50. Raise The Anchor

 

When I was in college we played a drinking game called Anchorman.  Maybe you played it once or twice too.  The concept is that there is a team of four people who are tasked with drinking a full mug of beer.  Each member would drink some portion of the mug and the anchorman was responsible for chugging the balance.  It’s designed as a team drinking event.  The object is for the team to finish their beer first.  Yet, in many games I watched, the first three people would take only a sip or two and leave a massive amount for the anchorman to finish.  The table would laugh, or chant, for the anchorman to chug.  Beer would leak down the sides of his face, he would gasp as he choked on the beer a little, a large belch was mandatory…but I always wondered…if this was truly a race, why wouldn’t we do our best for our anchor to win?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

There is a difference between explicit trust and implicit trust.  The adverb explicit means, to be clear about something; leaving no room for doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner.  The adverb implicit means, to state something in a way that is not directly expressed.  That sounds a little confusing.  Let me give you an example as I would have understood it when I was seventeen.

It’s Saturday night and I’m ready to go out on a date with my high school sweetheart.  My father has the keys to his car in his hand and he’s preparing to give them to me.  As he does so he says to me, “Trent, I trust that you are going to follow the speed limit, not listen to the radio while driving and be home by eleven o’ clock.”  That is my definition of explicit trust.  My father trusts me and he’s reminding me of why he trusts me.  Here’s my definition of implicit trust.  “Trent, here are the keys.  Have a good time.”

Did you see the difference?  Pretty stark right?  Implicit trust is developed through direct actions over time.  Do we have implicit trust in our workplaces?  Explicit trust?  Any trust?  I guess that there are varying amounts of in our workplaces.  I suggest that the closer people work together the more this trust is developed and the bond strengthened.

 

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on implicit trust.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Raise the Anchor.  You heard it.  Raise the Anchor.

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  Raising the anchor is a clear signal that the boat is ready to sail.  The captain has implicit trust in his crew that all items are operational and in working order.  He knows that every crewmate is prepared to do their duty when called.  Raise the Anchor means that it’s time to put the vessel out to sea.

In 2008, Michael Phelps was seeking to become the most decorated Olympian by winning an unprecedented eight gold medals at the Beijing games.  The record of seven gold medals is held by Mark Spitz from the 1972 Munich Olympics.  But that was a different era.  Spitz didn’t shave for the meet.  Heck, he didn’t even wear goggles.  And, the Americans had a clear advantage over the developed world in swimming.  All three changed in the intervening thirty-six years.

Of the eight races that Phelps was competing in, five were individual and three were relays.  To win eight gold medals, a swimmer doesn’t swim just eight times.  Rather, they could swim up to three times per race.  There’s the trials where you establish yourself for the next round.  The semis where you need to post a quality time to get a favorable lane in the next race.  And, the finals where you blow your brains out for gold.   In total, Phelps may have to swim 24 races over eight days.  That’s quite a workload for someone competing against the fastest in the world.  Then again, Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time, so he’s got a little something in him.

Phelps won one medal earlier in the day before he faced his biggest Olympic challenge.  And, this wasn’t a challenge just for him.  Phelps was going to be a member of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay.  This means that each member of a 4-man team swims two length of the pool.

I want to go off on a quick tangent.  Most people can’t appreciate the size of an Olympic pool.  Close your eyes and picture your local YMCA pool.  4 or 5 lanes.  25 yards.  Backstroke flags.  Got it?  Good.  Now, an Olympic size pool is 2.4 times larger than that.  And, it’s ten feet deep throughout.    Keep that image in your mind the next time a receptionist at a Days Inn tells you they have an Olympic size pool outback.

The American team hadn’t won gold in this event in 12 years and it was the lynchpin to Phelps’ quest for Olympic immortality.  The stiffest competition they were facing was from the French team, who were the current world record holders and the team was anchored by Alain Bernard, the fastest man in the world.

There is always nervous excitement before the start of an Olympic swimming final.  Americans, because we expect to win everything, held a deep reserve because of the outright and overpowering strength of the French team and because as a nation we wanted Phelps to succeed.

The swimmers were called to the starting block and Michael Phelps stepped up.  Phelps was the leadoff swimmer!  Let me say that again.  The greatest swimmer in the world was going to go first in the relay and leave the rest of the work to his teammates.

I want you to stop for a second and think about how often this happens in business.  How often does the best you have go first in a presentation?  I think most companies leave their best presenter for the finish.  That’s why they call them the closer.  That’s why Vanessa Williams sang “Save the best for last.”  But here Phelps is on the block to start the race and will cede control.

Implicit trust is required to achieve what happened next.  Trust that through training and preparation and strategy the company’s team knows what needs to be done and the deep belief that each is ready to achieve the goal.  Phelps finished 2nd behind the Australians, setting the American record in the process.  The French were in third sending their slowest swimmer to leadoff.  Michael stood on the pool deck, catching his breath and watched his teammates play the game of anchorman.

The French inched closer in the second leg and broke open a 6/10th of a second lead heading into the final leg.  For those who may not appreciate, NASA can send a spaceship through the gap a 6/10ths of a second lead in freestyle.  And, let’s not forget that the world record holder was the closer for the French.

American’s anchorman Jason Lesak waited his turn.  A veteran sprinter in his 3rd Olympic games and the team’s oldest swimmer at 33 years of age.  This is the man that Phelps allowed to be the anchorman of the relay, the man that Phelps now implicitly trusted to help him achieve the audacious goal of eight gold medals.  Here’s how Dan Hick called the race during Lesak’s leg.

Let’s wait just one second.  You should know me well enough by now to know that every story does not have a fairy tale ending.  Sometimes we put our trust in someone, but they come up a little short…and that’s okay too.

Hands down the greatest swimming race I ever watched.  The last ten seconds felt like ten years.  I still feel the pulse now throbbing through my veins as I watch Lesak repay the trust his team put in him.

So, how do Developing Resilient Leaders acquire implicit trust?  It starts with showing trust in others.  For people to trust us, our vision, our opinion, our work we need to show trust in others first.  Trust is about raising the anchor.  Tell the crew that you trust them and you are ready to sail into tomorrow with them.

When it’s time to Raise The Anchor and take off, I want Jason Lesak with me.  I don’t know how well he can chug a beer, but I implicitly trust him to be the anchorman of my relay.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Also, I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

49. Youthful Inspiration

 

The format of this podcast will be different from the previous fifty we’ve previously produced.  This podcast will feature one story and one inspiring young man.  I think that when you are done listening you will understand how appreciative I am that this story came to my doorstep and how grateful I am to be able to provide a modicum of help and exposure.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

On July 22, 2019, North Carolina state Highway Patrol trooper Christopher Wooten was on motorcycle patrol in the greater Charlotte area.  Trooper Wooten witnessed a driver run a red light and attempted to pull him over.  The driver refused to yield to Trooper Wooten and continued driving, with Wooten in pursuit.  The driver ran another red light with Wooten directly behind him.  At the intersection of Tuckaseegee Road and Edgewood drive, a pickup truck driving the other direction struck Officer Wooten.  Witnesses said that Wooten was thrown from the motorcycle and landed across the street in a grassy area.

The driver of the pickup truck did the right thing and stayed at the scene.  The violator Wooten was pursuing didn’t.  He kept driving.  Christopher Wooten, fifty years old, 14-year veteran with the Highway Patrol suffered a spinal cord injury at the top of the spine. Several medical procedures were performed, including surgery to fuse and decompress his C1-C5 vertebrae and stabilize the spinal column.  None was successful.  Chris suffered significant spinal cord trauma during the crash.  Doctors determined that is was a complete spinal cord injury at the top of the spine and resulted in complete paralysis from the neck down.

Chris, his wife and two daughters cleared one emotional hurdle; he was going to live.  The next hurdle may be even higher and harder to cross.  Trooper Wooten was transported, via police escort, from Charlotte to Atlanta’s Shepherd Center for specialized spinal cord treatment and rehabilitation.  The Shepherd Center is one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation centers.  At the Shepherd Center, they believe that life can still be fulfilling and enjoyable, regardless of the severity of the injury.  They help patients set goals, adjust to living with a spinal cord injury and achieve positive outcomes.

The six-month program at Shepherd Center molded Chris for life in a wheelchair.  Issues about going forward aren’t just about the inability to walk.  They also include the effects on your family, the physical layout of your house, transportation and what may be most important – what purpose can you find in your new life.  I have said this on stage many times.  A spinal cord injury is different from everything else in this one way – In one second your life changes.  Everything you knew is gone and it takes more than you know to start again.

While in rehab, Chris received love and support from his friends and family.  A Go Fund Me page was created.  I was most impressed with the effort made by one of his childhood friends. Chris was a huge wrestling fan in the 1980s and Ric Flair was his idol.  Ric received word of Chris’ injury and sent him this message.

Chris Wooten’s journey is both tragic and impressive.  But, nearly 20,000 people end up paralyzed each year.  How did this particular story reach my doorstep?  It was because I inspired someone nearly ten years ago.

 

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on inspiration.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Children Listen.  You heard it.  Children Listen.

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  I received a phone call from one of my closest friends, Mike Sever, about three weeks ago.  Mike was my coach for my first charity swim called Back to Block.  The swim was on the ten-year anniversary of my paralyzing accident.  Back to Block raised $50,000 to provide durable medical goods for those with spinal cord injuries.  Mike was a driving force in my training.  He was the knock on my door at 5:00 every morning.  “Let’s go!” he would whisper into my window.  I would traipse out of the house, we would cross the road and jump into the ocean for our morning swim, rain, shine, fog, warm and cold.

Mike and I exchanged pleasantries on the call, like all long lost friends do.  Then, he told me that his son, Cooper wanted to talk to me.  I hadn’t seen Cooper since he was twelve and my best memories of Cooper were from when he was eight and involved in Back to Block.  Cooper got on the phone and I thought I was talking to Barry White.  Where did a 16-year old a voice that deep and rich?  Cooper then told me about his uncle who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, Chris Wooten.  The one year anniversary of the accident is July 22nd.  He told me of his uncle playing football with him when he was younger and his sadness over his accident.  Then the next line blew me away.  I mean take your breath away type of line.  Cooper said, “I want to create a charity swim to help people with spinal cord injuries just like you did, Trent.”  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t fathom that something I did stuck with this young man the way he was telling me.

Within a minute my focus changed.  I was pleased that I inspired Cooper, but then he began to tell me his plan, leaving me in awe.  Inspired.  Cooper is planning to swim 30 miles on July 21st and 22nd.  Let that sit on your tongue for a minute.  Thirty miles.  But wait!  He plans to do it in equal increments over 24-hours.  Cooper plans to swim a mile and a quarter, stop, then start again at the top of the next hour.  For 24 straight hours!  Quick show of hands in the audience.  How many of you can swim a mile and a quarter?  That would be 84 laps of a standard pool.  My magic mirror shows me that….many of you can.  How about trying that every hour twenty four hours in a row.  Now, we’re venturing on crazy!

I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet.  Cooper is aiming to raise $30,000 to benefit spinal cord patients who go through the Shepherd Center.  Is this kid amazing or what?  Let’s not forget, Cooper’s 16!  What were you doing when you were 16?  Driver’s Ed, long walks with your high school sweetheart, studying for the SAT?  How about putting together a fundraising plan, doing promotional videos, appearing in print and television to raise awareness for a cause.  His cause.  Did I mention that he’s only 16?  Let’s not forget that Cooper is fund raising while training and while holding down a summer job.

Constant listener, we talk about developing resilient leaders every week on this podcast.  We discuss the challenges leaders face and we try to analyze traits that we can learn to help us become stronger, wiser, compassionate, empathetic, and resolved.  I will admit to you that this week’s lesson isn’t being taught by me.  It’s being learned by me.  I would not have appreciated that the work Mike Sever and I did on Back to Block would blossom into this.  As resilient leaders we need to understand the impact we have on the community and the responsibility we have to foster it.

I told Cooper that I would join him in the swim.  I will stand on the starting line with him for every hour that my old body will allow.  Each swim should take about 28 minutes.  That give me two minutes to get out of the water. Three minutes to eat.  Twenty minutes to nap.  Three minutes to wake up and start again.  Hopefully for 24 hours.  For you Cooper and for your vision.  Here’s Cooper in his own words.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, I’m going to ask for something different.  I’m going to ask for money.  Please consider donating to Cooper’s foundation.  You can find it online by searching Swim 243.  That’s Swim 243.  It’s to benefit the Shepherd Center and you’ll see a picture of Chris and his wife Sharon on the front.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  And, thank you for taking the time to donate.  See ya

48. Hustle Down The Line

Let me ask you a question.  Imagine two individuals.  They have the exact same education, training, work experience and backgrounds.  Yet, one of them is far more successful than the other.  Why do you suspect?  Sure, we could make a statistical model to control for numerous variables or we could go with what I suspect –  I suspect that one has more ambition than the other.  One wants it more.  The more successful person has that drive that is widely talked about and measured.    But, the real question I want to ask you is how is that ambition instilled into their teams?  How do they foster hustle into their organizations?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

Ambition can be confused with aspirations

In a recent study conducted by Judge and Kammeyer-Muller (2012), the meaning of ambition is explained as, “The persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment.” They also note that ambition usually involves goal setting. It does, however differ from pure conscientiousness or the basic need to achieve.

Ambition can often be confused with aspirations, but it is important to see the difference between these two things. Aspirations involves striving towards a specific goal; whereas ambition is a trait. Ambition is behavior that manifests itself over an extended period of time. When someone is ambitious they continuously create new goals for themselves and pursue these goals with intent.

Ambition can be measured two ways write the authors. “Historically, some writers have viewed ambition as a good thing, because it seems to lead toward hard work and success. However, others have considered ambition a vice, because its over-emphasis on the pursuit of external wealth leads to inadequate emphasis on internal fulfillment and happiness.”

Here’s another way to look at it.  Neel Burton writes, ambition is like the dangled carrot that goads the donkey that pulls the cart. Studies have found that, on average, ambitious people attain higher levels of education and income, build more prestigious careers, and, despite the nocuous effects of their ambition, report higher levels of overall life satisfaction. Owing to bad luck and poor judgement, most ambitious people eventually fall short of their ambitions, but that still lands them far ahead of their more unassuming peers.  (Burton, n.d.)

This still doesn’t answer our question of having ambition permeate through our teams.  Think of a rowing crew, an 8-man boat.  Having one superb rower, one powerhouse stud in the stroke seat doesn’t make the boat move faster.  The team needs to find both balance and excellence.  Ambition on the part of one person serves only one person.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on ambition.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Hustle Down The Line.  You heard it.  Hustle Down The Line.

 

Pete Rose earns his nickname

The theory is simple.  Here’s how it works.  In Little League baseball coaches and fathers would tell the players to run everything out.  Hustle down the line.  Basically, in Little League baseball anything can happen to a ball in play; the shortstop may bobble the ball, the third baseman may throw it to the wrong base, the right fielder might be picking daisies.  You never know.  By running everything out, you are forcing the hand of the other team to make decisions quicker.  Hustle, in baseball, has something in common with COVID.  It’s infectious.  Watching someone hustle down the line inspires others to hustle for balls in the gap and to back up other people fielding.  No one in baseball exemplified hustle more than Pete Rose.  Maybe that’s why he got the nickname Charlie Hustle.  Actually, he got the nickname in a 1963 exhibition game.  Mickey Mantle send a ball soaring high over the right field fence.  Everyone knew it was gone from the second it left the bat.  Everyone except Charlie Hustle.  Pete Rose was playing right field.  At the crack of the bat he sprinted to the right field fence, timed his jump, stretched to the maximum of his 5’ 11’ frame and watch the ball sail over his head for another 100 feet.  Mantle was astonished at how hard Rose tried on a ball that there was never a chance of catching.  Charlie Hustle.  Another example, when Pete Rose walked, which he did over 1,500 times in his career, he didn’t walk to first.  Charlie Hustle dropped his bat and sprinted to first base.  Every time.

Does this make everyone sprint to first base?  No, but watching someone beat out a throw to first inspires the bench to improve their efforts.  I’ve been in the dugout and I can tell you that effort is infectious.  However, the effort can be just for yourself.  It has to be for the team.  An effort on behalf of the team, ambition for the sake of the team is what will foster enthusiasm through the ranks.

Robert DeNiro, acting as Al Capone, put it this way in the movie The Untouchables.  I will leave out the fact that DeNiro hit someone over the head with a baseball bat after that talk.   Let’s just stay with the message.  At the plate you are an individual.  In the field, you need to be part of the team.

How can companies apply this logic?  How can we get all our little leaguers to hustle down the line?  Let’s use the Four Seasons hotel chains as an example.  Following the great recession, Katie Taylor became the new CEO.  Business, as you can imagine, was significantly down as discretionary spending for elite resort accommodations evaporated.

 

Taylor created an initiative called “Who gets to be a leader around here?” The aim was to transform what had been a relatively informal approach to promoting people into a robust system for evaluating potential and performance and making promotions on the basis of them.  As Taylor put it: “We have 34,000 employees who get up every morning thinking about how to serve our guests even better than the day before. So while all of this trouble is swirling around us, our brand promise of providing the most exceptional guest experience wherever and whenever you visit us is instilled in the hearts and minds of our dedicated employees. They are the ones who fulfill that promise day in and day out.”

 

Remarkable experiences stay with customers

Doesn’t this sound like a great way to spread ambition throughout an organization?  Quick show of hands – can you think back to a pre-COVID hotel stay where someone made a significant effort to improve the quality of your experience?  My magic mirror shows me that many of you can.  Those remarkable experiences stay with us as customers and we tell other people about them.  This is what team ambition can do.  Create remarkable experiences that benefit the company and the client.

The point today is to hustle down the line.  Run everything out.  Make the extra effort to improve client satisfaction.  Or as Van McCoy might say….ooooh a-oooh.  You should have guess that this was coming.  Do it!  Do the hustle.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe.  That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.  Also, I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya

 

46. Interpret The Right Data

On the first night of each graduate school class, I would pose the same problem to my students. I would go to the board, draw a bright circle on the middle and tell them that this was a piece of data. I would ask them if they could analyze the data? Most were confused by such a vague question in the first ten minutes of class and wouldn’t even put their heads up. I would then draw a second dot somewhere else on the board and ask if they could connect the two and give me an analysis. Many now could see the opportunity to draw a line and nodded at my question. One young woman in the middle row shook her head. I asked if she could use the two points to interpret the data. She said that she could, but that the answer would be worthless without more data. I nodded. Smart girl.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I asked the class to imagine that the two points represented New York and Los Angeles and that I wanted to know how to get from one city to the other. The answers came at me fast and furious and none seemed to be exactly the same. I added the variable that some wanted to visit the Grand Canyon and some wanted to visit Mount Rushmore along the way. One of the students said that there were thousands of ways. I think the answer is closer to infinite ways, but he was catching on. Drawing a straight line between the two points doesn’t account for all the backroads, layovers and waystations during our trip. The same is true with our business decisions. Just two pieces of data can lead us to make bad decisions because every analysis isn’t a direct flight from JFK to LAX.

Rather than settling for two pieces of data, search for many tens, hundreds, thousands and perform a regression analysis to give you the best fit. Maybe I should take a quick minute for those of you who never took statistics to explain what I mean. Amy Gallo, in the Harvard Business Review offers this example, “Suppose you’re a sales manager trying to predict next month’s numbers. You know that dozens, perhaps hundreds of factors from the weather to a competitor’s promotion to the rumor of a new and improved model can impact the number. Perhaps people in your organization even have a theory about what will have the biggest effect on sales.” Have you ever heard, “Trust me. The more rain we have, the more we sell?”

Regression analysis is a way of mathematically sorting out which of those variables does indeed have an impact. The math relies on two components – the dependent variable – that would be your sales in this case and –the independent variable – that would be the myriad factors which affects sales, including weather. By collecting enough data on all these independent variables you can begin to predict where sales will fall next month.

The math on this can be a little tricky. However, it’s as simple as making two columns in Excel. Two columns and you can be on your way to being a business prognosticator!

I wasn’t thinking of using regression analysis during the birth of my first child, although I wish I did. We were in the delivery room and they just hooked Jennifer up with a belly monitor. I’m not sure of the official name, but let’s call it a belly monitor. It monitored Jennifer’s contractions both the frequency and the intensity. When the monitor was first put on we saw an occasional blip. Jennifer commented that it felt like gas. It wasn’t more than an hour that the contractions started to increase. She was strong. Biting her lips taking deep breaths. Me? I was busy watching the monitor and measuring the height of the peaks and how much closer together they were. An hour later, I noticed something that wasn’t good for the long term health of my marriage. The monitor would reveal to me the strength of the contraction about two seconds before the actual pain hit Jennifer.

I wish now that I could appreciate the ass I was back the delivery room. “Jennifer, oh this one’s going to be a good one.” She would turn to me and her eyes would roll back into her head. “Good job honey.” I tried to comfort her. This went on for another hour.

In hindsight, it may have been the wrong to use the phrase, “These peaks are resembling the Himalayas.” “Shut up.” This was the terse response I received. The final time I paid close attention to the monitor it took my breath away. The peak was so high that I could only whistle and stare at Jennifer with a blank face. I think I heard the work castration, but I’m not sure. Regardless, I had all the data I needed, but I did not analyze it correctly.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on analyzing data. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Interpret The Right Data. You heard it. Interpret The Right Data.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. I had all the data I needed in the delivery room. Unfortunately, the data I needed to analyze wasn’t on the monitor; it was on the bed in tears. Interpret the right data. Let me give you another example.

The Cookie Jar was opened in Boston in 1981. In its origin, the cookies were being sold on street corners, mostly to business people. The first day’s sales were modest, encouraging. The next day was higher, the following day even higher. People came to seek out the cookie sellers and the Cookie Jar increased production and salespeople on the street. By all accounts, this was the way that you want your startup to go. Each day, the cookie sellers would take their inventory and return at the end of the day with their receipts – sometimes earlier if they sold out quicker. You would expect that most entrepreneurs would be very happy with this growth. And it continued for a while until the owner asked his staff to perform one more task with the sales.

Ron wanted them to record the time of each sale. He wanted to know when the cookies were being sold. The data he received was astounding. The biggest time slot for cookie sales was between 11:30 and 12:30. Reasonable, right? It’s lunch time. People want a snack. The next largest time slot was between 4:00 and 5:00pm. Again reasonable. People getting out of work and buying cookies to take home. Do you know the lowest period of cookie sales? The data wasn’t even close. There were virtually zero cookie sales between 9:00 – 11:00am.

The interpretation of this data lead to a dramatic shift in American casual dining. Realizing that there were no sales in the morning meant that the Cookie Jar could change its production schedule. It could shift production to four hours later to meet the cookie demand. Then they would have capacity to make more products. Products that could be sold between 7:00am-11:00am. Breakfast products. That’s when the owner, Ron, conceived of baking pastries and croissants for morning eaters.

Ron, found a different market for his company. A market that had an appetite for baked goods that weren’t cookies. No, this market was even more lucrative. He sold baguettes.
At one midday a year later, a customer entered his store and purchased a baguette that he wished to have sliced for him. Ron sliced the bread for the customer, who in turn took out sandwich meats and cheese from his briefcase and made a lunch for himself. This piece of data was nearly as profound as the no cookies before noon data. From this data, Ron discovered a market for artisan lunches. A discovery that would turn into his acquiring a struggling local bakery called Au Bon Pain. Ron Shaich interpreted the right market data to create over 250 locations nationwide.

Sometimes analyzing the right data is hard. Developing Resilient Leaders may think that they’ve completed their work because we analyzed more than two data points. It takes questioning and curiosity to approach the correct data with the correct mindset.

Let me leave you with this final piece of data. Ron Shaich interpreted the data from his years of building Au Bon Pain and used it to create his true masterpiece. For those of you hearing Ron Shaich’s name for the first time it probably interests you to know that starting with an analysis of cookie data, Ron created the epitome of fast casual dining with – Panera Bread. Ron realized from his data that there was a better dining experience available than Au Bon Pain. He sold them and created Panera Bread. For which I and the chipotle chicken avocado melt I’m holding in my hands now thank you. But, as I’m chewing, wonder what regression analysis Ron used to arrive at the decision.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Also, I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend and help our network grow.

You can find past podcasts on my website. Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

45. Show Don’t Tell

Silence is golden. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The dichotomy between these two axioms is glaring. Let me give speech not to my thoughts in this period of civil discourse and unrest.

I am white privilege. I don’t apologize. That is how I was raised and who I am. I am also left-handed and pigeon-toed. I don’t apologize for those either. But, I will confess that my left-handedness and my pigeon- toedness have caused me more issues in my life than being white. But that does not make me tone deaf to the injustices felt by people of color now or in the past. I will never feel the impending pressure of being pulled over by the police. I will never feel the anxiety associated with being rejected because of my color. I will never feel the disgust at being slighted because of my race. And, while I will never feel those emotions it does not mean that I am tone deaf to their ringing in my ears.

The question I am asking myself today is how best to lend my voice for positive change in society.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Have you ever been to a football game and watched a “super fan” staring back at his section screaming for them to stand up and cheer? You know this guy. He’s more concerned with getting you to cheer than he apparently is with cheering for the game itself. I watched this happen at a New England Patriots game a few years ago. The Patriots were making a goal line stand late in the 4th quarter. The “super fan” was instigating people to stand up and make noise. He was insulting us and insinuating that we didn’t care about the game’s outcome. In a flash, outside linebacker Donta Hightower came around the edge, strip sacked the quarterback and recovered the ball. The stadium roared. The “super fan” turned around and asked “What happened?”

Over the past two weeks, since the heinous murder of George Floyd I’ve seen the same act from other people of white privilege. In this time where the nation appears to be its most galvanized since 9/11, I have watched numerous acts of public shaming. I have received numerous calls to elicit my position on racial inequity. They are not as overt as, “Trent tell us…” They are more nuanced like, “if you don’t share this post with 50 of your friends then you are supporting racism in our police departments.” Or, a fellow board member stating that it has become increasingly incumbent that we issue a statement. Or, why didn’t you join the march today? Or, posts reading, “admit you are a racist.”

In none of these cases did I get an inkling that the writer was doing anything themselves that positively contributes to the situation. As Developing Resilient Leaders there is a time to speak, a time to listen, a time to build up, a time to break down, a time to dance, a time to mourn and a time to cast away stones. So please indulge me with the time to show you how I stand in this fray.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on standing tall. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Show Don’t Tell. You heard it. Show Don’t Tell.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. Sydney Harris expounded on the African Proverb, “If you’re not part of the solution; you are part of the problem” by adding “but the perpetual human predicament is that the answer soon poses its own problems.” It is my firm believe that one cannot be a leader if you’re allowed to be shamed into action. One negates the other. However, we cannot be everything to everyone.

Environmentalist Greta Thunberg told us that “if world leaders choose to fail us, my generation will never forgive them.” The Me Too movement and its struggle against sexual harassment still permeates in society. Transgender rights are not fully secured on our country. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from changing the most divisive law of the land. And let’s not forget that only four months ago people were looking at Asians with a suspicious eye because of the novel Coronavirus.

My point is that each of these causes, issues are dire and important for the growth of our society. Yet, how can any reasonable leader actively serve everyone? How can any of us go all in on every issue. We cannot be everything to everyone.

For Developing Resilient Leaders, I give you this challenge – find your why! Simon Sinek’s brilliant contextual model outlines how leaders inspire with why. Please take this recommendation – watch Simon S-I-N-E-K’s TED talk and you will be blown away at its brilliance and simplicity.

My passion is to serve the spinal cord injured community. Here is my why. I serve because I got out of the wheelchair and I serve those who can’t. My cause is no less valuable to the people with spinal cord injuries that the other issues I listed above to their victims. To suggest otherwise is selfish and myopic. The Americans with disabilities act of 1990 ushered in dramatic improvements in the rights of those with disabilities and access to the previously unattainable. Yet, how many stores consider that they’ve complied because of a separate stall, a ramp or wider doorways? Most buildings consider the basics only – the minimum to meet building codes. Where is the rioting over that? How many times have you watched someone park in a handicap spot using the logic “I’ll only be a minute?” What action has been taken to call that out? How many times have you watch someone park so close to a handicap van that a person in a wheelchair can’t access the panel door? I don’t see any cars burning over that? If you say that it’s not the same as any of the items I listed above than I will say that you could tone deaf because you cannot hear the issue of the person who cannot get in or out of their vehicle.

Where is the justice for those who lose movement, feeling in their legs or arms? When I suffered my spinal cord injury, I needed to rent a hospital bed for my house because I could not climb stairs. The bed cost $1,200 per month. Outrageous! Most people don’t have that kind of money, particularly if they can’t work, or if they can continue their trade because of their injury. That became part of my why. I created and funded a foundation to provide durable medical goods to those with spinal cord injury. Items that were not covered by insurance. Not once did I post that your silence on spinal cord injury discrimination is consent. I led by showing people a direct path to help.

Please don’t infer some meaning from my words. I am direct. Don’t interpret my subtext. Read my words. Resilient Leaders do not allow themselves to be shamed. Stand tall. Show people what you are doing. Lead by action, not by mere words. Henrik Ibsen wrote, “A thousand words equals one act.” If you want my thousand words on police injustice, I’ll be briefer. Amend Graham versus Connor. If you are not familiar with that landmark Supreme Court decision, then you don’t understand the issue with police violence. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote the “objective reasonableness” standard into interpreting a policeman’s actions when using force. The opinion has offered near immunity to the police in cases of deadly force. If you want force reduced, you must remove the shield that protects them. Only when police are judged as trained citizens will force and brutality be minimized. Short of that we are only treating symptoms rather than finding a cure.

Rather than 1,000 words, act for your cause. Act now. Use actions as the foundation for leadership. I herald the peaceful protesters in Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and small towns across the land. I praise their leaders for organizing and rallying support for their righteous cause. And I commend them for the stances they are taking for improving the tenor of racial inequity in police forces throughout the country. Show people what you are about rather than tell others what they should be.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. I apologize that I wasn’t my humorous deprecating self this week. There are times in the course of events when a more serious tone is required. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Also, I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend.

You can find past podcasts on my website. Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com
Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

44. Celebrate Success

I was playing golf on Sunday. The stakes were high and the competitors were menacing. I reached the long par four 13th in regulation and was settling in for my birdie putt. My nerves were steady. The putt was about 25’ with a strong slope down and to the right. I picked my line, practiced my pace and set in to stoke the putt. That’s when the horns started blowing. Hundreds of horns. Unfortunately for me, the horns started just before I putted the ball. My legs jumped at the cacophony of horns and I pushed the ball more than ten feet past the hole. I was furious. The match was tight and I just gave the hole away to the other team. I turned to see the commotion behind me. Ready to scream curses at the perpetrators. Instead, I dropped my putter and started clapping. I started clapping for the cars and whistling at them.

The East Providence High School graduation procession was driving by and today was their day to shine!

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Many events were altered by the COVID Chaos and high school graduations were one of them. Relegated to drive thru services, like they were picking up a Big Mac and some fries, these high school seniors and their parents seized the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful rite of passage. The sides of cars had pictures of the graduates, the year, some had floats each more ostentatious than the next. And they honked. They honked and they honked and they tooted and they blared their horns until you couldn’t distinguish one car from the next. Rather, it was one long glorious stretch of sweet, bone rattling noise.

As the procession turned into a large field, a woman started calling names over the field’s microphone system. She called each name as their car passed by. The names of the graduates of the class of 2020. The class who will never be forgotten. People say that this year’s seniors were robbed of their graduation. In thirty years’ time, people will reminisce about their high school graduations. Everyone will know this class. Everyone will say, “oh, you were in that year.” They are they year of the most not-average graduation ceremony of all time.
Graduations are important milestones in our lives. They mark the passage of time and coming of age, for both the graduate and for the parents. Changing jobs, receiving promotions, getting married, having children these are all memorable milestones in our lives.

Retirement. Retirement is a great milestone. Did you ever wonder why people received a gold watch for retirement? So did I. It was a tradition started in the 1940s by Pepsi. They gave started giving gold watches to people who retired with 25 or 30 years of seniority. The watch’s inscription read, “You gave us your time, now we are giving you ours.” A sweet way to recognize loyalty in the workforce. Unfortunately, I expect that tradition to fade rapidly from our culture. First, not many people work thirty years for the same company any more. And second, who wears watches? Maybe Apple watches, but that doesn’t seem the same at a 70-year old’s retirement party.
Slight change of topic. Have you ever felt jealous about someone else’s success? Have you ever thought, “Why did they get the promotion instead of me? They don’t work as hard as I do.” Sure. It’s ingrained in all of us – the feeling of insecurity. It exists because all through our childhood and formative years, we were constantly measured against other people. We fought hard for our parent’s and teacher’s attention.

What if I told you that jealously isn’t bad? In fact, what if I told you it was good. Do you believe me? Try this? Think of the last time you were jealous of someone. Got it in your mind? Can to identify exactly what you were jealous of? More money, better car, better job, smarter, more love – this list can go on. When you’ve identified that item, I want you to focus yourself on how you can close the gap. Don’t resent the success of people because you are jealous. Rather work towards closing the gap between you. When that person buys a new boat, or a new car, or is on the cover of a magazine I want you to think about what you need to do to get into that position.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on accomplishments. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Celebrate Success. You heard it. Celebrate success.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. A decade ago, I was asked to call the names of the graduates for the business school at Johnson & Wales. I was honored. The ceremony was held annually at the Providence Performing Arts Center, a 1920s posh movie theater that is now the cultural center for large scales musicals and productions. Johnson & Wales had a diverse student body demonstrated by the parade of nations. A representative from each country with a student would carry their nation’s flag in the opening procession. In some years, you might get 50 or 60 flags. The international students in many cases would bring their parents to the graduation. In some cases, it was the first time that the parents traveled to America. This was a special day.

The challenge for me was pronouncing the names properly. The students would hand you a card with their name on it and instantly you had to read it with the correct emphasis on the proper syllable, which is not easy to do with Thai and Chinese names. Regardless, I boomed out each name with such vigor and enthusiasm you’d have thought they won a brand new car on a game show. Bo Ram Lee, Xiang Liu, Sachin Phutanae Ouomprakash come on down! You’re the next contest…sorry. It got away from me a little.

A couple of years into reading the names I was approached by the dean with a request to tone it down a little this year. The Board of Trustees wanted to keep the event more stoic, more respectful of the institution. To me, the Board was a little tone deaf. This was a time to celebrate success. Earning a master’s degree, while working a full time job, or coming from a different country is a major achievement. Plus, their family and friends were in the audience to help celebrate this night. So, you know exactly what I did…I turned the dial up to 11. I belted out the names like I was trying to get an amen. The students smiled and laughed. The families cheered. The icing on the cake was that one gentleman had his name called, turned around to the woman behind him, bent on one knee and proposed. I took the microphone and broadcast the proposal for all to hear and followed with, “She said, ‘yes!’”
You can already imagine that I wasn’t invited back next year.

Developing resilient leaders – cheer other people’s success. Applaud their accomplishments. Let any feelings of jealously go and congratulate others. Show respect for their work and acknowledge it promptly. I utilize LinkedIn to keep track of job promotions or changes. Connect with your network. Send a note of appreciation for their effort. And when you finished congratulating them on their success – start working on your own. Use the jealousy to focus on what you need to achieve. Focus on what you want to accomplish and soon enough people will be celebrating your success.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.
If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. That way you can enjoy developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses. Also, I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend. Word of mouth is proven to be the best method of advertising podcasts. Our network has grown over this past year of producing podcasts and I thank the constant listeners for their support.

There are some new videos posted on the website. Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com
Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

43. Rise Like A Phoenix

I am writing this podcast while watching the countdown for the SpaceX Crew Dragon historic launch.  It will be the first commercial manned flight into space.  It will also be the first American manned launch since 2011.  The astronauts just announced that they are a “go” for launch.  I can’t lie.  I am stoked about this.  I’ve always had a fascination with the science and mathematics behind space travel.  What makes this flight unique is that it is the first launch of a new vehicle in thirty years.  And, this flight is the gateway for Developing Resilient Leaders to book their ticket into space.  The flight program stopped flights nearly a decade ago, but now they are reborn.

The two astronauts are sitting back in their seats staring into the sky.  Their hands are folded like they are saying a prayer before dinner.  We are at T-45 minutes.  I wonder what those two men are thinking as they wait for launch.  Maybe they are like my kids and playing a game of I Spy with My Little Eye.  “I spy with my little eye something blue…”

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

 

Return To Normalcy?

Many states are reopening this week, coming back online after nearly 10 weeks of dormancy.  The biggest question on most people’s lips is what will it look like?  Will life be normal or will there be a new normal, a better normal?  Are businesses going to be the same or are their going to be changes in the way we operate?  I’m not limiting that question to wearing masks and sitting at restaurant tables six feet apart.  Rather, I’m wondering what is going to be different in a positive way about this three-month hiatus.

Oooh.  Update.  They are loading the propellant.  Thursday’s launch was scrubbed at the last minute because of weather.  Today looks great.  Back to the podcast.

This isn’t the first time that businesses have had to make changes following a dramatic event.  In 1995, a fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts at Malden Mills created a learning event for all managers going to business school.  3,000 union jobs were at risk because of the damage to the factory.  Worse, the fire came two weeks before Christmas, affecting employees both emotionally and financially.

The fire devastated the building, but the CEO, Aaron Feurerstein announced two amazing items.  First, that the company would rebuild the textile factory rather than take the opportunity to send jobs overseas.  Second, he offered to pay all wages for the next 30 days, which turned into 90 days, and he covered all benefits for 180 days.  During a 60 Minutes interview, Feurerstein said “I think it was a wise business decision, but that isn’t why I did it.  I did it because it was the right thing to do.”  It takes tremendous courage to go out on a limb like that.  It takes the bravery that many Developing Resilient Leaders display in their normal courses of business.

Unfortunately, the benevolence shown did not pay off for the company as less than a decade later it was in bankruptcy, primarily because of the heavy debt burden of rebuilding.  So, should companies rebuild in times of crisis or protect their remaining assets and search for other opportunities?  I can see many small business owners pondering this question right now – salon owners, restaurant owners, bar owners, lap pool owners.  They all need to consider whether their business is worth investing in following the COVID Chaos.  Should they keep their doors closed?  Should they take on the risk and regulations of reopening?

 

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on rebuilding.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Rise like a phoenix.  You heard it.  Rise like a phoenix.

The Fire of London Creates a Rebirth

The theory is simple here’s how it works.  On September 2nd, 1666, the city of London was ravished by a fire.  Over a quarter of the city was destroyed, over thirteen thousand houses were ruined and over 100,000 people were homeless.  The fire of London changed the city forever – in some ways for the positive and in others for worse.  I’ll start with the better.  The fire jumped from house to house because each was built with timber that had been soaked or treated with some oil.  There was no viable way to pump water from the River Thames onto the streets to help tame the blaze.  The fire needed to flame out on its own.

When the city started rebuilding there were ordinances that all new construction should be of brick and stone to reduce greatly the chance for a repeat event.  The government used its authority to compel land owners to change what was normal and create a “new” normal.  I’m sure that the owners of the quarries and the brick makers were thrilled at this government intervention.  However, the change was positive for the community and for the city as a whole.  As you walk along sections of central London, you can see many of the rebuilt buildings still standing.  You can see the uniformity of the stone and bricks as they were rebuilt successively.  The government edict served its purpose by reducing the potential for a second devastating event.

Remember that I said that there was something good and something bad.  Okay.  Have you ever walked through the streets of London?  It’s much easier if you have six pints of Bellhaven in your belly first so you’re already staggering.  Walking the crooked and winding streets requires a keen sense of balance or to be completely snookered where you are just meandering aimlessly.  The city officials floated the idea of modernizing the streets in the downtown area into the evolving perpendicular model of avenues and cross streets.  What we have come to like and enjoy in cities like New York and Chicago could have happened in the world’s largest city except that the landowners were unwilling to change their plots.  Landowners were offered the same amount of land, but stubbornly refused to change the dimensions of their plots.  This stubbornness resulted in leaving the roads in the same drunken weaving pattern that exist today.  And remember, this was before someone had the bright idea to drive cars on the wrong side of the road!

In my opinion here is the best that came out of the fire of London – St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Prior to the conflagration, St. Paul’s was in a poor state of repair before the fire damage.  Dr. Christopher Wren was tabbed to fix the dilapidated cathedral.  But, rather than press forward with repairs to the building, Wren reimagined the cathedral.  Wren took a generational leap, a quantum leap in architecture and designed the building to have a dome rather than the traditional peaked ceiling.  The dome reached a height of 365 feet symbolic of the earth’s revolution around the sun.  The most significant piece of trivia about this evolution is that Wren never saw a domed building before.  He used the Hagia Sohpia as a model but had never actually seen a domed building.

 

According to Adrian Tinniswood’s book “By Permission of Heaven.”  Wren asked a workman to bring him a flat stone to use as a marker for the masons.  He was given a fragment of a gravestone containing the single word RESRURGAM, meaning I will rise again. From Matthew 27:63. Wren decided to place a large phoenix above the south transept hovering over the word as a sign of London rising from the ashes of the Great Fire.

I’m excited to see what evolutions come from the Corona shutdowns.  How will Developing Resilient Leaders rise from these ashes?  What previously impossible achievements will be made because of the reboot?  How can we use this time to reimagine our businesses and our lives?

The Falcon Rocket Launches

Ohh there it goes.  The Falcon rocket is lifting off.  It looks a little like the rocket we watched in the MTV commercials during the 80s and 90s.  They just passed Main Engine Cut Off and ditched the Falcon.  Can you believe that they are now going to steer the rocket back to earth and land it on something equivalent to an inflatable pool chair?  The Crew Dragon is now in orbit.  They made it safely into space.  This spaceship is nothing like what we’ve seen before.  Isn’t it cool what innovations we can dream up when we rise from the ashes?  My good friend David Bowie would have been impressed.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend.  Word of mouth is proven to be the best method of advertising podcasts.  Our network has grown over this past year of producing podcasts and I thank the constant listeners for their support.

There are some new videos posted on the website.  Please take a minute and check them out at www.trenttheroux.com

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya.

41. Create A Meaningful Scoreboard

Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed – no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull. The passage came from George Orwell’s 1984, but it very easily could have been about working from home.

There are varying estimates of the number of workers who are now working remotely. A study by MIT in April showed the number approaching 50%. Half of the workforce has carved out office space in their homes to serve their employer’s needs. They rearranged their daily routines to serve their employer’s needs. And, half is trying to produce at a level at least equal to that before they left the office. Many employers know it. Further, many employers know it because they are monitoring your keystrokes and files and projects and your physical movements.

Yes, Big Brother allowed you the few cubic centimeters in your skull, but Tattleware doesn’t.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Tattleware is the new Big Brother

Tattleware is a euphemism for a hot segment of the software market. Companies like Basecamp and Pragli offer software that allows employers to better monitor their employees. Systems like this have been around for a while, but the Covid Chaos has turned the screw on the uses for the software. And, screwed is how some remote workers now feel. How would you feel if your employer required you to leave your web camera on the entire time you are working? Does that feel a little like Big Brother? What exactly are corporations seeking? To understand your facial expressions while responding to idiotic emails?

The makers of the software as a subscription service say that having the camera always on gives coworkers the opportunity to create instant video chats to improve the spontaneous meeting that would take place in the office. Perhaps. Then again, perhaps the coworker who wouldn’t stop talking about her cats in the office can now show you Fluffy, Twinkles and Pumpkin as they walk across her screen.

Del Currie, founder of Sneek software, describes that Sneek offers workers to click on a recent picture taken so that they can start a conversation. He says, “These other things that eat up so much of your mental space because you’ve got work dinging you all the time in your Slack channels. Those things are probably more invasive than having a picture snapped of you now and again.” It is me or does that sound like someone rationalizing his product.

How would you feel if your employer docked your pay because too much time elapsed between keystrokes? It’s happening! NPR recently reported on a woman who described leaving to use the bathroom and grab a drink. When she returned to her computer there was a pop up box prompting her to click in the next 20 seconds or her time away from the system would be docked on her timecard? Now, I don’t know about your bathroom habits…but…sometimes for me it takes a few extra keystrokes to finish.

George Orwell accurately saw company control

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.” Orwell continues. “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” In 1984, Orwell portrays a government that monitors and controls every aspect of human life. The connections to 1984 and tattleware are eerily similar. Telescreens and hidden microphones are installed everywhere throughout the city. One of the central themes of the novel is that of Loyalty to the party. Neighbors and coworkers inform on each other. Children report their parents. Who’s going to tell the company that Fluffy and Pumpkin are walking across the keyboard?

As Developing Resilient Leaders, how can we address these items? Is this the right method for monitoring our remote employees or can we use our skills to find a better path?
I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on becoming Big Brother. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Create A Meaningful Scoreboard. You heard it. Create A Meaningful Scoreboard.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. I miss baseball. I’m going to explain this theory in baseball terms.

Breakdown the requirements of the scoreboard

Let’s pretend we are the General Manager of the Montreal Expos. What is your ultimate goal? To win the World Series, right? Let’s forget for a minute that the Expos stopped playing in 2004. And let’s also forget that they never won the World Series, okay? Good. Now, your job as the General Manager is to win the World Series. To win the World Series you need some long and intermediate goals.

First, you need to make the playoffs. To make the playoffs you need to win at least ninety games in the season. Winning ninety games means you will need to score more than 750 runs over the 162 game season.  Lastly, scoring more than 750 runs you will require at least 120 homeruns from your number 3 through 7 hitters.

For now, we are breaking down the long term goals into much smaller items. I want you to consider one employee now on your staff – the strength and conditioning coach. This coach is responsible for helping the numbers 3 through 7 hitters become strong enough and flexible enough to hit homeruns. This coach has one job, but his job is integral to achieving the team’s broader goals. (Sound like some of the jobs we perform from home? A small piece in a large puzzle?)

Okay, back to the Expos. Every baseball team has a scoreboard in the outfield. Typically, a really big one. Everyone in the stands can see the score. Everyone can see how the team is doing today and how they are doing for the season. The scoreboards also tally the number of wins for the season and what place the team is in the standings. The strength and conditioning coach can see the impact of his efforts by looking at the large scoreboard every day.

Keystrokes are meaningless without having a purpose. Measuring how many keystrokes someone is punching is the worst type of leadership there is. It’s small, petty and pointless. It gives the leader the false sense of power they crave without actually accomplishing anything of substance. Developing Resilient Leaders aspire to raise their employees. Aspire to help them see the value of their contributions. Aspire to show them the scoreboard so everyone knows how we are performing.

The 1984 Montreal Expos team had four hall-of fame players on it yet finished the season with a losing record and last in their division. Some companies can have the greatest workers in the world, but unless management puts them in a position to succeed even the best will struggle.

Create a meaningful scoreboard for your employees.

Create a meaningful scoreboard for your employees. Show them how they fit into the larger picture rather than demean them with monitoring software. Demeaning software will only create complicit drones. Workers who don’t care about the bigger picture – only about being compliant. Orwell continues. “But it was alright, everything was alright, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and I ask you one small favor. Suggest it to a friend. Give someone else the opportunity to hear our non-peer reviewed, developing resilient leader theories. The number one way that podcasts grow is through word of mouth.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

40. Reward The Deserving

The Kentucky Derby was supposed to run last week. That’s normally one of my favorite days of the year. I invite friends over to watch the race, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and sip on mint juleps. It’s probably the only time in the year I get to use the word muddle. I muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass before I pour the mint julep. We sip, we laugh and we comment on the outrageous hats worn by the ladies.

After that, the race. The fastest two minutes in sports is a pure adrenaline rush. Party goers screaming out the name of the horse they just pulled out of a hat for their $2 bet. At the end of the race, the winning horse trots along the track. Cameras flashing. He’s led into the winner’s circle where he is adorned with a bed of roses and I think, “wouldn’t it be great if all of our best employees could be rewarded this way?”

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Care about the employee as a person

Maybe it’s not right to think of a horse as an employee, although stud fees can be quite substantial. Instead, let’s think about how we can apply this to our employees. Anne Mulcahy, former chairwoman of Xerox said, “employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” Caring about the employee as a whole person is what we are trying to focus on.

Receiving praise from superiors or peers reinforces one’s self-image. The improvement in self-image may lead employees to increase productivity, raise morale and foster better relationships throughout the work place. Heck, make a big enough bouquet of roses and they may want to run the Preakness.

Reward Employees

In my company last year, I asked managers to identify for me a worker in their charge who they felt provided a remarkable experience to a customer or to another stakeholder because of a benevolent act. I wanted to give the winner public recognition at our annual shareholder event. I received many submission of truly great displays of positive customer interactions. It was tough to select from the many. Here’s is something else I learned. I didn’t know many of the names that were submitted, but after reading their thoughtful acts I wanted to meet each one of them. Also, until you ask sometimes we as leaders might not know all the good deeds that are being done in our or the company’s name.

One person’s story rose about the rest. Lewis works as a water meter installation supervisor. His crew installs water meters for towns and cities. Last year, Lewis was working for a small town in Vermont when he learned about a water leak. Citizens of the town organized a Facebook page dedicated to giving comments about the meter exchange experience. Lewis checked the page regularly and saw that a citizen posted a comment that water was leaking from her meter. Lewis immediately contacted someone from his crew who was in the area and dispatched him to the woman’s home and followed there himself.

The water leak was small and fixed with only a little tightening. Lewis was standing on the woman’s front lawn when a man from the water department arrived to fix the leak. Lewis proudly told him that the matter was resolved. Think about this for a second. Lewis solved the woman’s issue before the city even arrived. Isn’t that the type of leadership we discuss on this podcast every week?

Reward Employees

I was proud to call Lewis on the stage in front of 500 of his coworkers and tell this story. We inscribed his name on a plaque which is mounted by the front door of the corporate office. And, we gave Lewis a very nice cash gift to take his family out.

The audience gave Lewis a rousing round of applause. And, I hope that some of them will take his story to heart when they have their next customer interaction.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on recognition. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Reward The Deserving. You heard it. Reward The Deserving.
The theory is simple here’s how it works. Successful organizations make recognition a priority. They realize that well designed recognition provides the organization and its employees with several positive results.

This works well in the office and should in your personal life as well. The most important day for recognition just passed, Mother’s Day. Who deserves more recognition and praise than our mothers or the mothers of our children? Quick fact – did you know that mother’s day is the busiest day for restaurants in the United States? It’s true. More than New Year’s Day, or Valentine’s Day. Nothing shows mom our appreciation more for mom than our being unwilling to cook dinner for her.

Remember Mother’s Day

I treasure Mother’s Day. Let me rephrase that. I treasure Mother’s Day now…now that I learned how important it is. My first child, Haley, was born on March 23rd. Jennifer and I were proud young parents and the birth of a healthy granddaughter moved me up in the polls with my father-in-law. However, my father-in-law was skeptical of me. I used to say that there were two things unpopular in Jim’s house; one was me and the other was – well, they both may have been me. Here’s an example of why.

The family drove to Vermont to watch Jennifer’s younger brother graduate from college. We drove home on Sunday morning following the ceremony. Jennifer seemed to be in a foul mood and I didn’t understand why. “Trent, do you know what today is?” The tone made me think that I did something wrong. “It’s Sunday.” “Yes, it’s Sunday. Do you know what Sunday?” “Um, the 12th of May?” I didn’t see where this was going. “Trent, do you what the second Sunday of May is?” After that, I still thought the answer was May 12th. “It’s Mother’s Day, Trent.” And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was Jennifer’s first Mother’s Day and I was completely oblivious to it. As you can imagine, my apologies were futile.

I stopped at a gas station for a pee break and while inside I saw that they were selling single roses for Mother’s Day. In an effort to appease the situation, I bought a rose for Jennifer and proudly gave it to her. I think it was Johnny Mathis who sang Too Much, Too Little, Too Late and it was the right song. My memory for details is normally quite acute. However, I can’t remember what happened to the rose. Jennifer may have snapped it in half, thrown it out the window or stabbed me with the thorns. I honestly can remember, but I know that the rose did not last very long.

Recognize People

In conclusion, Developing Resilient Leaders in the audience I offer this one piece of advice – Reward The Deserving. Reward employees.  Start with the mothers in our lives. I learned that lesson with a few cracks to the back of the head, but I know understand that it takes less than a moment for you to recognize someone for their achievements, for their efforts. The recognition, however, will stay with the recipient for a long time. Make your recognition sincere. Be specific why you are recognizing them and the power of their impact. This show of goodwill will have a tremendous impact on your organizations and in your lives. Lastly, make sure you recognize people while it matters don’t be like I was pulling a Johnny Mathis.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode I ask you one small favor. Please suggest it to a friend. Our network has grown over this past year of producing podcasts and I thank the constant listeners for their support.

Last week, I delivered a keynote speech to a Boston based marketing association via Zoom titled Resiliency is a Reflex. Resiliency is being tested during this Corona chaos we are living through. If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your organization, please email me at info@trenttheroux.com. I’d love to discuss some of the details. Thanks for taking the time to listen. See ya.

Fair Negotiations Foster Strong Relationships

39. Take Only What You Need

I was shopping in my local supermarket last week.  My mouth and nose covered with a surgical mask and I was snaking through the aisles in the new one-way traffic pattern.  There was a run on Brussel sprouts.  It’s nice to see during a pandemic that parents are feeding their kids healthy foods.  The line at the deli counter could not have been more genteel, each offering others the opportunity to be served in front of them.  The fishmonger smiled through his mask when he told me that he had a great cut of salmon.  The store had only a limited number of shoppers and the reverence in everyone’s spirit was palpable….until I reached the paper products aisle.  It looked like it was ransacked by the Vandals.  There were only scraps of paper and plastic strewn along the walls and the floor.  I had a cold feeling come across me like reading T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland.  Signs down the aisle reading “One Per Customer” were ripped off the walls.  One was marred with graffiti.  I approached the stock boy who was sweeping the debris and asked if there were any paper towels in the back.  He guffawed and said that I would need to win the lottery to get paper towels from here.  I heard his mocking laughter as I walked away and thought “how much extra poop is there to clean during a pandemic?”  The answer of course is none, but that’s not the real reason the shelves are empty, is it?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business.  My name is Trent Theroux.

The Wasteland was exactly how I felt leaving the store.

April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

 

Deindividuation Defined

What drives people by the thousands to eviscerate the toilet paper, paper towel and disinfectant aisles?  Sure the easy answer is COVID-19, but that doesn’t explain why to me.  I think the answer is closer to deindividuation theory.  Deindividuation is a concept that is generally thought of as loss of self-awareness.  In Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind, Le Bon posits that a loss of personal responsibility in crowds leads to an inclination to behave primitively and hedonistically by the entire group.

 

Simply put, fear of COVID-19 is manifesting itself as mob mentality in the grocery stores.  Sure, people are paying for toilet paper rather than looting and starting fires, but that might be a yet.  This primitive and hedonistic behavior takes its roots because of the intense and omnipresent news coverage about end of days and the need to stockpile.  The reporting is reckless and sensational, just the way the news outlets like it.

 

Government Aid Helps The Wealthy

Some of this primitive and hedonistic behavior is being illuminated in the corporate world as well.  The government is preparing to release its second round of the Payroll Protection Program, or PPP.  The PPP is designed for small business of 500 employees or less to apply for a loan so they can retain their employees.  If the employees are retained through September, the loan turns into a grant.  This is a beautiful way to keep paychecks in people’s pockets, allow businesses to retain their talent through the crises and allow some breathing room for the economy.  Except…except for the greedy ones.

It has been plastered in the news that Shake Shack took the PPP maximum of $10mm for their company.  Shake Shack, a publicly traded company with nearly $2 billion in market capitalization.  Granted, the valuation is down from $4 billion a few months ago. Boo hoo.  These clowns used the restaurant exclusion to secure the loan, but they’re not alone.  Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, they of over 6,000 employees applied and were awarded two loans for $10mm each.  Which coincidentally is the price of one of their filet mignons.   The people that really take the cake are the brilliant minds from Harvard University who received a $10mm loan.  Harvard…they have a $40 billion endowment fund!  $40 billion.  That is the exact size of the Massachusetts state budget for 2019.  The whole state!  $10 million for Harvard won’t even cover the bar bill, unless they’re eating at Ruth’s Chris.  Then, it would be about right.

Is this greed?  No.  I think about it slightly different.  Each of these organizations followed the hastily drafted rules to be eligible for the PPP.  They all legally qualified to receive the money.  The question is did they need it?  Did they need it more than the thousands of smaller companies who were shut out of the process because they don’t have the clout or cache of the larger organizations?  The answer clearly is no.  They took the money because they could even if they didn’t need it.

Sounds to me like the way thousands of people shopped for toilet paper.  They didn’t squeeze the Charmin because they needed an extra 12-pack.  They grabbed the Quilted Northern because they could.  They were operating under a mob mentality, deindividuation.

Developing Resilient Leader Theory

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on deindividuation.  Are you ready?  Got your pencils out?  Here’s it is.  Take Only What You Need.  You heard it.  Take Only What You Need.

The theory is simple here’s how it works.  Do you remember when you were at the dinner table as a child and your parents told you take all you want, but eat all you take?  That was a common refrain for me.  Eat all I take.  I learned from that lesson not to reach for more food than necessary.  It was a tough lesson, though.  Trust me.  Here’s another saying that I’m sure you heard as a youngster.  Trent, your eyes are bigger than your stomach.  Yup!  If I saw a box of chocolates…gone.  Bag of cookies…gone.  Cool Whip in the fridge…gone.  It took me most of my formative years to control the impulses to take something because I needed it rather than I wanted it.

Developing resilient leaders can apply this concept to their negotiations. Every transaction doesn’t need to result in you gutting your counterpart.  Leaving some on the table can help foster a stronger relationship for the next transaction you will conduct.  You can also consider what State Farm and Progressive are doing by returning a small amount of customer’s premiums.  This is a brilliant piece of marketing.  The companies are saving tens of millions in claims because nobody’s driving under the shelter in place orders and they’re returning a fraction of their savings.  Yet, regular auto drivers feel goodwill because some money was returned.  State Farm appears to have taken only what they need.  Outright greed serves no one well. It only creates a barren wasteland in the marketplace and deprives the many from simple enjoyments.

T.S. Eliot continues,

After the frosty silence in the gardens

After the agony in stony places

The shouting and the crying

He who was living is now dead

We who were living are now dying

With little patience

 

T.S. Eliot was writing about the death of literature and art in favor of jazz and movies.  The early 1920s was a revolutionary time and Eliot was fearful for the demise of culture.  COVID-19 is changing our culture, toilet paper hoarding and all.  I hope that this doesn’t change us too much as a society.  I hope that we can retain some of the innocence and wonder of yesteryear.  Then again, if Eliot was fearful of talking movies what would he have thought about binge watching Tiger King on Netflix?

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood.  Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you enjoyed this episode I ask you one small favor.  Please suggest it to a friend.  Our network has grown over this past year of producing podcasts and I thank the constant listeners for their support.

This week, I’m delivering a keynote speech via Zoom titled Resiliency is a Reflex.  I am trying to make it a humble message in a turbulent time.  If you’d like me to deliver a similar message to your organization, please email me at info@trenttheroux.com.   I’d love to discuss some of the details.  Or, check out my website at www.trentttheroux.com

 

Thanks for taking the time to listen.  See ya.