Providing The World With The Ultimate Customer Experience

Lucky's Blog

This blog has been created to keep our customers, partners and friends up to date with pertinent information relating to our industry, technical or otherwise. It will also keep everyone up to date with M.C. Dean's ever expanding capabilities. Thanks to all my followers and I hope you find this blog both helpfull and informative. Best Regards: Lucky Drake

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Last Blog From This Site

To all my loyal followers. I want to thank everyone for all their feedback, support, and great comments. I am moving this site due to corporate restrictions and I don’t want to compromise the company’s brand. I invite all of you to continue following me at my new personal blog site http://glenluckydrake.blogspot.com/ so we can continue our great conversations about business, customer service, and leadership. I plan to leave this site posted for as long as possible to allow all my followers to find my new site. Hope to see you there and thanks again for all your support.

Best Wishes,

Lucky Drake

Being the Conductor

Let me start off by saying, this is not an intended pun. In the title I said, “Being the conductor”, I am not referring to an electrical conductor, as many may think who are in my same industry. I am referring to a musical conductor. This article came from a conversation I had with one of my managers a while back. I was telling my wife about it and she mentioned what a great illustration it was, so I decided to share this with my followers, I hope you enjoy.

One business unit I had overseen continued to struggle financially, so I went to have a conversation with the business unit manager, to see how we could improve the fiscal performance of his group. For the purposes of this article I will call this manager Stan.

Stan was a dedicated hard working manager. He would work on average 75 hours a week, yet his division was still struggling. One thing about Stan was that he was not a conventionally trained business unit manager. What I mean by that is he didn’t have any formal college or professional training. He managed to work his way up through the field, a hard route to go no doubt, and a testament to his tenacity.

Over the past several months, when I would have conversations with Stan, he would always be out in the field or on projects with his guys. He was definitely a boots on the ground kind of guy. Who could blame him? The field forces are who he could relate with best, and it was where he felt most comfortable. His team respected him greatly, and the customers loved him. However, the financial performance of his group continued to falter.

I scheduled an entire day to spend with Stan. We started off by going through his paperwork and analyzing the financial reports to identify where the problems were, and to start brainstorming on solutions for improvement. Throughout the morning, Stan had some great ideas on how to increase productivity, and in turn increase profits. However, every time I would bring up metrics or processes to put in place to measure and reinforce the improvement, I would get the same answer, “I don’t have time for that”. I explained to Stan that, “you have plenty of time if you would stop spending all of your time in the field.” I further told him it was time he realized that he had to put down his tools and start managing the outcome, not being a part of physical effort.

Stan told me that he couldn’t leave the field because nobody could do what he did. This is probably one of the most common statements I have heard over the years. The truth is, most anyone can do what we do, but most people will be happy to let us do it if they have a choice. That is to say, rarely will someone interrupt you from doing their job for them.

I asked Stan to come with me and take a break for lunch. As we sat eating lunch, I kept drilling Stan as to the real reason why he couldn’t let go of the field piece and start planning and managing. Finally, just as we were finishing up lunch he broke down and told me, “I don’t like the office part!” He went on to tell me that he likes the satisfaction of completing a project with his hands and when he is done, there is something tangible to show for it. The office work is an unseen, unappreciated, part of the work and when you are done there is nothing to show for it. At least not anything anyone will remember a year from now. He then looked me right in the eye and said, “You’re a musician, don’t you get a better feeling playing music rather than listening to it?” I was set aback for minute by this analogy. But then I thought about what he said.

I then said, “Stan, let’s look at the example you just gave. You are right I am a musician, and back in the day I loved playing music in front of a crowd. But if we are going to use this analogy, listening to the music wouldn’t be the appropriate parallel. You have to think of yourself as the conductor of a symphony. It is your job to get all of the musicians to play in perfect rhythm and harmony for a successful performance. No matter how great the individual musicians are, without a talented conductor to lead them, they will not come together and no one will appreciate the talents of the orchestra. Furthermore, you said that there wouldn’t be anything tangible to prove what you had accomplished a year from now. Using that same analogy, do people remember the name Beethoven, or the name of the third chair viola in his 5th symphony?”

To put together beautiful music, it takes the conductor, the musicians, the gaffers, the event staff, all the way to the parking attendants. No one job is more important than the other, because if one person doesn’t do their job well the whole production is at risk.

I believe that Stan left the meeting with a better understanding and a whole new outlook on his role as a manager. While Stan now works at a different company he is a very successful senior project manager and has developed in to a great leader. To this day when I see him and I congratulate him on his success, he still waves his hands around and tells me he is just the conductor of a great orchestra.

Footnote: For those of you who are in the electrical industry the same principle applies. How effective are electrons if they don’t have a good conductor? Just had to throw that in there…LOL

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Road Trip

I can still remember the first vacation my wife and I ever took. We were just married and decided to take a three day weekend to Lake Okeechobee. We lived in South Florida, so it didn’t seem too far, and it should be easy to keep the expenses down. You see at that time we were, to say the least, struggling. We had a total budget for the trip of about $70 dollars, which for us represented an entire year of saving and cutting expenses.

My wife and I were so excited about taking this trip we were like two little kids eager with anticipation and excitement. Our plan was to leave right after I got off work on Friday, travel up to the Lake to set up camp, and stay through Monday, which happened to be a holiday. We had borrowed a tent from a friend since we couldn’t afford luxuries like hotels. I mean think about it, we had to borrow a tent.

I can still remember that Friday, the day went by so slowly, I thought it would never end. But, finally the end did arrive and I raced home. My wife had just arrived home from her job and we quickly threw things together and jumped in the car and set out on the three hour drive to the lake, to our very first vacation.

We arrived at the lake around 7:00PM and broke out the tent to start setting it up. The first thing we noticed was that we had no instructions on how to set up this monster of a tent. You see this wasn’t a modern day tent that sets up in 10 minutes. This was an old school tent with complicated pieces that had to go together a certain way, and in a certain order, or it would not work. After about 30 minutes it started raining to really complicate things. By 8:30PM the sun was setting and swarms of mosquitoes were draining us of quarts of blood by the minute. Completely aggravated and starving, we gave up on the tent and huddled in the car. Being that it was July in Florida, it was over 100 degrees in the car with the doors closed, so we decided it would be a good idea to start the car and leave it running with the AC on. It was pouring outside and all the food we brought needed to be cooked on an old propane grill we had borrowed from the same friends who had cursed us with the tent, and no instructions. Considering the pouring rain, we knew there was no way we were going to eat that night. We soon realized we had made one other big mistake! While we were trying to set up the tent we had left the car door open, now we were trapped in a car with 100s of hungry mosquitoes. As the car started cooling down we drenched ourselves with bug spray and tried to get some sleep, hoping tomorrow would be a better day.

The next morning we woke up, turned off the car, and stepped outside. The first thing we noticed was that our tent had become a nice little wading pool from the previous night’s storms. Frustrated, we decided that we would hit the showers and try to wash off the mosquito spray, only to realize that we had forgotten to pack soap, shampoo, or anything really needed to take a shower. Surprisingly, we did remember the towels!

The rest of the day didn’t go much better. We also realized we had brought cans of food but no can opener, fishing rods but no tackle box, and worst of all, a gas grill with no propane! By noon our stomachs had gotten the better of us and we packed it up and headed for home, only to realize that we didn’t have enough gas to get home since we had left the car running all night! Luckily we were able to get a hold of a relative on the campground payphone, who agreed to meet us at a gas station in Ft. Lauderdale and lend us enough cash to get home.

While I have always been the consummate planner, and always had two or three back up plans in place for everything at work and in life, in this case I let my enthusiasm for the trip get in the way of proper planning.

To this day I will never live that trip down. But it taught me a valuable lesson. Regardless of how pressed for time you may be, or how urgent a situation maybe, you cannot afford not to take the time to formulate a proper plan. As I illustrated in this story, failure to plan will have much worse consequences in the long run. The extra time it takes to put together a solid and well thought out plan will always bring rewards during implementation. So regardless of the pressure placed upon you, always take the time to think through your venture, step by step. What will be needed, what could go wrong, and how will I handle that situation? By going through all of the ‘who, what, where, when, and how’s’, you will have a successful and enjoyable road trip no matter where the road may be taking you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

HELP! The Four Letter Word

It is funny how many people will not ask for help, even if they are on the verge of a complete meltdown. As a manager I tell all of my team members I am here to help and serve them. I have always believed that a strong leader needs to understand that they are in that position to serve their team, not the other way around. However, even though I have expressed this many times, many of my team members treat ‘help’ like a four letter word. To be honest maybe I set a bad example because I am as guilty as everyone else about asking for help. I must say though, I will ask for help before it’s too late. Maybe it is years of conditioning that only the weak ask for help? I can’t answer why the culture exists, but only to the risk that exists, if ignored.

Too many people in today’s times are afraid to ask for help and feel that they are expected to ‘go it alone’. As many of you already know my football analogies, the truth is a Quarterback cannot score all by themselves, they need the help of the entire team. While it may be admirable to be a martyr, most martyrs end up getting sacrificed. You really need to ask yourself the following question, “Will my manager be more upset if I ask for help, or if I crash and burn?”

Let me start off by saying that if your manager gets upset about you asking for help, then you have bigger problems than just being overwhelmed. However, most true leaders will not get upset, or even bothered about one of their team members asking for help. In fact most leaders live for the opportunity to help others. When the waters get a little muddy, it usually comes from the way that the team member asks for help. If you go to your manager with questions such as “what should I do?”, or “I can’t do…” this can make a manager, who already has a full day’s work themselves, feel that you are asking them to do your job for you.

Throughout my career I have always tried to bring solutions to my manager, not problems, as I stated in a previous bolg. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help, but do give it some deep thought before you ask for help. One successful way to accomplish that is to try to follow a few simple guidelines:

1. Whatever you ask your manager, should be able to be answered with a “yes” or “no”. This will show that you have put thought into your dilemma and have possible solutions; you are just looking for direction.

2. The support you are asking for is equipment, or labor based. These requirements will come up from time to time and you should never feel that you are encumbering your manager with such requests.

3. Specific information, policy, or advice. It is a manager’s job to help guide you in the right direction, so don’t feel in the wrong asking a direct question to help you decide the proper approach.

4. Finally, asking permission. This is the one issue most people don’t have an issue with and will engage their managers with just to make sure they cover themselves before moving forward.

As long as you respect the fact that your manager also has a large amount of work to complete, and you show respect for their time, you should never have to feel bad about asking for help. Remember that you are part of their team, and your manager wants you to succeed. However, they are not mind-readers and with today’s economy they are as overwhelmed as you are, so there is a good chance they may not ask you if you need help. If you don’t tell them you need help you can be assured you will not receive any. If you decide not to ask for help and your project crashes, you have no one to blame but yourself. The end result will affect your manager, your team, and your own morale, just because you were too proud to ask for help. Chances are if that happens, help isn’t the only four letter word that will be tossed around the office.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Lumberjack’s Apprentice

Below is one of my favorite stories which contain multiple lessons. I have used this story many times to express the importance of staying current and always working smart. I was told this story by one of my mentors when I was just an apprentice and I have never forgotten it. I don’t know where it originated from and I would give credit if I did. I hope you enjoy!

A young man showed up to the towns’ largest saw mill looking for a job as a lumberjack. When he interviewed with the mill’s foreman, the foreman told him he wasn’t hiring anyone and to go away. The young man said please sir, just give me a chance. I have a very strong work ethic and I never quit. I know if you just give me a chance you will be happy with my results. The foreman told the young man, alright, here’s what I’ll do. I will send you out with today’s crew, and if you can keep up with these seasoned veteran loggers we can discuss you coming to work here. The young man said thank you sir and headed out with the crew.

The seasoned lumberjacks were teasing the young man as they walked out to the field. They called him scrawny, baby face, and asked him if he had enough diapers to last all day in the field. The young man just took it in stride and continued along the path as he focused on the task at hand. One by one the crew members were dropped off at their stations and started chopping down trees. When the young man tried to get off at a stop, they wouldn’t let him; they kept taking him deeper and deeper into the forest. They told him you have to earn the closest spots to the mill rookie, and they continued to laugh out loud.

Finally after the young man made it to his spot he started chopping away.

A little while later he came walking back towards the mill. All the lumberjacks were hazing him calling him a quitter, and saying that didn’t take long. However, they were bewildered when he came walking back by, heading back out to his spot.

About an hour later, here comes the young man again. At this point the hazing was turning into insults, calling him lazy, and saying “what, do you need a break again?” But again after a quick stop in the mill, he was headed back out to his spot.

This continued several more times throughout the day. The seasoned lumberjacks were completely beside themselves with anger, at the young man’s ways. But found solace with each other knowing that there was no way he would be back the following day.

Finally, the day ended and they all went back to the mill. The foreman pulled the young man into his office and closed the door. The older men were laughing and pondering about what was going on behind that door. You see, the Foreman had a bad temper and was known for really laying down a lashing when someone even just barely missed their mark of 4 cords in a day, and with all the young man’s lollygagging he would have been lucky to get a single cord cut.

After a few minutes the foreman and the young man came out of the office, both of them laughing. The entire crew was shocked to see the young man wearing a uniform, as the foreman said,” I want you all to welcome the newest member of our team.” The foreman went on to say he had never seen anyone able to cut 8 cords of lumber in a single day, and he was sure that this kid would be a great addition.

The seasoned crew was stunned. Then the crew leader shouted out, “No Way! That is impossible! We watched this kid walk back and forth to the mill at least 8 times throughout the day. There is no way he was able to cut down more trees than the rest of us.” The young man just stood there perplexed, then he said, “well how many times did you go back to sharpen your axe?”

I tell this story to illustrate that no matter how experienced you are and no matter how long you have been doing it ‘that way’, you should always look at things with a new set of eyes and be open to learning, even from the most junior members of your team. More importantly, you should always be analyzing and improving the way things are done. Change is inevitable, and new technology is developing every day. If you are not changing, you are getting left behind. So keep striving for information and keep your eyes and mind open for new ways to get things done faster, better, and more efficiently. In other words, always be sharpening your axe!

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Power of Now!

This article is about the power of now and not putting things off. Many times I am asked, ” how do you remain so organized in the face of utter chaos?” The simple answer is that I don’t allow things to pile up. In previous articles I have explained the art of time management and planning ‘Murphy-Time’ into your daily schedule. While I will be the first to admit that lately my scheduled Murphy-Time has not been enough to keep up with all the events, without it, I would be sunk. Prioritizing has to come into play when you become overwhelmed but I don’t want to confuse prioritizing with procrastination.

The power of now is what I call not procrastinating, not putting something off, but jumping right on the issue without delay. I can’t tell you how many times I see managers have an issue come up, or a question they put off and say “I will find out”, or “I will check into that”. If somebody approaches me with a problem I solve it right then. I pick up the phone, shoot an email, make a decision, or address the problem right then. I don’t have the luxury to put it off or wait until I get to it. If someone was able to approach me with the question, then I obviously had the time to deal with the issue. If I were to say “Let me look into that”, I know that an hour from now I will have 20 other issues vying for my time.

All too often I have team members come into my office and say “when you have a minute”… They are always shocked when I say what’s on your mind? And ask them to come in and sit down. That is the power of now. Not only does it keep things from piling up on me, but it lets my teammates know that they are important to me, and I care about what they care about.

I will have a customer ask me a technical question that might require research. I will ask them if they have a minute, and will pull out my iPad and start searching the internet, or make some phone calls with them standing right there until I can get them the answer they needed. Again, that is the power of now.

Many times I will have a team member come in my office and say “I need …”. I will stop what I am doing and take whatever actions are required by me to get them what they need. That is the power of now.

Finally, when I have a thought “it might be a good idea if…” I immediately analyze the pros & cons, make a decision, and if I decide it’s a good idea, I take the actions required to implement the idea right then.

The true power of now comes down to the fact that in most cases you really do have the time to address issues when they are presented. Why would you put them off? Surely you are not going to have more time later. I can almost guarantee that there will be another issue requiring your attention later on, so why let things pile up? Resolve the issues or questions now!

If you are contemplating a career move, going back to school for a better education, or simply just considering a new marketing strategy. The time to act is now. Weigh the options, lay out the pros vs. cons and if it makes sense, then do it. If you have weighed out all the positives and negatives yet still can’t decide, flip a coin, and move on. There is no excuse for procrastinating, and it only leads to becoming overwhelmed down the road.

The power of now translates into everything you do both at work and at home. I hear people say I have this goal, or I plan to… However, if you ask them details about how, what, where and when, you quickly find out that they don’t have a plan or a goal, they only have a dream. A plan or a goal requires specific steps and processes to acquire the goal or successfully complete the plan. Be a doer not a dreamer. Don’t talk about how nice it would be if, or wouldn’t it be great if. Put together your plan and as Nike would say “just do it”. And when should you do it? NOW!