Taking the Helm

The following is an excerpt from “Managerial Mistakes, Missteps and Misunderstandings; A Guide for Avoiding Common Pitfalls” by Blaine Little. Available on Amazon September 29th, 2020. 

One of the most important first steps of taking the lead of an organization or department is to assess the team. If it is a newly formed group, this means getting to know them on an individual basis. You may want to have an informal meeting or “huddle” your first day on the new job. This is a wonderful place to be tactfully blunt and relate your overall vision. Sometimes the C-Suite wants to see a new direction soon. Perhaps too soon. After all, it could be the previous boss was fired or even “kicked upstairs.” If this is the case, rumor mills being what they are, the team will have assuredly gotten a whiff of what truly happened. That being the case, it will also understand you are in the hot seat to perform.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pexels-photo-3184405.jpegHowever, it is not necessary to outline ALL of your new policies and procedures in great detail during your original staff meeting. Too much detail should be avoided at this time if it is a matter of several changes. Otherwise, it could be information overload for the team. Just give them enough initially to see where things are headed.

Once your management style and expectations have been accepted by the team, you can then bring online new processes or innovations gradually. You can convey your priorities and what lies ahead without turning everything upside down overnight. So, explain what the new direction is if any, and why it is necessary. Most of all assure that you are there as a support for the organization.

You will most likely have a different style than that of your predecessor and you will no doubt have a mental checklist of things to do differently. Bringing your personality into the position is exactly what you should do. Otherwise, you would be viewed as unoriginal, which would cause others to question your authenticity. Just remember, since most people hate change, to allow a certain amount of time for the old style of management to dovetail into your own. In other words, allow your team the opportunity to get its collective head around your being the new boss.

 

Though Growth May be Stifled, Businesses Still Have to Develop.

When you hear someone like best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk talk about “business development”, he is usually referring to sales. Or from his perspective at least, all the marketing aspects that lead up to the point of sale; advertising, public relations, product promotion and social media. But, depending on the business model, a key tool to marketing is that of personal networking. There are some great opportunities to do just that here in Middle Tennessee. Until recently, many of these meetings have been offered at breakfast or over lunch.

But these get-togethers are more than just exchanging cards. It is a chance to make true relationships and gain the insight to help grow your business. One such group is Rutherford Cable, which boasts over 250 members. “Cable is the premier leadership organization for woman’s professional advancement.” Says Missy Lay with the group. They meet with limited occupancy, but still conduct facilitated networking, both at the table and through the use of breakout rooms online.

Bus DevLocal insurance agent, Josh Minton was one of the founders of such a group in 2017; Connect Nashville. “We decided to start a meeting of our own that focused on building genuine relationships. We saw a real need in the networking community for helping people connect without wanting something directly in return”. Minton continues; “We genuinely just want to see other people grow, and over time we will all grow together.”  Nashville Connect has several chapters that meet throughout Middle Tennessee, including one in Murfreesboro. Many have gone online, though, Murfreesboro is just now starting to meet in person again. Check online for specifics.

Though, with the pandemic, it has been hard for entrepreneurs to get out and about to connect with other professionals who might be able to help promote business. For this reason, a lot of local networking groups have gone online. This is a good alternative for those who are still anxious about venturing too far from home or the shop. Truth be told, online is a medium that should have been utilized long before Covid. It certainly was an adjustment at first, but our leadership team has come together to help the meetings run smoothly and assist those who may not have ever used Zoom before”, Minton States. The lack of travel time and big meals just makes Zoom meetings convenient for busy professionals.NASP Online Meetings

Jim Furbush, account representative with ITEX and a board member with the Nashville Association of Sales Professionals (or NASP) stated: “This new way to network has allowed me to do business out of the area and occasionally out of the state. Even if we don’t do business with each other directly, having a large number of familiar businesses to refer makes me a resource and keeps me in contact with a lot of people”. 

A local business owner, Luis Roque is this year’s president of the Rutherford Independent Networking Group, or RING. RING is a great place to build lasting relationships with fellow Rutherford County business professionals. We really wanted to create a space where people could learn about each other’s businesses and help each other succeed”. Though the organization has had to meet over the internet, it is still very active.

But another aspect of Business Development, is of course, the professional development many business owners and independent contractors receive from networking groups. Many will offer an educational component on goal setting, better communication, leadership skills and all those aspects that do lead up to a point of sale. For this, another worthwhile group to check out is the Nashville Networking Business Luncheon. The NNBL always provides a 10 to 15 training session to offer information that will help business professionals. They also meet online every Tuesday. Check their website for a complete schedule.

If you are a business owner, two things are certain; online meetings are here to stay, and (fortunately) Covid is not. The two main resources for growth are time and money. Some may have more time on their hands than they wish, so NOW is when to take advantage of it. Sharpen your skills by attending webinars, reading a business book, or visiting some of these fine online networking groups.

NNBL; http://nashvillenetworkingbusinessluncheon.com/

Connect Nashville; https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConnectNashville

NASP; https://nashville-nasp.org/

C-Suite; https://www.unstuckbusinessacademy.com/c-suite/     

Cable; https://rutherfordcable.org/

RING;  https://networkingrutherford.com/

Blaine Little is the founder and CEO of Momentum Seminars Training & Coaching, helping companies remain profitable by investing in their people. Learn more at www.MomentumSeminars.com

Be sure to get his new book; “Managerial Mistakes, Missteps & Misunderstandings” available on Amazon in late September.

Dealing with Change

Job Woman Girl Business Female Laptop PeopleMoore’s Law states computers will double in speed about about every eighteen months. Since Gordon Moore made this prediction several decades ago, the rule of thumb has proven to be astonishingly accurate. A “smart kitchen” where the refrigerator will let you know if you get low on an item and add it to the grocery list takes advantage of this advance. Consider the automotive industry and the innovations that have been made just within the past few years. It seems everything is more, more, more. About the only things that have remain constant are human beings. Sure we have access to technology, we, ourselves, are very slow to change.

A manager must have foresight and empathy. There is an understanding of where to go and what to do and yet get there in a way that will be apparent, even rational, to the entire team. Generally, people dislike change. And offering an upgrade or changing their settings will not remedy that. But the 21st century is full of it. The managers real skill is in how to present new ideas and policies to the organization. She needs the acumen to present a transition in such a way the rest of the group understands it to be a good move forward. Otherwise, a handful of people averse to the change can hinder a new product or service before it ever reaches the market pconfused-employee-with-funny-face_1154-317lace.

Both sides of the chain of command, that is up and down the organizational chart must see the manager as one who is ethical. A lack of integrity breeds skepticism which actually breaks down the chain of command. Without confidence in the center of the organization, the effectiveness of both top and bottom will begin to erode.

Not everyone offered the position of a boss should take it, however. That is a decision that should not be considered lightly.   I have coached several clients who accepted a promotion because it meant more money or they liked the prestige of the title only to later find themselves in over their head. During our coaching sessions I will try to get them up and running as quick as possible with management principles and the occasional advice. More often than not, my job is to encourage the client to view a situation from different points of view. Often the client goes on to be successful in the position, and sometimes not. But a willingness to look at problems from different angles is essential to be a good manager. Just be certain before grandiose plans are implemented, the team is on board with why and how. Helping the team navigate a shift in mindset or how things are done is one of the most important things a boss can do. It may take a little time for some to warm up to the idea of change. Remember, they’re not machines.

 

There is No Leadership Without a Sense of Vision

As a corporate trainer, I often open my seminars stating; “The single most important skill of a good leader is that of communication”. A manger or executive with an industrial expertise may point to another attribute such as accounting or engineering. However, when it comes to the task of actually LEADING others on the team, one would be hard pressed to disagree with me. Otherwise, just ask anyone who had a great idea and could not bring it to fruition because others did not share in the vision. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of professionals who perhaps due to their technical skills, gained a position of influence and yet do not truly appreciate the need for them to be “visionary”. He or she has the degree, certifications, experience and skill sets to accomplish the tasks at hand. Yet, business professionals many times fail to understand the moment they take on the responsibility of a staff, team, department or even a single intern, they automatically become a LEADER… like it or not. I say that because there are a lot of business people who detest the responsibility of dealing with others and seeing to it staff members contribute their individual portion to the team. The attractiveness of title, prestige and more money clouds the reality that there will be a huge shift in their personal responsibilities. It is no longer the emphasis on individually doing, but instead relating what needs to be done by the team and WHY. 

Recently, I was presenting to the executive staff of a large energy company. The organization had recently undergone several growth spurts and weren’t done. They understood the importance of creating a strategic plan relating the direction they were moving to their more than 1000 employees. Out of this, came the need to develop core values, as well as mission and vision statements. The company was undergoing such change they wanted to ensure all the workers were aware of the new direction they were going. Otherwise, employees would not see the need to be flexible in their understanding of what the individual job was. Where thee is confusion in the ranks, you have a loss in productivity, effectiveness and profitability. There could even be safety concerns for any entity that changes course and does not bring its members along.  

Followers WANT to be led! The good ones show up to work and fully expect to receive that day’s marching orders or to be informed if the daily routine has been altered. Without a sense of direction, employees lose confidence in the organization, their leaders, even themselves and their abilities. To fill the void, they will many times create their own set of priorities, process policies and deadlines. However, these will all be different from one worker to the next and more than likely not be up to company standards. In time, the company will be swallowed up by inefficiency, lose their customer base, and eventually fold. The frustration an executive may feel is often one of the signs something is wrong and it may present itself too late.  

As a business leader, it’s not enough to be proficient in your position, you must also bring the team along for the ride. That means telling members of the team where the ride is going… and why. In short, creating a vision. Key concepts, such as a vision statement is not the only way to do that, but it’s a really good start. It may also require additional training and frequent updates. By opening good lines of communication to allow for questions, ideas and feedback, a leader can be assured that the team understands his or her direction. But if that leader simply assumes everyone knows priorities and what to do without follow through, that professional stands a good chance of not being in the position for long.   

Blaine Little

http://MomentumSeminars.com/

BlaineSpeak@gmail.com

 

The NASHVILLE TORNADO; How Dr. Pepper Saved My Life

Having lived over a decade of my life in the Mid-West, I had heard all sorts of stories about the odd happenings during a tornado; the “freight train”, whole houses lifted intact and sat back down, playing cards splicing half way into light poles, etc. So, when my family moved back to Tennessee, I just thought that was all behind me, we were no longer in “Tornado Alley”.

Twenty years ago today, I recall I left a little early to make it to a per-marrital counseling session with my pastor and fiancé, now my wife, Hannah. As I left the State office building in Nashville where I worked, I noticed how gray and bleak the skies were. I didn’t think much of it, because it wasn’t raining… how bad can it be? You will realize in this story, just how slow on the uptake I was that day.

Nashville-TN-Tornado-4-16-1998I got in my car, put in a CD, and left the State parking lot on Charlotte Avenue to make my way back to Murfreesboro. As I pulled under the I-40 overpass, I noticed the red light was swinging violently in the wind. The idea of a tornado never crossed my mind; after all, it was Tennessee! As I sat there, I noticed several other cars lining up behind me as we waited for the light to change. Then I watched as a plastic box fly by which was followed by a tree branch about four feet long. I still had no idea what was happening but remember thinking; “Wow, this is going to be a really bad wind storm, I better protect my car”. Realizing other motorist would like the relative safety of being under an overpass; I ran the red light, bypassed the on-ramp, and gunned it to the gas station across the street. No way was I going to have flying debris hit my car on the interstate. I would go to the convenient store, get a Dr Pepper and just wait it out.

I parked near the carport to protect my car from this “wind storm”. As I opened the car door, I was struck by how hard it was to open my door. I STILL didn’t understand this was a pressure issue, I just thought it was heavy wind pushing against my car but when I got out, I was stunned at how little wind there actually was. I noticed there was a lady who was apparently trapped in her car next to me. I went over to her and pulled on the door handle as she pushed. Together we were able to get her out. I stated “I don’t blame you for waiting out this storm”. Apparently, she was actually listening to the news on the car radio, because she gave me a funny look.

We went in the gas station and there was a man who appeared to be of Indian decent ushering us into the back storeroom. I asked him, “Do you think it’s going to be that bad and can I get a Dr Pepper first?” To which he replied in a thick accent; “Get in the storeroom!” I had stopped here for a soft drink several times before and this reaction was very uncharacteristic for him, so I responded “Okay”. After all, I didn’t want to upset him more than he was already. I guessed his fear was broken glass from tree branches and other debris hitting the windows.

The shopkeeper and I were the last to enter the narrow cinder block room, where to my surprise there were about half a dozen other people all facing forward. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea I had. It was deathly quiet in the tiny space, except for me humming and rolling back and forth on the balls of my feet, waiting this thing out. It was a lot like being in an elevator with strangers waiting for the doors to open. Then the lady I helped out of the car asked “Did anyone hear WHERE the tornado was on the radio?” Several people shook their heads in silence. “Tornado, where?” I thought. This was Tennessee, we don’t HAVE tornadoes. “There’s a tornado in the area” I asked her. She nodded in silence.

Then out of the silence, I heard a hum NOT from me. Roarrrr, roarrrrr, roarrrrrrrr. It’s a cliché, but I could hear the whistle of a freight train blowing in the distance at different intervals. Having a better understanding of the gravity of the situation from those who were listening to the news a few minutes before I made a profound announcement; “I hope the tornado doesn’t hit that train.” Two or three people looked over their shoulder to me and gave me a look as if to say; “You moron!”

Once the “train” had moved on, we all made our way out of the small storage space. As I041698map stepped into the main room of the filling station, I could see all the chip bags, candy bars and aspirin bottles had leaped from the shelves and were now on the floor. The windows however, were still intact. No explanations for that other than odd happenings occur in a tornado. I realized the poor store clerk would be cleaning up this mess for hours, so I felt it was a bad time to ask for a Dr. Pepper.

Fortunately, my car was not hit by any of the storm debris but the shop across the street was a mess. As I drove up the interstate on-ramp, I looked over to the other side and saw not one, but two semi trucks knocked over on their sides. Several other cars were pushed into the ditch. It was complete mayhem. That’s the point at which it finally stuck me; I was actually IN the tornado! Had I not been in that little storeroom, I could have been killed.

Each year on this day, I run the scenario over again. Though my car and a soft drink were the only things on my mind, I behaved pretty well. I did at least have consideration for other motorist behind me, I helped a lady into the store and had empathy for the shopkeeper. I’m not patting myself on the back; all I wanted was a Dr Pepper to wait out a storm. But what if I had listened to the weather report instead of the Stone Temple Pilots that day? How would I (or any of us) have reacted if the exact same conditions were under the banner of “natural disaster”? Labels can make people react in funny ways. Would I have told the shopkeeper “Don’t tell me what to do”? Would I have helped the woman out of her car? Would I have taken the attitude of “I was here first” for the cars not under the overpass? I guess in my situation, ignorance is bliss.

 

 

Welcome to my Blog!

Hello, my name is Blaine Little, and I reside in Murfreesboro, which is in the heart of the great State of Tennessee! I have been a Realtor for almost 20 years, a business trainer for over a decade, and even a corporate entertainer as a professional magician! Just between us, that last one is probably the most fun!

So, why add yet one more set of incoherent ramblings to the internet? Well, I guess the short answer would be “why not”. But that’s too cliché. Through my business, corporate training, and dealings with other people, I have come across several interesting observations about businesses in America, and the people who operate them. Not earth-shattering, just interesting. Through that perspective, I have developed different philosophies about why people do the things they do, and how that effects their organizations.

Besides that, I like to talk a lot. I have written some articles, mostly for Realtor Associations. I have also trained and managed professionals, redesigned programs, and sat in on more committee meetings than I can remember. I spent much of 2017 on the road helping business people sharpen their tools. It’s interesting why people do the things they do, but it is even more interesting as to why WE react to those other people.  Some times, that’s just outright funny! Well, to me least. Normally, I’m pretty quiet, but once you get me chatting, away I go!

The purpose of this web log is not to repeat the same “motivational guru” clichés as has been touted so many times in recent past.  As the name implies, “Momentum Seminars” means so much more than rehashing what has already been said. Instead, I will look at business concepts and training issues from a completely different perspective. So, thanks for taking the time to occasionally sit back, and take note of my ideas, observations, and philosophy. I promise, I will try to not take myself too serious. You may access more of me, as well as contact me for IN-HOUSE TRAINING,  at my website, MomentumSeminars.com

Blaine Little

MomentumSeminars.com

BlaineSpeak@gmail.com