IMPORTANT LIFE RULES

Sam Biz Card BackI remember my twin boys just learning to play the game of baseball when they were just eight years old. The laughter of the parents when a child who finally hit the baseball and ran down the wrong base line– directly to third base instead of first base.

Then, there was the experience of my twins learning the fine game of soccer. At this age, there was no real offense or defense, rather it was an entire swarm of small bodies chasing the ball, with the only player staying in their respective position being the goalie.

Finally, the basketball game when a child got so excited that he got the ball and forgot to dribble on the way to the basket.

I have coached a number of my children’s sports teams, and learned the importance of learning the simple rules of the game. Initially, coaching involved managing the level of chaos and confusion as children learned the rules of the game. But over time, it was profound that the once-confusing rules become second nature, and I finally watched children play together as a team without a second thought about the rules.

RULES TO LIVE BY

Playing a sport without knowing the rules leads to chaos, confusion, and even injury. Likewise, in your life and in your business, without clearly defined rules, the result is disorder, dissatisfaction, and even harm. Here are some simple rules that can help you navigate life and your business. I hope they provide you with thoughts to ponder and reevaluate the rules in your life and your business.

RULE #1: Family is always first.

Many leaders give lip service to putting family first, but they don’t actually practice this concept by giving their spouse or kids top priority. What does it mean to put family first? It involves redefining success. Do not measure success in terms of career accomplishments, money, cars, or a big house. Rather, success is when those closest to you truly respect you and refer to you as an good example. Practically speaking, make sure to schedule family time before setting your work time. It is far more important to have quality family time than to have work demands that result in the continuous 60 hours per week.

RULE #2: Follow the Golden Rule

Ask three questions about our leaders:

1) Do they care for me?

2) Can they help me?

3) Can I trust them?

As a leader, ask these same questions of yourself: Am I caring? Am I helping? Am I reliable? Set the example to those under you to treat others the way you would like to treated.

RULE #3 Take care of yourself

Doing things for yourself is not a selfish act; it’s a critical and important act. Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola said, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them- work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls- family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

A very dear friend and mentor of mine learned the importance of this rule the hard way, through the trauma of a heart attack and a quadruple bypass. If you are not managing the necessary time to rest and replenish, to exercise, and to monitor your mental facilities, then eventually you and your body will breakdown. When that happens you have no value to anyone around you.

RULE #4 Choose a positive attitude

Happiness cannot be won, bought, or brought to you by another person. Rather, it results from a conscious choice to be grateful and to make the best of life’s challenges. Whatever happens to us, we always have control of one thing: our attitude. Yes, attitudes are contagious.

RULE #5 Always have a plan.

The key to personal growth is to have a beginner’s mindset– remembering when you first started your business. Beginners admit they do not know everything and proceed accordingly. As a general rule beginners admit that they are open, humble, willing to learn and grow, willing to make the necessary changes, and are noticeably lacking in the rigidity that accompanies experience, success and ego.

RULE #6 Always give more than you receive

Looking back over your career, make a list of those that served as your mentor. Everyone at many points in their career ask for help, but not everyone has the capacity or willingness to give and mentor others. When you stop trying to ‘use’ people around you, only than can you learn ways to add real value to your personal relationship with others and only then can your influence truly soar.

WHY YOUR KEY EMPLOYEE JUST QUIT

quit 3If you believe all the headlines on the evening news or in the Wall Street Journal, you’d have to conclude that the US economy is continuing to struggle. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. Employers seem to be reluctant to hire new people to their full-time payrolls, even as corporate cash levels are at record highs.

So, you would probably be surprised to know that more Americans are quitting their jobs today than at any point in the past 4 years. In March 2014, 2.475 million Americans quit their jobs. This has been steadily increasing recently from a low in late 2009 (just after the financial collapse finally bottomed out) from a monthly rate of 1.7 million quits a month. Why are almost 2.5 million Americans a month these days – or about 30 million a year – willing to quit their jobs?

People Quit Bosses, Not the Company

If you want to keep the most talented members of your team, it’s time you started looking in the mirror and realize the biggest reasons why people quit have to do with You.

1. Have you overloaded your best people with too many responsibilities? A lot of companies in America, there have been waves of layoffs over the past 6 years. In cut after cut, there’s a constant job staffing question: how do we get the same amount of stuff done with fewer employees to do it? The simple answer has been to get the remaining employees to do the jobs of 2 or 3 old employees, in addition to the regular job responsibilities they used to have. And then a lot of bosses never revisited staffing responsibilities 3 or 4 years later. It’s time to take a fresh look at who is doing what in your group and probably redistribute how work is getting done on the team. Your best people need to be doing higher level stuff, not just getting lower level stuff done. Your best people will quit if they’re just continuing to be asked to do the same boring stuff years later.

2. Are you a micro-manager? A lot of bosses get promoted because they’re perfectionists. They were able to get a lot of work done in their old jobs to get noticed. Now, in their new jobs, they keep wanting to make sure that whoever’s doing their old job is doing it just as well as them. Plus, they are into all their direct reports’ business as well. Having your fingers on the pulse of what’s going on (or not going on) in your group is good management. But, at some point, you cross the line into micro-managing. Your worst people are probably happy for you to tell them what to do constantly. But your best people will be driven up the wall by this tendency. They want to know you give them a task and then enough rope to let them do it rather than doing it for them.

3. You’re never around. The opposite of a micro-manager is a drive-by manager. This is the boss who’s perpetually never in the office. They’re not around. They don’t check in. They give you a job to do and then check back with you 3 months later on if it’s done yet. Lots of bosses protest that they have an “open door policy” for their people to come in and talk with them whenever they need to. But, if you’re never around or – when you are – you zip in to grab something off your desk and zip back out or get on a conference call for an hour and then take off to a meeting, that’s not going to invite a lot of your staff to come in and shoot the breeze with you.

4. You’re not in touch with how some of your hires or promotions are driving your best people nuts. It’s human nature to want to be around other people we like and trust. Why would we choose to be around – and hire – people we dislike and don’t trust? However, we usually like people who like us. Even though we think we’re good at spotting people sucking up to us, it’s awfully tough when you’ve got a direct report telling you how great you are. Big problems arise when we promote based on who we like instead of on merit. One promotion or hire like that is ok, but two or three can sabotage a team’s morale. If you’re out of touch with who’s really talented on your team and who you’re promoting or hiring, it’s a matter of time before your best people tender their resignation. Why stick around if the bozos get promoted?

5. You’ve never given your people a sense of where they can go in their careers. Nobody takes us aside out of college or even in business school and teaches us how to sit and talk with our direct reports about upward career progression. As a boss, most of us just want to make sure all our work gets done. But how much do you care about getting that next promotion? It turns out that your people care about it just as much. So take the time to talk to them individually. Ask them where they want to go in their careers – it turns out many won’t have a clue but will appreciate you showing an interest. Talk to them about how they can get there, including what kinds of experiences and successes by them would make them stand out to your bosses.

6. You run terrible meetings. Even one of the most successful CEOs in the world today, Google’s Larry Page, wasn’t born with a keen understanding or respect for being a good boss as this account describes. Page – a former doctoral student at Stanford, when he started Google – thought the ideal way to run meetings was to instigate a big argument among a team. Whoever had the best idea, he thought, would rise to the top. Instead, he created anarchy and a lot of hurt feelings. There are plenty of other way to run ineffective meetings including never calling them or letting them go on and on with no real action items coming out of them. All these approaches are tremendously morale-sapping.

7- You communicate that you care more about yourself than the team. As a leader, you’ve got to show your reports that you have done in the past or would be willing to do now anything that you’re going to ask them to do. If you seem above it, you’re likely going to turn their support away from you. You’re going to communicate to them that you care more about yourself than you do them. It’s tough to win back their support after that. So, show them that you care about their career progression more than your own. Show that you want the team to win more than you want you to win.

8- You’ve never given them the big picture vision of where your group is heading or you are constantly changing the big picture. Some bosses are great at strategy but they’ve got their head stuck in the clouds or like to change the group’s strategy every quarter. Some bosses are about as strategic as a banana. Either extreme is bad and debilitating for your staff. As a boss, you’ve got to tell the group where their North Star is, the direction they’re heading in and why. Then, you’ve got to give them everything they need to get there. Sometimes business conditions change and the strategy changes, but that should happen infrequently. If you worked for yourself as a direct report, what would you think of the strategic direction you’re setting?