Comfortably Uncomfortable (Continue to Learn)

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Did you learn something new today?

No? Why Not?

Just happy to be floating along feeling comfortable knowing what you know?

It’s time to get into the LEARNING ZONE.

That’s exactly where we learn best.

So, what happens to many of us when we end up in the workplace having been promoted into roles based on our technical competence?

We stop learning.

When we stop learning we also stifle the learning of those who report to us. This limits their potential to thrive and our potential to succeed at the same time.

Learning is a two-way street and even as Managers we can learn from another Human Being regardless of rank or title.

But first we must be prepared to enter the Learning Zone ourselves and drop the technical expert façade in order to open ourselves up to being COMFORTABLY UNCOMFORTABLE

There is a simple way to introduce the concept of being “comfortably uncomfortable”

I call it CONTINUE TO LEARN

Ask for help……say you don’t have all the answers……tell a story about why you find yourself to be vulnerable in certain situations.

Then let your people know that your role is to keep them COMFORTABLY UNCOMFORTABLE and out of COMFORTABLY COMFORTABLE or UNCOMFORTABLY UNCOMFORTABLE

It’s what a Being Human is all about

Mark LeBusque is the Human Manager. He has a track record in helping clients add more Human to their businesses and drive up Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Business Results; and his 7 Step approach is based on his own experimentation as a Manager.

Mark’s first book BEING HUMAN – Why Robots are not the Answer to Business Success will be launched in February 2017. For Pre Launch Orders click below

The Other End of Happiness

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Given the tragic circumstances of the death of Dan Vickerman I thought to republish this Post from 2016. Last week I spoke at my Book Launch about my passion to help Men not pick up that rope like my Father did 15 years ago………….we have much work to do here.

“He was a good bloke who made things” – A.J LeBusque (6 Years Old)

This is not a call for sympathy and is a little different to my usual Posts, however it is becoming more and more evident to me as to why I now do the work I do. On the surface I call it “Human Being” work which at its heart is all about creating a strong sense of Belonging, Self Worth and Purpose in an individual so that every Human Being feels part of something bigger than self.

I spoke recently at the ACS NSW/ACT Conference about the need to include a Happiness Strategy in Workplaces. Happiness is still viewed as a little “fluffy” and its hard to measure the impact on the bottom line etc etc etc……………

The message that really resonated with the audience was the story I told about losing my Father some 15 years ago when he had lost any relationship with the whole concept of happiness. It struck a particular chord with a few men and women who came to me and said thank you for the message ……….it is a timely reminder for me.

If you see someone today in your life today that looks like they need some support and a “happiness lift” then don’t just walk past them. It may just be what they need to keep them from the other side of happiness. 

Life was pretty good for the LeBusque clan – Mum and Dad had moved from Mildura to Romsey to be closer to my immediate Family – My wife Allison and Kids Sam, Amy and Zoe. They loved babysitting them and performing concerts at their home. Dad was doing odd jobs and had built his own house. We were in for good times.

The first I knew that something was wrong was when my wife arrived at my local Cricket Club where I played and said – “Your mum has found a note”

On the frantic dash from Wallan all I could think was where could he be?

On the way Mum rang to say Dad was in the Shed – In his Car with it rigged up with the pipe from the vacuum cleaner from the exhaust to the back window to asphyxiate him with the carbon monoxide fumes.

Given his confused state of mind at the time – he hadn’t checked the fuel gauge and ran out of fuel before his last breath. A good thing or a bad thing – time would be the ultimate judge of this.

The way he looked – so weak, scared and helpless – “I’m so sorry” he said.

The “recovery” and his guilt – “I will never do it again” – but I knew him better – and called him on this – Robert John LeBusque was a perfectionist – something he learned from building 100’s of houses that were impeccable and he would finish the job that he had started – it was just a matter of time. Everyone else chose to believe him but not me. In my eyes he had never failed at anything and it would just be a matter of time.

I said “Yes you will because you always finish the job”. I learnt about calling shit out that day and not holding anything back – I hoped it would shock him into wanting to prove me wrong.

The next period of time was all about “Don’t mention the war” – no conversations were had and the clock was ticking. Only once did my Dad break down in front of me and my brother – sobbing uncontrollably in his kitchen saying he couldn’t keep being a burden and living this way.

The only other time I had seen him cry was at his Fathers wake where he apologised to us all for being a bad father – he really lost it that day and we were absolutely shocked at the time. Nothing could have been further from the truth and he had carried this with him for years. What else was he not saying at the time? And it was never mentioned again…….

Move forward 6 months my Dad got his old builders bucket, a rope and using his great knot tying ability strung himself up in his shed at his house. Mum knew straight away when she arrived home from overnight home care of her mentally disabled clients as the curtains were still drawn. She immediately went to the shed and found him lifeless hanging from the beam.

I had started early that day at a client site visit and was driving on the Sth Eastern Freeway right next to the Kooyong Tennis Court in a leafy Melbourne suburb when my phone rang –

“He’s done it” my wife Allison said.

“I knew he would” or something to that effect was my rather callous response.

The drive to Romsey took about 90minutes but felt like an eternity. I remember being angry with him –

How could he do this to his Wife?

How could he do this to me? How could he leave his kids as well as his grandkids? Selfish bastard.

I called his brothers and his sister and told them the news, it was numbing and their grief was palpable.

How could he do it to his brothers and sister?

The formal identification process is etched in my mind. He looked like road kill, a look of surprise and absolute terror etched on his face, his body contorted and his hands clenched tight with pale white knuckles. I’m lead to believe that most people die with a surprised look on their face. Even though he knew what he was doing his face didn’t look like that of someone who went easily……….and he appeared to be shocked at what happened once he stepped off his old builders bucket that carried his tools.

How could he do this to his friends?

That wasn’t the worst of it – that came about 3 hours later after I drove with my brother to tell my Nanna that he son had passed away. Ninety-One years old and never lost a child until now. I always knew Nanna for her beautiful blue eyes – from that day on the sparkle was gone as part of her died. Never the same again – her beautiful blue eyes were now a dark colour.

How could he do it to his Mum?

This has had the most significant impact on me. Seeing a parents reaction to the loss of a child. My only wish now is that I hope that I do not outlive my children – it does happen but its not meant to be. I’ve seen first hand the impact and it is forever etched into my mind.

You see my Dad had a mild stroke some 18 months before, and in his mind he had become a burden on those he loved and those who loved him. The best place for him to be was out of our way so we could get on with our lives. The burden would be lifted and we could go back to operating the way we should – live normal lives, not worry about his central nerve pain, his withdrawal and desire to sit in his favourite chair with a blanket over his legs and little or no conversation being had.

At least that’s what his suicide note said on his first attempt and I’m sure would have still represented how he felt when he got the job done 6 months later. 

My Daughter summed him up beautifully at the age of 6 when she said:

“He was a good bloke who made things”

These words adorn his headstone where we now lay’s with my mother in the Wallan Cemetery.

My dad was a proud man

He was a clever man

He was a leader, a mentor, a confidant, a teacher and a damn hard worker. Everything that he did inspired me to be just like him.

He would sit me on his knee driving from Pooncarie to Mildura when I was 9 or 10 years old and we would be singing Diamond, Cash, Kristofferson, Jennings, Nelson and Pride. I loved those times and the memories still sit with me some 40+ years later….he wanted to learn an instrument but never got around to it……the guitar mum said.

He used to say to me some people are good with their hands and some are good with their head (I was useless with my hands and this was a nice way of telling me that).

My Dad was both – incredibly intelligent with a pair of hands that built the most perfect houses you could imagine

My Dad was 61 – he was too young to die of a broken mind and broken heart.

But he lost his will to live and didn’t know how to call out for help.

He was right in the middle of what I call Fortress Man and wearing the Man Mask – unprepared to have the conversations that may well have saved his life. Unprepared to ask for or take on the help that was being offered by those who loved him dearly. 

It’s been around 4,800 days since my Dad hung himself and there is not a day passes where I wish he was still here with us all.

Nine years ago on my 40th Birthday I bought a Guitar and have been playing it (not very well) and learning the songs of Diamond, Cash, Kristoffersen, Jennings, Nelson and Pride………If only he was still here with me sitting at home and singing along. 

What he left behind though still makes me angry…….

It broke my mothers heart……..

It turned my Nannas blue eyes black…………….

It turned friends and family members against each other………………

It showed me the reality of the other side of Happiness…………………

Everyday you will come across people that are near and dear to you who you notice have gone quiet, become withdrawn, appear overwhelmed and what I now call “vacant”.

Check in with them at this time to open them up a little when they are struggling to find their own voice. Let them know they are worthy, they belong and that you and others care about them.

Keep an eye on those who are in your immediate family, in your work family – those that possibly just appear to be a little “off their game” and reach out to them. Get them to talk to you or get them some help to talk to someone who is trained to help them.

We live in a world where doing (performance) is viewed as more important than being (self) and it is having an impact on how an individual measures their sense of worth.

Swap out a sense of isolation for a strong sense of belonging.

Prevent the Other Side of Happiness entering the Frame.

It’s the Human Way.

They’re Humans Not Numbers

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Just last week I overheard two Managers on a tram in Melbourne having what I consider a “less than human” conversation.

It went like this………

“I’m going to struggle to get John a 4 rating this time” one of them said almost desperately.

“How can I help?”

“When his name comes up can you please jump in and talk him up in the meeting, he’s a really good bloke and deserves a 4.”

“No problem; what do you want me to say”?

“Just say he’s a 4 and agree with what I’m saying about him; it will help me in that bloody meeting”. “I don’t want to have him crack it again because he didn’t get what he deserved…….it took me so long last time to get him back on track.”

The 6 monthly trade in human flesh was on again. You know that time of the year where Managers are forced to treat their employees like a number by squeezing them into a “curve”.

It’s hardly the Human thing to do.

Trading in Human flesh and applying the “good bloke clause” and the “you scratch my back an I’ll scratch yours” principle.

Bickering with each other and the HR Team because the “curves not right” and then throwing one or two under the metaphorical bus based upon them just coming on board and therefore a “developing 2” will be sufficient.

Or the Manager who has had every team member hit every KPI as well as their values based goals has to make a call and sacrifice one because “every manager must have high and low performers”

Stop it and see how your Robots return to a Human form………what are you afraid of?

Mark LeBusque is the Human Manager. He has a track record in helping clients add more Human to their businesses and drive up Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Business Results; and his 7 Step approach is based on his own experimentation as a Manager.

Mark’s first book BEING HUMAN – Why Robots are not the Answer to Business Success will be launched in February 2017. For Orders click below

Simon Sinek is Right About Southwest Airlines – Here’s My Experience

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At the recent Melbourne “Start With Why” Conference Simon Sinek spoke glowingly about Southwest Airlines approach to people before profit and 3 Years Ago I wanted to see if the Hype was Real……………..here’s a Post I first wrote in 2015

Herb Kelleher the Founder of Southwest Airlines once said “the core of the company’s success is the most difficult thing for a competitor to imitate. They can buy all the physical things. The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty—the feeling that you are participating in a crusade,”

Southwest Airlines is a company that continually states that its first responsibility is to its people. They believe strongly that by serving the people well as a starting point will flow on to serving the customers well and then ultimately result in business benefits to the stakeholders. In the past 40 years it has made record profits, paid the employees generously compared with industry standards and have rarely laid any staff off over that period.

Notice something about the order here?

Employees – Customers – Stakeholders

The common language that comes from the traditional organization is that we need to deliver a return to the stakeholder or shareholders. We must treat the customer as our No1 priority. Without customers we wouldn’t be here. Where is the employee in all of this? Usually on an organizational chart as an “employee number”.

So it might look like:

Stakeholders/Shareholders – Customers – Employees

Simon Sinek in Leaders Eat Last states that one of the shortcomings of using numbers to represent people is that:

“numbers lose their connection to people and become just numbers, void of meaning”.

A person without meaning to an organization becomes merely an overhead, part of a cost line and most likely indispensable when the shareholder returns are not acceptable and there’s a need for a quick rebalancing of the balance sheet. This I would argue is not what it is to be human.

Imagine for a moment if the same rules were applied in the environment of the family. I had this exact conversation with my family not too long back. Having taken a redundancy recently (yes my second one and yes my behavior was very different to the first one) I said to Allison, Sam, Amy and Zoe the following:

Having set up my own practice now with what I term the “redundancy runway”; I have a small window to establish myself in a regular cycle of paid work. It’s a tough market with plenty of competition and I will need to work hard to become self sufficient. Lets say for instance that I have about an 8 month window to transition from no earnings to an acceptable level to pay the mortgage and other major bills; and have a nice holiday each year.

Come month 6 and the work isn’t coming in, would I simply draw up a new family organizational chart and advise Sam (my eldest at 21) that due to financial challenges I had made the decision to “let him go” (I’m sure most of you would know that children stay at home a little longer these days). This would give me a short-term relief from the challenges and lengthen the runway. Sounds a little inhumane when reflected as a family unit.

Well it’s basically what happens in most organisations when they hit a “rough patch” or “shareholder requirements” are not being met and no-one blinks an eye. At the same time the employees are asked to do “more with less” which usually means two or three jobs and feel thankful that they have made it through the first wave of cutbacks. Remember they’re just a number.

Back to the Southwest Airlines story:

In the mid part of 2014 I spent an amazing 4 weeks with my youngest daughter Zoe on a “Dad and Daughter” adventure through Canada and The USA. We were travelling to places such as Vancouver, then via the Rocky Mountaineer to Banff, New York City, Washington DC, Nashville, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. A great chance to get to see some beautiful places and most importantly spend some time getting to “hang out” together and know a little more about each other.

My wife Allison who is a practicing accountant and a part owner of a small practice; also spends time on her other passion as a “travel planner and consultant” and planned the most amazing trip for Zoe and I. My one request was that I wanted to fly Southwest Airlines at some point in time to find out for myself it is was really true about how their employees genuinely seemed happy and proud to be part of the organization; and secondly did this flow onto the customers as part of their service.

The answer was ABSOLUTELY YES.

From the check in, boarding process and cabin service I witnessed the most amazingly happy employees and the best customer service to go with this. Make no mistake – they were genuinely happy, always looking to serve those in their care and very respectful and united as a part of the Southwest team. So much so that midway through the flight from Baltimore to Nashville I took the opportunity to go online and write a note to the HR team on my insistence to fly and “test out the hype” and the amazing experience I had. Apparently another 43,000 customers who experience the Southwest Airlines way do the same thing each year

So could it actually be true that by not only stating but more importantly living the idea that putting the people under their care as their first responsibility Southwest Airlines have “cracked the nut” and reversed the order with spectacular results. The answer is yes. I thank them for an amazing experience and the faith they’ve given me that this approach can work and is sustainable. Remember Southwest Airlines work in one of the most cut-throat industries where margins are tight and they not only rate extremely highly in their financial returns and customer experience data but also in their employee engagement numbers. It starts with their mantra that they put their employees first in their decision making process.

Their simple philosophy is based around 4 key statements:

1. Secure employees are happy employees

Unlike any other American airline, Southwest has been profitable every year since 1973. Southwest has never had a major layoff, never cut salaries, and has always paid their employees generously. Southwest is a conservative, cautious company that doesn’t take risks with their employees jobs or security.

2. Sacrifice for your employees, and they will sacrifice for you

When Herb Kelleher, former chairman of Southwest, asked the pilot’s union to agree to a five-year pay freeze, Kelleher offered to apply the same pay freeze to his own salary. It showed his employees that he was willing to make sacrifices for the good of the company and the continued prosperity of all employees. Showing solidarity and fairness to your employees will go a long way to building trust across all levels of your organization.

3. Employees are motivated to reach specific goals

Southwest initially struggled to compete with the larger, more established airlines. In order to operate with less planes, they introduced an initiative to reduce turnover time from 45 minutes to 10. Southwest’s employees rallied behind this simple and specific goal, and now Southwest turnarounds average 23 minutes, vs. 35 or more for most major airlines.

4. Work can (and should!) be fun

Southwest has always cultivated an atmosphere of relaxation and creativity. When faced with a lawsuit to determine who could use the slogan “just plane smart”, Kelleher challenged South Carolina aviation to a charity arm-wrestling match. And flight attendants are encouraged to spice up their announcements with jokes and songs. A little flexibility and joviality goes a long way to relieving the tension and tedium of most jobs. Though it may not be as “professional”, most customers will enjoy a more relaxed and memorable experience, where employees are free to be genuine and joyous.

But their proudest achievement remains their position atop “Best Place to Work” lists like Reuter’s to Forbes, because Southwest knows that the success of their company is predicated on the security, happiness, and productivity of their employees.

Let me compare that with a flight some 3 years ago from Perth to Melbourne where the cabin staff were actually happy to offer up to me that morale was low right across the business; due to the continual reference to tough times and not meeting shareholder expectations by the senior management. A fresh round of layoffs had also recently been announced. On that flight I was greeted with the fake “cheesy smile” and “welcome aboard” that had no conviction behind it. Not a great way to start the journey I must say.

So why do some organisations take one path and others an opposite?

Perhaps Southwest have a greater connection to what it is to be human.

Be Human

Mark LeBusque is the Human Manager. He has a track record in helping clients add more Human to their businesses and drive up Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Business Results; and his 7 Step approach is based on his own experimentation as a Manager.

Mark’s first book BEING HUMAN – Why Robots are not the Answer to Business Success was launched in February 2017. For Orders click below

Stop Creating Leadership Teams

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“The three of us will form the leadership group, (but) we have a really strong group of leaders at this football club that are underneath us. We expect all of our players to buy into the standards and we didn’t really want to put titles on it as such – Scott Pendelbury.

Well you have put titles on it Scott……..Leadership Group (just saying).

I read with interest last week that in 2017 Collingwood FC in the Australian Football League had “streamlined” its Leadership Group to Three (from Five in 2016). Such big news that it was a large headline in the local newspapers with the reasons why the decision had been made to move from the 2016 structure (see photo below).

I have been challenged by the notion of Leaders and Leadership Teams having been exposed to the great work on Adaptive Leadership by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky who refer to Leadership as a “verb”, an act if you like rather than a position or title. Leadership happens when someone steps forward and undertakes some kind of act and “dances at the edge of their authority” according to Ron and Marty.

Too often confusing reigns about Authority and Leadership and I’m suggesting that perhaps they should be called the Authority Group even though that is not as sexy as the term “Leaders” or “Leadership Group”.

Let’s look at Scott Pendelbury as the captain and what this gives him the authority to do:

  • be the first to run onto the arena on game day and possibly break through the banner
  • attend the coin toss and make a decision on which end his team will kick to
  • speak at the press conferences
  • represent the Collingwood FC at official functions as its Captain elect for 2017

Does this make him a Leader?

My answer is NO…………………

My question regarding its usage is this:

What about the other Forty One players on Collingwoods List?

Are they there to just follow the “Leaders”, not capable of demonstrating an “Act of Leadership” when it is their turn to dance at the edge of their authority? Does this mean that all the pressure is placed on Pendlebury, Sidebottom and Adams to do this based upon a title they have been given? Is that a model that is likely to bring success to this group in 2017?

It doesn’t make sense.

I’m sure these three young men are excellent role models for others amongst their list but does that make them the “leaders” because they have been voted by their peers or do they just have more “authority” than the other forty one of their teammates?

So why do AFL Clubs get so caught up in the notion of Leadership Teams and Leaders who are voted in by their peers or perhaps the “Leaders” above them (coaching staff and the executive)? The word is overused in this industry to a point where it is diluted and becomes meaningless. Listen to any press conference and you will hear the “L” Word in many different forms. I’ve been challenging this notion given the work I am doing within the AFL at present and the facial expressions and immediate reactions have been interesting to say the least.

It’s the same in the Corporate World. Get “voted” (via an Interview) to “Manager” and eventually someone will call you a “Leader” and you may even become part of a “Leadership Team” and attend the Tuesday 9am “Senior Leadership Team Meeting”

It doesn’t mean you are a Leader – more so an Actor until you take Action of some description. Dance at the Edge of Your Authority and Perform an Act of Leadership if you like.

We are all simply Leadership Actors until we take undertake Acts of Leadership

I’ve just read now that St Kilda have announced a “Leadership Group” of Eight players – so what does that make the other 36 on the list? Followers, Actors or Actions Takers?

I’m interested in your thoughts.

Mark LeBusque is the Human Manager. He has a track record in helping clients add more Human to their businesses and drive up Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Business Results; and his 7 Step approach is based on his own experimentation as a Manager.

Mark’s first book BEING HUMAN – Why Robots are not the Answer to Business Success was launched in February 2017. For Orders click below