Are You Worried?

For Christmas, about ten years ago, my sainted wife bought me a plane ticket to head to Dallas to spend some time with my best friend who I hadn’t seen in person in a couple of years. The ticket was for mid-April. I was furious.

Not that I had to wait so long to see him but that I had to agonize over the flight for four months. I worried a lot about flying at the time, or more accurately, the sudden cessation of flying otherwise known as crashing. I’d flown a dozen or more times without incident but I still couldn’t get my lizard-brain to understand how this massive metal bird was able to get off the ground and stay there. Surely I was destined to be one of those people with their name on a memorial somewhere due to a bad O-ring.

For months I found myself experiencing what were likely fun-sized panic attacks. I’d be irritable and have minor blow ups over nothing. Just me and the background music of my own 500mph plummet into the earth playing in my mind. A video loop of my oldest son looking like JFK Jr. saluting my empty coffin – you know, because I’d been turned into a Rob-Gazpacho by the crash? Why couldn’t I stop with this awful coming attractions loop on repeat?

Spoilers; I didn’t die on that flight or any of the thirty or so I’ve been on since then. I knew statistically that I had a better chance of getting stalked by Britney Spears, and yet. Why the hell was I so worried? Why are we all worried about so much that has such little chance of actually occurring?

Once, when I was 18 I bought a lottery ticket and worried for a few days about which of my friends I’d bring to buy matching Porsches. Seriously. I was certain I’d win like $100 Million and I reasoned I’d only buy matching 911s for five of my friends but what would I say to friend number six? I swear I’m not actually this dumb IRL.

Psychology Today has a few suggestions for why we worry and how we can stop. Feel free to read at your leisure. For me, I think it had something to do with my concern for my fledging family and what would happen to them if I was gone. I didn’t like imagining them all alone without a mountain of money to break their fall and the cash was only amounting to a respectable pitchers mound at the time.

I think it was this trip a decade back where I realized I was doing myself (and those around me) a disservice by not letting my rational brain take the wheel. It was always going to be fine. I’d spent so much time and energy uncomfortable over something as routine as falling asleep. From then on I’d only get more comfortable on flights with my nerves only appearing in the 30 seconds around takeoff as the engines fired up.


Why in the hell was I letting worry drive the ship when it couldn’t stop getting the directions wrong? If my brain was like the movie “Inside Out” why would the other parts of my brain possibly let Worry take the helm when it was so often wrong? Enough of that. Rationality bitch-slapped Worry and save for a handful of moments, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Plenty of what we worry about will never happen. The trip home will be safe. This shopping cart doesn’t have Aids. Canada isn’t going to invade and put those Nickelback on the money. It’s all stuff we need to hear from time to time.

What was the last thing you worried about that you realized in retrospect had no chance of happening?

Why do you do what you do?

When I work on a new spreadsheet build I’ll throw on a TED Talk or speech in the background. This week I reheard a classic by Simon Sinek – a primer for his book of the same name: “Start with Why.”

This may be the twelfth time I’ve heard it and I enjoy it as much as I did the first time nearly a decade ago. If you’ve been reading me for several years you’ll notice I’ve mentioned Sinek before in this blog; he’s a charismatic story teller and I like telling stories. I also tend to believe what he believes.

I think leaders eat last. I think a leader should take care of their team before anything else, especially the customer. I think trust is the most powerful force and we should be free with it to create more of it.

Not everyone believes those things and that’s ok. We only need to find the people that do believe what we believe and we can do amazing things. And I don’t mean “amazing” as in world-altering; I don’t need to pry up a mountain or convert all of Mongolia to veganism. I mean doing something remarkable that positively impacts people.

When you’re aiming for that – better, faster, stronger – in whatever you’re doing, and you hit it?! And it makes the lives of those you work with better? That’s it for me; that’s as good as it gets.

Right now we’re making our first hiring decisions and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m also spending a decent amount of mental RAM thinking about our mission.

What is our “Why” and how do we articulate that to effectively attract people that share that why?

Can I even create that before we’re a “we?” How many people do we need to have before we can decide on it?

How is our Why separate from my Why? What is my Why?

I’ve done this enough times to know that if you’re asking a lot of questions you’re doing well. The answers to those questions will form the bricks that pave the way to the future you’re trying to create. We’re going to need a vast number so the questions are going to need to keep coming quickly now.

What is my Why?

I like systems, elegant ones designed to last and to grow. I like beginning with the end in mind. I like having a great time with the people I work with. I notice those times come most frequently when we’re not battling monsters. I notice monsters are scarce when things work as or better than expected. To get there we have to solve or prevent problems. I like solving and preventing problems.

That doesn’t feel like a “Why” though, does it? It’s certainly not clean enough but it’ll have to do for a start.

The 5 People

A friend of mine reached out today and asked me to fill out a Google form with my thoughts on her talents, traits, and what I thought she’d be good at. She’s figuring out her next career steps and it’s a cool method. Nearly two years ago she made the jump. You know – the jump most of us entertain at some point – the one where you sell all your stuff and take off indefinitely. That jump.

One of the last questions on the form was about her “brand” and who I thought she was; essentially what was her human elevator pitch. To me, she’s the person that jumped. Who does that?

I’ve only known of two others in my life and I suspect that puts me three up on most people. There’s her, my cousin that moved to a little island off the coast of Puerto Rico nearly 20 years ago, and the other was someone I’d never met but his Ted Talk stuck with me when I saw it in 2012.

His name was Scott Dinsmore and he started something called “Live your legend.” I think the idea was to find work that you loved or at least didn’t hate? I honestly don’t recall the details. This was 2012, I was in my early 30’s and I found something about his presentation mesmerizing. As far as Ted Talks and novel ideas go it wasn’t in the top 20 but I found myself coming back to it.

I followed Dinsmore on social media. I was curious as a car crash as to how someone – who by all accounts had a promising, normal career path – opted to leave it behind for this; whatever this was. He even had a wife. I had a wife and there I was grinding away 50-60 hour weeks for no one in particular. This dude said “deuces” (this was 2012) and went his own way. Could I do that?

Spoilers: no, I couldn’t. At least not all the way. I craved security and certainty far too much. I poked the ether with a few entrepreneurial prods but nothing progressed.

But I digress. Back to Dinsmore, my friend, and why we’re here. As I was telling my friend about Scott I had to look up the Ted Talk and I watched it again for the first time in at least seven years. In doing so I was reminded of one of the key points of his talk; the big “hack.” Remember life hacks? So fun to say. “Put mayo on the outside of a grilled cheese instead of butter – LIFE HACK!” That wasn’t his but it’s a good one nevertheless. 

It was around the midway point where Dinsmore brings up a quote from Jim Rohn

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I’ll be honest, for years I thought it was a quote from the ESPN guy Jim Rome and I was surprised he’d say something so profound. I mean this was the guy who got knocked off his own stage.

I was reminded that I’d been fortunate enough to meet and get to hang out with people who became the defining influences on my life. People that younger me didn’t think I deserved to get to become. In the order I got to meet them:

  1. Marshall – My best friend in high school and again, today. This guy is True North and the moral compass I’ve always needed. He’s been an incredibly supportive and influential force in my life for more than 25 years. I literally wouldn’t be who I am without him. I don’t know if there’s a better “let’s have a beer” partner on earth.
  2. Brett – My best friend in college through today. Brett is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Knowing him pushed me to be better than I was letting myself get away with at the time, both personally and academically. When it comes to a partner for an intellectual argument there is no one better.
  3. My wife – IYKYK. She’s genuinely the nicest person you’ve ever met in your life; full stop. Her kindness has transformed me into a far more patient, forgiving, and respectful person than I ever would have recognized in the mirror. Every day she makes me believe I can be a better person by giving me a good reputation to live up to.
  4. Mike – We met at the Collier Companies back in 2004 and became fast friends. Mike was smart, professional, capable, warm, and sincere. He was a lot of things that I wasn’t and he made me vastly better in so many ways. I couldn’t do what I do at the level I do it if I hadn’t met Mike. He passed last July and I find myself missing him more and more with each passing week. Hug your friends more.
  5. My KC Manager Crew – For eight years I worked with the best people and formed the strongest of bonds. While working to become a trustworthy leader I became great friends with the people who would help cement who I would become at work; someone to be counted on in tough times and the person with the best jokes. Ask of any of them. They’ll tell you I’m an absolute riot. No one ever gave a full-body eye roll or walked out of a room at a dad-joke that landed with the grace of a shattered moon.

I know that last one is cheating, but so what, it’s my list. More importantly than these people are the dozens of others I’ve been influenced by over the years. And that jives with this guy who says Rohn is wrong; it’s not just the 5 people that make you who you are. Cool. I don’t think he’s wrong but we’ve got to start somewhere and people love lists.

I hope you’ve got great people around you; people that want to see you grow and succeed. It’s nearly a superpower having that in your corner.

Oh, right; Dinsmore. I nearly forgot. I said “was” earlier because he sadly passed away in 2015 while hiking Mt Kilimanjaro. He jumped. Not from the mountain which I understand is notoriously “flat” as mountains go, but rather jumped in the sense that he sold his stuff and decided to travel the world while continuing his work. Again, who does that? It’s inspiring.

Not the dying – though dying doing something you truly wanted to do is likely as good as it gets – but the deciding to exchange your safe stock life for one you’re sure you need.

And inspiration is about more than getting others to do what you did; it’s about reminding them of what’s possible and what kind of world we could have if we’re willing to choose it. I like living in a world where people pursue their passions.

Thanks to everyone I’ve had the benefit of knowing thus far. I hope I’ve been at least half as helpful in shaping you as you have me.

Push Decision Making Down

Captain David Marquet of the USS Santa Fe turned his ship from worst to first by pushing decision making – and with it, commitment, innovation, passion – down the org chart.

As I’ve written about before, the default position of most in charge is “no.” There’s precious little upside to saying yes, especially if you’re not completely versed in the scenario or stakes. And who has time to get versed in the scenario? So, the response is silence; static at the other end of the line. “No” wins the game by default.

In this video, Captain Marquet discusses how he went from a “permission-based” system to an “intentions-based” one and the results that came with it.

The captain decided to reverse the polarity of the decision-making. In a conventional organization, the top gathers data from the people closest to the product/service, mull it over, and then dictates back what is to happen next. They are always reactive, and usually reacting later than needed to be of much use. Most of the time management didn’t know a problem existed until it had already been solved by the front lines, or at least a patch had been created that allowed the mission to continue.

I watched my former mentor, Nathan Collier, wrestle with this first hand. He lamented early in my career that as we continued to grow as an organization we’d face new challenges in communication and decision making. How could we react swiftly and competently if we decision-makers in the organization couldn’t or wouldn’t make timely decisions? The first time I heard this was in 2004 and it became a theme that ran for years and haunted most conversations with general managers and up. Few had good answers.

In one moment of quiet introspection with 35 or more stuffed into a conference room someone slammed the table and shouted “Get ‘er done!” The room was silent for all of twenty seconds before this interruption and that was enough to kill the mood. They didn’t get it – this wasn’t something to be muscled through.

What got you here won’t get you there.

Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

Nathan liked that quote and I understood why he’d employ it week after week. The acumen and systems that built the backbone of a local company were all but useless for managing a decentralized company that would span cities and states. He found Captain Marquet’s book inspirational and the era of “I intend to” (or “IIT”) was launched around 2008.

Now, all a GM needed was to send an email to their Regional Manager with IIT in the subject line and their proposed course of action. They’d flesh out their reasoning in the body, but that was it. If not responded to 48 hours later they were free to proceed.

And then it ended as quickly as it began.

There were 4-5 Regional Managers inundated with “IIT” emails from 25-30 GMs declaring their intent to do everything from approve capital repairs to changing marketing campaigns. Regionals had 48 hours to respond with a reason not to do whatever that thing was or the GM was free to carry it out. Regionals couldn’t keep up as a backlog of delayed projects suddenly sprang back to life. Someone had to pull the plug and a massive financial crisis was the hard yank needed.

I think the problem was due to two issues:

  1. There was such a backlog of things that were ignored/delayed that it was too much all at once. Especially for too few people to vet in any meaningful way. People that were still responsible for the outcomes of these decisions.
  2. The GMs were young. The vast majority of us were under 30 and experience was in short supply. One of the perks about the early days of working for the Collier Companies was that one could gain a ton of experience very early in one’s career. It wasn’t uncommon for PT leasing agents to become a GM within 12 months if they were bright and motivated. What they lacked in experience they made up for in enthusiasm and energy. That lack of experience fell on the Regional Managers who were very experienced, most having worked in the industry for at least ten years at that point. Put simply, the system was unbalanced.

I write all this now as our new venture has me pondering the right approach to leadership, culture, and how we want to build our new enterprise for success. What got me here won’t get me there. I can’t be the guy in the room solving problems. I can’t take every phone call, create the daily agenda, or decide what’s best for every moving piece of what I’m sure will become a sprawling empire in the coming years.

As we hire our first GM, how do we build a culture that will keep decision-making close to those affected by the decisions? What areas do we focus on controlling and what do we encourage the site staff to innovate and create? 

I have some ideas and I’m realizing that not knowing is pretty exciting. I’m ready to be surprised by what we find and what we decide to do as an organization going forward.

Do you know how to get there? Who cares?

Robert H Myers

The most successful people are the ones that see the goal, and know that it’s reachable. That they can get there. Some work, sure, but it’s obtainable and if enough things go right, they’ve got it.

The worst are the ones that don’t even try. The shore is safe but we don’t write stories about the ones that stay there and hope the new land comes calling. It won’t – and if it does, it’s already too late.

wilson

Get there. Get messy. Get your hands right in it and tell your people what you’re thinking the whole way along. It won’t be easy, but then it wasn’t supposed to be – if it was everyone would be doing it.

Learn to fish. Talk to a Volleyball like your old pal. Set out amongst the cruel sea. But don’t bring the weakness of “there’s just no way to do it” unless…

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“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” or Coach Taylor meets Sun Tzu

Everyone loves a good motivational speech and there are few better than the ones from our favorite movies. The one where Rocky says that’s how winning is done. The one where Al Pacino talks about the game being one of inches and the inches are all around us. The one in Independence Day where President Bill Pullman says they won’t go quietly into that good night. Stellar stuff, all.

As much as I love them, I can’t use them every day. What I can use is a mantra, and not from a movie but a TV show – the long canceled Friday Night Lights. It’s simple and startlingly prescient. I can’t stop seeing it everywhere.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”

I think of this when we get something wrong because we allowed ourselves to become easily swayed by the information we didn’t bother to interrogate. I find myself muttering it when someone makes a stunning reversal and course corrects after allowing the truth of the situation to come to them.

All that, and honestly, I’m a sucker for six words. There’s music to that number, arriving in two-word pairs. Hemmingway once won a contest by penning a compelling story with only six words: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” My first Mission Statement at CVI was only six words: “Be professional, Solve problems, Create value.” Distilling something meaningful into six words is an art and I’m its favorite patron.

Clear Eyes

The ability to see. The ability to identify what is happening all around you and not deluding yourself about the conditions on the ground, in the air, or in your own heart. You can see it all and you need that ability if you’re going to do anything meaningful.

Any idiot can make decrees or decisions while not knowing what’s happening; that’s most of life. What an effective agent of change needs is the ability to discern what the hell is happening; both inside and outside themselves.

Sun Tzu says any winning General must master the Five Factors:

  • The Purpose
  • The Weather
  • The Terrain
  • The Leadership
  • The System

You can’t master anything if you can’t see it. And not just with your eyes. You need to see it with every part of your understanding. You especially need to see that which you’re inclined or incentivized not to see. Clear Eyes is of supreme importance and so it comes first. As mantras go, this one is fire.

  • The Purpose is the cause, the morality; what are we fighting for? Is this who we are? Do we know?
  • The Weather is the conditions. If not the rain or wind then the market forces at work.
  • The Terrain is the ground, the topography. If not a battlefield then the shelf or the venue the sales battle will be fought.
  • The Leadership is not only those in charge but those whose influence exceeds their titles. How capable are your leaders to produce and adapt on the fly?
  • The System is my favorite. It’s the thing that accounts and adapts (or should) for all the strengths and weaknesses of the others on this list. It’s what we have the most control over if we’d only recognize it and give it its due.

The General who masters the Five Factors will win every engagement, even if they don’t. Clear Eyes reminds us that we should never lie to ourselves. Self-awareness is one of our most powerful weapons if we’ll develop it properly.

How many times have you seen a person, organization, or company, fail because they couldn’t see clearly; because they refused to see clearly? Too many.

Full Hearts

Are you in to it? Do you believe in what you’re saying? Do you believe and trust in what you’re doing? Does what you do each day, right now, resonate with your core beliefs?

Can you stay focused and dedicated when things get tough and your path gets blocked? Can you fight through self-doubt, stumbles, and the hellish unknown? Can you manage to lose a battle without losing yourself?

Can’t Lose

There are two types of losses; the one on the scoreboard and the one in your mind. You can’t fully control the first kind of loss. You can plan, scrap, and brawl with all your might and you may still lose when the points are tallied. The second kind though? That’s all you.

Keep your vision clear. Don’t lie to yourself, ever, about anything.
Walk your talk. Believe in what you’re doing and be prepared for the way to get rough. Don’t lose yourself.

Do those two things and you’ll never lose.

Teams vs. Groups and the power of Trust

Rapper Sir Mix-a-lot, in his song “Posse on Broadway” said “I’ve got a def posse, you’ve got a bunch of dudes…” and that’s got me thinking about the distinction. Between a def posse and a bunch of dudes. Surely most people driving past Dick’s Hamburger Stand in Seattle on a Saturday night couldn’t tell the difference but Mix-a-lot could tell, and he had no problem calling it out. In the spirit of his 1988 hit, I’d like to do the same.

You’ve got a bunch of employees and we’ve got a Team. Admittedly, this doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

To get there properly I need to talk about some truths I hold sacred:

1. A leader is responsible to those in their charge. They exist to provide whatever the Team needs: advice, resources, knowledge, removal of obstacles, etc… that’s their hallowed duty. Anyone claiming to be a leader who does otherwise doesn’t understand the distinction between a leader and a boss.

2. A leader builds Trust through their actions. We are what we repeatedly do, not what we repeatedly say. Trust is essential to turn groups into Teams.

3. There is no more powerful force in business than a Team. Not every group of people in a company are a Team. Most aren’t. A group only turns into a Team with Trust.

4. There’s nothing faster or more effective than Trust. For Trust to take root people need to be honest and they need to speak the same language.

How do you know when a group has become a Team?

  • When no one utters the phrase “that’s not my job.”
  • When people go out of their way to anticipate the needs of their teammates and to solve problems that don’t affect them directly.
  • When staying late, coming in early, and doing work out of your comfort zone come without a second thought because you know anyone else would do it for you.
  • When people don’t waste energy watching their backs. They form a perfect circle facing the challenges of the day secure in the knowledge that the Team has their back – that the Team IS their back.
  • When no one wastes time pretending to be smarter, more talented, more capable – everyone enjoys the safety of shared honesty and self-awareness.  

Someone once referred to me being on their team (not someone I reported to) and I shuddered a little. This person didn’t care about me. They didn’t care about my actual Team. They didn’t seek to make our lives easier in any way, to share the load, or to be more effective. Nothing about our relationship indicated we were on the same team, let alone Team. We were in a group and groups are nothing. I’ve been in thousands of groups. I was in a group of people standing in line at the bank the other day and none of us would have mistaken our grouping for a team or Team.

If you want a def posse and not a bunch of dudes you have to:

  • Have Integrity. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Walk your talk. Live what you believe. People remember.
  • Be free with trust so you can establish Trust. Let others take advantage if they will, there’s no quicker way to get to capital “T” Trust than by giving it freely. If you require doctors notes for sick days you don’t trust people.
  • Be a servant to those in your charge. Jesus didn’t order people to work late, he washed feet. Remove obstacles, free up resources, solve problems, make their lives easier and your team will quickly reciprocate. You may be in charge but you’re responsible for those in your charge before anything else.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got for you today. If you want advice on how to turn a group into a team into a Team, don’t hesitate to let me know; I’m always open to dialogue about what’s possible.

Lance Armstrong has a Podcast?

I subscribe (I have no idea why) to a guy who occasionally posts some interesting things otherwise out of my orbit (oh, that’s why) and one of those things today was a link to Lance Armstrong’s podcast. Did you know he had a podcast? Did you know he still existed? Me neither.

I haven’t listened to a second of it yet and there’s a strong chance I won’t. Ok, I’ll likely listen to a bit of it because the person who sent me there says Armstrong “doesn’t give a shit.” Swoon. If you know me you know I love when people don’t give a shit. I want the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house to see what happens when they stop being polite and start acting like the bag of cat anuses they really are. In this instance, just the one anus will do; LA’s anus. That sounded different then I meant it.

Then I came across this as the top review on iTunes.

lancearmstrong

Whoa. Hold the phone. Betrayed? Fraud? Cheated? Those are some sharp knives to be throwing at Armstrong and I think only one or two of them may be accurately placed. I think we should avoid “betrayed” as when has a celebrity ever been loyal to you? That’s your problem right there. You don’t have a relationship with these people. Move on.

But then I thought about it for a second and I realized why I was prone to jump to Lance’s defense. Not only did the man beat Stage 3 Cancer, but then when he was done with that he did the work necessary to win the most physically demanding competition on earth, not once, not twice, but seven god damned times. In a row. In (*clap) A (*clap) God (*clap) Damned (*clap) Row.*

armstrongcancer

If I got this news I would have rolled myself into a ball and died silently while sipping scotch between sobs. Sure, drugs are bad, mkay. But let’s not pretend this is a Popeye cartoon where Lance squeezed open a can of spinach and bench pressed a battleship. Lance had to train like the Taking of Pelham One Two Three in order to tea bag the rest of humanity with his one remaining – look, you know what I’m saying. The man was literally Superman – drugs or no drugs.

He gets credit for doing the impossible. And I truly mean impossible. Some 4,000 people have summited Everest. Not 1,000, not 3,000, but 4,000. Shout out to my boy Tenzing Norgay. Know how many have won seven Tour De France? Just one. And as a Stage 3 cancer survivor no less. This is an appropriate place to bow down. Give that man his propers.

For real though, I never owned a LiveStrong bracelet. Partly because I don’t like fads. But also because I don’t like fads. I understand that the person that wrote the review was likely heartbroken over the discovery (*insert photo of Taylor Swift’s shocked face here) that professional athletes engage in performance-enhancing drugs to stay on top. Emphasis on “enhancing,” please and thank you.

shockedface

Maybe the person is bitter because they know in their heart of hearts that Armstrong has achieved more in a decade then they (and their children, and their children’s children) will ever accomplish in three lifetimes. That’s fair. But let’s not conveniently forget that despite the doping (which it’s widely been said everyone else was doing at the same time, so, even playing field?) this guy still dunked on all of our existences in the most complete way. That’s worthy of esteem.

Avant-Garde, modern-day philosopher-king, Malcolm Gladwell wrote this in regards the silliness of doping scandals. The main focus wasn’t even on drugs but on manipulating one’s own body by getting deep into the weeds of how to push the human machine to its absolute limit of performance. Removing your blood and putting it back into yourself before a race doesn’t seem immoral, does it? It’s your blood. It’s just a fascinating read and I urge you to follow the link and get your mind blown. Here’s a taste:

“Lance and Ferrari showed me there were more variables than I’d ever imagined, and they all mattered: wattages, cadence, intervals, zones, joules, lactic acid, and, of course, hematocrit,” Hamilton writes. “Each ride was a math problem: a precisely mapped set of numbers for us to hit. . . . It’s one thing to go ride for six hours. It’s another to ride for six hours following a program of wattages and cadences, especially when those wattages and cadences are set to push you to the ragged edge of your abilities.”

Hematocrit, the last of those variables, was the number they cared about most. It refers to the percentage of the body’s blood that is made up of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The higher the hematocrit, the more endurance you have. (Mäntyranta had a very high hematocrit.) The paradox of endurance sports is that an athlete can never work as hard as he wants, because if he pushes himself too far his hematocrit will fall. Hamilton had a natural hematocrit of forty-two per cent—which is on the low end of normal. By the third week of the Tour de France, he would be at thirty-six per cent, which meant a six-per-cent decrease in his power—in the force he could apply to his pedals. In a sport where power differentials of a tenth of a per cent can be decisive, this “qualifies as a deal breaker.”

Bottom line, don’t hate on the GOAT because he broke some rules in pursuit of greatness. Just because you suddenly found yourself unable to wear your growing menagerie of LiveStrong bracelets doesn’t mean you should hate on the guy who inspired you to buy them in the first place.

*I really like clapping.

D-Day, Logistics, and Student Housing Turn

Today is the 74th anniversary of D-Day (aka, Operation Overlord); the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe by Allied forces. The “D” just stands for “Day” and was a term used for any important military day, though now it has become synonymous with Overlord.

No doubt you’re familiar with D-Day, if only because you’ve seen “Saving Private Ryan” which begins with the beach landing. It was (and remains) the largest amphibious military invasion in the history of mankind, and it was a massive success.

Thinking about D-Day made me think about General Dwight D. Eisenhower as he was the Allied supreme commander for the invasion, and further how Eisenhower thought about logistics. In fact, it was his experience with logistics during his time in the military that influenced his decision to create the Interstate Highway System as President in 1956. One of the provisions was that every five miles of the system needed to have a stretch straight and long enough that a fully loaded C-130 should be able to use it as a runway in the event of war.

Eisenhower_d-day

The invasion was really a culmination of several other operations which required the build-up of men and materials. Infantry, ships, boats, ammunition, supplies, rations, fuel, everything needed to support the invasion had to be amassed and then put into motion flawlessly. Can you fathom?

bythenumbers2

Instead of warships, this isn’t much different than the maintenance supplies you may need for turn.

The fact that they knew what they needed, got it where it needed to be and when it needed to be there is an accomplishment so vast it’s impossible to fully appreciate.

If you’ve seen “Saving Private Ryan” then you have a snapshot of what the initial landing likely looked like to the first guys that showed up.

Dday beaches

A lot like a Turn schedule if you think about it.

In the world of Student Housing, our D-Day is “Turn” or the period where students move out en masse around the end of July while a new set moves-in a couple of weeks later. In the middle of our operation, we’re gathering intelligence, making repairs, painting, cleaning, moving furniture, replacing flooring and fixtures as needed, and getting everything ready for a new group of students and their parents.

At Knights Circle, we have some 2,500+ rooms, and we’ll typically turn between 1300-1650 rooms in about two weeks. Every room is unique and we have to record its condition, schedule the work, and ensure everything is shiny by move-in day – regardless of how the previous college student left it. Clearly, you can see how logistics matter, if you’re not already familiar yourself.

Most of the industry uses something like a dry erase board or a legal pad. If you’re turning 100 rooms, maybe that works, but for most places turning 500 or more rooms, that’s insane. Could you imagine Eisenhower overseeing D-Day with a clipboard?

I created an all-in-one solution which we dub our Placement Book or Turn Board, depending on what we’re doing. We use a spreadsheet as opposed to a Google Sheet due to the sheer size and number of calculations necessary to track the mammoth amounts of data. For smaller communities, a Google Sheet is a great solution as it can be accessed anywhere and multiple users can access it in real time. However, I recommend having as few chefs in the kitchen as possible, lest the broth be spoiled.

PB

Placement Book, aka Turn board for managing 2500+ beds.

We keep it updated throughout the year with who lives where, and who have renewed their leases in their current unit. This allows us to do all kinds of things without confusion and creates instant access to information for everyone on the team. Early move-ins? Late Move-outs? Transfers? Need to track carpet replacement for 786 rooms scattered among 2500? No problems at all.

TurnStats

Turnover Stats by building and by phase. This allows us to adjust which days we want to do which buildings depending on how many beds there are to turn in that building. 

Our latest iterations have also integrated real-time move-out inspection data so we know what level of painting, cleaning, or maintenance we may need to assign to our vendors. And our vendors LOVE working with us for this reason as they can get as many printouts as they want.

Due to how much automation we’ve built into our operation, we’re able to run full audits of various databases, conduct our roommate matching, get solid estimates for turn, and keep an accurate picture of our capital inventory by the unit and overall.

Turn is the most difficult part of the business and it hinges entirely on logistics. Accuracy ensures efficiency, which means people don’t get burnt out through long hours, which means their quality of work is better, which leads to fewer mistakes. Everything starts with accuracy and speed – two things most people don’t get at the same time.

The entire operation is a massive logistics game and winning it means winning your whole year. If you’re in Student Housing, and you want a consultation on how you can make your turn the best it can be with what you have, feel free to drop me a line. I love talking to other people in the industry about turn.

I’m no Eisenhower, but the lesson of D-Day hasn’t been lost on me.

 

When you think you know what you’re looking for.

In this undated video (probably 2008), Best Selling Author Malcolm Gladwell explains how we have a fundamental mismatch problem in how we assess which people will be successful in a given field. He starts with the differences between NBA scouting combine results and how players actually wind up fairing in the league and then goes on to point out all sorts of other gaps as only Gladwell can

The whole talk is fantastic as Gladwell may be the greatest storyteller of our time. I could listen to the man read a Swahili phone book and I would swear it was Les Miserables.

Gladwell’s point here is that we absolutely suck when it comes to using criteria that will give us a meaningful incite to the how well a person will perform in a given role. For Teachers, we require all manner of certificates only to find these have virtually no impact on the actual performance of the teacher. Job interviews are generally only good for finding out if you’re attracted to someone, it turns out. Or perhaps they’re only useful for discovering if someone is very good in social interaction, but for all sorts of other jobs, how well one does in an interview translates poorly to the ultimate role they’ll have should they be hired.

Around ten years ago we had a major issue in a tough market where our newest Community Managers were getting their clocks cleaned. Their teams couldn’t sell to save their lives, and these new Managers were grossly incapable of teaching them how to sell as they’d never done it before themselves. How did this happen?

It turns out that we’d been promoting “Rental Managers” aka “Assistant Community Managers” who were responsible for collecting rent, running reports, and that’s about it. They avoided sales related work like it had two types of the plague. So, of course, when they got promoted to their own ship they had no idea how to hire for sales ability or how to teach it.

Why would we do this? Because the people in charge of minting the new Community Managers were people who lived in glass offices and who dealt a lot with reports. Guess who typically had great reports? Rental Managers. They were two peas in a pod. Of course, the Brass new that sales mattered, but they overlooked this factor when hiring because they liked the cut of the RM’s jib. They could see a bit of themselves in these up-and-comers, and did you see how clean their reports were? Plus they tended to LOOK like Community Managers.

The most vital component in a Community Manager at the time (in the toughest student rental market in the country) was the ability to rent units, the ability to hire people who could do likewise, and the ability to train the uninitiated on their team. And here we were hiring without any real regard for that fact. The people we should have been promoting to these roles were our best salespeople who lacked any of the care or ability for the paperwork reporting. That’s a relatively easy problem to solve – at least far easier than a whole team at a community that can’t sell ice water at noon in Phoenix.

Maybe the answer would have been to split the job into equal halves; give two nearby communities to a pair of Managers. One would be in charge of the sales and training for each while the other handled the books and reporting. The two would compliment one another and with any luck, some of their skills would rub off on each other. Maybe an Area Manager would have been the way to go, with a couple of executive salespeople put in place to cover the selling and training. There’s any number of solutions, but we were wildly wrong on our criteria for assessing a simple promotion and it cost us big.

I’m sure this mismatch is all too common for you as well. How many times have you experienced one in your life, where you or your organization made decisions on things by assessing criteria that mattered not a bit in determining the outcome or the best course of action? What blinded you? How did you eventually see past it, or have you?