belief

Business Culture, Prime Directives, and killing John Connor

I got sent this email yesterday, which was one I’d sent some three years ago while at CVI-Orlando. At the time we were six months into a $2 million renovation, and working concertedly to establish a new culture.

When you’re trying to build culture, it’s important to be honest and authentically one’s self. People loathe artifice and inherently move away from it. This email happens to be “me” in written form, and I think it was evident of something that’s worked for me over the years. People know it’s not just some corporate policy I’m being forced to endorse while a concealed derringer burrows into the small of my back, but something I full-throatily support.

I offer it here at as an unedited look, an example, of how I believe in communicating with my teams. Also, I just really crack myself up and I can’t get enough of my choice of analogy here. How great is that hipster John Connor meme?

Big thanks to Larry for 1. Having kept this all these years, and 2. For thinking of me enough to send it to me now. It was a nice laugh during a really busy time and a great glimpse of some of the most fun I’ve had during my career.

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Do you really care? Hoodie does.

Rapper, Hoodie Allen, has a rabid fan base and one he’s well earned. First, there’s the fact that the guy is just good at what he does: Creative lyrics, a fun, easy-going demeanor, and just a great overall entertainer. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

While coasting through twitter recently, I saw this:

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Hoodie has over 600,000 followers on twitter. Nearly as many subscribers on his YouTube channel. Suffice it to say, he’s a busy guy. Not only are there the regular replies to his fans in comment sections and tweets and Instagram, but then he goes and sets up a help email for anyone going through a tough time? Yes.

And people love it. There are probably a thousand replies all stating essentially the same things:

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Right? That’s love.

And as if that wasn’t enough on its own, he inspired others to do the same.

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It’s a hell of a moment when you see a celebrity use their fame and reach to positively affect the human condition. No personal gain in mind, just the awareness that people are hurting sometimes and he has the ability to be that outlet. It’s inspiring.

The takeaway? If you’re saying you “love” or “care about” your fans/customers/employees/stakeholders, etc… what are you doing to show it?

BTW, check out some Hoodie videos. The guy is ridiculous. In the good way, like you want.

Which comes first? Talent or Belief?

This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to those who helped shape a major portion of who I’ve become at this point in my life. Melissa Lobozzo, this one’s for you. 

Which comes first? Talent or Belief? 

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In 2004 I became a Property Manager for Paradigm Properties, and my first Regional Manager was Melissa. Up to this point I’d been in the business for three years in a number of supporting roles, but this was my first ship and I had a lot to learn. As green as I was, Melissa saw talent in me and taught me one of the most important lessons I’d ever learn. 

With an upcoming company conference to be held in Savannah, the powers-that-be were looking for Leaders to conduct training sessions on areas important to company culture. Melissa nominated me to teach a segment on Team Building. At first, I was extremely honored, and then came the inevitable fear that I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Fake it? No thanks. I’d had tight teams, but I was at a loss at that moment to sum up exactly how I’d done it. Was it accidental?

I went to her some weeks later and told her I had nothing. I’d read a ton of books on the matter in that short window, and tried to couple them with what I already knew but so far I hadn’t been able to put together a cogent theory on Team Building. Maybe I should pass and let someone else have a crack it. Maybe I didn’t have it, maybe it wouldn’t be any good. What could I tell 80 of my colleagues, most of whom were my senior, that would get them to do more than yawn?

She looked me square in the eyes and told me that I was talented, that I did this stuff every day and that she was confident I could come up with something that would provide a benefit. She knew me and had every faith I would do well. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I still left scared, but a little less so, and with newfound determination that I didn’t want to let her down. She’d given me a good reputation to live up to – even if I hadn’t fully earned it yet. That’s a gift you have to earn after the fact, and the price for not doing so is steep. 

Leaving her office I knew what the essence of leadership was. It was the same stuff Michael Jordan was doing when he would tell Steve Kerr that he’d be the one to hit the game winning shot, not Jordan. Kerr would believe it, because he believed in him. She did this all the time that first year – providing the right amount of praise and positive reinforcement with an equally deserved amount of (well deserved) criticism. Trusting her wasn’t a question, she told me the truth all the time! 

I put together that presentation and it was incredibly well received. It focused on exactly that sort of stuff: Positivity! Energy! Bringing everyone together towards a common goal, and it was back stopped by the “Fish!” video about the Pike’s Place Fish Market in Seattle. You know, where they throw fish at each other and sing songs about all of their wonderful mongering. It was only a fifteen minute session, done six times over so it didn’t have to be Les Miserables, and everyone was appreciative for something other than dull recitation of bullet points. 

After that, I took all the lessons I learned from Melissa and tried to incorporate them into myself: Selflessness, determination, courage, being a servant-based leader who exists to make their people better, one who provides a shared goal and gets everyone involved in how to get there.

In the ten years hence these traits have proven invaluable beyond count, but the biggest was that one little thing. Did she really believe I wouldn’t screw it up? Did she really think I had the talent to do it? I think so, but the good reputation she gave me that day was the thing that made that presentation possible, and a whole host of other things I went on to do, possible as well. 

I know I was a tough student, and lord knows there were days when I’m sure Melissa wondered if I had the sense God gave an aardvark. Actually, that’s probably insulting to aardvarks, but it is a testament to her belief that she could get through and get me to believe the same things about myself that she had glimpsed. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. 

Not Quite Ready to Live…

Not Quite Ready to Live...

I’m not sure why it feels this way, but I’m sure it’s not just me. In fact, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who actually said it first, and hell, that was what, 130 years ago?

Sure, there’s the tired expressions like “life is what happens when you’re making plans” and “life is the journey not the destination.” True to both of those, though not very useful in ridding us of this annoying tickle in our brain stem – the one that nags us that we’re just not LIVING, you know?

I think what Emerson meant, and what bothers me most, is the recognition that the “living” we’re never doing, is the kind that forces us to meld our highest desires and our most basic actions.

We want to be productive, but ‘damn it! the Oscars are on!’ We want to be more connected to our friends, but we can’t put down our smart phones for the person in the room telling us about their day. We want to get further ahead in life, but we neglect to take the steps to make it happen on our own.

Obtaining the authentic kind of living, the only true happiness available, is a process that requires nearly reckless independence from the rest of humanity. It requires that no one else set the docket for your day or your life besides you – even if that means you’re out of the loop on a lot of trivial things.

I don’t mean run off to a cabin in the woods (it’s been done before), I mean one has to reject a whole slate of obligations, or observances of custom in order to pair it down to what ultimately matters. To give those things, and little else, the total time and attention to live an authentic life.

Who gives a damn if you’re fast approaching 40 and there’s not a suitable candidate for a spouse in sight? Are you happy with your life? Do you do the things you’d ultimately love to do and say to hell with the rest? Do you work to make yourself the kind of person you’d like to be? REALLY like to be?

I can promise you this: If you are truly happy – No bullshit, actually, infectiously, enthusiastically, forest-fire-of-confidence-happy, then you won’t have a problem finding a spouse. Or a job. Or a friend. Or a good time on a Friday night.

Because you’ll make those things happen on your own. You’ll decide for yourself what a good time is and won’t have it decided for you by some televised guidos with a penchant for fist-pumping. Unless you like fist pumping, in your heart of hearts, in which case go nuts.

I think the “getting ready to live” is the idea that one day, we’ll just wake up and ‘want’ to; do all the things that are good for us, or what others would like us to do, or what we think we’d like ourselves to do. That doesn’t happen – it just results in more waiting for us to magically align with something we think we want or are told we want.

Don’t wait. Don’t think your going to wake up with a series of immutable desires that compel you to; work out, fall in love with accounting, or go to church three times a week.

Do: focus on what you love and what an actual life you’d die for looks like, and what steps exist between you and that life.

The happiest people around never hide their passion, and give few damns about what anyone ultimately thinks. No way that’s a coincidence.