Category Archives for "Leadership Skills"

Pearl Harbor Leadership Workshop

I’ve spent this past week at Pearl Harbor doing a 4-day training called “Leadership With Aloha.” It’s one of my favorite sessions because it combines leadership and management concepts with Hawaiian values and culture. We cover almost every topic imaginable for managers including delegation, communication, team-building, conflict resolution, developing trust, time management and motivation. Linking these topics in a meaningful way to concepts of the ahupua’a, konohiki, aloha, laulima and pono are incredibly rewarding for me.

Mahalo as always to Mark, Andrea and Donna for all your help in making this course possible. Thanks to all the participants for keeping it lively and exciting–especially you, Gino! Also,  fa’afetai tele to you, Lua, for the ulu recipe! Ono!


VMV is the HGH for Work Teams

If your group at work isn’t growing, isn’t performing or isn’t scoring, you need a shot of HGH for teams, what I call VMV, or, your Vision, Mission and Values . HGH stands for “Human Growth Hormone” and can only be obtained through a doctor’s prescription. According to wikipedia, Growth Hormone (GH), is

a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and other animals.

and is used to treat

children with growth disorders and adult hormone deficiency.

VMV is for teams what HGH is for the body. It stimulates, motivates, compels and unites.

Now, when I think of HGH I instantly flash to Sylvester Stallone and his, uh, preparation for the last (?) Rocky movie back in 2007 and his subsequent illegal drug bust down under at the Sydney Airport.. He was muscular and ripped for a man of any age much less a 60 year old. After admitting to using the illegal steroid he said that it was only to help his “recovery.” Duh.

I don’t even want to go there with this post. What I do want to look at though are the three key elements of vision, mission and values that must be in place for any team to get stronger and get the job done. Continue reading

4 A Customer Service Tale of Two Companies (One doesn’t suck)

I’m writing a review of two companies and their products –  Concept2 Rowing and MacSpeech. One makes me wildly ecstatic and the other wildly frustrated.  One is awesome, one sucks.  Let me start with Concept2.

Concept2 Rowing

This is one of my all time favorite companies in the world.  Their product is solid!  I purchased my rower used off a craigslist ad and have been impressed with it from the beginning.  I’ve worked out with a couple of other brands and they just don’t feel as, I don’t know, dependable.  Every time I get on it it works – smoothly.  I’m not a big maintenance guy and it still works – smoothly.  I live in Hawaii near the beach where everything rusts and this rower still works – smoothly.  What else could you ask for?  How about exceptional customer service?

I’m using the Model C.  They’re up to the E model now.  When I first bought my rower I decided to upgrade the computer to better track my crossfit workouts (Why else would I get a rower but for “Fight Gone Bad??”).  I contacted the company through their website, found my product and, BAM!  they’ve got it out the door and on it’s way.  Over the years I’ve had to replace the battery, a wire and a couple of obscure nuts and bolts.  In EVERY case, the communication with Concept2 was fast, helpful and positive.  In fact, in one instance, where I was missing one screw I lost somewhere in my garage, Concept2 just sent me a pack of them – for FREE!

I’ve never been to a retail establishment (do they have one?) but in every on-line and on-phone interaction have been impressed with their organization. In all my “moment of truth” encounters they’ve left me smiling and satisfied.

I love this company!  I wish I could buy more things from them.  Maybe another rower?  Certainly not to replace the one I have because it’s still going strong but maybe to get another as we expand our workouts.  They really are that good. They definitely do NOT suck.

Let’s turn the page now and look at Macspeech. Continue reading

4 Are You a Perfect Listener? It depends!

What does it take to be a PERFECT LISTENER?? I found this listening test a few years back.  It’s from a John Maxwell book on leadership (bonus points for whoever can tell me which one of the 5000 books he’s written it’s from!) and I’ve been talking about it in workshops and seminars for a long time now. The thing is I’m just not sure anymore if I really like the test or if I still want to use it.

Try this test first, see what you score and let’s talk about it.

Always= 4 points Usually= 3 points Rarely= 2 points Never=1 point

1. Do I allow the speaker to finish without interrupting?   _________

2. Do I listen “between the lines”; that is, for the subtext?  _________

3. Do I repeat what the person just said to clarify the meaning?   _________

4. Do I avoid getting hostile and/or agitated when I disagree with the speaker?   _________

5. Do I tune out distractions when listening?   _________

6. Do I make an effort to seem interested in what the other person is saying?     _________


Got it? Good.  Now, if your score is more than 24 you’ve scored excellently on this test but your math skills aren’t all that ;).  A perfect score is, of course, a 24, which requires that you answered “always” to each of the 6 questions presented.  Now, this is obviously not some deep, heavily researched test that’s been normed across multiple groups with large sample sizes. But still, any “test” is supposed to provide some measure of understanding, skills, or knowledge acquired.

Does a perfect score on this test mean that you really are a perfect listener?  Let’s look at some of these questions and find out. Continue reading

Surf and Tell: 3 Keys to Better Presentations

I’m not against PowerPoint, don’t think it’s from hell or the “devil’s tool,” and don’t have a problem with using it for presentations.  What I do have a problem with are presentations that bore me, that could have easily been a one page handout or email, and presenters that don’t communicate with me no matter what software they are or aren’t using.

That being said, here’s a picture of the MOST INFORMATIVE SLIDE I’ve seen in a long time!  It’s part of a presentation Jonathan Hoag delivered at the Drowning Prevention/Ocean Safety Conference on Kauai just last week.  It was so good I actually took a picture of it so I could refer back to the data. 

Basically, it’s a way to figure out how big the waves are going to be based on data gathered from off-shore buoys.  This is gold.

Maybe it’s just me and the fact that I’ve NEVER been able to figure out how to figure out this whole buoy, time interval, period, direction thing but for the first time I got a glimpse of what it was supposed to be about.  I’m giving props to Jonathan for a clear description and effective use of PowerPoint for my increased understanding.

Here’s three things he did to make it to my “PowerPoint from Heaven” list:

  1. First, he had a topic I cared about.  This sound like a no-brainer but if you’re delivering a presentation to people who have absolutely NO REASON to listen to you then no amount of animated text or cool transitions or funny cat pictures are going to help you.  “Know Your Audience” is still vital today.  Why do I feel that presenters don’t take the time to do their homework and get to know me? Now, there is something to be said for being able to demonstrate the importance of your material to your listeners and generate attention from that and I do agree that the burden is largely on the presenter.  Every speech class will give you the same tips for introductions that focus on this issue.  There all very similar.  Here’s a how-to from ehow with the second page giving the standard tips for intros.
  2. Secondly, Jonathan had a topic he cared about and owned.  It was obvious for me that he cared about his topic that helps me to engage with him in the conversation.  That’s a strange word to see here – conversation.  You would have expected the word presentation and been with pretty much the majority of presenters.  And that’s the problem.  Even though most of the presentation deliver appears to be one-way (outside of the q&a) the entire time is ideally a two-way communication, or conversation.  The other part of this point is that he “owned” the material.  This guy knew his stuff. Period.  When he said something I believed him. Please don’t try and fake it.  If you don’t know it, pick a different topic or refer. 
  3. The final thing is that he had effective visuals.  Outside of the one I took a picture of he had slides with giant waves on Maui, Waimea Bay during the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational and other spots along with the buoy data.  I was engaged and almost salivating when he finally revealed the slide with the multiplier how-to.  I was prepped and wanted the information he offered.  There was no need for fancy effects from the software.

Overall, good stuff.  It wasn’t a “perfect” presentation – those are rarefied events. There’s a couple of things I would offer to improve but who cares?!?  I can now look at buoy data and figure out how big the waves will be next week!  I’m set!  See you on in the surf 🙂

p.s. Here’s an image and a link to a NY Times article on really bad Powerpoints.  Worth reading.

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Powerpoint (NY Times article)

5 Star Dump! 5 Reasons Kailua’s Refuse Yard Can Match the Ritz!

I just had a 5 star service experience at my local refuse yard and it’s not the first time.  In fact, just about every time I go there I get what I would consider good to excellent customer service.  It’s not a place you would normally think of when you picture exemplary service but, Ritz-Carlton or not, the system works.

Here’s 5 reasons why the Kailua Refuse station is getting an A+ from me.

  1. They’re ALWAYS open: After loading up my truck with stuff from the backyard and garage, we didn’t need to look for a schedule to see if the dump was open because it (almost) always is!  Except for New Year’s day and Christmas (?) the dump is running 365 days out of the year.  And really, who’s going to be wanting to go on those two days?? It’s flat out convenient. Period.  A+
  2. They greeted me when I arrived: You have to stop and check your load when you first enter the Refuse area.  The guard (concierge?) at the front greeted me with a polite, cordial and respectful “Whaddya got this afternoon, sir?,” asked me some clarifying questions , told me to proceed up to the top and “Have a nice, sir.”  It was perfect.  It didn’t feel scripted, he didn’t look bored because it was late afternoon and he’d already asked 250 people other people the same questions, and he got the job done effectively and efficiently.  When I arrived at the top I was greeted politely again, asked more questions to clarify and assist me, and instructed to park in stall 4.  When I said “Thank you” the attendant there said “You’re welcome.” Politeness is so uncharacteristic at so many of the BUSINESS establishments I’ve seen that this really impressed me at my local dump.  Basic human interaction skills, baby.  Solid.  A+ Continue reading

Be Happy D**N It! Mandatory Optimism in the Workplace?

Here’s a really interesting video lecture from RSA Animate with author/activist Barbara Ehrenreich.  The format is fascinating.  You hear Barbara talking as you watch video of an artist’s interpretation of the lecture.  Really fun.  The content is challenging as well.  Was the positive thinking approach largely responsible for the economic meltdown in America??  It might be (?) a little tongue-in-cheek (?) or maybe not.  What about at work?  Does my job description include me accomplishing my project to-do lists AND spreading warmth and good cheer along the way like one of Santa’s corporate elves?  How about all those naysayers who disagree with the party line?  Is it time for a happy class? Fun and stimulating thoughts.  Watch it if you’ve ever been involved in training, had someone tell you that you need to be more optimistic, felt like telling everyone around to be happy at work or been one of “those people” who are always looking at the worse-case-scenario.  🙂

Watching Grass (and Teams) Grow

I do a lot of training and consulting (ahem, hence the name of my company) regarding teams, team-building, team development, increasing trust in teams – basically, a lot of things team.  One of the questions I get asked often is how long this xyz process or abc training will take to “work?”  This is a legitimate and important question.  My response?  It depends. Step back from teams for a minute and let’s talk about grass, nice, fluffy, green backyard grass (of course!).

Ever since I got some chickens and talapia I’ve been hard at work on my backyard, watering, planting, weeding, fertilizing. It’s going on 6 months now and I can FINALLY start to see some areas of green – not a lot, but enough to know that my watering, weeding, fertilizing, etc. is doing something.

Teams and team-building works the same.  Teams require trust like lawns require water.  Trust takes time to build.  Want to build trust?  Then work on doing what you said you would do for a long time.  The longer you do that the stronger the trust.  It’s credibility and it’s built the old-fashioned way – long and slow.  No IM chat or Facebook status updates here.  (Maybe).

So, next time you’re feeling a little disheartened about how long this change process in your team is taking, go outside, take a deep breath and water your lawn.

Aloha kaua!

Touch More, Love More. Touch More, Win More.

There’s some profound and interesting things in this article relating to teams – sports teams, work teams and home teams.

This from February 2010 article:

Couples: “But it looks so far like the couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship,” he said.

Teams: In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Mr. Kraus and his co-authors, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, report that with a few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams; at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats.

This article was written in February of this year (2010). Check the newspapers for who’s playing in the NBA finals today.