Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gold and Experience

Have you ever panned for gold? I have and I can tell you that it’s not the easiest endeavor. We’ve got a gold mine about 20miles from our house. It is old, dusty and has a tremendous amount of history. We brought some of my family members there over the summer because they have some gem mining as well, which is more targeted toward kids.

Panning for gold takes hours and hours of dedicated work. You fill your pan with silt and continuously swirl it around while letting more and more water and sand wash out. When you get to the bottom of the pan it’s normally covered in gold dust. Aficionados will collect the dust in small vials. Once in a while someone will come across an actual “chunk” of gold. This piece could be as big as the head of a pin but worth a fair amount of money. We came across a guy whose goal was to mine a whole ounce. He figured that would earn him a few thousand dollars.

The bottom line is that in order to actually make money at gold mining you must put in the time. Very rarely can someone find a few thousand dollars worth on their first attempt. The same is true with experience. I know only a few people who have been wildly successful in a short amount of time without experience. We all wish we could be instant winners and prevail in the success lottery – unfortunately that’s not reality.

In order to be taken seriously you must have a certain amount of experience. One of my mentors says that after ten years at something you can do anything. So what is it about experience that opens the doors to new horizons? People don’t listen to, trust, or take advice from someone who’s never been through some pain, and odds are if you’ve only been at it for a short time your pain threshold is pretty low. You have to pay to play.

The frustrating part is going through the process. I interned at a large office furniture manufacturer in the Learning and Development arm of HR focusing on improving team performance on the shop floor and facilitating high level leadership training for managers. I LOVED my internship and wanted to continue doing it after I graduated. Unfortunately I had little to no experience and my boss reminded me that very few people would actually listen to a young, twenty-something teach them how to be a better leader. I needed experience. Looking back I definitely understand his point. There’s no way I would sit down and listen to some young kid whose biggest challenges the last 10 years were controlling his acne, getting his dad to let him borrow the car on the weekend, and showing up to his Marketing 101 final on time after a major kegger the night before. Experience is king – period.

So, my young, idyllic friends, what do you do if you’re on the short end of the experience stick? You work and work hard. Your time will come, and when it does you’ll be more prepared than anyone else for your moment of greatness. Keep fighting and failing and learning because before you know it, you’ll have enough gold in experience to cash in and do what you want to do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

They is YOU

My team is not perfect. In fact, we’re far from it. A few things drive me crazy, and one of them is passing out faxes and seeing paper pile up on the office printer. You see, we work in an open environment where everyone is in the same room without the barriers of tall cubicle walls. You know how it works. Everyone goes to the same office machines every day and sorts through what’s theirs while leaving the rest piled up. It’s very Cogger-like if you ask me, and I’m not a fan. Of course the 80/20 principle applies to this where 20% of my people pass out 80% of the offices faxes and completed print jobs. Guess what? It drives the 20% crazy that the other 80% can’t figure out how to do this correctly, much less find it in their being to actually put forth the effort to knock out this simple task. Finally it came to a head about a year ago and I had to address it. Below is the email I sent to my crew (the names have been changed to protect the innocent). Take a peek.

It’s been awhile since I’ve sent out a lovely reminder, so here goes. When you print something, stand up promptly, turn, walk toward those machines against the blue wall. The document you selected to print is coming out of the cream colored machine. That machine is our PRINTER. It is not electronic paper storage, a document organizer, or Jarrod’s girlfriend. When you have retrieved said documents, turn and return to your seat, have a conversation with a teammate or have a thumb war with Greg (he’s got freak-like thumbs). If the printer does not produce your document, check to see if it is out of paper. If so, look in the cabinet under the machines, select a package of paper, and begin to fill the printer. If you are unsure about the paper filling procedure, one Jon “Paper Samurai” Smith would love to take you through his 3 part training course Paper Filling and You: Grip It, Rip It and Stick It.

The other machines, which are more of a darker gray are our fax machines. Those are 1990’s high-tech communication devices. They not only allow you to send documents electronically but they also receive documents as well. When you go visit the machines on the blue wall look to see if either fax machine has documents waiting to be retrieved. If so, take them gladly and begin to distribute them to the team. It not only helps those around you, but it also helps you get to know our business a bit better and saves Jack the effort of actually needing to get up and move around. If the fax machines are out of paper, please perform the paper filling procedure outlined in the paragraph regarding the printer. Ironically Mr. Smith has a follow up training course entitled The Fax Machine Needs Paper Too: 3 Ways for Fax Machines to Establish Zen-like Status. .

Unfortunately we are seeing these tasks performed by a small contingent of our crew vs. the whole team. Having the attitude of “THEY need to hand out those faxes” or “THEY need to get those documents off the printer” is actually acceptable if you can decipher the true message, which is…THEY IS YOU. That’s right, all of us have another name and that name is THEY. Let’s try it together. Sarah says, “They need to grab those faxes” translation, “I Sarah Jones need to grab those faxes and I will gladly do it because after all, my name is THEY”. See how that works? Yeah, that’s right, it’s magic! So, let’s get our heads screwed on straight and do the right thing.

Happy Wednesday,


Friday, January 8, 2010

Well are you or aren't you?

Are you a Cogger or a Commando? Here's some more help:

Coggers fight change – Commandos change in order to fight

Coggers cling to their box – Commandos blow up theirs

Coggers have tunnel vision – Commandos detonate the tunnel

Coggers experience Sunday night blues – Commandos have never heard of Sunday night

Coggers embrace mediocrity – Commandos raise standards and expectations

Coggers satisfy the minimum standard – Commandos drive extraordinary results

Coggers expect the predictable – Commandos expect the unpredictable

Coggers are a part of the machine – Commandos constantly improve the machine

Coggers live in a safe environment – Commandos reside in an environment of risk and unpredictability

Coggers define themselves by throughput – Commandos define themselves by results

Coggers enjoy limited responsibility – Commandos thrive on endless impact