Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

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Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

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November 25, 2014

Food For Thought 2: Kaizen and 6 Sigma – now available for purchase

MLP_FoodForThoughtBookTwo_FINALepubCoverMy second book is available for purchase!

The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen. But don’t worry, it’s not just a book about the technical side of Lean Manufacturing Engineering, there are still plenty of anecdotes, tips and observations about People, Leadership, and Motivation from my personal and professional life. I will touch on Sales, Listening and Time Management tips that I not only preach but also practice.Finding your passion is only part of the journey, the rest is how you get there!

Buy it in paperback here  or if you prefer an electronic version, get it on e-book here!

October 28, 2013

Recommended Reading: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Filed under: Professional Development,Recommended Reading — Alec @ 8:32 pm

I can’t say this is one of my favorite books, but it is packed with meat. I wish I had read and taken to heart 40 years ago.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler is all about talking to people and communicating with people when the stakes are high. In the book, crucial conversations are defined by a 3-legged stool and each leg of the stool represents one of the following: when there are opposing opinions, when emotions are high, or when the stakes are high. I can’t tell you the number of times this applied directly to me, in business and in my personal life.

The book discusses a lot of instances when nurses don’t speak up to the doctor when the doctor is about to make a mistake, are not following hospital procedure, or they do say something and the doctor ignores them. This is an example of a crucial conversation.

Communications are a predictor of success in your company. Arguing reduces your immune systems effectiveness. When you have more and more bad conversations, it becomes a death spiral of emotion and option. So, once you have a single bad conversation, it carries over to the next and to other topics. Thus the death spiral.

Good leaders are skilled at handling emotional and political situations. For example, this idea is referenced in Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or you know of Greg Cobbs’ advice to lower your voice and talk slower when someone is emotional. An outstanding predictor of project success was if people spoke up; most people shy away from conflict, especially with the boss when it is crucial conversation.

Companies who are good at managing crucial conversations and creating open dialogue are 5 times faster to recover economically. They are considered safer places to work and they make more money. Restructuring and reengineering, etc. seldom work, unless you can alter the way the company communicates. Sometimes it happens when you change people…but it is as likely to get worse as it is to get better. In the best companies, everyone holds everyone else accountable. They talk!

The definition of dialogue is the free flow of “meaning” between two or more people. When we pool the “meaning” of a group, we increase the IQ of the group. Individually people can do some really stupid things, but in a healthy group that has open dialogue, it is much more difficult to make stupid decisions.

In relationships you are bound to bicker. Everyone argues occasionally. It is not IF you argue, it is HOW you argue. The way you argue impacts your health, so the way you talk or don’t talk can literally kill you. Martin Luther King was quoted saying, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Pages to Note:
Page 25: People tend to hold back their comments and ideas when talking or with people of power
Page 33: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret” – Ambrose Bierce
Page 38: 10 minutes into kindergarten, we learn we must spout the right answer if we want the teachers attention. It is not about individual winning!
Page 42: When you are cornered, ask a question (slowly, softly) without emotion (ask yourself why)
Page 43: Three questions: What do I really want for myself? What do I really want for others? What do I really want for the relationship?
Page 48: Remember it is sometimes the boss that must accept criticism
Page 49: Clarify what you both want
Page 51: Self-knowledge is not common! “I have known a thousand scamps: but I have never met one who considered himself so. Self-knowledge isn’t so common.” – Quida
Page 57: When your emotions rise, key brain functions shut down
Page 63:  your style under stress, interesting, and a great self introspective
Page 72: Listen to the tone of a conversation, especially the speed and volume
Page 77: How can others feel safe when they feel others are out to harm them? We must really care about others (if we wish to communicate with them).
Page 79:  You can’t have Crucial Conversation with someone you don’t respect (also coined by Jim Fox in TROOP: Total Respect of Other People)
Page 113: Admit it when you have lost your temper
Page 133: Good communicators are humble at the right time
Page 138: Good communicators are the least controversial and least insulting
Page 157: Be sincere, be curious of facts
Page 177: (This is a BIG point) Just because you are excellent at communications, does not mean your team will take action
Page 191: You don’t have to say it, your body language will show anger
Page 214: Apologize when appropriate, share your facts

 Things I have learned along the way:

• When things don’t go as you planned, it is easy to lose control

• Every time you lose your temper, you lose money. Every time your people go silent, it costs you money.

• Others are not the source of all our problems. We are. Work on improving yourself first.




January 2, 2013

Finding Motivation and a Positive Attitude in the New Year

Since it’s a new year and most of us set new goals or resolutions, I am trying to get motivated by reading a book about business. This week I read another book by author OG Mandino The Greatest Salesman in the World, Part II : The end of the story. It inspired me and at the same time made me feel guilty about my lack of “GO” power.

This is a second book that I have read by Mr. Mandino, not as captivating as The Greatest Salesman in the World, but maybe a stronger message. It is still all about sales, how it all starts within yourself, keeping a positive attitude, and working hard at networking but some of the tools are more usable in day-to-day life.

Some concepts that stood out to me are listed below:

Page 9: All wealthy people salve (soothe) their conscience with gifts to the poor. This is an interesting idea, probably true, though I wonder what would happen if all the wealthy people stopped giving?

Page 44: Tell others of your hardships along the way. I think this is so true! Many people we meet have no idea where our roots are or what our background is and vice versa. A great example of this is that my wife, Karen, and I worked our way through college. We each had a small scholarship, but we worked 20+ hours a week. Some highlights of our glamorous early careers include the dorm cafeteria, local stores as cooks and as a janitor. Most summers I worked 2 full time jobs to save enough money so we could pay our living expenses for the rest of the school year. We borrowed lots, although maybe not as much as some students do these days. We owed thousands of dollars in a combination of student loans and money from family that we paid off after college. One winter we were so poor we ate for $1.10 a week for 6 weeks. We lived on Campbell’s Tomato Soup, saltine crackers and peanut butter. So, we definitely both know what it is like to be poor.

Page 79: 3 Classes of People

  • Those who learn from their own experience. They are considered wise.
  • Those who learn from the experiences of others. These people are happiest.
  • Those that learn neither from their own experience nor from the experiences of others. These are fools.

Page 92: Never again will I consider what I do to support my existence, labor. I have usually enjoyed my jobs in my career. This wisdom came from my mother. When I went off to my first job at Chevrolet in Flint she told me, “10% of people really hate their jobs, 80% just exist and then there are the 10% that REALLY love their jobs. Be one of the 10% that love their jobs.”

Page 98: My days of whining and complaining about others have come to an end. In my opinion, I don’t whine much…although I am sure I have my moments!!

It isn’t easy to be a success, but it is possible! When you get off track, remind yourself of these 10 thoughts below. Here is a quick reference to OG Mandino’s 10 Vows of Success, with my own twist:

1. Never again will I pity or belittle myself.

2. Never again will I greet the dawn without a map; for today and the rest of my life. I recommend having a daily Things To Do (TTD) list and a 20-year Life Goal list.

3. Always will I bathe my days in the golden glow of enthusiasm

4. Never again will I be disagreeable to a living soul (oops, need to work on this one)

5. Always will I seek the seed of triumph in every adversity

6. Never again will I perform any task at less than my best. It only takes a few seconds longer to clean and put away a tool after you have used it. Although, I guess I could help Karen a little more in the kitchen with this philosophy…

7. Always will I throw my whole self into the task at hand

8. Never again will I wait and hope for the opportunity to embrace me

9. Always will I examine, each night, my deeds of the fading day

  • Did I survive the day without pitying myself?
  • Did I greet the dawn with a map and a goal?
  • Was I pleasant and agreeable with all I met?
  • Did I attempt to go the extra mile?
  • Did I search for the good in every problem?
  • Did I smile in the faces of anger and hatred?
  • Did I concentrate my strength and purpose?

10. Always will I maintain contact, through prayer, with my creator. Pray at every stop light, or while you wait in line; say a little prayer of thanks for all you have will help you remember all your blessings.

December 5, 2012

Sales : Today’s Rule of 20

Filed under: Recommended Reading,Sales,Services — Alec @ 1:10 pm

In the 70’s or 80’s when I was working for the Automotive Industry I read a book by Joe Girard “How to Sell Anything to Anybody”. It was a fun read like the OG Mandino books, but it was a primer for how to sell. The part that sticks with me the most is when the author discusses the Rule of 20.

It goes something like this:

You have 20 close friends and they have 20 close friends. If something really good or bad happens to you, you will tell your 20 close friends and they in turn will tell their 20 close friends. Translated, if you do an outstanding job of selling and servicing a customer’s car, they will tell 20 other people. If you do a really poor job, they will tell 20 other people.

Researchers at GE have confirmed this by doing studies showing people that are really happy or unhappy, and they always tell others. People that are lukewarm to something or feel that something was mediocre don’t really tell anyone. They just never come back, they do not become a return client and they don’t generate referrals for you.

Customer Service is no longer the buzzword. Today’s “it” word is Customer Loyalty. In order for your customers to be loyal, you must provide outstanding service and show loyalty to your customers.

The Internet and constantly improving technology have made Customer Loyalty even MORE relevant. We have more than 20 close friends, usually hundreds on facebook and or LinkedIn. We tweet; or at least 500 million people do. Back in the day, the rule of 20 meant you had 400 potential new customers. Now you have thousands of new potential customers. Customer Loyalty is a culture and a mindset. And it takes time to build. Start today!

October 24, 2012

A Common Sense Approach to Sustainability by Tammy Kohl & Contributing Authors

Filed under: Recommended Reading — Alec @ 12:03 pm

A Common Sense Approach to Sustainability by Tammy Kohl & Contributing Authors

A very interesting read and much different than I expected. I guess that is why you can’t judge a book by its cover! From the title I expected the focus of the book to be on environmental friendliness, which it did include, but book contained much more.

The definition of sustainability by this book’s definition: How to stay in business successfully now and in the future as well as be community and environmentally friendly. The book was written to help understand and encourage business owners that sustainability is a strategic decision. It has become a best practice and core value in business.

Sustainability is about profit growth now and in the future, planning and optimizing resources to support execution in all areas of business. This book provides an overview and concise guide to implementing environmental and business sustainability in order to achieve future successes.

In my own words, a business leader’s role is to paint a picture of the shining star in the sky on the horizon. The leader must then direct management and the organization as a whole towards the star. The clearer the picture and the clearer the path, the better the team will be aligned and the higher the chances they will arrive. Careful selection of new team members can help navigate your organization to the destination point, and help springboard painting the next picture or new star.

Things to consider:
pg 31: What would it mean to your business if you had zero effluents, no solid waste, no liquid or gas exhaust? What if all by-products were sold and you didn’t send anything to a landfill? Even stuff from the break room was recycled?

pg 76: Sustainability is about meeting or exceeding all the stakeholders GREEN expectations. Stakeholders include owners, employees and the community. Sustainability requires a whole shift in paradigms and a belief that we can find a way.

pg 46: Reduce usage and waste, Reuse, Recycle, Sell waste products

pg 60: Sustainability has a marketing advantage

pg 62: What do you think about a bank that accepts checks deposited remotely, paperless?

pg 77: Sustainability research: Take the time to investigate at all your waste streams, measure, and track, compare. Be informed.

The Small Business Association says the small businesses represent 99.7% of businesses, employ over half the private sector jobs, and create 64% of the new jobs. This book provides insights on how to be part of the success of small business as the marketplace evolves.


September 20, 2012

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino (Part Two)

Filed under: Recommended Reading — Tags: , , , — Alec @ 2:54 pm

(Scrolls VI-X)

Scroll VI: Today I will be master of my emotions.
I am the master of my emotions. Weak is he who permits his thoughts to control his actions, strong is he who forces his actions to control his thoughts. These are tough statements. I definitely believe that emotions can interfere with our productivity AND it can definitely affect my interactions with customers. If I can understand and affect the my moods of my customers, I can be in control my working relationship with them (ie. MY destiny).

Scroll VII: I will laugh at the world
This is all about keeping perspective. I will laugh at the world! I will laugh at myself! I will not let petty happenings disturb me! This is the power of positive thinking at its best. If I frown, my customers may not want to buy my products or work with me.

Scroll VIII: Today I will multiply my value a hundredfold.
I will multiply my value 100 times. How will I do this? Goal Setting: I will have goals by day, week, year and lifetime. I will set lofty goals and not do a disservice to myself by aiming too low.

Scroll IX: I will act now
I will act now, I will act now. I will act now… on my affirmations! Don’t be afraid to reassess and rewrite your affirmations and align them with Scroll VIII. This is the grown up story of the Little Engine That Could (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!)

Scroll X: I will pray for guidance.
This speaks for itself.

Other notable messages from this book:

  • Hafid gave half his profits to the poor, something we could all consider.
  • Have faith. Sometimes the guidance we seek comes to us, and sometimes it doesn’t. Both scenarios are an answer.


September 12, 2012

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino

Filed under: Recommended Reading — Tags: , , — Alec @ 2:38 pm

I have started a new blog category called Recommended Reading. So many great books to motivate, inspire and help us along the path to success and so little time to read them all!

The Greatest Salesman in the World: by OG Mandino was first published in 1968. It acts as a philosophical guide of salesmanship and achieving success. Mandino tells the story of a poor camel boy, Hafid, who finds the path to a life of abundance. The book is comprised of Ten ScrolIs and I have summarized the first 5 below and how they apply to my day-to-day life. Check back for Scrolls 6-10.

Personally, I don’t know if he was the greatest salesman, but the book is certainly a fun, easy read with a great message. I consider this book a must read.

Scroll I: The Power of Good Habits
I love the way Mandino discusses failure as a tool; Failures teach me new habits!
Scroll II: Greet Each Day with Love in Your Heart
Mandino writes, “Never will I overindulge the requests of my flesh; rather I will cherish my body with cleanliness and moderation” I am on board with this concept (except dark chocolate)

Scroll III:
Persist Until You Succeed
This inspires me to remove the words and phrases from my vocabulary that do not support success; things like Quit, Cannot, Unable, Impossible, Out of the Question, Failure, Unworkable, Hopeless, Retreat. And this section inspires me to not let yesterday’s victory pull me into complacency. This lulling of complacency is my one of my greatest weaknesses. When I am really busy, it is hard to sell.

Scroll IV: You are Nature’s Greatest Miracle
All good things to remind ourselves of : I am nature’s greatest miracle! I will increase my knowledge of mankind, myself, my goods that I sell! I will practice and improve!

Scroll V: Live Each Day as if it Were Your Last
I do try to live each day as if it is my last and when I am not, I should at least be thankful. Mandino talks about avoiding procrastination and fear and doubt. Easier said than done. Procrastination is another of my big weaknesses. But most days I can find things to be thankful for!

Scrolls VI-X to be continued!

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