The Power of the Other

I recently read one of the most encouraging, powerful, and yet, self-evident, books. The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud is the great reminder that our culture has, yet again, misguided us. Especially here in the United States, we value independence. We celebrate people who appear to succeed on their own. We aren’t, however, told the entire story.
What you know instinctively, though, is that your best and worst seasons in life weren’t entirely about the market or your skills. Your best and worst seasons were also about who was with you. For better or worse, your friends and family were playing a large part in the results of those seasons and whom you were becoming. I know that my greatest accomplishments and challenges overcome have been, and will be, in close relationship with others.
In his book, Dr. Cloud identifies four approaches, or corners, to connection. In order for you to truly succeed in life, we need to intentionally avoid the first three corners and seek out the fourth corner. His four corners are:
  1. Disconnected, No Connection – I see this corner often in men who say, “I can pull myself up by my bootstraps. I’ve got this!” Or, you might be new to a town or job. Instead of seeking true connection, you maintain your independence, further isolating yourself.
  2. The Bad Connection – Because we are all made for connection, you might find yourself connected to a person who makes you feel inferior, guilty, or something is wrong with you.
  3. The Pseudo-Good Connection – Where Corner Two connections leave you feeling bad, Corner Three connections make you feel good. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? You just might find yourself surrounded by people who only tell you what you want to hear. Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes?
  4. True Connection – This is the corner where you want the best for others, and others want the best for you. As Dr. Cloud puts it, Corner Four connections, much like a Navy SEAL parachuting into hostile territory, ask themselves and seek the answers to three questions:
    1. Where am I?
    2. Where is the enemy?
    3. Where is my buddy?

You can recognize these Corners in just about every aspect of life. And, I believe we will do ourselves and our loved ones well to seek out and cultivate true connection with a handful of people…people who will help us arrive at a better destination.

Question: How has a healthy relationship helped you achieve greatness or overcome a challenge?

How to Know What the Next Move Should Be

I just realized that my last blog post was almost 8 months ago! Oh my goodness…where has the time gone?!?! Since I last posted anything here, life has been a blur. For starters, I was elected as Irwin County’s newest County Commissioner. My business has continued to grow, and we recently brought on four new team members. As time continues to fly by faster, my business becomes more complex, and I am asked to make decisions that impact many people, I made a serious investment late last year in my leadership. I hired a coach.

What kind of coach, you ask, did I hire? I hired an executive coach. This person has so many experiences from the business teams she’s led. And, today she works with a large leadership and small business consulting company. Needless to say, she is highly qualified. I’ve worked with tennis coaches before, but I’ve never worked with such a personal type of coach. Much like a tennis coach, my executive coach starts with the fundamentals of my game. The only difference being that my executive coach’s first assignment was reading about and then writing my values and vision instead of hitting ground strokes. My executive coach’s goal is to help me lead my business towards the vision and preferred future she has helped me craft. In the midst of uncertain times, she has helped me chart a course and clearly communicate it with my team. But, the beautiful part of working with my coach is that she has helped me gain perspective and ideas for bringing clarity to my situations.

In his book, Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge, Dr. Henry Cloud makes the argument that leaders, much like any other closed system in the universe, are doomed for disorder without an external input of energy. In fact, leaders need energy and guidance in order to maintain order within themselves. Energy keeps us going, and guidance points us in the right direction. You can find this energy and direction from trusted friends, mentors, and books. I have a couple of close friends who help me navigate personal and business decisions. And, my executive coach is now also providing energy and guidance as I navigate complex business decisions.

My coach is a serious investment. But, the energy and guidance I gain in leading my team far outweigh the costs. If you’ve ever wondered what the next move should be, I highly recommend you work with a coach. You’ll be glad you did.

And, here is a great resource and another super helpful resource.

Question: What is the best quality of your favorite sports coach?

Managing by the Numbers

I recently discovered a new way to help lead my company. I wish I had discovered this technique 10 years ago when we started my company, but I thought everything was just intuitive back then. In fact, I probably would have dismissed it as too simple since it involves only basic math I learned in middle school. But, this new technique is helping me see and solve very complex opportunities. It is simply, Managing by the Numbers.

I dismissed accounting (sorry Mr. Pat!) for a long time because I didn’t understand it. How can something based on basic math provide powerful insights? Money comes in, money goes out. What I failed to realize, though, is that while I am on the ground floor spending and receiving money, there is a forest’s worth of activity going on around me. And, I can’t see any trends by spending my time in the forest. By understanding how to use Balance Sheets, Profit and Loss Statements, and Cash Flow Statements, I can zoom out and see the entire forest for the trees in my company. I can use this basic math to understand my company’s trends and opportunities.

In his book, Managing By The Numbers: Understanding and Using Your Company’s Financials, Chuck Kremer, Ron Rizzuto, John Case tell the story of a fictitious office supply company and demonstrate the power of these three statements. The owners purchase the company from previous owners, operate through a couple of years and then start reading their financials. As they learn to use these reports, they recognize trends. They also recognize their greatest opportunities and their greatest weaknesses.

Now that I have a better appreciation for accounting, I am putting this knowledge to work as I lead my company. I have already spotted a few of our largest opportunities and risks. I have also started recognizing how to better motivate my team. I can’t help but wonder what the small business community would look like if each owner had a better understanding of his or her financials. What would our local governments look like if they knew how to use their financial statements? Heck, what would our state and federal governments look like if they also used them? I can’t help but imagine that we would all understand what is profitable and what needs improvement; we would all have money in the bank; we would really plan for the future. Managing By the Numbers is a great way to learn and start using our own financial information. If you own a small business or farm, or if you lead any organization that spends money, pick up a copy of this book now. You, your employees, owners, and constituents will be glad you did. I know I am.

Why Most Business Owners are not Entrepreneurs and What I’m Doing About It

The following is a repost from my previous blog…enjoy!
Have you ever discovered something that changed the way you approach each and every day? I recently discovered a book, and I want to share my discovery with you in hopes that it can help you as much as this book is helping me and my company.

The book is The E-Myth Revisited. Written in 1995, Michael Gerber outlines a way of operating a small business that sets you up for success today and success for your business long after you are gone…and you will be gone one day. The book starts with the idea that most businesses are the result of an “Entrepreunerial Seizure.” The owner is usually a great Technician…a great accountant, chef, mechanic, farmer, etc. During the course of his seizure, the Technician decides to start his own business. “Instead of cooking food for someone else, why don’t I open my own restuarant?” And so, the business begins.

What he doesn’t realize, however, is that two other personalities must also come to life in order for this new venture to succeed. A Manager who is responsible for payroll, paying bills, and ordering next week’s ingredients. And, the Entrepreuner who is responsible for charting the business’s future course. We each have different personalities, but most founders are Technicians – NOT Entrepreuners.

My greatest take away from this book, though, is the idea that “the true product of a business is the business itself.” By applying this concept, I begin working ON my business, not just IN my business. I create systems for every aspect of the business as if I were going to create 1,000 businesses just like the one I arrive at every day by using a Business Development Process of Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration. If you wold like to learn more about the book, here is a detailed summary.

So, what does all this mean for Muscadine Products Corporation?

To begin building on our mission of Delivering Health and Hope, I need to create our organizational chart, create job descriptions for each position in the chart, and then create written procedures for every process to ensure that all responsibilities are quantified and orchestrated as we have designed. Within this one sentence lies countless hours of work. But, I know that they are hours invested working ON my business, not just IN my business. In the end, though, we will have a strong company that can operate without me and succeed for generations to come.

If you lead a team, run a small business, or farm please pick up a copy of this classic book.

One quick question: Are you more of a Technician, Manager, or Entrepreuner? I’m definitely a Technician.

I’d love to hear from you.

Why and How I Hire Rock Stars

Ever seen a rock star at work? We’ve all seen a rock star on stage and on TV. I’m not talking about that kind of rock star. I’m talking about those folks who are ready to step up and do what it takes to finish a job. They are friendly with customers and coworkers. They do work that matters.

I have to brag just a little… I have an entire company full of rock stars! Here’s why and how I found them.

Several years ago Matt suggested I read John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. This book changed my life, and it changed my approach to leadership. The entire book is a must-read, and it shook me up starting with the first law shook. See what you think:

The Law of the Lid – Leadership Ability Determines a Person’s (and I add, Organization’s) Level of Effectiveness.

When I read this book, MPC was in a bad financial situation. We recently lost one line of business, and I was scrambling to replace it.We were working with some new customers who were demanding lots of attention. I felt dumped on and helpless.

This first Law was the swift kick in the pants that I needed. I set the lid for my personal effectiveness. And, as the CEO of MPC, I was the determining factor in my company’s effectiveness. I devoured this book, and I kept reading in order to keep growing & pushing my Lid.

I later read Good to Great by Jim Collins… also at Matt’s suggestion! This book drove home the point that placing the right people in the right seats in an organization makes the difference. Vision, systems, and remarkable products are a must. But, having the right people in the right places comes first. People, after all, help fulfill the vision, systems, and products.

Then, I read Michael Hyatt’s blog post, “What Should You Look for in the People You Hire?” He lists four virtues that I have since adopted as our own. His claim, and now my experience, is that if you look for these virtues as you recruit and bring on new team mates, you will start to build your own team of rock stars.

Here are the qualities I look for:
1. Humility: An humble person says, “I am not the center of the universe. What can I do to help?” An humble person accepts correction and realizes that no job is beneath him.
2. Honesty: An honest person says, “Here’s the good, the bad, and ugly truth.” You can bank on the fact that he will do what he said. Honest people help build trust within the organization, which helps everything go further, faster while lowering costs.
3. Hungry: A hungry person says, “What’s next?!” She is intelectually curious. She is prepared to win. She makes me run faster and continue growing. She pushes the Lid.
4. Smart: A smart person says, “Here is the problem and solution.” He knows what to do when he walks in the room…which might also include asking a question. He is book-smart and street-smart. He knows what he knows. He knows what he doesn’t know. And, he realizes there are things in this world that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know.

In summary, people make the difference. Borrowing from Michael Hyatt again…. If building a great team is like a scavengar hunt, you need a list in order to find the treasure. Hiring people who are Humble, Honest, Hungry, and Smart is helping me find the rock stars and build a great and enduring organization.

Question: How would you describe your ideal candidate or coworker? I look foward to hearing from you in the comments below!

5 Ways to Stop Babysitting at Work

Do you ever have trouble getting the people who work for you to do what they are suppose to do? Do you ever find yourself needing to just do things yourself since everyone around you can’t get the job done? Do you ever stay late at work doing the work others didn’t do for you? Do you feel like a baby sitter for adults?

I did at one time, but now I don’t.

Here’s why.

I know that I won’t do this forever. I will retire. I will die. Someone else will do my job, and I want them happy to come in after me.

For everyone’s sake, please do this:
1. Focus your time where are most Compentent because the less you do, the more you accomplish.
2. Show Courage because courage establishes leadership.
3. Be Clear when you speak and send that email because uncertainty demands clarity.
4. Coach those around you because coaching enables a leader to go farther, faster.
5. Live with the purest Character because character determines your legacy.

I didn’t make up this list. I am borrowing it from Andy Stanley’s book, Next Generation Leader. If you want the people you spend 40+ hours per week to accomplish more AND be happier you are at work than not, please get a copy now and become a Next Generation Leader.

PS – This is one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read and is my manual in leading MPC.

Question: Have you ever worked for a controlling leader? What lessons did you learn?

I look forward to hearing from you!

My New Job

When I was in school, I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to design and build things. I wanted to be an engineer. I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t want to work in the medical field. And, I definitely didn’t want to sell things for a living. When I thought of the sales business, I pictured a slick salesman in a suit offering something I didn’t really need for a price that sounded too good to be true.

Fast forward 13 years since Georgia Tech, and what do I do? I am in the business of sales!

In his latest book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Dan Pink defines sales as the act of “moving others to give up what they have for what you have.” When we think of sales in this light, I agree with Pink that most of us are involved in the sales business. We are just in the business of non-sales selling.

As I lead my company in processesing regionally grown fruit products for people around the world desiring a healthy, natural life, I must sell our vision and goals to my teammates.

When I go home, I need to sell vegetables at dinner and a regular bed time to our boys.

Chances are, you are probably in the sales business, too. If you ever need to convince co-workers of an idea, you are in the sales business. If you are teaching students how to diagram a sentence, you are in the sales business. Or, if you farm, you are in the sales business.

Because of the variety of situations where I need someone to give up something they value for something I have, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others is my new sales handbook. I know the new ABCs of sales:
– Be in Attunement
– Be Bouyant
– Be Clear

And, I also know what to do when selling:
– Pitch
– Improvise
– Serve

So, as it turns out, I don’t mind the sales business after all. I actually enjoy it…especially since I don’t have to wear a suit to work every day!

I have a question.

Does your work involve convincing or persuading people to give up something they value for something you have? If so, you might want to pick up a copy of To Sell Is Human and get into the new sales business.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.