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If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.

If you don't execute, you don't eat.

This sums it up perfectly. EXECUTION is ALL that matters. Apologies to the delicate sensibilities out there, but all the warm fuzzies of best intentions won’t sell SQUAT. Positive thoughts and “hard work” alone won’t move product or make a difference if nothing actually, HAPPENS.

If you make a difference, a REAL difference, then something should be DIFFERENT because you were there. Sounds simple, right? Are the material conditions on the ground different because of something you DID? If so, you made a difference. If not, hate to break it to you, but we’re still waiting.

I’m flummoxed and fired up when a solid sounding strategy never makes waves. It stays perfectly conceptualized inside the minds of the creators and on the tongues of the braggarts and blowhards – but never encounters the harsh light of actually being birthed into the world.

I get it. The world is messy and there are question boxes to outnumber those in the Mushroom Kingdom. There are as many threats, too. If you’re scared, if you can’t get over those fears to bring something to life, please do the rest of us a favor and politely move out of the way. There are things to make and worlds to conquer and markets to impact.

Repeat after me: “If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.”

You can’t sit around talking about how cool it would be to kill a wholly mammoth, and survive. At some point, one of you is going down. Stop talking and pick up a spear. Stop telling me about your responsibilities and tell me about what you changed – what DIFFERENCE you actually made.

Your Silence Isn’t Helping Anyone…

Your silence isn’t helping anyone. Least of all you.

Sure, it fits with all the things you’ve been told. That it’s better to “fly under the radar” and to “live to fight another battle.” The problem is you aren’t looking for any battles. And you definitely aren’t looking to live another day – because you’re not doing any living right now. At least not the kind that matters.

I’m not talking about rock climbing and cliff diving and all the risky things one does with one’s life that might provide a rare dose of adrenaline. I’m talking about the day-to-day living that would do a lot to make you happier and more successful. It’s easy to be daring when jumping out of a plane with a trained instructor strapped to your posterior, but another thing altogether to open your mouth at the next meeting and say the unpopular thing that needs to be said.

Forgive me, I’ve been reading/listening to an insane amount of Seth Godin lately, and like all good philosopher poets (we’re calling a “marketing guru” this now? – I am) they have their ONE. BIG. THING. And Godin’s is seductively simple: Make Art. Cause a ruckus. Be bold. Sure, there’s a lot more, but this is the overarching summary in my eyes. And it’s a summation that rings big ass church bells in my noggin.

As a business leader and overall fan of the human condition, I’m constantly motivated by learning what motivates people – or as I’m finding out – what holds them back. My current project is leading a team of 40+ in the daily operations of an off-campus Student Housing community near UCF. It’s exhilarating and every bit a seething mass of awesomeness. At the same time, a big part of my role is as teacher to a number of them whom are still in college and finding their way in the world. This is the messiest part, and also my favorite.

On certain days (read: the best days) I pontificate a lot. My passion gets to run free and I become a whirling dervish of know-how. I try to start with underlying principles and work up from there to the more concrete issue at hand. If you don’t know the “why” you won’t care about the “how”, I always think.

With that in mind, and a good dose of Godin in my ears, I’ve come to believe the biggest restraining force working on anyone is the fear of being wrong. No one likes it and frankly, we’re not taught how to deal with it and accept it. In fact, we’re taught to avoid the whole possibility entirely:

  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Everyone has their own opinion
  • Who are you to say?
  • There’s a time and a place and this isn’t it. (Never is!)
  • Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. (this is my favorite)

It’s all part of the same thing. Sit down. Stay quiet. Hide your art. Hide your knowledge. Hide your passion. No one can crap all over your dream if you don’t actually do anything to make it concrete. This extends past dreams to mere notions of “wouldn’t this be cool…” so we don’t dare do anything we’re not explicitly told to.

It sucks. And I’ve known this for as long as I can remember. I’m done with it.

I’ve had a great career thus far and I owe it entirely to my inability to shut my pie hole. I say the wrong things at the wrong times. I break rules and conventions when they don’t suit the mission and act as obstacles to our goals. I don’t do this recklessly, but do you realize how many rules exist because some idiot not following it could do real damage?

And failure has been a big part of it. I’ve screwed up royally for sure. Mostly, I’ve finished with far more success than not, and in failing, have cleared a new path of others who could benefit from my failure. It gets seen, it gets celebrated. “Whoops, I did something stupid guys – but this is why I did it.”

So speak up. Stand up. Be counted on. Be a part of whatever it is you’re already a part of instead of just dipping in your seat to avoid getting called on. Guess what? They know you’re there and they know you’ve got nothing to say. Isn’t that way worse than being thought stupid?

Prepare. Learn. Think. And sit up straight next time, lean forward and open that mouth god gave you. Your living doesn’t happen on the weekends or in a mountain – it happens wherever you are, everyday.

Worst case? They fire you for looking/thinking/saying something stupid. You move on, get a new gig, and you are in a better place for it. And most importantly you’ve learned something.

Your silence? No one wants that. Unless a movie is on. Then by all means shut up.

Screw it! Or, Service is the Small Things.

If you know me, then you know I’m constantly fixated on the little things that should give businesses an edge. Wherever I am I want to think deeply about the nature of the organization and find the areas we can attack to get a leg up on our competition. Not every area of a market is one in which you want to compete head-to-head, so you pick your spots. The fronts you always fight on are the same everywhere: cleanliness, marketing, operations, etc…

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And, of course, “Customer Service” always seems to be one of those areas that companies want to improve. I cringe when I hear “we really want to focus on customer service this year” as this is often the hallmark of the bureaucrat. The type that only cares about metrics of things like hold times and ever more manuals and binders. Piling rules on top of rules, salting the earth so nothing can ever grow again. 

It’s not that customer service is an ignoble pursuit, or a futile one. It’s that it is often completely misunderstood. The same mistakes occur again and again and precious few realize it and go a different path. The most common mistakes?

  1. Rigid adherence to scripture- The people actually charged with providing service are rarely taught how to think. They are taught what to repeat: company dogma. Dogma never explains the philosophical underpinnings for policies, or at least the realities that created them, it just says “we can’t do that.” 
  2. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it – Sure, you’re sorry that you can’t waive this fee, or return their money, or honor this deal, but are you empathizing? Often times people know the answer before they ask, but they want you to soothe their feelings. Saying “sorry” and meaning “sorry” are two very different things.
  3. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” – Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self Reliance” is a great example of what we should be teaching in a service industry. Not ALL situations are the same. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for someone, focus on what you can do for them. Don’t be a bureaucrat. Be a person with a brain and a desire to solve problems.

The other day I was asked by a team member if we’d put a few screws in a wall for a Resident that wanted to hang some pictures but lacked a drill to do so himself. Now, we’ve been building-the-Hoover-Dam-busy of late, but this would only take a few moments. I’m glad we didn’t reflexively tell the Resident “no” as that would have been just an awful waste of an opportunity. I’m glad for moments like this because they clarify what we’re about and what we’re not. It’s a reminder to teach what we believe.

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If you take away anything from this post I hope it’s this:

Hire smart, motivated people. Then teach them HOW to think about your business the same way YOU think about it. Let them do what needs doing.

Rinse & repeat as needed.

That’s it. Free thinking, capable individuals who know the mission will always outperform robotic “representatives” droning out “I’m sorry” for a misapplied policy.