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Making Tough Decisions – NOW

Insights From Kevin | March 13, 2018 

So often we become aware of a problem, or a business issue, or having hired the wrong employee, or some other business mistake. For some unknown reason, we put off dealing with the issue in the moment that we discover it. In hindsight we can all clearly see that when in previous times we’ve waited to handle these issues, things got worse. We all know this. In each case it seems that the issue got exacerbated. Did we think it would resolve on its own? No, of course not. It never does. Never. So why do we wait? What does it take to deal with something with a sense of urgency?  

Everyone knows that when you deal with the issue completely, you’ll feel better. You lighten up ~ freedom of expression returns, integrity is restored, taking actions becomes easier, the alignment of action is restored. Things start working again when the company’s core values are alive and well once more.

Awhile back I made a big mistake in hiring someone ~ I hired the wrong person. The mistake I made was not following the process I have in place for successful hiring. Because I knew the person, I made an exception to what I know works and didn’t follow our process, as we’d been friends for many years. It was a very costly mistake ~ it cost a six-figure dollar amount of salary and well over a year’s worth of productivity in our firm. Worse ~ it cost me and the people in our firm our freedom, our creativity, and our time.

In my weak attempts to deal with the issue by doing anything other than what I knew I had to do, I was literally avoiding dealing with it and not communicating. This is the opposite of the design of our company’s culture. The impact of tolerating this became pervasive. And even though I knew, and the employee knew, I had made a really bad choice, I couldn’t seem to let it go. I kept trying to fix a situation that would never work.  At the time I didn’t realize how much I had begun to accommodate the person. After some time, I began to notice that there was a cloudiness (a lack integrity). Having things work began to take an enormous effort. 

Jack Welch, who was the CEO of General Electric, ran the most successful company in the world at one time. Welch classified managers in four “types”:

Type I

This person shares our values; makes the numbers—sky’s the limit.

Type II

Type II managers don’t share our values; they don’t make the numbers—gone.

Type III

This person shares the values; misses the numbers—typically, another chance, or two.

Type IV

This is the toughest call of all. Type IV is the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers; the “go-to” manager, the hammer, who delivers the bacon but does it on the backs of other people, often “kissing up and kicking down” during the process.

At some point I became aware that the person I had hired fit Welch’s Type II description of a manager ~ they didn’t share the values and they weren’t producing results. The person seemed to operate with an entitlement mentality ~ “what’s in it for me” or “what’s the minimum I can do” seemed to drive their actions. Once I acknowledged the truth about the situation, my choice was clear. They had to go. But it took me awhile. BIG MISTAKE.

So, what is it that keeps us from acting now and making the tough decisions? Maybe what’s at play here is hope ~ the imaginary lure that something might intervene without our efforts ~ that the problem will solve itself. You and I both know that that’s not going to happen. What is required is powerful and decisive action. 

Running a successful business requires making tough decisions. Effective action takes honesty and courage. It’s usually uncomfortable. It’s usually hard to do. But that’s what it takes. I once heard that Colin Powell said:

“Bad news is not like wine ~ it doesn’t get better with age.”

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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Dr. Choe

Insights From Kevin | March 20, 2020 

Years ago, my boss at the time was a man named Werner Erhard, whose name many of my friends would recognize. He introduced me to a masterful practitioner of an Eastern style practice called Sugi, which is a form of Acupressure developed in Korea. The man’s name was Dr. Choe, and he is a master of the science and practice of the art of Sugi. Dr. Choe is a world-renowned healer who has treated dignitaries around the world, including Emperors, Popes, and other notable leaders. Over the years, I got to know Dr. Choe and as our relationship developed, he began to visit my home in Denver and stay with us for a week at a time. During these visits, he would treat people in Denver – including many of my friends who I invited for one of Dr. Choe’s extraordinary healing “treatments”. Each session lasted 40 minutes and involved deep tissue manipulation, stretching, and even walking on one’s back (which I always jokingly referred to as “Korean Surfing”). 

The people who received the treatments found them remarkable and amazing. I personally witnessed several “laying of the hands” that produced unadulterated miracles in people I knew who had their conditions “disappear”. Though Dr. Choe was an older man, he kept a rigorous schedule for his daily treatments – he would get started at 8am and finish up at 6pm with a few breaks.  We would have dinner together in the evening and he would sit in the living room with us just talking about various things. He was a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and in the course of these evening chats he imparted some interesting and insightful things. I loved these precious conversations because I learned so much from him. Once, we were chatting about health and well-being as I was trying to understand how his work with meridians in the body worked so powerfully to free up energy and disappear blockages. 

I asked him one night, “Dr. Choe, why is it that some people eat correctly, exercise regularly, drink lots of water, and in general have a healthy lifestyle, yet they can get very sick and in some cases keel over dead in their 30’s from heart failure, while others can live a life of reckless hedonism, eating bad food, smoking, drinking, and surviving on little sleep and live to be 100 years old?” His answer startled me…..he said, “because of worry.” I asked him to say more. He explained that as a rule of thumb, people of means are often less healthy than people who have less possessions and monetary wealth for the simple reason that poorer people have far less things to manage, think about, and worry about. He made his point personal by pointing out that we had two computers, two cars, two televisions, a larger house than most and all the things that go with that. Each thing we accumulate takes attention and care, upkeep, maintenance, and all of those individual things create a certain level of anxiety for a person; more things to worry about. He contrasted this with someone who has half as many “things” and made the point that they only have to be concerned about half as much. He drove it home by saying, “If I have very little possessions, I go outside, I have the sun, I have the earth – I have everything!” but not the worry of those things; I am free, I am relaxed I am not worried. 

Dr. Choe said that the word disease literally means dis – ease (not at ease), which he said translates to worry. People who live a simple life are more at ease, less worried, and therefore experience less dis-ease and as a result less stress. He said that stress is the silent killer and that those who worry are prone to stress and therefore they worry and attract disease. He pointed out the obvious benefits of prayer and meditation to quiet the mind, reduce stress, and act as a catalyst for letting go of worry. He said prayer, meditation, moving the body, being in nature all help people to be less stressed and not worry. He went on to talk about the practice of gratitude – being grateful for what I have, for my health, and for the moment is a key deterrent of a worried existence.

Don’t worry – be happy – be grateful – be free.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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“If it’s Not on Your Calendar ~ It Doesn’t Exist and it’s Not Going to Happen”

 Insights From Kevin | November 2, 2017 

People have “too much to do”. Ask anybody, they will tell you. There’s more to do than you could possibly ever get done. However, consider this ~ you’re only going to do what you’re going to do today. That sounds like it’s obvious, but most people don’t relate to what they have to do as if that’s the case. Their to do lists are full of things they think they should do or that they “haff” to do, and they think that if they have it on the “list”, they’ll get to it. You’re not going to do all the things you “haff” to do just because it’s on a list. You’re really only going to do what you actually do. The key to what you’re going to do is knowing that actions take place in time. Anything you’re going to do takes a certain amount of time, therefore if it’s not on your calendar it’s not going to get done and it won’t happen. If you don’t schedule real time on your calendar to do the task, including scheduling an appropriate amount of time to do it, it’s almost certain that it won’t get done. Everyone has a long list of things they want to do, should do, and “haff” to do. But when you get into that list, all the things on the list are not necessarily the things you’re going to do. Most likely the only ones you will do are the ones you put on your calendar. What’s on the calendar has the highest likelihood of getting done. 

The key to getting things done is to use your calendar, and then do what it says in your calendar. Have you ever noticed you never do what you don’t do and you also never do what you should do because it should be done? You only do what you do. And if you didn’t do it, there’s a good chance you didn’t plan the time to do it ~ the time to do it wasn’t allocated on your calendar. Plan and schedule the things you’re committed to doing ~ distinct from the things you want to do, should do, and “haff” to do. No one has ever done what they want to do, should do, and “haff” to do unless they actually did it.

Giving up the myth of the unending list of things to do, which occurs as a burden, is a powerful step forward in productivity. Being selective and rigorous about what goes into your calendar is the key. When you schedule items be sure to allocate the proper amount of time for every aspect of the task. Otherwise it won’t get done. Though this won’t guarantee that the item will get done, it will significantly raise the likelihood if it’s “in existence”, i.e. in your calendar. 

I am impeccable about my calendar. Given what’s on my plate, I have to be. Therefore, I have a practice in place: I schedule what I’m going to do, and I give enough time to get it done. For example ~ I have a meeting at 10:00 AM downtown. On my calendar is “9:15-9:30 pre-meeting briefing”; “9:30 – 10:00 drive time to meeting” (it only takes 15 minutes to get there); “10:00 -11:00 attend and participate in meeting”; “11:00 – 11:30 drive back to office”; “11:30 – 11:45 debrief meeting”.  That gives me the time to 1) be briefed, 2) travel, 3) be seated (as opposed to rushing in at the last moment), 4) participate fully in the meeting, 5) return to the office and debrief my notes from the meeting, and 6) send a follow-up to the client. So, while I am only going to a one-hour meeting, in reality ~ in time ~ it takes 2 and half hours to complete everything about that meeting. People don’t live like that. 

I have been to thousands of meeting at hundreds of companies. More than half of those meetings start late, and people come in unprepared. They didn’t brief any preparation, and likely didn’t allow enough time to get to the meeting. They’re rushing in to get seated and they’re not prepared to start. The result is they waste others’ time. The meetings are ineffective. Your time is precious. And their time is precious. You get paid to produce results with your time. Relating to and managing your time is a valuable asset that will make you more effective and more productive. Use your calendar as your best tool for effectiveness and productivity. It is an essential skill for any manager and anyone that intends to be a leader. You’re only going to do what you do. And if it’s on your calendar there’s a much higher likelihood you’ll get it done.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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How Houston is Different

In the last 2 weeks after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, we have witnessed massive protests, demonstrations, marches, and rallies that have taken place across the nation in virtually every major city in the country. These protests are aimed at raising awareness about the injustices local police commit against black people in their communities and injustice towards African Americans in general. It seems that the tragic and inhumane episode in Minneapolis sparked a “tipping point” of intolerance at which people can no longer stand by and allow such awful events to happen.

Additionally, and concurrently, we saw in almost all the cities where the protests took place that they were accompanied by violence, rioting, arson, looting, physical injuries, and murders of both police and ordinary citizens. Many major cities have suffered untold physical and financial damage to both small and large businesses, to public property, to public buildings and monuments, and to infrastructure. This is unfortunate because much of the message has become blurred by the violence and threat to ordinary citizens.

There are several theories and rumors floating around about why these demonstrations and protests have turned so violent and destructive. Many say that the agitation served as a fire starter for the explosive violence and chaos which came from the outside and was organized by groups such as Antifa, extreme liberalist groups, and White Supremacist groups. Reports in many of these cities where the destruction was most devastating say that many of the most violent and antagonistic actors were not from the respective communities and that they came from other states, sent in and funded by outside organizations and factions ,determined to cause chaos and destruction in these cities in an effort to dismantle the structures, agencies, and services that preserve safety, law and order, and a sense of normalcy for the cities and their citizens.

In fact, there are many reports in cities across the country where pallets of bricks and rocks were strategically delivered and placed in areas close to where the marches were to take place. That suggests that these materials were being supplied to cause destruction and havoc. There’s lots of conspiracy theories and hypotheses about who, why, and how all of this background activity took place, but regardless of what you believe about this, the fact of the matter is that the result was very destructive and harmful, with rioting, looting, burning, and injury to people, property, and streets in America. As this chaos unfolded it was easily observable that in some cities it was becoming “out of control”, it was ostensibly being “allowed to happen”, and very little was being done to stop the rioting, looting, and destruction occurring in these major cities. In the face of all this pandemonium, there was at least one major city where this level of shattering damage did not really erupt: Houston, Texas, the 4th largest city in the nation.

George Floyd was from Houston. He grew up here, he participated in the community, high school sports, got himself into trouble here, but at the end of the day he was recognized as being from Houston. So there was always the possibility of trouble erupting here, but it didn’t. Why?

As most people know, most of the large cities in the United States are run by Democrat mayors. In the case of most of the cities where the destruction has happened, there is a Democrat governor in place for that state. Texas is an exception to this with our Republican Governor Greg Abbott, although our mayor, Sylvester Turner, is a Democrat. He is different in the way he handled the threat of havoc – instead of clamping down, resisting, or avoiding hearing the message, he embraced it fully.

Houston’s Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, is also a different kind of police chief. If you spend a lot of time out in public attending Texans games, Astros games, or Rockets games, there’s a good chance you’ll run into our Chief of Police. He’s very visible, approachable, and friendly. I’ve met Art several times and he’s true to the phrase “you couldn’t meet a nicer person.” You also get the sense that his friendly style is in no way a sign of weakness, because his strength and resolve are evident as well. When all of this erupted last week, true to form Art Acevedo went out on the streets. He talked to the people. He made it clear that he was not only supportive of their protests, but that he was going to march with them. And he did. He literally marched in the street with his fellow citizens as part of the protest rally. So did Mayor Turner. The two most visible public figures in our city not only endorsed and supported the First Amendment right to protest, they embraced it, got behind it, and let the citizens here know that they were with them.

But our local leaders do explain it alone. Again, the question is: why didn’t it erupt in Houston? As the awareness, concern, and fear grew about what was happening across our nation, many people from other cities asked me, “how’s it going in Houston?” And my response was, “There’s virtually nothing like you’re seeing elsewhere happening here. Yes, there are protests and marches, but they’re not violent and destructive. No burning buildings, yes a few flare ups, but almost nothing in comparison to what you’re seeing elsewhere.” In fact, the only scenes of destruction and looting took place at a Forever 21 store in the Galleria (Houston’s major shopping mall), where the glass windows were shattered, and at a downtown Verizon store, where the glass was smashed and the store looted. That and a few damaged police cars are the extent of the damage in Houston.

My friends around the country would then ask why I thought this was the case. One guy asked, “What is in the water there that has people act differently?” 

My response was that there are three reasons things. The first is, people here are part of what I’ll call the ‘Texas culture’, which is very mannerly, polite and respectful. People say ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ here in addition to ‘y’all’ – they really do. At the heart of that culture is a respect for each other, each other’s property, and each other’s professions, no matter what profession. Now here’s my take on Houston: people didn’t come here for the weather and they didn’t come here for the view. I personally lived in a condo on the beach in Northern California, where I could watch the sun come up over the ocean off my balcony, feel the sea breeze and smell the salty sea air. I joined a consulting firm and was asked to live here for 1 to 2 years as a partner – that was in 2001. I’ve never left, and I probably never will. Since people didn’t come here for the weather and the view, they came here to work and make a living, to take care of their families, and to afford themselves a decent lifestyle. And people work very hard to have that here. Having worked for it, they certainly wouldn’t do something to destroy it, because they know what it took to get it there in the first place. In conclusion, people have respect for each other and each other’s property.

The second reason, I said, is that there is an implicit respect for the law here. Sure, we have crime because it is the fourth largest city in the country – but not the kind of crime nor the level of violent crime that you see in a city like Chicago and other large cities. People here don’t have tolerance for criminals and criminal behavior. The laws are tough, and if you buy the theory that people only respond to force and coercion, it leans more that way than letting people run amok. There are consequences for breaking the law and they are enforced quickly and decisively. People back up the police here and, by and large, they trust the police to do the right thing; and generally, they do.

The third thing is that the Texas gun laws allow people to buy, own, and use guns. Not just rifles, but handguns and the notorious assault rifles. That leaves the possibility that anyone you encounter might be a gun owner and, more importantly, that they could be in possession of a gun. Committing a violent crime could have serious consequences depending on when and against whom you commit the crime. That summarizes for me the question “what’s in the water?” It is those three things combined: 1) manners and mutual respect, 2) respect for the law, and 3) call it the vigilante effect – the possibility of ordinary civilians enforcing the law as the situation arises.

Now, compare the lack of violence, the actions of Houston’s leaders, and the culture in our city with what happened in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, their leaders, and their culture. Big difference. Big gap. In those cities, the people were “talked at” instead of “talked with by their city leaders. Policies were issued and dictums delivered, orders were given. That, for me, explains how come in the fourth largest city in the country there was virtually no problem. I’m not saying that Houston is perfect, we’ve got lots of work to do. But I can tell you this: the rule of law is respected here; people are treated with respect and dignity by public officials; and people treat each other with respect and dignity in our communities. I think the cities in the United States could learn a great lesson by studying what’s happening here compared to what happened in their city.

I’m proud of our city. Well done, Houston.

Peace.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com

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High-Performance Teams

Insights From Kevin | July 11, 2017 

Seventy percent (70%) of all strategic program initiatives fail. That is a brutal fact that is well documented and proved. Having worked with hundreds of organizations, we have discovered that much of the problem occurs in the way people work together ~ the way they communicate to and from each other; the way they support one another. The level of integrity that’s present amongst the team and in the project, as well as the way in which they each regard one another, are all elements on which the success of an initiative depends.

We have developed five essential practices for building High-Performance Teams:

1 ~ Authentic Listening

This is way easier said than done as most people think they are good listeners ~ not true. Authentic listening requires the ability to get in another’s world; not just their words, but the place from which they are speaking and understanding what they intend to say. Two good habits to develop this skill are: 1) give the speaker your undivided attention and 2) repeat back to the person what you heard and what you think their intention is in what they said. This gives the speaker an opportunity to confirm or correct your feedback.

2 ~ Talking Straight

This means getting things up on the table that are difficult or uncomfortable to address ~ and to do it in such a way that people are left feeling respected, honored, and empowered. At the same time, it’s essential to get the issue (the “elephant in the room”) dealt with head on. It’s a fine line between confronting something that is difficult to talk about and doing so with the sensitivity it requires ~ this takes courage and grace at the same time.

3 ~ Working as a Team

Watch any professional sports team that is working successfully and this becomes apparent. It requires a “pit crew” mentality. Each person on the team backs up, supports, and empowers the others. Their win belongs to each of them. “Your win is my win. Your loss is my loss.” They work together in such a way that extraordinary results take place. They back each other up and they support one another in difficult situations and circumstances. No one gets toppled by little things. Nothing gets in the way. 

4 ~ Honoring Your Word

If this one doesn’t happen, you can forget the rest. This is simply working towards doing what you say you will do. It’s doing what you know to do, what’s expected, and what you know is right. And everybody knows how to do this ~ the question is, do they do it? Fundamental to this is cleaning it up when you don’t do what you said you would do. Clean it up immediately and move on.

5 ~ Being Complete

The practice of being complete means that you don’t step over the trash. If something needs to be said, dealt with, or cleared up, it gets dealt with right away. The team understands that when you operate on top of issues, resentments, and things unsaid, everything comes to a grinding halt. This one’s about getting things complete so they get clear, and there is a level of appreciation maintained by developing the practices of doing so. In sports you see the guys in the dugout or on the court “high-fiving” each other with each little win throughout the game. This is no different than validating success.

Summary

By having these five practices in place you can build a high-performance team. We’ve seen that when teams have these five components working actively, the likelihood of success turns around dramatically from 70% likely to fail to 85% likely to succeed. We have a proven track record for successful project implementation when these five principles are utilized and present.

Kevin Cullen is President of Leadera Consulting Group, specializing in producing breakthrough business results. If you want more on this conversation or the firm, contact us at Leadera Consulting Group.

Kevin Cullen: kcullen@leaderacg.com, cc: acook@leaderacg.com