Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Most Important Attribute

We all know people who aren't really going anywhere or doing anything. We look at them and we think "why don't they just do this?" or "if they only did that, they'd be all set." For some reason, they just can't seem to get ahead and get out of the rut. Alternatively, we know some people who for some reason just seem to be unstoppable, they're heading straight for the sky on a rocketship. What separates these two types of people?

We think well they must have a good attitude, that's why they're so successful and all those people who are stuck in a rut have a bad attitude about things and that's why they are where they are. The problem with this is that we ignore the reflexivity of the situation: that perhaps the person has a bad attitude because he's in a rut, or the person has a good attitude because he's on the up and up.

So where does each of these situations arise from? I like to think that each person's situation is, at the core, a result of one attribute. This attribute is the most important factor in both business and personal relationships and creates good fortune for you through others consistently into the future. That attribute is integrity.

When we say "integrity," we're talking about the definition of ourselves as a person, how reliable we are to others, and how we go about our lives when nobody is looking. Probably the most important component of these is the reliability factor.

When we think back to the past, we all start out perfectly trusting of others and then at some point we got burned. It hurt us so much that we resolve that we can't trust anybody anymore, we'll just get hurt and we're not going to put ourselves in that position again. But our very nature as humans is to want to trust people (that's how we got burned in the first place!), we just have developed this "shell" along the way to protect ourselves.

Instead of thinking "never trust anybody" and concentrating on the symptom, let's focus on the cause and work on that. When we work on ourselves first from the inside, we have the power to change our world on the outside. If we strive every day to work on our do what we say we're going to do, to be there for others when they are relying on us, and to live by our own standards, we are putting things into motion on the outside. People over time will begin to see us as someone they can trust and someone who actually gets things done, and in return they will want to be the same back.

Let's look at an example of how vital integrity is. Let's assign a scale to integrity: if we always do what we say we're going to do, we'll say we have 100% integrity. If we are credible most of the time, we'll say we have 80-90% integrity. If we are credible some of the time we'll say we have 60-70% integrity, and so on and so forth all the way down to 0% integrity.

So let's say we are at work and figuratively speaking, we have a 100% integrity (unlikely as unexpected events do occur and nobody's perfect!). If we say we are going to do something by a certain day and we  don't, we have just gone from being credible all of the time to being credible most of the time. Now on the surface that's not too bad, we might say "well nobody's perfect, John. We're still reliable most of the time" and that'd be correct. However, if we look at the scale we've assigned, just from missing that one deadline we've now dropped our credibility 10-20%! That's huge! You tell any investor they just lost 10-20% of their money and they would be fuming. That's because they know that in order to get to their original goal of a proper return, now they will now need to earn back 30-40%! A lot harder to do than just the original 10-20% they needed.

It works the same way in personal relationships. If we show ourselves to be unreliable in any situation, we no longer have to show that we are x reliable, we now need to show that we are 2x reliable. If we let a friend down, we now have to work harder to earn that trust back. Why put the extra workload on ourselves?

The dichotomy of the situation is that in the social world, being unreliable can actually create social value on the surface. Social value in the sense that if we cancel on someone or don't show up, we are inconspicuously communicating "hey I've got options, I'm wanted by people, I'm not always available." However, how long do you think that person is going to put up with that before we just start to look like a jerk?

I remember I used to always be about creating social value. A few years ago I had just started to date this girl, and when I would compliment her, I used always do what's called a takeaway. A takeaway is when you give someone a compliment but you in effect, take it away at the last minute to leave them wanting more. My favorite one I used to use was "don't let that go to your head." So I could say to her "you know, you really know how to hold my attention...but don't let that go to your head." In essence, what this is is a protection mechanism that says in less obvious terms "I think you are this, but don't start taking advantage of me now that you know that because I've got options."

The fact of the matter is that a takeaway works on the surface, it does create social value no matter who you give it to. However, there came a day when I was on the phone with her and I gave her a compliment and did the usual takeaway and I'll never forget what she said to me. She said "you don't need to do that anymore, we're past that now." I was floored, but I learned something valuable. That as relationships begin to deepen, all those little social value mechanisms we use start to lose effectiveness because they now know who we really are.

The point I'm making is this, that if we decide to show who we really are from the beginning, we can create an even bigger impression on someone. That while others may be doing these social value parlor tricks and backflips with us all the time, we remain consistent in our integrity and in our belief of who we are. When the relationship does begin to deepen and the players have to show their cards, your cards are what you have been representing to them all along. This makes such a huge impact on people and inspires a great deal of admiration because they think "wow this person was exactly who I thought they were from the beginning." How often can we think that about the people we meet?

That makes us inspirational because they have just learned something valuable from us through example. And what would you rather people think about you, "hey they are pretty cool" or "wow, they are really an inspiration"?

I think the difference is clear.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Life is Only As Good As The Questions We Ask Ourselves

It hasn't been until now that I've realized the value of a good question. A good question has the power to persuade, direct thought, and change lives. Theories are formed and crushed, sales are made, and relationships are created through asking the right questions. I always knew that questions were how we learned, but I never put together that the questions we ask directly affect the quality of our lives.

If we think about all the great people that have lived throughout time, the very essence of who they are or were is a result of the questions they asked themselves and others. Why was Albert Einstein so much more intelligent than other scientists of his era? Because he asked himself questions that no other scientist bothered to ask. Questions like "if I were traveling at the speed of light and I held up a mirror, would I be able to see my reflection?" He concluded that no, you could not see your reflection, but that's a whole other fascinating discussion! However, this question went on to form the basis for the theory of relativity. The searching for the answers to his own questions made him one of the most brilliant minds to have ever lived and he ended up changing the world forever.

A basic truth of life is that we cannot search for the answers we seek until we first know the correct question to ask. A common question people ask themselves is "what do I want to do with my life." Usually the answer is always the same..."I don't know." That's because that question is too large and it needs to be broken down. Its too large because we haven't analyzed what's important to us. Then and only then will we know how we can do what's most important to us every day to make our lives meaningful.

If we never became better at anything ever again, I can guarantee that if we become very good at asking good penetrating questions, we will never need to be better at anything else. Our lives would be so fulfilled through the enlightenment and knowledge we gain from asking the right questions because it is through asking questions that we become better at anything else.

Also, never underestimate the power of the most simple question in the world: Why? "Why" is such an effective tool for the mind because it forces intellectual penetration. When we ask ourselves "why" about anything, we cannot help but become curious and want to find out, well....why! And don't worry about not being able to find the answers right away, sometimes we have to backtrack to find out how we got somewhere in the first place before we can move forward again. We don't worry about these things and we know the answers will come eventually as long as we persistently and continually make an effort every day to ask a different question.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rehab Hardrock and the Destruction of a Brand

Nightclubs rise, nightclubs fall...just the way of the entertainment industry. And while people are fickle and move on to new things quickly, it doesn't help if your making it easy for them.

I'm planning to go out to Las Vegas in January and have been watching a show on TruTV called Rehab: Party at the Hardrock. I liked watching the show because I love business and its like getting a crash course in everyday operations of a nightclub. Watching how the staff handled things and worked together to reach their fiscal goal was really something unique.

If you've never watched the show, the former general manager (GM), Justin got married and left the show and his position as the GM. When this happened, Matt, the Director of Nightlife at the Hardrock decided to take his spot as the "man in charge" both in the club and on the show. Due to Matt's "Torquemada & the Inquisition" management style, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to discuss both the principles and role of management within a company and why Matt is 100% ineffective as a manager.

Management's role in any business is the same: to lead and direct its employers into one orchestrated effort to make profits. Throughout history, you've had two styles of management: machiavellian and inspirational. Machiavellian management is based on Machiavelli's medieval work "The Prince" in which he says that it is better to rule by fear than by love. Interesting concept, considering Machiavelli by the time of his death was exiled from Italy...

Inspirational leadership works to inspire employee cohesion and morale. This is more of the leadership style that management great Peter Drucker, Steve Jobs, and Jack Welch have used to achieve their success. It is based on the fact that people will do their job better if they love the people, the environment, and the work they are doing. It's sole purpose is to bring out the best in people through communication, incentives, equity, and leadership.

Now that we're briefed on management itself, Rehab's success was based on Justin's leadership (former GM). Justin's management style was strict, yet fair and supportive. The employees worked together, formed friendships, and went above and beyond their call of duty. Rehab's present success is due to its past management action.

Now that Matt's in charge, its a regular occurrence during pre-shift meetings to threaten everybody that they will be fired. How does that style inspire people? Well, it doesn't. We've all had crappy bosses before and if we think back to their management style and how we responded, we pretty much would do just enough so that we wouldn't get fired. Helping other people was just too risky, as if we messed up something helping them, then it was our ass on the line.

The atmosphere this creates is an atmosphere of stress among the employees at Rehab now and the worse part about it is that the employees are pissed off when they deal with the customers who then spread that vibe to other customers. Its a vicious circle, one that starts from the top. There's an old saying that a company in nothing more than the shadow of the one man in charge and it stands true at Rehab.

The worse part about the whole Rehab situation is that most businesses can go on for a long time operating inefficiently simply because the only people who can see it happening is the employees. But they are televising this!!! Every disgusting act of management on Matt's part on how miserable the employees are is filmed and shown on National TV! Talk about destroying a brand! You can't help but feel tension and hatred when you watch the show, which is why I stopped. If you're feeling tense just watching it, how do you think it would feel to be there and have to deal with pissed off bartenders and a very rude staff? Its not their fault, they aren't their behavior, they are a reflection of their leader who is nothing less than inadequate.

In the end it comes down to this whether its a business or a human being, where you are today is a result of your past actions. Where you are tomorrow is a result of today's actions. Rehab's success today is not attributed to Matt's management, its because of Justin's. And I'd be willing to wager that Rehab's success in the future will start to decline to area competition (Wet Republic) unless Matt's management style changes (highly unlikely) or there is a change in management. One thing is for sure, that a great show about a great nightclub business is now nothing more than a celebrity version of Jerry Springer.