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Friday, April 01, 2011
Volume 16 | # 381
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In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results. » Roger Staubach

Do Your Best to Be Prepared

I've often kidded with folks that there are occasions in which I'm speaking to a group of Cub Scouts or a kids' team that I'm coaching and find myself taking mental notes to use the next time I get in front of bankers. The analogies may be different, but the themes often have relevant similarities.

My favorite is the Cub Scout motto. When I close a meeting with our troop, one of the last slides on the screen is three large words, "Do Your Best." As I talk to the kids about the importance of giving their best efforts, regardless of the situation, I think about how I close many banker presentations.

Bankers usually hear me cite the Teddy Roosevelt quote, "Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are."

Too many folks seem to be waiting for an improved situation to give their best effort. They are usually left behind by folks who realize a "better situation" won't come looking for them. It's usually found (created) by hard work.

On a similar note, I smiled last weekend as my sons' flag football coach got me a little motivated. Scheduling issues (and a wife putting her foot down) kept me from coaching their team this season.

When I met their coach, I was glad that I didn't. He's a great guy and a former wide receiver from SMU.

At their first practice, he explained to them that their practice time is limited each week. He won't be doing many skills-developing drills because there isn't enough time, and they'd be spaced too far apart to be effective. He will work primarily on preparing for game situations with them in practice.

But he explained that the only way each of them will become better players is if they take responsibility for practicing their drills on their own at home. He told them, "You will all get opportunities this year to make plays during our games. You need to take responsibility for preparing yourself as best as you can for when you get those opportunities."

I thought about adding, "And the same is true in the game of life!" But luckily, my "dork-filter" was still functioning.

Instead, I made eye contact with my sons to make sure they were paying attention.

In a few recent banker presentations, I've kiddingly included my Cub Scout "Do Your Best" slide and suggested that the world is complicated enough. Maybe the scouts have it figured out. Tellingly, most folks laugh… and agree.

Regardless of the situation, will you do your best this week?

Come On, Get Happy

An article this week by Meghan Casserly for Forbes had me copy/pasting the research findings she shared. recently conducted an extensive (200,000 independent employee reviews) survey to find the "10 Happiest Jobs in America."

To do this, the researchers identified 9 factors that played into an employee's workplace happiness. They were then able to rank which factors were the strongest drivers of satisfaction and happiness.

I always feel the need to remind the more cynical among us that, yes, "workplace happiness" is important. Happier employees tend to show up on time, have fewer absences, stay engaged in their jobs, have higher retention rates, tend to give better customer service, and are more productive. But besides that, nah… it's not all that important.

They found that the three most-influencing factors on job happiness (and by significant margins) are a job's specific day-to-day tasks, how much control an employee has over his tasks, and the interpersonal relationships between co-workers, supervisors, and customers.

Salary was far down the list. Again, I always feel the need to point out that while salary may not rank in the top 3 drivers, let's not delude ourselves either. It matters. People don't stay happy if they can't pay their bills (Maslow's Hierarchy, etc., etc.).

Of the three biggest drivers, day-to-day tasks may be the hardest for a manager to change. There are many things our teams simply have to do that don't really lend themselves to "flexibility". (And our auditors tend to be pretty inflexible.)

The other two factors are more within our ability to impact. When we are most concerned with assuring that employees do things exactly the way we tell them to do them, we're more likely to see less- engaged, rote behavior.

But I've long observed that when we allow folks even small areas of creative freedom and personalization, we usually see higher levels of engagement in most things that they do.

And while a manager would be nuts to think he can make team members "like" each other, he can absolutely communicate standards of conduct and decorum for his team. When manners and respect between co-workers are nonnegotiable, the work environments created tend to support higher levels of customer service and customer satisfaction.

And that should make everyone happy.

Enjoy your life without comparing it to others. » Marquis de Condorcet

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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