Light A Fire Under Your Business

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Light A Fire

Tom Pandola and Jim Bird’s new book Light a Fire Under Your Business is unlike most business books you will read. The authors not only share practical business principles, but they do it through a combination of business and fire-fighting experience. Whether fighting a fire in a building or one ranging outside, these two veteran firefighters share their experiences and apply the principles in a clever way that gets your attention. Firefighting requires teamwork, flawless execution and commitment.

 

“Execution is everything.” –Jeff Bridges

 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tom about the book and his advice to build a culture and a team.  Tom Pandola is a director of communications in the air medical transportation industry. He is also a cofounder of  Third Alarm, a leadership consulting company. Pandola’s work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes.

 

Build a Culture of Execution

How do you develop a culture of execution?

When something is happening, or not happening and falling short of the organization’s expectations, in this case execution, I have three steps that I take to zero-in on the cause of the problem.

 

“The result of bad communication is a disconnection between strategy and execution.” –Chuck Marin

 

 

Step 1: What process is currently in place?

Step one: I look at the process that is already in place. Does it provide our workforce with all that they need to execute properly and in a timely manner? If not, I would look at either developing a new process or just adjusting the current one to be more supportive of those involved.

Step 2: Are individuals empowered?

Step two: If a lack of execution is not found to be a process issue, then I will look at the individuals involved. Do they feel as though they are empowered and authorized to take the appropriate actions? Sometimes there has been a lack of communications or a miscommunication that causes people to feel less than accountable. I would correct whatever the issue that is found to be causing the lack of execution. This would include the last resort, which is to discipline individuals if it turns out they have made a conscious decision not to follow the process or to not take actions that they are authorized to take.

Step 3: Are behaviors infused in the culture?

Step three: This step gets to the core question about developing a culture of execution. When leadership continuously engages in process improvement and personnel empowerment, they are working on the culture of the organization. I believe that it takes leaders coming together to define the things that they believe will improve execution – and then work at infusing the desired behaviors into the culture.

light-a-fire-under-your-business-book-cover-m7b62gu1p2uq9gcqsb85om6482g63dcjbsklilnoryAn example from the fire service is the need to provide every member of the department with the right process and feeling of empowerment to get the right things done, for the right reasons, and at the right time. This is necessary because the fire service is a 24/7/365 operation, and the top leaders cannot be present when most of the work of their department is taking place. So in order to give the “right things” meaning, the leadership developed meaningful mission, vision, and values statements that serve to drive decision making at all levels of the organization.

This is the first step I recommend every organization take. Bring the leadership together and write a meaningful mission statement that defines, in the simplest way, your organization’s core purpose. This will provide your workforce with the basis for their thoughts and actions. Then write a vision statement that illustrates a desired future. This provides each individual the knowledge of executing their duties in a way that contributes to that vision. And finally, each work team should develop a set of values that they feel help them execute their unique duties with a high level of success.

 

Create a High-Performance Team

Make Today One of Intense Purpose and Lasting Influence

What Will Your Legacy Be?

It’s graduation time. As students receive their diplomas, they look forward to the next milestone, the next development, the next opportunity. As they walk across the stage, I bet most of them don’t think about how many days they have been on Earth and how many days they have left.

My friend, Robert D Smith, affectionately known as “the Robert D” reminds me of the gift of time. His book 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now is one I give away to graduates. He shares practical reminders of how to master your life and succeed.20K Simple Truths 3D Left

Understanding your purpose, living each day to its fullest, becoming as productive as possible, and mastering your life are critical to a successful life and yet most of us are so busy with today’s tasks we don’t stop and reflect.

In 20,000 Days, you will find a compelling reminder of the value of time. It’s not a long book, and the message is simple, but profound. A few of the lessons I took away:

  • Eat dessert first.
  • Think of today as your last day and also your first day.
  • Do the thing you’ve been putting off.
  • Invite a close friend to dinner.
  • Go outside and breathe deeply.
  • Read the book you’ve been meaning to pick up.
  • Create a life statement.

 

QUOTES

And some of my favorite quotes:

 

“Winning is defined by the legacy you create.” @TheRobertD

 

“My motivating force: I know I will die, but I do not know how long I will live.” @TheRobertD

 

“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.” –Golda Meir

 

“No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.” –William Borden

3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life

Icons Charge Battery Vector Illustration

Are You Fully Charged?

Are you at the top of your game?

Have more energy than you need?

Is your work meaningful?

In recent research only 11 percent of people said that they have a great deal of energy. If you want to rev up your engine, read on.

One of my very favorite authors, Tom Rath has a brand new book called Are You Fully Charged?: The 3 Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life. Tom is a researcher at Gallup who studies human behavior. You may know him from any of his five New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers. From How Full Is Your Bucket? to StrengthsFinder 2.0 every one of his books inspires and challenges. We recently discussed what it takes to be fully charged at work and in life.

“The pursuit of meaning, not happiness, is what makes life worthwhile.” –Tom Rath

Maintain a Positive Attitude

You open the book with your own personal health challenge. How do you maintain such a positive attitude and strong work ethic in the face of the unknown?

I have learned it essential to focus on what you can do today that will continue to grow when you are gone. In reality, no one can say with certainty that they will live for a defined period of time. But we all have today to do something that improves the life of another human being.

You don’t even have to do anything that profound today to make a difference for someone else. The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts. If I have one great conversation today, do a little research or writing that contributes to something larger, or read a book to my son, those all add up in the way I think about a day where I am fully charged.

 

“The things that change people’s lives are usually an accumulation of small acts.” –Tom Rath

 

Learn the 3 Keys to a Full Charge

Three keys to a Full Charge include meaning, interactions, and energy. Are You Fully Charged?offers practical, easy steps to energize your life and become more effective. At the same time, I don’t think most of us think of our lives in these buckets. How did you develop this approach?

While I have also worked on research and books about life in a more general sense, this one focuses more on the key ingredients of a great day, for yourself and others. So I think of these three elements as little reminders of things I need to try and spend time on within a given day. As I talk about in the book’s prologue, this work has been deeply influenced by recent research suggesting that our daily experience functions very differently from our overall satisfaction with life over decades.

 

“Doing for others may be the only way to create lasting well-being.” –Tom Rath

 

Find Purpose in Your Work

FullyChargedYou say to “make work a purpose, not just a place.” What practical steps can company leaders take to make that a reality?

I think it starts by going all the way back to the fundamental compact between a person and an organization. Companies are now pretty good at quantifying the value an employee adds to their bottom line, but very few do a good job of ensuring that each person’s life is better off as a result of joining the organization.

So leaders need to spend more time helping employees to see how their daily efforts are part of something much larger that makes a difference. One way to do this is to help employees hear directly from customers and communities who are benefiting from their daily work. What matters is not just that we make a little meaningful progress each day but that each person also has a chance to see and perceive this through their own lens.

 

“Make work a purpose, not just a place.” –Tom Rath

5 Lessons on Innovation from Outlander’s Diana Gabaldon

A Creative Force

One of the most innovative people I have ever met is my friend Diana Gabaldon. Last year, her wildly popular Outlander novels became even more popular as the new television series was released. Whether you are reading her Outlander series or her Lord John novels, you will be hard pressed to categorize her writing. Most critics give up and classify her work with a list of descriptive words ranging from historical fiction and romance to mystery and adventure.

However you describe her novels, you may find it even more challenging to describe the author. Diana is equal parts scholar, writer and historian. Mix in a bit of archivist; stir in comic book writing, and the unique recipe begins to take shape.

When I first met Diana, I had not read any of her books. She captivated me by the way she told a story. How she went from college professor to best-selling author was a story I will never forget.

Here are a few lessons I learned from the impossible-to-describe creative force named Diana Gabaldon:

 

Lessons from A Creative Mind

1. Try….why not take a chance? 

It seems that most people have an idea, think they should do something, and then push that dream into a drawer. They never really give it a go.

Years ago, Diana read comic books. She felt the writing quality was declining and that she could do it herself. Have you ever felt that way? You see something and think, “I can do better.” Most of us have. What sets Diana apart is that she didn’t stop there. She investigated. She found out who was in charge and then turned in a submission.

Years later, Diana would take a different chance. She thought that she would like to try writing a novel. That try, what she calls the novel she was writing for “practice,” became Outlander.

What idea have you had that you have left in that drawer? What could you do to give birth to something new?

 

2. Study…for the love of creating.

Long before her mega success as an author, Diana spent years as a university professor.  She has a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology. She also holds degrees in marine biology and zoology. That type of academic success shows an underlying love of learning.

And it’s that same love of learning she uses in the meticulous research for her books.  Her fiction books are known for their accuracy, and it is no wonder.  Her personal library includes thousands of books. Her Arizona home alone contains over 1500 reference works on topics such as warfare techniques, poisons and history. Some of the topics are very specific, such as the art of passementarie (the knotted tassels on 18th century furnishings) or the 126 books on herbals. If you have been searching for Sam Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) or Captain Francis Grose’s A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), look no further.

Often people look for the shortcuts to success. You may hear that Diana decided to write a book and then found herself on the NYT list. The truth is that great public success is almost always the result of planting, tilling and working in private.

Diana Gabaldon's bookcase, Used by Permission Diana Gabaldon’s bookcase, Used by Permission

 

3. Fail…and keep going!

Quotes and Leadership Lessons from Joel Osteen

Qualities of A Winner

You Can, You Will: 8 Undeniable Qualities of a Winner is the latest book by Joel Osteen. Fans of Joel Osteen’s positive message will enjoy the stories throughout the book of inspiration and encouragement.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Joel, who is the pastor of Lakewood, the largest church in the U.S. He’s immediately recognizable from his television ministry, bestselling books and stadium appearances. Not too long ago, I noticed he has his own SiriusXM station.

My Mistakes

9781455575718As I look back on my earliest interviews for this website, I laugh. My first three in-person interviews included Pastor Joel Osteen, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and writer and producer John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June Carter Cash.

Let me be frank: I didn’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t a professional interviewer. My colleague, Drew Bordas, had vast video and audio experience.  At that point, I think his total experience was that he occasionally videotaped his kids at home. Looking at this interview, I am thankful that Joel was so kind, so encouraging, and so forgiving to allow us to stumble through it. What makes it more remarkable is if you know Joel Osteen’s backstory. Joel is a true pro when it comes to production. Before he stepped up to minister after his father passed away, he worked behind the scenes and became a video and audio expert.

Here are some lessons I learned from that visit.

 

6 Leadership Lessons

 

1. Don’t condemn and judge others.

He says it, but my visit proves he lives it, too.

How often we waste time condemning, criticizing and complaining.  It wastes time, drains energy, and is counterproductive.

 

2. Encourage others.

Not only was he unaffected by his platform and position, humbly spending time with us, but he also was incredibly encouraging. He frequently quotes Proverbs 15:4:  “A gentle tongue brings healing.”

Organizations thrive when individuals are recognized and encouraged.

“A gentle tongue brings healing.” -Prov. 15:4

 

3. Find your life purpose.

Whatever you do, you want it to be in line with your life purpose. Observing Joel, I can see that he knows his own gifts and his purpose.  He focuses his energy and talent on it.  He genuinely wants everyone to have a blessed life, and he believes in the positive nature of people.

An organization with a unifying purpose will galvanize everyone to achieve.

 

4. Choose happiness.

As he says, “Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down, you can choose your response.  How you live your life is totally up to you.”  His books are full of strategies on how to live a happier, more abundant life.

 

5.  Know what to ignore.