreneurial endeavours, in promising, proven and economical technology, and less in politically motivated boondoggles, like the Solyndra scandal.

Tablets are killing laptops

Tablets are killing laptops

Here’s an account from  Jim Nuttall, East Lansing, MI on how apps on mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones can help the handicapped improve their quality of life, and become more productive.

I am legally blind and have an iPhone. This is what an iPhone does for me and how it affects our economy.

– iPhone reads books to me — no more human readers required
– Internet books for blind — no more library
– Internet radio — no more standard radio
– iTunes Music Store — no more physical music store
– App Store — no mall software store
– Kindle — no more book store-
– GPS — no more maps or dedicated GPS
– Internet news — no newspapers
– Google — no more yellow pages
– Internet weather — no TV weather man
– Cell phone — no more landline company
– Camera — no separate photo or Video camera
 

I love my Kindle app on the iPad and access to social media sites is easy and easy to provide updates.  I can’t imaging the need for a separate digital camera or GPS.  I won’t give up my Garmin Edge on my bike or my Go Pro cam on my next great adventure.

I still have a PC (laptop) and I prefer my laptop when I am sitting at my desk reviewing volumes of information which requires editing, using spreadsheets and even blogging, but there is certainly a great deal of evidence mounting that we can and will readily adapt to new technology and innovations as they present themselves.

See Part III and the next great game changer.

Rock My World Innovations – Stuff We Can Live With – Part I

Sign of the times.

Sign of the times.

When I began researching “rock my world” innovations and how it affects us and our workplace, the hardest part for me is I couldn’t stop. It’s because in the course of studying innovation, much of what you read and hear about today is already old news.

I found some rock my world innovations but more often than not, I found new stuff we can live with.  Stuff here today, possibly gone tomorrow…

I’m a big fan of the future and enjoy learning all I can about new innovations.  In studying innovation in my work I quickly discovered you can erase the past and create the future as quickly as you can erase chalk from a chalkboard.

One of my favorite recitations is that as a CEO in the technology business, we as a company must constantly reinvent ourselves.  We need new technology to keep up with the existing technology and the tsunami of information we have to deal with every day.

We live in a world of plentiful accurate data, and massive storage capacity and processing power.   So anything’s possible.

We live in a world where computers improve so quickly that their capabilities pass from the realm of science fiction into the everyday world!

Like Watson the IBM Computer who can beat the world’s finest chess players or champions at Jeopardy and we’re not talking about surpassing the realm of science fiction over the course of a human lifetime, or even within the span of a professional’s career, but instead in just a few years.

So What is Innovation?smartphones

1) There are the Game Changers that can disrupt and create whole new markets.
2) There are Breakthrough Innovations that Introduces a new technology into an existing market and

3) There are Incremental Innovations that are Small but Significant improvements to our lives.

people toothbrush

More people with cell phones in the world than with toothbrushes.

So let’s talk briefly today about one of the most obvious game changers.  Smartphones.  There are more people with cell phones in the world than with toothbrushes.  Seems impossible right?  Well believe it or not, this guy owns a smart phone!

toothless guy

This guy owns a smartphone

Let’s talk about THE FUTURE of the smart phone 2013… Below is a short video about a new app called Project Glass from Google.  I’ll tell you, I’m definitely going use this app!  I couldn’t find my way around a department store if I had to save my life.  Here’s the story.

I had taken my 2-year-old daughter shopping with me for my wife’s Christmas gift.  I chose the local mall which was a mistake!  There were too many stores, on too many levels and subsequently too many choices.  My two-year old decided she would decide when to leave for me and declared in a high octave it was time to leave.  When I tried to get her back into her snow suit she decided to take it up a few notches so I made my exit as quickly as possible.  I was plowing through drifts of snow with a screaming kid under my arm, like a football and I couldn’t find the car.  I thought it had been stolen.  I quickly dismissed the thought, thinking who would steal a yellow Ford Pinto with a black racing stripe, affectionately nicknamed, The Banana.  When I came to my senses I had realized there was an East and a West entrance to the mall.  It seems I had been rendered temporarily geographically dyslexic.  It is strictly a male trait brought on by the trauma from entering a shopping mall and likely departing with a lighter wallet.

google glass

Google Glass

Here’s the short video…the future of smartphones a.k.a. Google Glass.

What are some of the other game changing innovations? Hint: Laptops Are Doomed!

In Life Too Often, It’s the Tail Waggin’ the Dog

100_0003 (2)I love the beat of Cody’s tail wagging against the floor, against the door, against the wall, against the bed he is lying on.  I’m not sure whether it will be Cody’s heart that gives out before his tail stops wagging.

Cody’s my 10 year old chocolate lab.  We’re kinda attached at the hips.  He goes to work with me every day.  He goes to work most days, I am out of town on business. I now have a ramp he uses to load up into the back of my SUV.  It is a ceremony.  He’s not fan of the trip up.  I’ve employed what is best to describe as a soft suitcase I wrap him in, to coax him up the ramp.  He’s frantic, so there’s always a treat waiting for him.  Upon arrival, and his descent, he reminds me of an arriving dignitary, including the obligatory pause for photo ops, before his parade trip down the ramp.

Cody knows when it’s time to go to work.  He knows when it is time for his 10 and 4 o’clock walks.  He knows he goes to North Park in the AM and he knows he tours the office park in the afternoon.

Most important he knows when it is time to go home.  Dinner!

If you ask him to change his routine, you meet with the stubbornness of a 100+ lb. dog, who knows who’s in charge.

He knows when the UPS truck arrives.  He knows the drivers.  He knows whether to expect a biscuit or a good rub.  The drivers know him, too.  After all, “What can brown do for you?”

You might say Cody has it made.  Even before you see his beds at home or the leather sofa he spends an increasing amount of time on at the office, but there’s a point to all this dribble. So bear with me.

Cody’s hips are giving in to father time, so he’s getting laser to strengthen his shoulders and flanks.  If it works for him, I’m next in line.

Cody now goes to bed before Terri and I do.  Both of us cracked a smile and laughed the first time he left us to head for bed.  Now we know Cody has more common sense than we do.

A former neighboring business owner had a 10 year old white lab named Jack.  Like Cody, he came to work with his owners each day.  Jack died suddenly.  We were commiserating when Jack’s owner said to me, “give Cody a good back scratch for Jack.”

When I scramble to meet a deadline, decry the political theatre, grouse over a lost order or worry about where the next dollar is coming from, all I have to do is look to my friend.  He’s most often at my feet.

I am reminded.  I have so much to live for, why not make things right in this messed up world?  The solution?

Everyone should get a good tummy rub and a nice back scratch every day.  Cody does.

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