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The Straight Poop on Communication

Sometimes the junior high boy in me can't help it.  I see something, and it just makes me giggle.

A few weeks ago, The Des Moines Register ran a "You should get to know" series. Unfortunately, they ran it adjacent to the continuation of an article from the first page about manure run-off environmental issues. They are two completely unrelated stories, but put them together and ... well... oops.

Sometimes we run into that issue when we're branding our communication. We send an email to one person, and we forget that we just sent an email to somebody else that provides a conflicting view. We tell everybody they need to work hard on the project, only to have executives send out a message that layoffs will occur once efficiencies (i.e., your project) are put in place.

When we communicate a message, we need to take the time to look at the other messages going on around it. What have we communicated in the past? What we will we communicate in the coming days? What are others communicating around us? Who is sending supporting messages adjacent to ours? Who is providing messages that detract from ours?

Sound like simple questions, right? Probably more complex of a challenge than we think. If we were truly the center of the universe, any other message wouldn't matter.

So before you hit "send" on that message, ask yourself what "manure" might be next door stinking up your communication.

A is for Accelerator

Bobprosen My friend, Bob Prosen, is at it again. He's devised a great small business leadership program which will accelerate your small business into the stratosphere!  How do I know?  Well, I've been friends with Bob for years, read his book, talked with him numerous times, and used several of his concepts myself.

Now he's created a training program that is sure to help you.  So if your small business has stalled out, and you're looking to turn things around now that the economy appears to be picking back up, Bob is the teacher I'd recommend. He will show you things like prospecting intelligently for new clients, measuring the RIGHT things for results, handling difficult employees (and other people), and about any other challenge you can throw at him.

I'm excited he's doing this.  Bob is full of passion to help business leaders succeed.  I think you'll be equally amazed at the things you can learn.  Things like how to rapidly increase performance and profit in your business... things like exact strategies that it takes to grow your sales, improve your leadership effectiveness and accountability, decrease employee turnover and increase your profits regardless of economic conditions.

Well, Bob is going to show you exactly how you can do this through some amazing actionable advice and training that you can implement into your small business immediately. 

I got permission from Bob to invite a the readers of my blog to view this special training series (He usually charges $10,000 for this type of thing, but he wants some feedback on the program.) 

To get access to this training just visit this page: 


You won't believe the step-by-step detail Bob put into this video -- as well as 3 others in this series.

I think he's giving away way too much for nothing, but he told me he just wants you to be able to go out and implement these strategies in your own business immediately.

In this free webinar Bob will personally teach you:

1 -- To set the “right” objectives for the three most important parts of your business

2 -- The most important business metrics that will enable you to achieve your objectives

3 -- How to evaluate your personal leadership effectiveness – Do you have what it takes to lead your organization to achieve extraordinary profitability

Again, just visit this page to view the video training (you can even download it to watch later): 


After watching the training make sure you get on Bob's priority list to be notified when his breakthrough Small Business Accelerator program becomes available.

That's it, hope you enjoy the training!

(P.S. You guys know I never go all sales-y on you unless I truly believe in something... just like I never do a book review unless I really believe in the book. This guy is for real and so is the opportunity to add some real business value in 2011!)

Accomplishments are a Stitch

Quilts After over 20 years in the business world, much of it in a project management and/or consulting capacity, I think I just stumbled upon the "holy grail" of business knowledge this morning.

The one question I field the most in my career is what one skill an existing or up-and-coming leader needs to have in his or her back pocket to be successful and significant.  (As many already know, it really takes an arsenal of skills to achieve this accomplishment, but humor me on this one and we'll say it can be boiled down to one skill.)

Are you ready for this?

If you encounter an executive who wants to take that ONE training class that will set him or her apart from the pack, here's what you should tell them:


Yes, you read that right: Q-U-I-L-T-I-N-G

As you've noticed, I've been spending a lot of time with my mom recently, and in her desire to "seize the accomplishment," she likes to tackle her favorite hobby: quilting.  So this morning, we cut out some pieces of fabric for a quilt she's making for my niece.

That's when it hit me.  If a leader can master the art and science of quilting, running an organization should be a cake walk.  But let's break this down a bit:

  • Process - at its core, quilting is the process of taking materials and resources, breaking them down into component parts, and reassembling them into something of value.  Isn't that what any organization with a mission and a customer base aspires to do?
  • Resources - any quilter would love the opportunity to pick out her (or his) own fabrics; however, being a very resourceful lot, they also know how to make the best of whatever scraps they have on hand. (They also know which scraps are useless and get rid of them or put them on backlog for a future project.)
  • Pattern - once the fabric is chosen (or thrust upon them), quilters pick the best pattern or set of patterns for their masterpiece.  Experienced quilters have a plethora of patterns at their disposal, and while they may have favorites, can draw from many different styles to fit what's best for the purpose and material. There is no "six sigma pattern" to solve every quilting dilemma.
  • Precision - I watched my mom cutting out squares of fabric; she was exact down to an eighth of an inch. There was no room for variation. Measure twice; cut once. I made a couple of goofs, but she was very forgiving while I picked up the fabric cutting skill to her specifications.
  • Tracking - quilters know how many blocks they'll need, and they tend to track progress block by block. They know what "done" looks like for each stage of the game.
  • Details - even when blocks are assembled individually, and then pieced together, there are still so many other things that make a great quilt.  Things like batting and backing and sashing and stitching all contribute to a wonderful finished product.  Quilters can pick out a quality product by look and feel; they just know.
  • Individuality - every quilter has a special touch, that pride of ownership that makes a quilt uniquely hers (or his). It may be a special kind of thread, or a contrast of color, or a signature move, but there is something about a quilt that makes it identifiable with its creator.
  • Appreciation - quilters know how to appreciate somebody else's handiwork. While a quilt is an individual accomplishment, quilting is a social act.  Sharing patterns, fabric ideas, etc. has been passed down from generation to generation, through sewing circles and state fairs, from friend to friend.  A true quilter knows how to appreciate the accomplishments of another without tearing down or belittlement.
  • Legacy - if done well, quilts outlive the quilter. They serve as gentle reminders that accomplishment is its own reward, that comfort is earned through hard work, and that the longest and greatest legacies are made, not bought.  Quilts are a reminder of our heritage.  They bring us joy that no corporate bottom line could ever achieve, show us wisdom that the highest priced consultant could never attain, and compel us to a creativity that intertwines simplicity with complexity.

So the next time your C-suite asks for some training on doing their job better, the next time a junior executive wants to head off to that retreat in Maui, the next time the boss wants to attend just one more workshop, hand them a needle and thread and send them to the fabric store.  We'll see if it improves their leadership skills.

And to my mother who has made and shared so many wonderful quilts, I am eternally grateful... especially for this latest lesson you didn't even know you were teaching me this morning.


Hugs05 One of the things I've learned through the years of dealing with cancer (my parents and my own) is the importance of having a strong advocate.  A cancer patient can be on considerable medications, and chemo/radiation can knock even the strongest on their tail-end for days/weeks/months.

Right now, my sister and I are serving as Mom's advocates.  There's not a day that goes by where we're not talking, comparing notes, making plans, or discussing options.  (NOTE: this sometimes irritates our mother, who is notoriously independent and strong, but we've learned to be very open and honest with her in our communications.)  Having people in your corner who can ask tough questions of an oncologist, who can fight with insurance companies, who can keep track of the number of drugs or medications - well, this is an important team to have.  Sometimes it takes having multiple pairs of ears in the room to fully absorb what the doctor is telling us.  We've often started our post-consultation debriefs with "Did you hear the same thing I heard?"  Then we pick apart the most important parts of the message and start over again with more plans and action items.

Moreover, even advocates need advocates.  I have been BEYOND blessed to have so many people in my life offer to help with all kinds of things.  We have back-ups for watching our girls.  We have people who have offered to bring us meals.  We have people with whom we can just share a good cry or a primal scream of frustration.  During a recent rough bout, when I was not having a good night dealing with the overwhelming nature of everything, my 11-year-old daughter came into our bedroom and informed me that if I ever needed a shoulder to cry on, she was pretty good at crying, too, when she was sad and would be there for me.  The best advocates can be those who have gone through it already.  I know a lot of people who have gone through the loss of a parent in the past few months.  Even the best of intentions cannot replace "I get it; I've been there."

Advocates also have to be there as constant encouragement to the patient.  We're their cheerleaders, advisors, surrogate worriers, mouthpiece, earpiece, and hand-holder.  Karen Putz, who has always been one of my favorite bloggers, tweeted me with a great article about cancer.  There are so many forms that cancer advocacy can take.

But this line of thought leads me back to my "day job" - when you are trying to seize the accomplishment, who are your advocates?  As my cop friends would say, who has your back?  And equally important, for whom are you serving as advocate?  Whom are you helping to seize their accomplishment?  In our society of "lone wolf" and "rugged individualist" mindsets, we forget that life's accomplishments (at least the ones worth accomplishing) are team sports.

In The Way of Explanation

Wow... did I really just go a whole month without blogging once?


Of course, it's been a wild month.

In the way of explanation, I'll be brief:  my mom's cancer has returned, this time in the liver.  The past seven weeks have been a blur of doctors and driving, labs and listening, chemo and coping, numbers and numbness, coordinating and communicating, help and hurt.

And it's also been a month of saying "no" ... a lot.  No to lunch invitations.  No to inquiries about speaking engagements.  No to potential consulting.  No to book marketing.

Because saying "no" to these things means I can say "yes" to my mom and my family right now... and I wouldn't have it any other way.

That's part of the ability to seize the accomplishment. It's called prioritizing. And prioritizing isn't about just putting things in order and trying to do them all. Prioritizing is about stamping various items with a "no" (or at least a polite "not yet"). Prioritizing is telling various things/opportunities/people that they are just not as important as other things/opportunities/people. Priorities are driven by values. They're driven by experience. They're driven by identity. They're driven by relationships. They're driven by insight.

The only outstanding question about YOUR priorities is whether they're being driven by YOU.  You see, there are a lot of people out there who think they know what YOUR priorities should be better than YOU do.  That's when you have to be tough and remember how to say "no."  There are a lot of ways to say it; just find a way that works for you.

It's a new year, and I hope and pray 2011 is a happy and healthy year for all of you... and that it's well prioritized.  It is, after all, something you control.

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