Leadership Libations

July 27, 2009

3rd Graders, Sales Fundamentals, and Starburst

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:52 pm

My Number Two Son and I were reflecting this weekend about his 3rd grade school year.  One subject he brought up – Career Day – made me laugh and got me thinking about the event. For all those parents out there, I am sure you can relate. The note (well email) home to the parents informing them of this year’s career day for his 3rd grade class and of course my wife’s reply – cc’ing me – that “Nick’s father would be glad to help out!”

Career Day’s – for those who don’t know – fall towards the end of the school year as the teacher’s are looking for something to fill those last few weeks of school. Guess you could say I was the Oreo Creme Fill between the standardized achievement tests and year end movie days. Career days bring back memories of Firemen with their trucks, veterinarians with pets, and airline pilots. With this in mind, I started to mull how I was going to make strategy, tactics, and sales fundamental’s interesting to a classroom full of 3rd graders. Clients I had been working with range from tire makers to sales education and development to brand protection solution providers. Not exactly something that a group of 9 and 10 year olds were going to be jazzed to hear more about. Forget diving them deep into the nitty gritty of DPSM (Distribution-Pricing-Shelving-Merchandising). As the day approached, my casual agreement a few months back was rapidly looking like a bad call. Mind you, speaking in front of people is not something that I fear…some would argue I relish it in fact.

But, this was no ordinary audience! It was 3rd graders. So, how do I make this all seem interesting to them?

So, the day arrived and I arrived for my 9am time slot. I strolled down the hall and entered my son’s classroom. The 20 classmates in his class all looked at me as the teacher got their attention and introduced me. As I staked out a corner of the erasable board to start a brief intro on Strategy and Tactics I could already feel the eyes rolling in the back on these munchkins heads. After insuring they were all properly bored, it was time to breakout the secret weapon to the lesson.

Not surprising, but when you pull a pack of Starburst out of your pocket, 3rd graders take notice.

In my bag of tricks, I had different flavors and size packages. For the next 30 minutes 3rd graders helped me to understand why Starburst has:

StarburstDifferent Sizes – “How much money you can spend!” “When/where you are going to eat them!” “Enough to share with others!”

Different Flavors – “People have different tastes” “Easier to find in the store” “Share the ones you don’t like!!!”

Different Places I could buy them – “Theaters!” “Wal-Mart!” “BP Station” “Target” “Walgreens” “Grocery Store” “Little League Guy!”

We talked about getting the Right Product in the Right Place for the Right Price at the Right Time and these kids generated energy, ideas, and insights that would make any Sales Leader proud. Yes, the Shareable candy brought life to this room —- in fact, maybe a little too much as on more than one occasion a teacher’s head showed up outside to see what the commotion was all about.

Now we can all debate the exactness of the lesson, but I can tell you the 20 thank you notes  that highlighted key points of getting the Right Product at the Right Place for the Right Price at the Right Time told me that 3rd graders are very capable of understanding, articulating, and explaining Sales Fundamentals. A nice reminder on the importance of providing clear guidance, generating creative thinking, and executing with excellence.

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July 20, 2009

The Open and Leadership Lessons

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 5:14 pm

I know that many view it as “bad form” to use sports analogies and examples in a business setting. But watching the British Open this weekend, I can’t help myself watch how some of the most talented golfers in the world tackle the uncertainties and challenges of Links Golf. For the non-golfers’ out there, simply put The Open (the British was dropped many moons ago to remind all of us American’s that the game originated and has its roots across the pond) is different than any other major tournament in the sport. The golfers are challenged with the elements, fortune, and the mindset to deal with it all making the game very different and the skills to succeed very different from the game that many of us play on our weekends.

Creativity and seeing another way

At The Open, sometimes even the best shots are rewarded with a bad bounce or roll, ending up in a treacherousBunkers bunker. Unlike the pleasant sand traps most American courses have, allowing you to splash out and move on. The craters on the links often present a challenge to just getting the ball out. Over the weekend, golfers with one leg in the trap and one knee outside, players playing backwards, opening club faces where you wonder how they are going to hit were all the norm. Rather than get frustrated with a bad hop, these professionals look for a different way.

How many hurdles and bumps do you and your team get frozen in place by? Are you looking for ways to get out of the bunker or are you lamenting that you are in the bunker? Are there better ways out of the bunker than a straight line?

When the elements turn against you, turn with them

This year’s open was relatively calm on the weather front. Only one day of significant wind and weather created a fairly mild open. That said, the players who succeed at the open learn to play the elements. In fact, they not only play the elements they turn the elements into an advantage. Using the wind and the rain to their advantage and turning the lemons into lemonade!

Does your team look at the competitive landscape and freeze if there is a little wind and rain? Do your business plans count on Sunny days and perfect weather for you to succeed? Have you taught your team to “play the wind” taking a challenge and turning it into an advantage?

Take your lumps and move on

GrassEven the greatest players in the game make mistakes. Links golf can often punish the smallest mistakes with knee-high grass suffocating your ball, grabbing your golf club. So, even the strongest and greatest golfers demonstrate a simple lesson to us all when they take their lumps! Certainly, they could try the miracle shot – that maybe they could hit….certainly better chances than your average golfer. But instead, at the open we watch the world’s greatest golfers humbly pitch the ball back into play.

How many miracle shots are you trying to pull? When you make a mistake do you take your lumps or do you compound the mistake by trying to magically solve it? What issue should you take your lumps and just get the ball back into play?

Final thought….if you think you look good in floral pants….Daly Pantsyou really really really need some fashion lessons!!!

July 13, 2009

FAMILY VACATION – Circa 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 3:09 pm

I found out long ago
It’s a long way down the Holiday Road

Holiday Road
Holiday Road

Truckster

Guess in many ways I show my age with the above reference. But for those of us who are old enough to remember Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley, Vacation was more than a movie. Instead it was a validation of our youth and the trips in the family truckster. Which leads me to reflect on my families recent road-trip over the 4th and the highs and lows of heading down that holiday road!

Your Right Dad!!!!

Dad, you were right!

For the first time in my adult life, I am actually buying that my dad had it tougher. Forget the walking 5 miles to school each day…uphill…in the snow. That and all the other tales are stored in a pile. Fact is, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to shove 3 boys into the back of the family truckster. Mind you this was a day and age prior to I-Touches, cell phones, and DS’s. I remember the “stop touching me’s” and the like. No wonder Dad liked to leave on our 10 hour journey in the middle of the night. Granted, I had 4 in the car, but can tell you progress for the dad in the driver’s seat has been amazing in the last 30 years. I only had to threaten to pull the Suburban over like 10-15 times over the time on the road!

Thanks Dad!!!!

Dad, Atlanta roots gave me the gift of the V!

For those who didn’t grow up in “HOT”Lanta or go to UGA, the next few references may not make much sense, so I apologize in advance for the mid-part of this diatribe. Having laid that out, there is nothing like the enjoyment of watching your 4 kids and their first journey to the “Greasy V”. The Varsity is a landmark in Georgia, with the downtown Atlanta site being a special experience. What a series of memories for the old man here! Cries of “Whatcha have, whatcha have” echoing thru the halls. Seeing your oldest daughter get brain freeze from a Jumbo-FO. All four kids with Varsity car hop hats on – yes we have multiple photo’s on this front by the way – we’ll be using those at future family events! Watching Nick-Nack wolf down chili-burger after chili-burger. Yes, we went to the aquarium prior to that, but the “Greasy V” was the highlight of that day!

Whatcha Have

Sorry Dad!!!!

Ok Dad, Sorry. Sure I am a part of why you lost your hair!

How did that cheer go???? Firecracker Firecracker Boom Boom Boom. July 4th is payback to those of us who might have been known to light a firecracker or two in our youth. The lethal combination of youth, explosives, lighters, and peer pressure is more than my little ole’ heart can take. You know, July 4th is not for the faint of heart…..not if you’re a parent. We had a wonderful fireworks show, that included several near misses as all the kids demanded on playing a role in the festivities. Sorry Dad! Now I understand why you have no hair!

Well, all said, a successful trip. We’re all alive. We have all our limbs. I have a new appreciation for my father. And I haven’t strangled a single one of my kids. Yep, a successful trip it’s been!

July 6, 2009

Visionary Leader or Megalomaniac???

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 5:07 pm

“When I was 18 I went to evil medical school. At age 25 I took up tap dancing.

I wanted to be a quadruple threat: an actor, dancer…. ”

Dr. Evil – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

There is a fine line when genius and vision crosses over to megalomaniac. If you’ve ever been up close and personal to successful entrepreneurs or founders, it’s likely that you have come across that leader that has crossed the line. Successful entrepreneurs need to have plenty of self-confidence, conviction, and belief in themselves to take the leap and risks that put them on the path to their success. But some of the very traits that helped them become creator’s have the capability to derail and perhaps destroy the very foundation of their successes. I’ve had the blessing to be exposed to many of these folks, learn from them, and actually observe a few of their downfalls….or even sadder those on the path to downfall. A path that is avoidable. Avoidable if only these folks remember what got them here.

One of the world’s great megalomaniac’s can help you diagnose to if you have slipped from visionary leader to megalomaniac:

“Let me tell you a little story about a man named Shh! Shh! even before you start.

That was a pre-emptive shh! Now, I have a whole bag of shh!’ with your name on it.”

Dr. Evil – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Litmus Test One: Are you hearing voices?

Are the voices your hearing coming through your ears or are they the little voices talking inside of your head. Megalomaniac’s have lost the ability to embrace others opinions and ideas, in fact they have moved to shutting them out. Lets not forget after all, God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can hear twice as much as we say.

“No, no, no. I’m going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying.

I’m just gonna assume it all went to plan.”

Dr. Evil – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Litmus Test Two: Are you assuming that everything is going to plan?

Nothing ever goes to plan. Founders will be the first to tell you that they succeeded with attention to detail and being able to modify on the go. Somewhere, that attention to detail and ability to modify on the fly vanishes and is replaced with the “A” word. Don’t ever forget what assume really means!

“Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots?”

Dr. Evil – Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Litmus Test Three: Are you surrounded by idiots?

You ever wonder why? Is it because your ego is so large it needs to be fed by belittling others, dismissing them and their ideas? Or maybe you can’t be bothered to share the vision and help those around you understand where you are going? Or are the idiots that surround you the only talent you can attract? The painful reality is that a leader who see’s themselves surrounded by idiots only has one person to blame.

There is a fine line between visionary and villain. The good news is that if you are willing to remove the rose-colored glasses and take a true look at the mirror, the visionary in you were can return.

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