Friday 22 October 2010 at 1:19 pm
The Founders of the company had three objectives when they started their business ten years ago. It was to make a difference, have fun, and make a little money, in that order. That is what I was told as I toured their facility and from my observation, they are achieving what they set out to do in a remarkable way.
I thought back to when I began my career and how these goals compared to mine. I wanted to secure an entry-level job in human resources, advance as far as my ability would take me, and lastly, earn $20,000 annually. I believe they are similar with the exception of the last one. I thought $20,000 was a lot of money. Imagine my disappointment a couple years later when I achieved that goal. I quickly learned $20,000 allowed you to live comfortably however; you still had to keep working. Depending on how you factor for inflation, $20,000 today equates to about $75,000 a year.
I wanted to make a difference by being the best in my profession. I think some people believe making a difference, applies to jobs or professions that in some way have a higher calling. Maybe, maybe not, I believe people can make a difference in whatever occupation they choose. There are some questionable professions and I donít have to spell those out but they are the exception.
There are jobs where it is clear the people performing them are making a difference. However, sometimes the people performing those jobs don't always believe they are having an impact. The same is true for people with jobs where they don't believe they are making a difference when they actually do.
The simple definition of making a difference is to carry out an action that results in a significant change, or an altered circumstance. Take The Sandman of Coronado Island, California; I met him while standing in line to get coffee and donuts. The Sandman creates street art with sand using a broom and a dustpan. He entertained the crowd that morning with one of his impromptu designs. It was amazing to watch and he put a smile on my face. You can check him out on Facebook. He is a reminder that the motivation to make a difference is determined in part by what you do but mostly by how you do it.
Sunday 17 October 2010 at 3:24 pm
If you haven't seen the movie, Secretariat I recommend you put it on your list of things to do. While I am not a movie critic because well, they criticize, I am someone who enjoys great storytelling and this movie does not disappoint. To the purist, the movie does not stick to the book, which the story is based nor does it always adhere to the facts. Nevertheless, it is a must see movie. Why?
If I tell you, you won't have to see the movie. Let's just say this movie may be about a famous American Thoroughbred racehorse, who in 1973 became the first U.S. Triple Crown champion in twenty-five years. That would be enough, except there are other lessons about life in this movie that should and do not go unnoticed.
For example, having a dream, making a difference, finding your voice, believing in others, being unwilling to yield to adversity (stubbornness), taking calculated risks, entrepreneurship, strategy, and of course, love. You say you got all this from a movie about a horse. Yes, I did but I left some other important things out for you to discover.
One of the critical scenes in the movie I will tell you about was when Penny was talking to her trainer Lucien about their preparation for the final race of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes. The Belmont considered "The Test of Champions" comes just three weeks after the Preakness and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. It is a grueling 1.5 mile test of speed, stamina, and endurance.
Lucien told Penny that conventional wisdom was to rest the horse from the demands of the previous two races. However, he wanted to do the opposite. He wanted to continue their normal workout schedule and training. This was about strategy as much as preparation and a choice that would not work for everyone. However, this decision could be a competitive advantage and we know it was.
Strategy applies to things more important then a horse race. No offense to those who devote themselves to horseracing. What about you and the strategic decisions you need to make. The choices are simple and often right in front of us. However, we are distracted by the blinders we are wearing. Blinders such as conventional wisdom and the way things have always been done. A racehorse also wears blinders not to limit their vision but to limit distractions and stay focused.
I don't know if the preceding exchange actually occurred between Penny and Lucien as portrayed in the movie. Frankly, it does not matter, for it serves as an example that we don't have to take off our blinders, we just need to redefine their purpose.
Monday 04 October 2010 at 12:19 am
My wife and I had just moved to California and it was my second day on the job. There I was standing outside Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum on Hollywood Boulevard. I was there with my boss to see Jay Leno receive his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Pretty amazing! My boss introduced me to Jay. In fact, he introduced me three separate times. It was after the third time, that Jay acknowledged that he had met me two time before. Hey, Jay remembered me!
I am not one to be star struck but then again I was in Hollywood hard not to be impressed. Otherwise, move to another city for this is a town of somebody's, somebody want-a-be's and in between. Eventually you get used to it, at least no longer gasp, or stutter when you see someone famous. The other day my wife and I were walking and who do we see? Dog the Bounty Hunter. We kept our cool and yes, he looks younger in person.
Hollywood is not the only place where people expect to see stars. It seems that Wall Street is another. I bet you did not know that, neither did Hewlett-Packard (HP) when they named their new CEO. According to the LA Times, HP shares slipped as the new CEO did not have the starpower to dazzle Wall Street.
Seriously, what has starpower got to do with the selection of an executive? What about capabilities and results? Oh, that is a given but if you really want to move the needle, you now need a wow factor! Is this what it has come to? Of course not at least I hope not or then again why not.
When I read this quote, I thought how ridiculous. First, not many executives have starpower. Second, I don't want to be dazzled. But, then I realized, that's the point. Our leaders should be stars and they should dazzle us, but not enough do. Sad to think that a star is someone who plays a leading role in the performance of an organization and yet we have trouble casting people for the part.
Are stars that difficult to find? I don't think so because American Idol keeps finding them and not just one per season. There is more talent then people think and few become stars overnight. They are developing their talents hopeful of a chance to dazzle us. Perhaps, the new CEO of HP is one.