What To Do When Things Go Wrongstring(31) "What To Do When Things Go Wrong"

My eldest daughter, Ashley, got married earlier this year. The wedding was at a little venue nestled in Southern California near the ocean.

I experienced something during the wedding that is a great lesson for entrepreneurs everywhere. The sign of a good team is when they do their job well when everything around them is going right. The sign of a GREAT team is when they do their job well when something out of their control goes completely wrong – and yet, they find a solution. Finding solutions to unexpected problems is a strength for any business.

The Problem

A couple hours before my daughter’s wedding, a vehicle took out a transformer in the neighborhood and the venue lost all power. This was a disaster in the making. However, the manager drove to a hardware store, and actually bought several generators which his team hooked up to the venue just in time for the wedding.

While the wedding party was frenetic over the loss of power, the manager and his team remained calm (at least in front of us) and positive that all would be right with the world, and they would take care of this. His confidence in his team, flowed over to the wedding party (including me – the father of the bride who paid for all of this!!!). There is much to be learned from an entrepreneur or manager who can respond to a serious problem while maintaining their composure in the midst of frantic clients during an ensuing crisis.

The venue brought the power back up with the generators they procured. Everything seemed ready to go. The power came on within minutes of the time that the wedding was to start. The guests were in their chairs, the music played for me to escort my daughter down the aisle. Then, everyone stood to see the bride just before I began to turn the corner to escort her to her awaiting groom… and the power went out again!!!

I looked to my right and watched a team of people from the venue run to the generators and fix the latest challenge within seconds. And… the power was up once again within a few moments.

With that, the music also started again. The people remained standing. The venue went above and beyond to get all of us to this moment. Now, I had to escort a VERY frenetic bride-to-be down the aisle. Any bride would be frenzied at this point and my beautiful daughter was certainly in that headspace.

The Walk

So, as I walked her down the aisle (a very long aisle I might add), I did what any father might try to do – make her forget about her nerves. I could feel her arm trembling as we took our first steps. I leaned over and whispered in her ear, (see the photo above) “Have you ever wondered why you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?” That was so obviously a random statement to make at that moment that she looked at me curiously and said, “What?” I replied, “Or, why is that you send cargo by ships and shipments by car?” The shear randomness of these questions started to make her chuckle. So, I went on to say, “why do you think we call them ‘cookies’ when we actually ‘bake’ them?” Now she’s actually laughing and people had to be wondering what the heck I was saying to her to make her laugh.

As we got closer to her groom I ended with one last question, “Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?” At this point she was no longer frenetic, and she had a huge smile on her face as I kissed her cheek, told her I love her, and handed her over to her groom. She was beautiful, calm, and very, very happy.

It’s hard enough to do everything right when things are going smoothly. The test of a team’s ability to perform is how they handle things when serious challenges are going on all around them.

The Lessons

The lessons in this story are:
· Remain calm during a crisis and project that sense of calm to your clients.
· Believe in your team (which means you need to have a good one).
· Don’t focus on the problem – focus on the solution.
· Act quickly to implement that solution.

Oh, and if all of this happens just before you walk your daughter down the aisle to get married, take her mind off the chaos and have some fun. This last bit of advice can actually work in many situations throughout your life and your business.

Building Up Your Power Teamstring(27) "Building Up Your Power Team"

ID-100223937How do you increase the number of referrals your networking contacts are helping pass to you? One way, of course, is to educate your contacts on how to best get referrals for you. Another easy way to increase your number of referrals is to create relationships with people who, based on their professions, are most likely to pass quality referrals to you. These ideal referral partners are broken up into two groups: Contact Spheres and Power Teams.

The difference between the two is minor, yet impactful. Your Contact Sphere is all the possible professions you can team up with, while your Power Team is the group that you have actually teamed up with. Often times, these groups will be made up of professions that work together symbiotically, and are naturally inclined to refer business to one another. Think somewhat related, but non-competing, businesses.

To build your Power Team, you’ll want to take some time and map out your ideal Contact Sphere. What professions could you work well with, if only you knew someone who worked in that field?

Once you’ve built your Power Team, your work isn’t done. You must always be looking for ways to pass a referral to your Power Team. Over time, you’ll develop trust and your Power Team partners will pass significantly more referrals to you.

Additionally, one thing that I have seen work well for Power Teams is a weekly meeting, or at a minimum every other week. These meetings should be outside of your regular networking events, and should be smaller, more intimate gatherings with your Power Team. To keep your meetings running smoothly, have a chairperson to lead discussion. Each member of the Power Team should discuss their ideal referral, and perhaps dedicate some time to brainstorming places to find these referrals. As a group, you may also discuss potential other professions who would fit well in your Power Team.

Common mistakes I’ve seen with Power Teams include:

  • Confusing them for Contact Spheres. Contact Spheres are a broad list of professions that could work well with you, while your Power Team is only those that you are actively working with.
  • Not dedicating time to them. Just forming a Power Team will not build up referrals for you. Like with any other relationship, you need to build up trust, learn the wants and needs of the other members of the team, and establish best ways to help everyone in the group meet their business goals.
  • Not building the right team. If you have someone in your Power Team who isn’t passing referrals to you, whether that be because they are having your services done in house or any other reason, they shouldn’t be in your Power Team. While you may not be able to avoid having them in your networking group, you are able to partner with someone outside of your group. There is nothing wrong with having multiple networks.

What Dog Sled Teams Can Teach Us About Leadershipstring(49) "What Dog Sled Teams Can Teach Us About Leadership"

My wife Beth and I had the opportunity to experience a dog-sled excursion while visiting the Ice Hotel in Sweden last year. While waiting to get onto the sleds and take off across the frozen river, we observed a very interesting behavior being exhibited by the lead dogs in each dog team.

Virtually all of the dogs in the pack were leaping and straining against their harnesses, barking, yipping, howling and generally making quite a ruckus. However, Beth and I noticed that the lead pair in front of each of the sled teams was quietly sitting very still, keeping a close eye on the mushers. There may have been the occasional woof from one of the lead dogs, but they were mainly on full alert, silent, and attentive, waiting for the signal that it was time to move.

Non-Lead Pack Dogs

Non-Lead Pack Dogs

I sat there for many minutes watching and marveling at this dynamic (click on the video above to view it for yourself). It struck me that this was a great metaphor for leadership in general. The lead dogs were observing and mostly silent despite the fact that all around them the rest of the pack was constantly barking, pulling, and straining on the lines.  The lead pair in each team had a single-minded focus: wait for the signal so that they could lead the pack out onto the trail.

Lead Dogs

Lead Dogs




Great leaders often do something similar. In business sometimes people get excited about something or other and begin to strain and pull, noisily expressing their desire to move in a certain direction or take a specific action, NOW. Sometimes they do it very aggressively.  However, a good leader remains alert and attentive, not overreacting to the chaos all around them. They wait for the right time and the right cue to move forward.  They are ready to lead the team in the right direction for optimum success.  Good leaders respect the process and provide trustworthy leadership in the work environment. They know the right time to move ahead and the right time to sit tight. They know the difference, because they, or someone they trust, have been over these trails many times before. The team may get excited, anxious or even demanding, and still these strong leaders remain steady and calm.

We noticed another thing on that sled ride. When the lead dogs stood up and prepared to respond to the musher’s cue to run, the rest of the pack got quiet and settled down. They knew it was time to get to business. They were ready to pull in the same direction.  When a team is pulling in the same direction, following a strong and calm leader who is observing the cues from others or following cues from his/her own experience, the path of the team will be true and sound. 

I had the realization that this metaphor really is perfect for business. Although any leader may “bark” from time to time, it is the strong, calm, and confident leader that is best at getting a team to follow.   The quality of the leader often determines the performance of the team.

Are there other characteristics and traits that you feel make a great leader or that you have witnessed in a highly effective leader?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please share your feedback in the comment forum below.  Thanks!


Who’s In Your Room? – A Personal Storystring(50) "Who’s In Your Room? – A Personal Story"

A few years ago my company was in the midst of one of the largest projects in the history of our organization.  The project involved many people—it was very complex and financially challenging.  It was also in trouble.  I needed to select a key player for the project team.  The man I chose had incredibly strong technical skills.  He was very qualified for the project and was the perfect person to help turn this around . . . or so I thought.  I knew he came with a lot of baggage.  He didn’t always play well with others, he would fly off the handle emotionally when talking to people and, worst of all, he brought an immense amount of drama to the workplace.  On the other hand he was highly qualified for the work. Based on those qualifications, I hired him as manager. I suspected there would be problems with the drama and the outbursts – however, I felt I could coach him and guide him through this.

It turns out I was wrong.  Monumentally wrong. 

Despite his incredible technical skills, his behavior more than offset his technical strengths.  The project went from problematic to horrific within a year.  It was way over budget, well behind schedule, and not nearly the quality that I expected.   Around this time, one of the project team members told me that the best thing the project manager could do for a meeting was to call in sick!  The team member said when the manager was not there they got a lot more done.

Right about that time, I attended a presentation that Stewart Emery did where he talked about the concept of “Who’s in Your Room?”.  I walked out of that presentation and decided right then and there that this project leader should have never been in my room.  I also realized that getting him out of the room was going to be very difficult.  Why?  Because he kept everything close to the vest.  Most of the people in the project didn’t understand or know many of the aspects of the work, because this project leader didn’t collaborate or share information freely.  I understood that removing him from the room was going to be difficult and painful.  But I was clear on the reality that it had to be done.

It ended up taking months to lay the ground work with everyone on the team by me personally engaging them in pieces of the project they needed to know but weren’t privy to with this manager.  I had to drop many of my normal responsibilities and devote an immense amount of time to this process.  I promoted some people and moved others around.  When all was ready, I made the move and let go of the project leader.  There was an immediate and palpable change in the project.  Today it has made incredible strides, and it is becoming exactly the product that I was hoping for and it is something I am proud of as an entrepreneur.

The lesson I learned in this very expensive and very stressful process was this: be very selective about who you let in your room.  Don’t allow people in just because of their technical skills.  I want a work environment that is a “drama-free” zone and I pick people for my organization who I want in my room.  I now try to select qualified people who fit the organizational culture of collaboration, people who share information and knowledge and people who don’t bring to the process an Emmy Award winning soap opera of behaviors.

Have you experienced this phenomenon?  If so, please tell us about it in the comment forum below and, also, please share any thoughts you have on Stewart’s Who’s in Your Room concept. Thanks!