5 Retail Leadership Solutions

My home state: Arkansas. It makes my heart bleed blue and white to see Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club dropping the ball so hard. If they would let me, I’d lead a workshop for any supervisors and/or managers at any Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club for free.

Continue reading 5 Retail Leadership Solutions

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The Retail Leadership Vaccuum

Looks like we’re in a bumper crop of morons. It’s not a very nice thought, but it’s one that rages in my mind far too often. Especially when I’m in the middle of a store noticing a massive retail leadership failure.

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Courtesy Flickr User hobvias sudoneighm, CC
Courtesy Flickr User hobvias sudoneighm, CC

I just returned from Wal-Mart with two bottles of bleach and a box of lightbulbs. As I approached the front of the store to break my shortest-actual-shopping-trip record, my heart filled with dread. Lines and lines of piled-high baskets. Drawn like so many moths to the blue lights over three checkout stations. Continue reading The Retail Leadership Vaccuum

So You Got Screwed…Now What?

You’ve been cheated or taken advantage of. Someone– a boss, a coworker, a friend– took advantage of your trust. You made an agreement with someone and got screwed.

Get over it.

Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures, CC
Image courtesy PublicDomainPictures, CC

I’m not being mean here; I’m not just talking to you, either. I’m talking to myself.

For weeks I’ve been bitter, fuming over a broken agreement. What’s worse, the agreement was just between myself and someone I thought I could trust! The details weren’t outlined in a contract or announced to coworkers. I got screwed and nobody knows it.

When we’re wronged, there’s a yearning for some semblance of justice. We don’t want to get over it! We ache for validation. We beg God to smite the wrongdoer. We (read: I) want to see this “karma” thing take its toll.

Even now, I’d love to use my fledgling platform to articulate how badly I was wronged and who did it! But if I (read: we) allow these people to control my thoughts in such a way, I’m really doing wrong by myself.

Sinatra said: “The greatest revenge is massive success.” It’s true! In order to get there, we’ve got to take responsibility for our feelings. We’ve got to turn the focus from our transgressors to ourselves.

5 Steps to Get Over It:

  1. Reflect: So this seems a little cheesy, right. But time to grieve what we lost (even if it was just a delusion to begin with) is important. A period of reflection will allow you to examine the reality of what happened. In order to get over it, we’ve got to figure out what “it” really is or was in the first place.
  2. Recharge: This doesn’t have to take place in a secluded cabin in the woods. Whatever makes you feel alive, do that. Resist the urge to climb in a bed with a gallon of ice cream. That’s never a good place.
  3. Release: Some people require real, actual, tangible closure. If you need to approach the person who wronged you and express forgiveness, do that. But don’t make it about telling the world what that person did wrong. In my situation, I’m going to privately release and forgive my transgressor and work through the bitterness.
  4. Resolve: Decide in your heart to be better than your missed opportunity. Don’t make it an “I’ll show him!” Show yourself what you’re capable of. Dream big and get after it.
  5. Re-Get Over It: Couldn’t find a good re- word for this. But get over it! Whether you’re a teenager or a keenager (read: really old), you’ve only got so long to live. You’ve got even less time to be out there doing crazy dream-building stuff. Don’t allow someone else to make that time about them.

You’ve been lied to or done wrong in the past and it will probably happen again. “Get over it” is probably not a sympathetic or empathetic response. But it’s vital for your long-term success.

The quicker you can put a situation (and sometimes a person) in the rearview mirror, the better.

You can connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+!

My 4-Year-Old’s Get-it-Done Advice

“Daddy” is a word I hear approximately 73 times per day. I’m amazed sometimes at the pearls of wisdom that follow.

Photo Courtesy Nicki Dugan, CC
Photo Courtesy Nicki Dugan, CC

 

“Can you count to a thousand?” He’s so fascinated right now about how high numbers go. He can only count with any reliability to “thirty ten”.

“I can’t right now, buddy, it would take too long.”

“Well,” he responded. “Can you count to ten?”

Can you hear him? If you don’t have time or talent or motivation to count to 1,000, start by counting to 10! This seems a little too simplistic for us. I mean we’re adults, right?

Examine your behavior. Are you:

  • Starting (Too) Big?: It would take more than a ride to church to count to 1,000. It would take over 11 days to count, non-stop, to 1 million! By breaking difficult tasks or life goals into actionable and achievable segments, we can conquer even the most daunting of these.
  • Jumping Ahead?: Don’t cheat! We learn valuable lessons on each step of the journey. The temptation for my generation is to take our tech-savvy, outside-the-box thinking and “revolutionize” everything we come into contact with. But there is often more value in the climb than in the helicopter ride. Sweat equity buys much more than cash ever could.
  • Expecting Too Much?: My son does not yet know all the numbers on the way to 1,000. But he can learn them. Don’t expect too much of yourself right away. There will be things you don’t know on the way to pursuing your passions; you will need help. Media and cultural hoopla about a single person changing the world is bogus. It takes people to make a difference; build a community and watch how much better it affects change.
  • Doubting Yourself?: So you’re in high school. So you’re a college kid. So you’re a retiree on a fixed income. You’ve got this. You’re never to young or too old to start pursuing a passion. If you can count to 10, you can count to 1,000. Don’t let a big task get the best of you or make you want to quit. Break it down to its key elements and see if you can knock them out. If you can’t hack one of them, find someone who can.

You might need to slow down pursuing your passion. You could be building up to your dream without even realizing you’re leaving out components crucial for its success. What good is all that time and effort to build something that crumbles at the first sign of trouble?

You might need to pick up the pace! Has it been a while since you worked on that passion project? If you get to 990 and stop or get hung up on 500, “it’s been a good run” will not get you to 1,000. If you’ve broken down your dream into actionable segments, attack them! This is your dream we’re talking about.

You might need to get started pursuing your passion. There is the risk of failure. There’s also the risk of success. I highly recommend Jon Acuff’s book “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters”. That’s not an affiliate link or paid placement (this blog is way too small for that), it’s just a stupendous book!

Let me ask you something, then: Can YOU count to ten?

In the Comments: What have you been mulling over for years? What are you afraid to do but know you’re called to do?

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

What is That to You?

Each month, I meet with a group of men a little older than I am. We walk together through a curriculum designed to help us find our strengths and passions and act on them. These men challenge and encourage me.

Photo Courtesy Ktoine, CC
Photo Courtesy Ktoine, CC

Lately, I’ve been really struggling with a difficult (and ugly) career change. If I could make a clean break, it wouldn’t be so difficult, but because I’m married into the family that owns the business, well…I really can’t get away from it.

A struggle that has been attacking me, and that attacks us all, is the nagging jealousy of someone else’s success. When I was there, things weren’t allowed to go this smoothly. If I were there, I would make different (and better) decisions. If I were there….

As embarrassing as it is to admit, we might even wish that someone or something would fail without us.

The salve for these deep wounds of the heart came from an unlikely source. In a video session, Kay Warren introduced me to the WITTY principle found in John 21:22. Peter, asking Christ about the actions of another disciple, is gently rebuked. “If I want him to remain until I return, (W)hat (I)s (T)hat (T)o (Y)ou? As for you, follow me!”

Jesus basically says, “So what? Focus on what you’re doing.” Discover and find affirmation for your strengths and talents, line them up with your passions, and make it work for the greater good.

Whether you’re Christian or not, this is a powerful statement. By turning and coveting another person’s success or focusing your energy on wishing him ill, you’re short-changing your own success and working your own demise.

It’s a hard lesson to learn and a harder one to practice, but beginning today I will focus on what can do to live my own purpose.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

One Direction (Not the Band)

Remember January? When I promised to post each week? It’s May, it’s not happening, and I need to come clean on some things.

Photo Courtesy toffehoff, CC
Photo Courtesy toffehoff, CC

Over the last almost-two-years, I’ve been Director of Family Service at my wife’s family funeral firm. It’s been incredibly rewarding work; being on call all hours of the night and occasionally finding myself in really unpleasant situations could not rob me of the fulfillment that came with guiding families through a healthy grieving process.

Over that time, I’ve also enjoyed serving in a leadership capacity. I’ve trained new staff, diversified our memorial product offerings, written an operations manual, and sought to serve my coworkers. This time has given me the opportunity to learn and grow.

None of that has meant that I feel called to be there.

I don’t regret it a minute, but it’s time to move on. My calling is to create better communities and greater opportunities for young people. To that end, I volunteer with several youth organizations and work in the community to connect young people with service opportunities. Starting two weeks ago, I’m uniting my calling with my what-I’m-actually-doing.

It’s been really difficult because:

  • Success is Seductive. With each success we celebrate, we feel more and more “called” to do what we do. People even say so! If we’re so good at something, it must be what we’re called to do.
  • Expectations are Dangerous.  When the pressure is on, we surely don’t want to disappoint those who we think are counting on us. In fact, it’s easy to want to fit into their expectations of who we should be and what we should be doing. Especially when they’re paying us and/or we’re related.
  • Fear is Powerful. All of these self-help gurus that want you to believe that fear is powerless are living in dreamland. Fear can grip you– and even be legitimate! Let’s say you’ve got two kids, a mortgage, and other responsibilities. Will stepping out be worth it? What is the value of becoming who you want to be versus being what you need to be?
  • We Can Only Control So Much. My biggest fear, honestly, is being realized in my old workplace. I’m afraid that my legacy there is being torn down, old practices are creeping back in. Mostly, I’m afraid I’ve become the cause of every problem or the butt of every joke. It’s probably happening, but I’m not in control of it. The flip-side of this hold-me-up is what I can control– what I will do and who I will be.

A measure of hope can be found in what I can control, what expect and believe of myself, the peace I gain through prayer and faith in my next step, and the promise of a future about which can be passionate. I’m moving in one direction, aligning my passions and my calling into an actionable and intentional existence.

Would you pray for me? This week I’m studying for and taking the GRE. Hopefully, this Fall will see me start a Master of Arts program in College Student Affairs. I belong on a campus somewhere, connecting young people with their passions and with a promising future. Now that I know it (and believe it), the easy part is getting there.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

The Power of Youth

Is being young an obstacle or an opportunity?

I asked a room full of ninth-grade students this question and was surprised that any of them at all viewed youth as an opportunity. Even into my twenties, my relative youth often seems like the biggest obstacle to success.

"Baby Boy Typing," Paul Inkles, CC
“Baby Boy Typing,” Paul Inkles, CC

When I was a manager in fast-food and active in business leadership roles, my youth often disqualified or discredited me in the eyes of my coworkers and the team members I led. Spectacular ideas that might require significant change were suddenly naive pipe dreams. Buy-in was hard to come by.

When you’re having to really grind it out against such tremendous resistance, it can be tempting to throw in the towel. But with persistence, effort and enthusiasm are recognized and rewarded.

From ninth-grade into your twenties (and perhaps beyond), some people will try to make your youth (or even youthful qualities like “enthusiasm”, “energy”, “excitement”, and “not being a jaded *bleep*-hole”) an obstacle.

Don’t let it happen.

The fact is that successful leaders will empower you to utilize the gift of youth to your (and your team’s) advantage. Older leaders will appreciate your drive and seek to develop you.

Your youth is an opportunity. People want to see you succeed.

Get excited. Don’t be afraid to take the reins when you can. Infect others with your enthusiasm.

You may be too young to drive or vote or run for a particular office or join a certain social club. But you’re never too young to make a difference. You’re never too young to lead.

For the aforementioned jaded *bleep*-holes, I acknowledge the importance of experience. But the most experienced leader in the world without the courage to take action will fail to lead every time. Put aside your sour disposition long enough to develop the young people in your organization.

Here’s a sobering thought: older people generally die before younger people. One day you’re going to need the young people you’re growing up. Are you empowering young leaders to be the bold standard-bearers of tomorrow or are you hammering out beat-down cowards to do what you’ve always done?

There is power in youth. Harness it for yourself and for your community.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

Live Your Vision

My time is up; I’m jumping ship. You might expect me to say that the blog has really taken off and I’m making enough here to quit my day job. You’d be disappointed.

"Temptation", Joel Montes, CC
“Temptation”, Joel Montes, CC

The fact is that, while I’ve tremendously enjoyed working as a Funeral Director to bring families peace during their time of need, it was never my dream. I struggled to reconcile my passion for comforting and building such genuine relationship with my ultimate desire to be elsewhere, pursuing my own future.

Listen, there are a lot of things out there that keep us pursuing someone else’s vision of our futures:

  • Money
  • Fear
  • Comfort
  • Convenience

But these can be the antagonists in your memoir. For me, it got to the point where I examined my situation and saw Satan standing me on the mountain-top, gesturing out to the security and surety of the future. “You could have all of this,” he said.

But there’s so much more for me! I have learned and grown in my time as a Funeral Director. But it’s time to move on.

Is it time for you to stop living someone else’s vision for your life?

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

When Community Matters Most

Communities are all the rage. Whether it’s Google+, Facebook, or a mentor group, everyone is encouraging you to discover and grow communities. Sometimes it seems like a lot of work; what’s the return on investment here?

Photo Credit Mel Aclaro, CC
Photo Credit Mel Aclaro, CC

At the funeral home, I often see communities coming together. Sunday school classes, groups of friends, and families turn out in great numbers to show support to people deeply affected by grief. Years of history and relationship-building have led to the brief moments that pass in silence between friends.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve totally failed. Not only have I dropped the ball posting on my blog, I’ve hit a low level of contentment in more than one area of my life. Maybe you’ve been here, too.

But in the midst of my pity party, the communities I’ve found have really stepped up. Online friends like Dan Black and Skip Prichard have promoted blog posts in my digital absence. Mentors and advocates have stepped up to encourage me. I can’t wait to go to the men’s group I participate in on Friday; fresh challenges await!

When I read business articles about building brands or growing tribes, the authors often try to demonstrate a return on investment– even if the investment is really just time or a line item in the budget. I saw a breathless article recently exclaiming that a top-producing insurance agent in my extended network had managed to convert a (as in one) social media connection into a funded policy.

We’ve distorted the meaning of the word “friend” by our social media body counts. How many Facebook friends do you have? How many people “follow” you on Twitter? Is there a way to monetize your 300 (or 500 or 1,000) blog views per day?

Let me join my voice to the building roar: Connections (online or offline) do not exist to drive your bottom dollar. Connections are not always leads and do not only exist in one place or another. The greatest return on your investment is community.

When the house is quiet after a loss. When the mind just won’t crank after a disappointment. When your heart doesn’t seem bold enough to push through the resistance.

Real communities are made up of true friends. And true friends show up in your absence.

When have you relied on friends? How are you deepening your connections into lasting friendships?

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!

Don’t Imitate, Innovate

These days, it’s tempting to think that everything new has been done before. In fact, re-purposing old habits or practices or even picking up new ones at trade conferences is acceptable and encouraged. But (or so) when you’ve got a great original idea, how infuriating is it to see it ripped off?

"Made in China," Courtesy  Michael Mandiberg , CC
“Made in China,” Courtesy Michael Mandiberg , CC

Not long ago I was driving down a road near the funeral home where I work. That’s odd, I thought, I didn’t think we took out a billboard ad. But plastered up on a billboard was an ad we post each year in local publication: a lighthouse, a message about trusting professionals, and a funeral home log…

Wait a minute! “Second-Rate Funeral Home”?! (Of course, I changed the name of our competitor…to be fair.) Rather than our logo, there was a competitor’s name on our ad next to our funeral home.

Imitation and competitor rip-offs are nothing new. While it’s infuriating that our competitor is trying to tap into our brand, the ad company that created the campaign for us could really care less who buys the ads. Even in my volunteer work and writing, I sometimes see my own ideas being put to use. When these ideas are used to make progress or by a team member of mine, it’s no big deal. But when the competition starts benefiting from it…

I’ve learned to stop worrying. Not because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (which is sometimes true) or some flowery nicety like that. Rather, because it means:

  • We’re Doing Something Right: Not only is our own strategy working, it threatens our largest competitor. While we spend virtually nothing on local advertising, our competitor has rented multiple billboards and run several ineffective mailing campaigns just to keep a marginal share of the market. The continued dominance of our business despite this gauntlet-throwing almost literally in our back yard is encouraging and affirming.
  • We Lead the Pack: Our ideas are imitated constantly. Really, it isn’t hard. Funeral Directors who did not last at our establishment attempt to replicate our practices wherever they go! The challenge comes in that unique advantage that no one can teach: each member of our team puts his or her heart into the work we are doing. When families end up at other funeral homes, they are unimpressed, going through the motions of an acceptable service experience. But just attending a service in our funeral home shows them that services– that the people here are extraordinary.
  • Our Competition is Failing to Innovate: Innovators don’t imitate. They might improve on existing practices or mold an idea to their needs, but they don’t blindly copy the industry norm– or their competitors. Businesses who fail to innovate stagnate. The most popular lie/misconception about our industry is that it’s recession-proof. The fact is that these businesses might continue to scrape out operating expenses, but their costs will rise and their prices will shrink as they grow increasingly desperate to compete.

There are some great ideas out there on leadership, service, and building value. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t incorporate those into your business, organization, or personal life. But fit those innovations or trends to the needs of your business and allow them to fuel authentic, home-grown innovation.

If you’re riding someone else’s coat-tails, you only pick up what he drops. And if she’s a work-horse like most innovators, the droppings are pretty…well, you get the picture.

 

You can connect with me on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn!