trust

“I Intend To”

Bureaucracy is a bitch.

What few people realize is that as an upper level exec, in a lot of too many organizations, there’s virtually no natural incentive to approve… well, anything. If you don’t approve requests or initiatives, what can go wrong? You don’t get some (rare) praise for accomplishing something – big deal. But if you approve something and it goes wrong??

As a young Community Manager, if I had a broken hot tub that needed a $1.6k repair and it was over my $500 spending limit, I’d need express written approval.  No biggie, right? I’ll just email my boss and get an answer.

After multiple follow ups, weeks later, there’s no answer beyond the yawning chasm of silence. Why wouldn’t they just tell me ‘no’ if that’s what they wanted? Because not answering the question meant they were the safest they could be.

See, there’s risk in saying yes to things. What if someone comes along later and says you screwed up by approving that thing which could have been done cheaper, better, differently, etc…? What if I get yelled at? What if… something something bad feeling?

I wasn’t alone. A LOT of my cohorts’ bosses did the same thing. Ignore, brush off, delay, deflect, slow roll, forget – anything to not have to take a stand on something that should be easy because the fear was always at their neck that they’d get ripped for it. They wanted express permission from the owner before they’d be ok saying yes. What point was there for their existence then? We could just get the permission from the owner if that’s all it was.

When the issue finally reached crisis level, the owner had the foresight to implement the system that Simon mentions at the 33 minute mark in this video: “I Intend To.”

The way it worked was, if we needed to do something and couldn’t get an answer, we’d fire off an email with “IIT:” in the subject line. If we weren’t told NO within 48 hours, we were free to do it. It changed the onus from getting approval to bosses having to say NO if they felt something shouldn’t be done.

As you can imagine, things improved immediately. Bosses who didn’t have good reasons to say no, besides their personal fear, could tacitly approve something without lifting a finger. Oh happy day!

And don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say there shouldn’t be checks and balances and proper vetting of capital requests. By all means, I’d include how many bids I’d received, what the nature of the issue was, what the repair proposed was, why that was a rational way to proceed and what the timeline would be. I’d proactively try to answer every question I could get to make sure it was in line with our company’s values and goals.

Bottom line or TL;DR: There’s all kinds of benefit in empowering your people as opposed to teaching them to subsist on compliance. Your people aren’t the problem, your environment, your culture are the problem.

Eliminate bureaucracy, breed commitment by increasing your team’s involvement.

 

Another great design by Danae McDermott

To write a better Mission Statement, have a better mission.

Planning is invaluable, but plans are useless.

Planning is invaluable, but plans are useless.

For the last year we’ve been discussing our Mission and who we want to be as a team. What’s the imprint of our collective souls and what words do we want to live by, faithfully? It’s not an easy question and it’s taken us the better part of a year, with regular meetings, to arrive at this:

In everything we do we seek to simplify the complicated. Because nothing is faster, we trust our teammates and clients freely and implicitly, and we treat them that way. Doing so builds a safe environment where communication is free-flowing, open, and honest.

Through this environment we continually work to innovate our operational systems to ensure the best possible user experience (UX), from first tour through graduation. Knights Circle creates an exceptional Student Housing experience by focusing on people, and a ceaseless desire to make their lives easier.

A few thoughts relating to our mission statement and how we went into the process of creating it:

It’s focused: We wanted something that wasn’t too long or too all encompassing – if you have five priorities, you have no priorities. We wanted to focus on systems because we all could and everyone had skin in that game. From the bottom up, our organization has an interest in making sure our systems work properly every time. Our clients’ satisfaction is directly wrapped up in our systems, as are our front line team members. If things work right, you’re generally happy with the service – both inside and outside the operation.

It’s not permanent:  I think too often people tend to assume that a mission statement needs to be god speaking for all time. Not so. It’s a living document, much closer to a constitution – this is how we’re assembled and for what purpose. If we no longer feel as though this speaks to our highest purpose, and there’s another revelation that we want to enshrine, then change it we will. The good news is we don’t need anything as unwieldy as a continental congress to do it.

It advises action: A mission statement that can’t help guide your choice in actions isn’t worth the time it takes to read it. If we’re going to say that we trust everyone implicitly, what’s that look like in action? Are there things we’re doing now that suggest we don’t trust people? For example, some managers have required doctor’s notes for absent employees who’ve called out for appointments. Requiring the note says fully “look, we don’t really believe you and we want to see proof – we don’t trust you and we have to protect ourselves from you.” That’s not at all the message we want to send, so we stop doing it. The same with our clients – if they want to switch rooms due to an unsolvable roommate dispute, requiring the jumping through of hoops for documentation in order to offer it, it says “We don’t believe you and we don’t trust you. You’re trying to get over on us and we’re not going to have it.” That was never the intention of course, but that’s the resulting feeling to the client.

 It’s honest: How many times have you looked at a company’s stated mission only to shake your head? The soaring platitudes are exhausting and immediately erode whatever trust you may have had. If an organization can’t be honest with themselves, how can they be honest (consistently, institutionally) with anyone else? We wanted to say something we all believed in and that we all wanted to live by. The best parts of US is our ability to work together and our shared desire to provide a great experience. We were honest with each other that while we’re pretty damn good at this thing, we’re not perfect and we’d like to get closer to that. Breaking it down we realized focusing our energies on perfecting our systems would have a ripple effect positively touching every other aspect of our business; Happier clients, happier Team, and more success.

Another great design by Danae McDermott

Another great design by Danae McDermott

We started with Why: A giant hat tip to Mr. Simon Sinek for his inspirational TED talk. If you’re not familiar, I can’t implore you enough to check out his work (Talks, books, consulting services, etc…) as he’s directly responsible for how we chose to approach this formulation. In short, Sinek advises that great organizations start with Why they do things, then How, then What. Most though do it the other way around and this gets it all wrong, eliminating any of the inspiration and identity that could be had between the client and the company. For an example, ours is as follows:

WHY: We hate needless complication. We like things to work seamlessly. We think we can simplify things better than anyone else because we understand WHY they ultimately should be that way.

HOW: Because we trust each other, and our clients, we’re able to be honest about our business and our shortcomings in our systems. We strive to fix our systems to eliminate institutional defects.

WHAT: An exceptional student housing experience. This starts with everything working the way it should. The exceptional part is that we’re also exceedingly nice and warm, happy people who love what they do and each other. Since we work in a system that values people and making things work, we’ve got lots of goodwill in our hearts to treat you like a rock star and to go out of our way for you. We’re not scared of you, or hiding from you – we want to delight you.

We think this should be a good overall statement for this coming year and I’m impressed with how the team has taken to it with enthusiasm. I’m confident that a year from now, we’ll be writing a different version that recognizes our shifting focus while retaining our core Why, and that’s how it should be. Involvement breeds commitment, and that’s one thing we have plenty of.

What’s your mission? How did you get there? Does it still serve you and your team?

The irony would be humorous if it weren't so disgusting.

Don’t be a Lumberg – The Sacred Duty of All Leaders

Yeah. I’m posting a commercial. It works.

It works, unfortunately, because we’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now.

“Ah! You see this bulk? This bulk is great. Mmmmm. Look at it go.”

If you’re responsible for other people you have a sacred duty to not waste their time. You have an obligation and a trust to make sure that anything you require from them, that pulls them away from their mission, has value.

If you’re thinking about having a meeting, please ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do we want the participants of this meeting to come away with?

2. What’s the most efficient manner in which to do that?

If you can’t answer the first, or the answer is convoluted, then wait to have a meeting until the answer is clear. If you’ve answered the second question, but that’s not what your plan is – change your plan.

The irony would be humorous if it weren't so disgusting.

The irony would be humorous if it weren’t so disgusting.

Lastly, if you know the answer to number one, and you don’t know the answer to number two, seek outside help and ask members of the team. Involvement breeds commitment – the bored members of your team that are eye-rolling their way through meeting hell will jump at the opportunity to become part of the solution.

If you’re a manager, by all means, keep doing as you did before. You’re not reading this anyway.

If you’re a leader, you understand and respect people and you want to protect them. There is no greater evil than wasted time – start by doing everything in your power to kill it.

Always Be Closing – How?

If you’ve ever had anything to do with sales, then you’re likely familiar with Alec Baldwin’s famous scene from the film, “Glen Gary, Glen Ross.” If you’re not familiar, and you haven’t seen it, just stop right now and watch it. Easily one of the best uses of seven minutes you’ll ever have in your life. Just click here. You’re welcome. 

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In the scene, our dapper and dashing hero (who’s with us from Mitch & Murray) excoriates the all-star cast, extolling the virtues of ABC and AIDA. ABC, of course, is short hand for “Always Be Closing.” Closing, also being a salesman’s ultimate goal.

Because only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted

Always be closing means: Everything you do, every handshake, door opening, please & thank you, sales pitch, head nod of understanding, all of it, is done for one purpose: TO CLOSE THEM. Get them to sign. Car salesmen understand this better than most and they have a secret expression they teach to new recruits: “The feel of the wheel, will seal the deal.” Part of the reason they’re always trying to start out with a test drive as quickly as possible is because they know emotion will take over. “I look so good behind the wheel, oh wow, feel how she handles? This is WAY better than my car.” 

A lot of lip service is paid to closing. Every single manager I’ve come across in the past 15 years has used the word and the majority have done so incorrectly – or at least incompletely. Everyone knows it’s important and thus can’t be avoided – but few spend their time or resources teaching how to do it better or studying their technique. And for one important reason…

Because Closing is where winning and losing happen. Closing is the final arbitrator: you either got the sale or you didn’t. You’ve gone all-in and the cards are turned up – did you make your flush? 

Most people avoid losing. Certainly more than they pursue winning. Given the choice, better to not really push it to a decision, right? I mean, if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen on its own, right? That’s garbage thinking.

Everything we do speaks, as my illustrious co-worker told me recently. Everything we do should be in the service of doing our jobs, whatever they be, as well as we can. My job is chiefly focused on sales (55%) and more importantly, the success of the 15 sales people that report up to me. How do I help them execute like a black-hooded-hatchet-man? 

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Closing means asking questions. It means caring enough about the client to want to solve their problem, even if the solution isn’t your product or service. It means valuing your clients’ time, attention, and trust. Closing is vowing to maximize each interaction, using every word and gesture to build a rapport so you can solve the mystery of what they need and how you can help them find it. If it happens to be your product/service, great! If not, that’s fine too! They’ve ostensibly come to you because you’re an expert and they’re in need of your knowledge – that’s a sacred trust and should be respected. 

These are the things we need to breakdown for our teams. We need to get to the “WHY” of what we do. We need to make plain and clear that we’re here to solve problems, to solve mysteries, and to create relationships. Any person or team who can deliver those three things will find no shortage of success. 

Simon Sinek – Your job is to take care of your team.

Great video of Simon Sinek talking about the Circle of Safety – why we should take care of one another and why it’s a leaders highest obligation to make sure that they take care of their team. It’s a shame I missed this as it was filmed in downtown Gainesville.

What all Great Leaders Do…

Simon Sinek gives about the best description I’ve ever seen on the powerful effects of Trust.

I really don’t want to say too much here, best just to take a little while to listen to this while you’re typing and soak it in.