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    Blog Index
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    The Normalization of Profanity

    Profanity has always been used in our society, but in fifty plus years, I’ve not seen the casual acceptance of so many four-letter words in conversation, social media posts, media, and correspondence as exists today.

    Profanity used to be something we’d apologize for; words and phrases that “slipped out” in a mood of exasperation. The overt use of profanity used to be a sign of an unsophisticated class, a rawness, rudeness, or an unwillingness to conform.

    More commonly used by men, women would refrain from openly using profanity. Parents would refrain from profanity in front of their children. Parents used to threaten to wash their kids mouths with soap, if they caught them using profanity. Now they exchange profane remarks with their offspring.

    Profanity was spoken privately, behind-the-scenes among the most visible, prominent, and successful – not publicly used. We certainly would not write something for public consumption with profane words. Well, that world is long gone.

    Profanity is used assertively, loudly, and often today in casual conversation, and most do not apologize for doing so. In fact, a younger generation uses profanity like they’re merely picking another flower in the garden. It’s just another color to add to conversation. I think this practice has weakened our use of language, our discourse, and in an odd way, weakened the impact of profanity itself.

    What used to be shocking and an extreme expression of feelings and would jolt us all to attention is now more routine. For me, hearing profanity out loud still makes me wince, and when the words come out of my mouth, it makes me wish I could pull them back.

    Not long ago I listened to a live speech by a prominent author laced with profanity, and my appreciation of him sank. I wondered why this was necessary, and why a person with such a wonderful platform would pollute his message with so many four-letter words. Despite my impression, the response to his talk among my colleagues was “He’s amazing!” Somehow his foul language seemed to make him more real and relatable.

    So, this is where we are. We often relate to the profane, much more than the profound. We’ve taken language that used to be off-putting and made it the norm. I’m convinced this doesn’t serve us well, and it’s something that I won’t be embracing. I know this is against the tide of our society, but I believe the use of profanity should be rare and not routine. Call me a square and out of step with the times, but that’s my position. Like Clark Gable’s character, Rhett Butler shockingly said in the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”


    Summer Can Give Your Business the Lift It Needs

    In the summer, many people are inspired to look away from work, are eager to take days off, spend more time outside, and engage in leisure travel. However, this season could easily turn out to be among the most productive times of the year for your business. With broadly a slower pace, this is a good time to chip away at those things that take time, that you may have deferred, but when completed could have a profound effect on your career or business. Here are a few suggestions:

    Reading: Do you have books, magazines, and articles to catch up on? Devoting a little time while sitting on the deck or poolside to read material that will improve your knowledge and understanding of business matters or your industry is time well spent.

    Writing: If you have delayed writing thank you notes, or drafting letters or emails, the summer is a great season to think about what you’d like to say and use downtime to write those all important pieces of correspondence.

    Photographs: Summer is a great time to capture images of your various activities. Everyone around you expects many photographs to be captured at events and gatherings and these images can not only serve as memories but can be used as tools to connect with your business colleagues, to use in social media, and to connect with your audience.

    While it might seem that business interests are not advanced during summer months, savvy business people use this time to move forward decisively.


    What Does Excellence Mean TODAY?

    We all have a choice in how we look at our work strategically, and how we follow through. We have the freedom, typically, to approach our work, any way that we like.

    We can be pragmatic, tackling task after task, without focusing on a larger strategic vision. We can gravitate to a broad, or even philosophical view of what excellence means in our businesses.  Or, we can decide what the word excellence would mean in terms of results, this very day.

    I recommend the latter.

    Excellence, TODAY is the choice I’ve reminded myself of as an entrepreneur, for decades now, and I think it’s an important mindset for you to cultivate. This comes, perhaps, from my need as an entrepreneur to consistently be sure something meaningful is happening to keep up the momentum in the business.

    If you’re like me, you have plenty on your list to work on. But there’s nothing that clarifies the mind like aiming your thinking and effort at the one, two, or three things that could make the most difference in your business TODAY. Your focus might not always be on the biggest of ideas. In fact, it’s more likely to be small ideas, but it’s the cumulative effect of focusing on what would demonstrate excellence, TODAY, that truly makes excellent companies.

    If you’re running the company, creating excellence TODAY might mean giving your team an uplifting word. Or it might mean, a quick conversation asking your top people to define new ideas in market leadership. If you’re in marketing, you might spend a large part of the day, defining the five reasons clients should engage with your company, and buy your product – so that these are crisp and clear. If you’re in sales, you might define and assemble your A-list contacts and relationships, making sure you have compelling and engaging dialogue with them. In HR? You might casually reach out to company staff members, to see how they’re doing, shifting what is typically a reactive role, to a proactive role that strengthens company culture.

    I’ve found when you take a step back and ask yourself: “What would make us excellent?” And you apply that question to this very moment, it leads you to decisions and actions that cut through.

    The key point; Wherever you sit in a company, you have an opportunity, TODAY, to redefine excellence and make it something that happens, right here, right now. Excellence is not a lofty management concept, it’s a down-to-earth, daily effort.


    What Every Manager Should Do Daily

    I began practicing something early in my career, that I didn’t know I was doing. It happened when I began reading a series of inspirational biographies. I’d often be so moved by stories of resilience and success in these books, the sentiment would carry over into my conversations with friends, family, and colleagues. I’d find myself complimenting others, praising their work, highlighting their potential, and casting just about any situation in the most positive terms. I didn’t intend to do that; there was no underlying motive. I had just trained myself to spot good things and emphasize them.

    It was a shock to me when some people, would think my comments were disingenuous and respond with cynicism. I soon realized most people were not taking in the positive input I was, and thus were allowing conflicting emotions to dominate and grow, about their life, their work, and their future.

    As a young professional in corporate America, my managers noticed my tendency to look for solutions rather than problems, to empower others with my words, and how I was guided by a different set of priorities. That led to being promoted to management. I soon began to deliberately use my observations and conversational habits as a leader.

    While on Wall Street, I began the practice of power meetings. These were frequent, short meetings with staff and colleagues, designed to get a read on where things were on a project. Five to seven minutes, sometimes in my office, or sometimes casually on the go, I would ask a few questions, gauge our momentum, and impact the climate of the team. I could quickly sense the attitude of a staff member and contribute to the overall atmosphere with my comments, my energy, and how I perceived our progress. I always made sure these power meetings ended with clarity about the task to be achieved, and optimism about our ability to get there.

    By the time I was running my own company, I had perfected the power meeting. Every morning, we’d gather for seven minutes, go around the team, and all would give a quick update on projects, and sales prospects. We’d end with a crispness of purpose I don’t see in most companies. Granted we had a small team, but it was highly effective. Based on my experience, I believe every leader can use this concept to stay connected and inject a little energy and power into the air.

    In the decades I’ve grown and advised companies, I’ve seen remarkable results with this power meeting concept. In my sports media company we accomplished things, companies one hundred times our size couldn’t. For example, when we launched our news service for mobile devices (back then pagers, primarily) we beat every other provider: ESPN, Fox Sports, etc., in growth, subscriber count, and usage. That’s because we so tightly managed the process, on top of every metric, that no problem or opportunity went unnoticed. Our power meetings was one of the reasons.

    Here’s the bottom line. The people you work with, bring to their jobs so many competing emotions, with professionalism and enthusiasm for the most part, but frustrations and disappointments below the surface. Most people need frequent uplifting and re-focusing because we’re surrounded by negative input, daily. They need leadership daily, whether they’re asking for it or not.

    You must make sure the right focus and energy prevails amongst your team. A great tool is the power meeting. You should try it. It will give you and everyone else, the power you need, to get extraordinary results.


    What Really Happened at Starbucks

    By now you’ve heard about the recent incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, involving two African-American men. They were arrested for suspicion of trespassing, after the manager called the police. Why? They sat down after being refused use of the restroom and they didn’t make a purchase. They were waiting at a table for a colleague, with whom they intended to discuss business investment opportunities, but when he arrived they were being led out by police.

    I was struck by how this matter conflicted with the values of Starbucks. There’s the obvious racial component – and whether all guests are treated equally. But as a management consultant focused on helping companies rise to excellence, I immediately realized the Starbucks manager was driven more by her own assumptions and worldview, rather than the values of the organization. Howard Schultz, executive chairman, and the business genius who has made Starbucks a household name has longed described the coffee chain as “the third place.” It’s not home, it’s not work, but it’s a place for people to gather, socialize, plan, and meet. Did the manager of this Starbucks know that?

    Businesses struggle with many things: gaining market acceptance for their products, industry and competitive pressures, growing sales, managing costs, and finding talent – but among the biggest challenges is defining, demonstrating, and living clear, crisp, corporate values. Encouraging people to come in and sit down, take their time ordering, crack open a book or laptop, order more, and the comfort of the environment inspiring them to call a friend to join them, is all part of the Starbucks strategy. While Starbucks managers and employees might need “racial sensitivity” training, they may also need training on the company’s most basic values.

    Starbucks is unique in that it has painstakingly focused on defining its values and goals, but most businesses have not. It is why so many companies struggle to address challenges, incident-by-incident, thrashing out how an employee should have handled a situation, or continually trying to improve a person’s attitude and work ethic. When these values are clear, discussed upfront, and embedded in the way the organization operates it is easier to bounce back from an unfortunate incident like the one that took place in Philadelphia. When managers are not clear on the company values, they "train" their staff to use their own judgement which can result in good or bad habits, and a good or bad outcome, depending on the background, experience, perceptions, and attitudes of the staff.

    Work on your values and goals, and how you approach your work as an organization and make sure everyone who works for your brand knows what those values and goals are --particularly your managers. It's the best way to define and anticipate what happens day-to-day in your organization.


    More About Starbucks

    A few years ago, Howard Schultz did what he called, a Strategy Reset, defining new values and goals. It’s worth noting that he did not mention becoming “the third place,” in his list of seven values – presumably because he felt Starbucks had achieved this. The seven Starbucks values are:

    1.Become the undisputed coffee authority;

    2.Engage and inspire our partners;

    3.Ignite the emotional attachment with our customers;

    4.Expand our global presence – while making each store the heart of the local   neighborhood;

    5.Be a leader in ethical sourcing and environmental impact;

    6.Create innovation growth platforms worthy of our coffee;

    7. Deliver a sustainable economic model.

    Related Video

    “Great Leaders Define Values and Goals”