If We Were Honest

If we were honest, we might have conversations like this one:

“Boy, you guys are really moving fast!”

“Yep.  With my boss, it’s all about speed.”

“But it doesn’t seem safe to go so quickly.  Aren’t you worried about that?”

“Nah.  Speed is easier to measure than safety.”

Too often we sacrifice what’s important for matrixes, spreedsheets, and rankings.  Not just safety.  Not just quality.  Not just customer service.

But why be honest about that when your raises, bonuses, and awards are all tied to easily quantifiable statistics, am I right?

Reality TV

There are quite a few reality TV shows that focus on better management skills.

  • Tabatha Takes Over
  • Kitchen Nightmares
  • Bar Rescue
  • Restaurant: Impossible

There are pro’s and con’s involved, of course.

Tabatha Takes Over

Tabatha Coffey (Tabatha’s Salon Take Over and Tabatha Takes Over)


Reality shows lie.  They sometimes stage their content, and they always simplify the complexities of the real world into a simple narrative.

For example, you can break any episode of the popular series “Intervention” into this simple equation:

  1. Show why the person is worth saving by opening with the positive aspects of the subject’s personality.
  2. Shock the audience with just how bad their addiction has changed them.
  3. Do a historic retrospective that shows the subject’s life, creating a simple narrative that traces their addiction to a single traumatic event.
  4. Show the intervention specialist trying to convince the family that they have to address the trauma in order to help the subject to accept help.
  5. Have the intervention, where the family either complies or denies.
  6. The subject makes their decision.
  7. We see the consequences of that decision, whether positive (and life changing) or negative (and devastating).


“Jesse is too friendly with her staff and needs to learn when to put her foot down” is a much easier message to take away than “Jesse is a complicated person with various shades of relationships with her employees, including a few instances of poor judgement.”

Watching an episode of “Intervention” can be an incredibly moving experience, because it’s a winning formula.  Combating addiction isn’t as simple as identifying a single trauma, but seeing where your life took a turn helps you brave the fight to take back control.

Sometimes it takes a storyteller to look at our lives and reflect it back to us in a parable that helps us better see it from the outside.

Gordon Ramsay (Kitchen Nightmares)

Gordon Ramsay (Kitchen Nightmares)


[Insert reference to Paula Dean here.]


What you’ll find the most surprising about success stories about loud, passionate people is that they were loud and passionate before they were success stories.  For example, if you watch the segment 60 Minutes did on Judge Judith Sheinlin before she became Judge Judy, you’ll see she was exactly the way she was exactly the same in her actual courtroom as she was later on her televised courtroom.

Gordon Ramsay was a soccer star before a career-altering injury sent him in search of a new vocation.  He’s known for his anger, fowl language, and intense pursuit of perfection.  I bet when his wife cooks for him, he picks her meal apart and asks her if the veggies are fresh or frozen.  The reality behind the star is that even Gordon Ramsay will muse about not wanting to sound like Gordon Ramsay.

The key to finding the correct balance is in treating people with respect.  Define whether the problem is the result of a mistake or a bad decision.  That will help you identify the best course of action in dealing with prevention of further mistakes or bad decisions.  If this problem is chronic, you need to decide whether it’s a battle worth choosing.  If it’s a chronic problem, your business is at stake, and you haven’t figured out how to get your message across, it’s time to tap into your inner Taffer and put some heat behind that message.

Passion is crucial.  Don’t put the flame under a bushel.  But also, don’t be a jerk if it isn’t necessary.

Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue)

Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue)


Shows like Mythbusters and Ghost Hunters and Deadliest Warrior boast the use of science.  They are also constantly criticized for their lack of actual science.

How much science can there be between “We’re going out of business” and “Now we’re the toast of the town”?


If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I love the sciences that helps me do my job.  Whether it’s how you reflect your customer base or how you set up your merchandise, an well-informed decision is always more rewarding than a shot in the dark grope.  That’s why I have a special place in my heart for Jon Taffer.

My favorite moment on his show, Bar Rescue, was a very understated one.  Jon is meeting the owner of his latest challenge for the first time, and it happens under a ceiling fan that is turning the lighting in that spot into a seizure-inducing strobe.  He asks the owner, “What do you notice right now?”  The owner couldn’t think of a thing, so Jon explained the problem to him.  The reason I love this moment is because I’ve been there on both ends.  As an inexperience manager, I’ve had my boss point out a problem that I’d walked past every day and never even noticed, and once I had gained what I like to call “my manager vision,” I learned to walk into a room and scan the place like The Terminator.

Even though you certainly don’t have the time to employ the scientific method to every problem you have, there should be a science behind every decision you make in your business.  A television show isn’t going to be filled with science, because in the end, it’s an entertainment that is beholden to getting a broad range of viewers to watch their commercial breaks.  But a handful of bullet points wrapped up in a palatable experience is always easier to swallow.

At the very least, like a broken light, perhaps it will help you think about some things you may not have noticed.

Robert Irvine (Kitchen: Impossible)

Robert Irvine (Kitchen: Impossible)


American reality shows are obsessed with make-overs.

  • someone says “yes” to a dress that will make their wedding dreams come true
  • A well known celebrity mentors a group of unknown amateurs and weeds them all down to just one top contender
  • a group of groomers teach clueless people how to dress, giving them the confidence to be the person they were all along
  • half a dozen strangers get to live in a mansion and start being real in order to learn more about the bigger world around them
  • people compete in a series of challenges to win a lump sum of money and a crack at D-list celebrity
  • someone with TV good looks helps someone less photogenic remodel their home
  • people just like you and I get a chance to compete for a spot in the elite of any given profession, perhaps even becoming an idol in the process
  • someone with a small amount of money undergoes a risk in order to earn a larger amount of money, often giving us all a brief history lesson in the process
  • corporate CEOs get a view from the bottom and realize that actual human beings work for them, thus transforming the way they look at everything regarding their company
  • nerds get revenge by humiliating themselves for our enjoyment to prove that their king of a group of humiliated nerds

How is Let’s Make a Deal any different than Storage Wars?  They’re both just betting on “What’s in the Box?”  It’s game show formula, and it doesn’t really apply to real world limitations.

Besides, If I had a world-class professional come in to my business with a blank check, I’d be able to increase my sales too!


News Flash: Tabatha, Gordon, Jon, and Robert leave, and they take their checkbooks with them when they go.  If you can’t use their arrival as assurance that your business will succeed, you can’t use the fact they haven’t come as an excuse for failure.  Or complacency.

There’s a degree of art in management, and a great artist takes inspiration from everything.  Here’s a fun fact, Leonardo DaVinci had far less things to be inspired by than you do.  So if these shows speak to you at all, I highly suggest that you dig into these programs and get inspired.

If the guys from Duck Dynasty can build an empire out of nothing, there’s nothing stopping you!

Where Do Babies Come From?

Be careful.  Your attitudes breed offspring.

For example, if you are stubborn, fight every idea (good or bad), have to have it your way, and can not admit when you are wrong, you will have a staff that be reborn to cope in that culture.  They will be complacant, dispassionate, and passive-aggressive.

Lazy breeds contempt.

Aloof begets cautious.

Uninformed births skeptical.

But if you make good traits your lover, you will have good, happy, enhusiastic kids!

Name your kids!

“What’s Your Problem?” IV: The Buck Stops Here

It always amazes me that there are managers who would list example based leadership and employee empowerment as strengths that don’t get it.

You “get paid the big bucks” because you are the one who is ultimately respobsible, therefore you take the heat.

Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here.  Let me first explain what I mean by “taking the heat.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that your staff is empowered to make smart decisions for the good of your business.  Let’s also contemplate that you have guided them in how to make said decisions through informed demonstration.  Not that hard to imagine, right?  (At least I hope not!)

So why is it that sometimes your people still come to you, asking you to deal with an irrate customer?  Well, let’s take the smaller percentage of your employees who are simply shrugging off responsibility out of the equation.  Your BEST and BRIGHTEST are doing this too!  What gives?

Maybe you see this as an opportunity to further train this person in the more advanced techniques of being yelled at.  Or perhaps you believe it will give your employees MORE power to deal with every single issue they encounter.

You’d be wrong.  Fact is that the heat isn’t on the representative of the company, it’s on the company that feeds your kids, and it’s not only your job, it’s absolutely in your best interest to take the heat!

You can not lead by example if you don’t.  You can’t empower an employee when you don’t.  Reality is that you’re teaching them to avoid the problem just like you do, and you’re undermining their authority by not backing them up!

It’s really simple.  The buck stops with you.  Stop having your people write checks you can’t/won’t cash.

“What’s Your Problem?” II: With Great Power. . .

A good leader knows how to delegate.

I’ll take that a few steps further.  A great leader knows how to empower.

Why should the manager be called into an argument between a cashier/waiter/customer service representative/sales agent/etc?

First of all, why should there even be an argument in the first place?

The manager’s primary job should be to empower her workforce to make the decisions that matter in the business and pertain to the daily functions of the employees.  Who would the manager be if they did not have the authority to hire and fire?  That would undermind all of their authority, wouldn’t it?

The customers don’t care how many policies your employees can recite.  They don’t make the decision to come to your business and ask for a solution to a problem with the hopes your people can tell them why they have the problem in the first place.  That isn’t empowering anyone.

This bleeds your reputation.

Remember that manager in part one?  He actually thought he was empowering his force.  They would encounter an opportunity, recite policy, were REQUIRED to get manager approval to make an exception, and when they would ask for that approval, management would recite policy to THEM!  So what would happen?  The situation would escalate, and the customer would demand audience with management.  The manager would descend from his mountain – when he did; he would listen to the customer’s complaint patiently.  And then he would undermine his staff and bend policy.

He would bleed their reputation.

Now imagine your entire staff had the power to make intelligent business decisions that weren’t in full marching step with policy.  Imagine they were given the power to “just do the return,” “just let the customer in with outside food,” “just step away from the desk to help that old lady to her car.”  Imagine all of your problems were getting solved and you didn’t even need to know about them.

But it does come with the cost of clarity.

Again, that manager gives us the perfect example of what not to do.  His staff would learn from his example and stopped asking for approval (this could also be worded as “they stopped asking to be undermined”).  They would seize the power they were told they had, and they would sometimes show poor judgement.

You see, your staff needs to get their power from you.

“What’s Your Problem?!” I

You will find it very difficult to manage your business if you’re too deeply embedded in it.

It was this sound reasoning that led one former employer to invest in a philosophy of “managing from the balcony.”  His policy was to watch the business through surveliance cameras in his office while he busied himself with only the paperwork and on-phone marketing aspects of his job.

Sorry, buddy, but what you did instead of fixing the problem was simply embed yourself in the least people connected part of your business.

What this resulted in was a staff that was left to fend for and manage itself, and that becomes an even larger problem when your management style does not include adequate training.

When this becomes the largest problem was during the greatest opportunities, a customer service issue.

What would happen when there was a problem for this particular former employer is a perfect illustration of why this doesn’t work.

A customer would have an issue, be enraged with an employee, and ask for a manager.  The employee would radio for the manager, and he would either ignore the call, do everything he could to avoid the issue, or worst, walk away from the issue in plain sight of both the employee and the enraged customer.

His reasoning?  “If I have to get involved, you aren’t doing your job.”

There are three solutions to this problem, and they will be the subject of our next three blogs:

1. Empower
2. Lead by Example
3. Take the Heat