elitefts™ Sunday edition

Leaning Up, Poster Cultures & Great Books

Leaning Up

Over the course of the last year, my corporation started to assess the health of its employees and is now placing them into one of three categories…the amount of money that you are required to pay for health insurance is directly determined by which level you fall into. The assessment tools are typical: blood screening, fitness and the dreaded BMI. Overall, I am not concerned about the blood work and the fitness tests; however, the BMI is a different story altogether. At 6’4” and 310 pounds, this presents a problem because by “normal” standards, I'm considered incredibly obese and this greatly impacts my overall health score, which means that I have to pay more for our company’s group medical insurance…almost 20 percent more. Needless to say, I’m not particularly interested in doing this. However, I also wasn’t interested in spending the next three months eating 1200 calories a day and living on the treadmill either. So, how was I going to get leaner while still maintaining the strength levels I spent so long building?
Answer: Go through Dave’s Strong(er) phase 3 training program and accomplish both goals simultaneously.
Dave doesn’t typically publicize much about his Strong(er) training series; however, I have to say that they are truly exceptional. The phase 3 program is all about getting lean and working towards maximum hypertrophy. It lays out everything for you: the diet, conditioning, weight training–everything a meathead needs to shed some extra pounds and get healthy. I set out to lose around 40 pounds, and five weeks into the program, I'm almost halfway there. Most importantly, I feel like I retained my strength levels despite the weight loss. If you have any goals this year to get a little healthier, save money on healthcare or even drop a weight class, I strongly suggest you give this program a try.

Poster Cultures

If you ever worked for a large corporation, I can assure you that there were times when you went back to your office and found a large cylindrical mailing tube sitting on your desk (usually from the HR department) with instructions to take a new poster from the tube and hang it in an area where your employees can see it. Very seldom do these posters contain any valuable content and I typically have a minimum of three of these things under my desk–unopened–at any given time. They are probably my biggest pet peeve when it comes to feeble corporate attempts at producing a healthy culture within their organization and here’s why in no particular order:

  1. These things are expensive. Most of the time, the posters that come down to us from the mother ship have catchy slogans and contain beautiful graphics that are visually appealing. They are thoughtfully designed by trained professionals who get paid well to do what they do. These services are not cheap and, as I stated earlier, if their eventual destination is to collect dust under my desk for months until they are functionally irrelevant, then I consider them a significant waste of money.  If you really want to make a difference, let’s invest this money into leadership training or employee appreciation, two of the most underfunded budgets in most corporation, where I am certain to get a return.
  2. Posters set you up to be hypocrites. Have you ever went to a restaurant who has a sign stating that the “customer always comes first” and yet all you seem to get from the staff is apathy and a total lack of interest in you or the quality of your meal? This insult to the customer is enough to advance them from amusement to anger in record time. While it would be unimaginable for a manager to post a sign stating that “you will be lucky if you get adequate service this evening” it, at the very least, would have integrity on its side. Good consumers are typically realistic and intelligent people that will wait for the goods or the service before formulating their opinion of your organization. However, if a poster makes a promise to them prior to them experiencing your business and you fall short of the stated promise, then you are ALWAYS in error. Remember, the word "excellence" has a different meaning for each and every individual who walks through your door. So, don’t promise it without knowing what is truly excellent in their eyes. We don’t need an informal contract hanging on the wall that attempts to do the talking for us, what we deliver is going to do the talking for us.
  3. Posters don’t inspire. How many life changing moments have you experienced that came via a poster? Reading words on a poster cannot be considered an “experience” because it isn't truly significant to us. Consider this: when you are driving down an interstate and you see an advocacy sign for smoking cessation, does that alone inspire you, if you are a smoker, to let go of your habit and never smoke again? Absolutely not! People inspire, not posters. The old adage that states “actions speak louder than words” is completely true. Posters are not action, they are a decoration. It's more important that your culture comprises of people who express the values of the organization through their actions and who can communicate those values without needing a visual aide. Your culture’s values and identity must be burned on the hearts of every employee, not taped or nailed to a wall in a break room.

What we do is too important to waste time on that which is shallow, false or unproductive. In the time it takes to hang a poster on a wall, you could have re-recruited one of your “at risk” employees, completed a “needs analysis” from one of your consumers, or done one of a million things that will truly add value to your business. Our employees don’t need to be “marketed” to, they need to be supported and led.

So Many Books, So Little Time

A couple of years ago, I set a goal to read a book per week. There were times when this was very challenging given my hectic professional and family life; however, for the most part, I was able to fulfill this personal goal. For the most part, my reading centered on leadership and business, so I thought that I'd put together a short list of some of the books that earned “top shelf” status in my personal library.

  1. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. This book has its roots in healthcare, but is a fantastic read for anyone who is interested in systems accuracy.
  2. The Game Changer by Ram Charan and A.G. Lafley. Profound information on how Procter and Gamble uses innovation in the market analyses and product development.
  3. Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute. This is a “must read” for all middle and senior managers on my leadership team. Incredible content.
  4. Winning by Jack Welch. Whether you love or hate him, Jack Welch knows how to run an exceptional corporation. So many of the “cutting edge” human systems that we use today originated when he was the CEO of GE.
  5. The Power of Full Engagement by Tony Schwartz. Great resource and insight on how to be far more productive while getting more irons hot.

There are many, many more that I could list. Feel free to put some of your own favorites in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.