Blocking and Tackling

I was speaking with a colleague from Finance about Customer Service: yep – Finance … Customer service. She was remembering how her father had his own company and how they (the kids) were well trained on how to answer the phone politely and with respect and how her mother would be in the middle of “ripping them” (ripping is what parents used to do when parenting was the in thing) but quickly convert to Customer Service 101 when the phone rang. Just to proceed to uninterrupted “ripping” when she hung up the phone. I loved it and I loved from whence it came – Finance needs customer service too.

In technology we always have 2 sets of customers – internal and external customers. And if finance is working on their customer service skills then why not technology? Are we above the need to listen to our customers and exercise a little or a “lottle” patience and understanding when dealing with our internal customers? And why do we treat our external customers with such grace and finesse and tear apart our internal “children of a lesser god”? Is it beneath us to use complete sentences and elongated paragraphs when communicating with our customers? Is the extra time really that much of a drain on our overall productivity?

I have heard a lot of the “reasons” for how we treat our customers and the reality is this – if we don’t treat our customers like customers, someone else will and they will not be our customers anymore. And yes, that applies to our internal customers as well. It is simply blocking and tackling. I was watching the Monday night game last week and the announcers were discussing Bill Belichick’s practice and how they cover every detail. What does he get for that? 4 Super Bowl appearances in 10 years with 3 wins and the only team to ever go undefeated in the regular season – ever. Yes they did lose the Super Bowl that year but that is completely irrelevant – you cannot ignore the only team to ever go undefeated in the history of the NFL.

Customer service is like blocking and tackling – if you do it well – and by well I mean do a fantastic job at it religiously and fanatically – you will every opportunity to impress the world with your elegant technical architectural designs and efficient code writing and scalable infrastructure. If you do not do it well, no one will ever know how great you really are.

Contract Renewal Strategy?

Free Agency took on a whole new meaning lately. Did not Amazon re-define the way we see books? Did not Google re-define the way we see information? Did not Michael re-define the way the game is played? Introducing Lebron James – re-defining the way we attract and retain top talent.

The Decision and it’s resulting media frenzy not only gave us some insight but also taught us some lessons – if we were paying attention. There is no doubt Lebron is the most dominant player in the NBA (sorry Kobe – accept it). Additionally, will he not hold that crown for the foreseeable future? Everyone has an equal salary cap it is simply a matter of where to spend the money. 1 team attracted 2 players, convinced them to leave their own teams and come to Miami. Could not the Raptors had done the same? Why couldn’t Wade and Bosh move to Cleveland? Is it because Riley’s tossed his “bag” of 27 championship rings on the table and told Lebron to try one on (He has a gold, silver and platinum copy of each. What? He must match – right)? And how did Cleveland lose him and be the last to know? And finally, when was the last time this happened to you?

Lebron clearly had a well-planned and better executed contract renewal strategy. First of all he based his own individual assessment and development on the open market. He was not content to be the best at his company but the best in the league – the world. Next, he accomplished the stats the conference titles and the league titles (not the big one) to ensure everyone else knew he was the best. The rest is, as they say, history. What is your contract renewal strategy?

Are you comparing your talents to that of the open market? Are there 100 people working within 25 miles of you that make 20% less than you make yet have more capabilities and competency and have the stats and titles to prove it? Are you shooting 500 free throws a day after practice? Or, are you simply relying on your organization to train you and develop you?

The more you know, the more capabilities you have, the more intellectual horsepower you bring to the table the more valuable you are to yourself and to your company. In sales there is a great saying that if you do not develop the solutions required by your clients – your competitors most definitely will. The exact same principle applies to each and every one of us. If we are not growing and developing the skills required to take our organizations into tomorrow, someone else is and someone else will.

Room To Become Remarkable

Some great quotes from Seth Godin ( are circulating on the web and one in particular struck me surrounding the room that great people need to become remarkable.

I was discussing the characteristics of “greatness” with a CEO last night and the two concepts collided as a reminder to me the importance of harvesting intellectual horsepower.

He shared with me his thoughts on the “strive for greatness” as something that could not be contained or isolated into a singular area. That the desire to be great makes one desire to be great at everything. That these individuals yearn to be a great friend and a great father and a great husband. That these people long to be a great worker and a great ball player and the best dishwasher ever seen. He thought that this drive for greatness could not be isolated to a relentless quest to be the great developer and share the same space as the sloth at home. It stands as a contradiction to the very fiber of greatness.

Now I don’t mean the arrogance of “look what I did greatness”. And I am not speaking of the greedy “pay me what I am worth” greatness. I am talking about the “up late at night and no one knows it” greatness. These talents and the intellectual horsepower they harness are not the gas that makes the engines go but the nitro that changes the game.

It is tough – no doubt – to manage these talents as they do not walk the normal path. The last thing you want to do with these guys and girls is treat them “different”. Moreover, they require the feel of the scorching earth the rest of us walk on to stay grounded. But grounded should not be confused with restricted in as much as risk taking should not be confused with recklessness.

Finding the best mechanism to attract and retain grey matter ought to be a priority. Freeing this talent of corporate politics and cultural anomalies should be a part of the daily process of providing the adequate structure, properly balanced with the freedom to become remarkable.