Sunday, May 29, 2016

Damned Nations and Standing Desks

I read a book today by Dr. Samantha Nutt MD - Damned Nations - Greed, Guns, Armies and Aid.

It was captivating.  Scary and depressing in parts but also hopeful.

Nutt understands the complexity of the problem.  She has traveled to war torn areas frequently.  She founded the charity - War Child.

Good book - worth reading.

At the same time, I am listening to The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley.  Well not actually doing it at the same time (Multitasking does not work).  Ridley talks about the correlation between peace and commerce.  When people do business together, there tends to be peace.  When you look at a map of the troubled areas - they are those which lack robust trading economies.

As a businessperson, I actually think commerce can help.  Of course it has to be done fairly.

 I am enjoying the weather in Ontario.  OK - I now have a conflict of interest.  Danby sells portable and window air conditioners.  It is a business of feast and famine.  Either the business is out of product or ends up the season with a warehouse full of them.

Of course Danby is not just in Ontario.  Sales are spread through North America (and a bit in Mexico).  So real sales are not determined by one geographic area, it is a combination.  EG - I was in Vancouver on Friday and got caught in a cool rain storm.

It is not a matter of average temperatures.  It is a matter of extremes combined with number of days.  And humidity also helps.
Success Habit of the day - listen to audiobooks when driving and sometimes when walking.  The reason only sometimes is silence is also good sometimes.  We have to be careful not to make our time 100% busy or we cannot be creative.  We need time to reflect.


And a promo video.

Researcher claim a 46% increase in productivity for using a standing desk.  I wish it was that simple.  I use a standing desk on and off and have not found this increase in productivity.  I do it for the health benefit.

Still - interesting study.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Trusted Executive

I read a book by John Blakey - The Trusted Executive - Nine Leadership Habits that Inspire Results, Relationships and Reputation.

I like the title since I like habits.  And distilling a complex topic into 9 things sounds attractive.

The book leads with a section on why executives want to be trusted.  I recall a speech I heard recently by the CEO of Ace Hardware, John Vanhuizen (and getting to know him a bit, I would call him a trusted executive).  He said (paraphrased) "CEOs and business people are not trusted and not as important as we like to think".  He was speaking to a room of CEOs and business people.  We see this by the occupy Wall Street movement.  Given the environment, it makes sense to study more how to be trusted.

The habits are broken down into 3 pliiars - Habits of Ability, Habits of Integrity and Habits of Benevolence.  I will not share all of the 9 habits but will mention a few:

One habit is the habit to be open.  Consistent open communications build trust.  This includes having a healthy mutual respect.  The book says "choose to be open" so it is a choice.

I love the habit but as a time management person struggle with how to do this well.  In person is always best.  Repeated, as long as it is not boring helps.  Multi-channel helps - face to face, email, webex, call etc.

Most of the habits seem fairly easy and come naturally - humility, kindness, honesty.  Some like braveness take more.  I suspect each leader will have their own easy and difficult ones.

I know self knowledge is a key to good leadership and suspect that helps a lot with being trusted.

In business, our ethic at Danby and DDE Media is "we do the right thing".  This seems to flow straight from the book although at the time we came up with that, I had not read the book.

Good book.

Danby got some good press in Huffington Post.

I published an article on Linkedin on Irrational Customers.

I enjoyed walking in the woods on the weekend in Quebec.  Lots of trilliums - must be Ontario immigrants.  My mom used to take us out in the spring when we were young.  She is an amateur naturalist.  I came to enjoy it (even if it was cold and a bit rainy when I was out this weekend).  Good memories.

Monday, May 09, 2016

It is all about the little things

I like to garden.  Perhaps I should have figured out that I have hay-fever before I took it up.  That is the only downside except for the occasional sore back caused only by myself - by lifting wrong.

Connecting with nature has health benefits according to Huffington Post.  I know I track my steps with a Fitbit and it gives me about the same credit as a stroll but for some reason I get much sorer gardening.

Early this morning was gorgeous.  I could still see my breath as I dug in the garden.  The garden has weeds which thrive as always.  I often wish my vegetables would thrive as well as the weeds do.

I like pulling the big weeds - it is gratifying to see the pile of weeds grow.  They make the garden look nice, quickly.  And they are easy to see.  What I do not enjoy as much is pulling the little ones.  But history has taught me, lots of little weeds grow to big weeds and choke out the vegetables.

So my analogy for business and life.  It is not the big things that make all the difference - it is mostly about the little things.

I read a book "The Optimistic workplace - Creating an Environment that Energizes Everyone" by Shawn Murphy.  I was worried from the title that it would be all about rah rah and pep talks.  Or worse yet,  I would have to smile.

Fortunately, Murphy is more practical than soft platitudes.  He talks about "good" culture being welcoming, curious, social and thoughtful.  All things a company can work on.

Since I am a work ethic guy, I loved one line "Optimistic cultures believe good things will happen if they work hard".

Murphy talks about the contagiousness of attitude.  And that starts with the leader.  Fortunately, I am naturally optimistic.  If anything does not work out or is not working, I know we just need to make a few changes.  What I am not sure of is - can people become optimistic?

Murphy supplies an appendix to help leaders build their own 90 day plan (I love 90 day plans).

Murphy agrees that companies that "serve" the world thrive.  So he would like the Danby Appliance culture of "we do the right thing".

I also know the best way to create optimism is to have success.  Successful companies are great places to work.

Off to create more optimism...

Kids always help optimism.  (note the Shakespeare duck - indoctrination by his Shakespeare prof mom)

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

My favourite time management trick - the Pomodoro System

I have not been able to bring myself to blog since the death of my nephew.   Zafer would have wanted us to live life so I am back blogging.


I have previously blogged about the Pomodoro system.   It is simple.  Set the timer for 25 minutes and work all out on the task at hand.  No emails or calls.  No one is offended if my door is closed for 25 minutes or if I do not get back to them for 25 minutes.

A friend asked me what tricks I might have to make the Pomodoro system work better.  He was simply not getting enough Pomodoro's done for the time lapsed.  On paper it seems you can do 2 per hour and have a 5 minute break every 25 minutes.  In practise, I have never been able to do this for more than a couple of hours.

Doing 8 pomodoros in a 10 hour day is tough.  Some ideas:

1 - Have a list of "easier" things to do.  So I often do a tough pomodoro followed by an easy one.

2 - I close my email window, stock prices and phone off (or silent mode).  Realistically, no one will be offended if I get back to them a few minutes later.  Sometimes I am expecting a call so do not do that one.

3 - Exercise helps me.  So a brisk walk - even some pushups tends to help my focus.  (you know me - exercise helps everything).

4 - Being rested helps.  I have high focus on days where I slept well the night before.

These last 2 things remind me of the routine chess masters do.  A chess master friend, AJ Steigman emailed me the link.

5 - although technically the system is 25 minutes then 5 minute break then 25 minutes, I usually do 25 minutes then 35 minutes of "catch up work" like email.

6 - If I have bigger projects, especially when I am energized early in the day, I switch to a 35 minute Pomodoro.  I know technically that is not the program but...

Good luck with your Pomodoros.

I always love marketing.  KW record had an article that confirms that startups that focus on marketing win.   I also did another Linkedin Post on "Excuses to Market".