Are you a Pro?

As a hockey fan, I invest emotionally in my team and have high expectations for the performance of my team’s players.  Likewise, if you are a professional (which, for the purpose of this blog, means you’re being paid to do a job), someone is emotionally and financially invested in you and probably has high expectations for your performance.  With that in mind, and using the pro hockey player as an analogue, here are some thoughts to consider about how you approach your work.

1. Strength and conditioning – when not “on the job”, (ie. during the off season), pro hockey players are expected to train to ensure that during the season they have the strength and stamina to be at their best.  Most of us are paid for mental skills, not physical ones.  What is your regimen, when not on the job to improve your mental acuity, your memory, your attitude or any other areas of your mental performance?

2. Practice – pro hockey players attend practices most days to improve their skills, learn systems and to give them the best chance to execute at a high level when under pressure in a game.  How do you improve your on the job skills to ensure you perform at your best when your company or organization needs it the most?

3. Research – every pro hockey team scouts their competition, and the rest of the hockey world, to know what tactics other teams are using and to learn what innovations are being successfully implemented elsewhere.  What is your approach to keeping up on the latest developments in your industry so you can keep a slight edge on the competition?

4. Coaching – every pro hockey team has a head coach, assistant coaches, conditioning coaches, video coaches and skills specialists to ensure that their players are taught, encouraged, challenged, and held accountable to be the best they can be. Steven Stamkos, the best goal scorer, and perhaps the best shooter in the NHL has a shooting coach he works with regularly.  Do you have a business coach or mentor who understands you and your role and who encourages you, holds you accountable, and discusses the latest developments in your field and how to apply them?

5. Goals – Sidney Crosby, the best hockey player in the world is well known for picking a particular area of his game each year and working specifically on improving in that area.  He sets a goal, works at improving the skill, and becomes an even better player. He’s the best in the whole world and he continues to find ways to improve!  What area of your performance is a priority for improvement and what are you doing about it?

We can all learn from the approach pro hockey players use to become and stay professionals.  Are you giving yourself the chance to become the best professional you can be?

Yahoo!’s New Rules

If you haven’t heard, Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer recently announced that Yahoo! employees who currently take advantage of a work from home program will no longer be able to do so.  All employees will be required to show up AT work every day.  Seems reasonable, right?

Many are up in arms however, because flexible work arrangements are viewed as the progressive approach to encouraging employee commitment and engagement, and actually taking advantage of mobile technology.  I have read some comments from ex-Yahoo! employees saying that there were far too many people slacking off, not contributing their share, and some who were actually starting other businesses while being paid by Yahoo!.  Which, at first blush,  makes the new policy seem even more reasonable.  The reports in the press indicate that Yahoo! feels that if people have to come to work, they will get more done, they will interact with other employees more, and it will help get results.

Now, let me be clear, I have no idea what it’s actually like at Yahoo!.  But,  please indulge my speculation as to what could really be behind this new policy. I think this decision is more about holding management accountable for the results they should have been getting, and less about the propagation of ideas through face-to-face interactions, or an indictment of the work-from-anywhere trend in business.  Yahoo! is a big company and my guess is that Marissa Mayer’s management teams’ first excuse for poor results was that they could not control their employees because they never knew where they were.    When you have managers who aren’t getting results and resort to excuse-making, you need to deal with the problem.

Step one – remove the excuses.  Everybody needs to be at the office. Done.

Step two –  hold management accountable for results.  “Your staff is at work every day, if they aren’t getting results, what’s the problem?”  This is where weak managers will be exposed and strong managers will thrive.

Step three – correct or remove the problems. Focus on the results, and provide help for those who aren’t getting them.  If poor performance continues, those accountable need to be fired.  Once the right people are in the right roles and are getting the required results, I expect Yahoo! will be less concerned where or when people work than with ensuring their work is improving the company.

My guess is that this is a quick way to take away excuses from management and start holding them accountable for results.  Once Marissa Mayer is satisfied that people are doing the work necessary to get results, a long term strategy giving employees more control of how they get those results can be implemented.

Courage, My Word!

Today, I listened to a song I’ve probably listened to a thousand times. Courage (for Hugh MacLennan) by the Tragically Hip.

I’ve always liked the line,

there’s no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
And yea the human tragedy
consists in the necessity
of living with the consequences
Under pressure, under pressure”

I decided to do some research to see if there more to it than just an interesting verse.  As with most of Gord Downie’s lyrics, there is.  Through the website, I learned that the line is paraphrased from Canadian author Hugh MacLennan’s book, “The Watch that Ends the Night”.  (Hence the song title)

The passage from the book reads,

“…that there is no simple explanation for anything important any of us do, and that the human tragedy, or the human irony, consists in the necessity of living with the consequences of actions performed under the pressure of compulsions so obscure we do not and cannot understand them.”

Wow. Eloquent. I need to read more of that. provides some interesting background on Hugh MacLennan and the inspiration for his works and also further analysis of lyrics in the song.

To summarize, I listened to a song I’ve heard a thousand times, used Google to research a line I like, read a  passage from a website explaining the line, learned it’s from a Canadian author who sounds like he’d be a good read, go to and buy the book which will be shipped to my door.

Thank you Internet.

Get Started.

Human inertia.  It’s that inner hesitation that stops me from pouncing on my latest idea and running with it.  It’s a mixed bag of fear, insecurity, awe, trepidation, ignorance, analysis and a multitude of other emotions and feelings which keep me from just jumping in and figuring it out.

I find it interesting because I know that this inertia sometimes holds me back from accomplishing big things and from experiencing great joy.  Yet, sometimes it wins, I never get started.

I know the most satisfying projects, events, moments in my life whether they be personal or business-related have come when I pushed through the human inertia, got out of my comfort zone and made myself figure it out – whatever “it” was.  It’s when I’ve been most creative, most excited, and most enthusiastic.  It’s also when I’ve been the most serious, most hard-nosed, and when I’ve been most committed to the task at hand.  And it’s also when I’ve felt the best.

Take this blog.  It was tough to get started.  There were so many questions – where does one get one of these blogs? What should it look like? What will I write about?  Who will read it?  Will it be any good?  What if no one is interested? What if I say something really stupid?  How often should I post? If I don’t post enough will that look bad? Finally, I just told myself to get started.

And here it is.  It’s not the best blog in the world, but it’s getting better. It’s not the prettiest blog, but I’m researching how to improve the look. I’ve changed the name once, and may do so again.  I still don’t think I’ve fully found my “voice” but it’s getting refined. The important thing is I got started, and now, I know lots about blogging.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I view things.  I’ve had almost 600 views and had some pretty nice compliments. I find now, I feel great when I’ve written something I like – regardless of how many views it gets.  I’m more confident, I’m having fun with it and I get great satisfaction from making each post.  I’m also keen to find new ideas and write about them.

How many situations in life are like this?  We know if we push ourselves that little bit to get past the human inertia, off we’ll go – we’ll learn something new, we’ll improve, we’ll find a way.  And the rewards will be great. We just need to trust ourselves, and get started.


Observations from a Morning Run

I went for a run for this morning for the first time in quite a while and made the following observations:

I feel really great during and after a run.

Running clears my head of all the noise, clarifies my thoughts and focuses my mind.

The Tragically Hip, Sloan, The White Stripes and Arcade Fire have brilliant lyrics.

I live in a truly beautiful part of the world.

-5 to -8 degrees Celsius is the best temperature for a run.

It’s fun to wave at strangers who drive by. It’s more fun when they smile back.

The Arcteryx Beta AR is an amazing piece of outerwear.

People litter too much.

Winter is a beautiful season.

Running is good for my spirit. I will do it more often.


The Problem with Zero Tolerance

Every manager has done it.  You get sick of people complaining about something that you don’t consider worth your time to manage so you implement a zero tolerance policy.  “If this happens again then this punishment will be enforced. Period.”  There, that should fix the problem, right?  Wrong.

Unfortunately, zero-tolerance policies are often implemented because it seems like they’ll make managing the issue easier and less work so you can focus on “more important” things.  They fail because they are much more work to implement and manage. Often as managers we figure that if the rule is black and white, with clear consequences, people will abide by the rules and it will be easier to manage the odd indiscretion.  It just doesn’t work that way.  There will be indiscretions and the zero tolerance manager is backed into a corner.  No matter how minor the issue, because of the “Rule” the manager has to either enforce what seems like an unreasonable penalty or lose credibility by not doing what she says she will do.  Neither is good for morale. Neither is good leadership.

There are areas where zero tolerance policies work and are necessary – when an indiscretion can be devastating.  Workplace safety for example.  Often what seems like a minor issue can result in injury or death so the policy can be easily justified both from the view of the manager and the employee.  But they must be communicated clearly, frequently and they must be enforced diligently.  This is more work, but in the case of safety, it must be done.

Zero tolerance policies are a lot of work to manage.  Therefore,  the questions to ask before implementing a zero tolerance policy are:

1. Is the issue worth the extra work it will take to implement, constantly communicate, and consistently enforce the policy?

2. Are you as a company willing to do the extra work to implement, constantly communicate, and consistently enforce the policy?

What’s an Executive Coach?

What’s an Executive Coach?

If you aren’t sure why Executives and other business people need coaches, read this blog by Chris Woodman.