My Friend Max

My Friend Max

My Friend Max

Sometimes wisdom and life changing opportunities come out of the blue. The challenge for us is to recognize them and take heed. In this second abstract from Ed Wallace’s book, Business Relationships That Last, that is exactly what Ed experiences… Please enjoy this guest blog, “My Friend Max.”

My Friend Max

A number of years ago, my sales efforts required that I travel a great deal. I didn’t like being away from my family any more than necessary, so I became king of the day-trippers. It got so that I could leave my home on the East Coast around 5:00 a.m. for a meeting in Minneapolis or Des Moines and still make it back home the same day for a late dinner and to see Brett, our first child, for a few precious minutes before tucking him into bed.

The night before one of these trips, my car developed an engine problem. I asked my wife, Laurie, to reserve a taxi to the airport for me. As usual, when she got involved in helping me solve one of my problems, remarkable events began to unfold. The next morning, I waited anxiously for the car to arrive. At precisely 5:00 a.m. I noticed an old-fashioned British taxi, with stately, rounded exterior lines, running boards, and a large passenger compartment pull up in the front of the house. Even in the faint light of dawn I could tell the car was spotlessly clean. In the short amount of time, it took me to exit the house and lock the door, the driver had already exited the taxi and was on his way up the walk toward the house. He was a tall, lanky fellow with glasses and the sort of calm, kind face you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. I was about to learn that he was not your average taxi driver. He gave me a warm, “Good morning,” and we walked together toward his parked taxi. I climbed into the passenger area of the car, settled into a luxurious leather seat, stretched out my legs, and felt a deep sense of comfort and relief. When the driver started the car, I noticed there was no noise—no scratchy dispatcher’s voice barking instructions, no jangling music on the radio. A cooler within reach provided a supply of bottled water. It was amazing! As we pulled away, the driver turned around to introduce himself. “Hello, Ed, my name is Max,” he said with a smile. “Glad to meet you, Max,” I replied, wondering how he knew my name. As we drove, he asked me a couple of questions about myself. Since I’m pretty much my own favorite topic, I happily offered plenty of information. He was a terrific listener, and I found myself sharing a good deal about my life with this person that I hardly knew. He had a special calm, sincere demeanor that made me feel comfortable opening up to him. He took special note when I told him about our new young son and how he had just started sleeping through the night. When we arrived at the airport, I gave Max a more generous tip than I usually give drivers. I had so thoroughly enjoyed his company and the stress-free ride to the airport I asked him to schedule me for the following Tuesday. Max hesitated and then said, “I’m truly sorry, Ed, but I cannot pick you up next week.” “What’s wrong, Max, is it something I said?” I inquired, half-jokingly. “No, nothing like that, Ed. I just have a great deal of fares— friends, that is—and they usually need to book three to four weeks in advance with me.” “For a ride to the airport at five o’clock in the morning?” I asked incredulously. “Yes, I have a lot of friends,” Max responded. “I just happened to have a cancellation last night before I got your wife’s request for a ride.” “Okay, how about three weeks from today?” I tried again. “That works. I look forward to seeing you then,” Max answered, and he was off.

We will continue with the story of Max next week.

The Time is Now.

For more information on our classes and assessments, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

What Would Winston Say Today?

What Would Winston Say Today?

Winston Churchill was a special individual. A unique individual. He always stood on principle even at a significant cost to himself personally. He saved the United Kingdom by the force of his will during World War II. Then he got rejected after the war in the first election. It wasn’t the first time he was rejected. But he never strayed from him principles. He was born in 1874 and passed in 1965.

Let’s review some of his quotations.

  • When I was younger, I made it a rule never to take a strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast. (Single Malt is perfect.)

For today consider the following.

  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
  • Democracy is the worse form of government, except for all the others.
  • Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.
    • (Read about how the Scots viewed societal responsibilities)

Then getting closer to home.

  • You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.
  • An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
  • If you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.
  • To build may have to be the slow laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.
  • When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.
  • All of the empires of the future will be empires of the mind.
  • Every man should ask himself each day whether he is not too readily accepting negative solutions.
  • If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future.
  • Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent value of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.
  • We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

The Time is Now.

Goals – Passion – Struggles

Goals – Passion – Struggles

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman by the name of Ed Wallace. He is he author of many books as well as being on the faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s Program.

In his book “Business Relationships That Last” he talks about five steps to transform contacts into high-performing relationships. It is a great read.

In it he talks about GPS. No, not the type in your car or on your telephone, GPS in your relationships with people. He is telling us that if you are perceived by people, your customers, your co-workers, your family and friends, to be interested in and helping them deal with their goals and passions and struggles you are on the way to building a strong relationship with them. There is a problem with this though isn’t there? People generally will not share their goals, passions and struggles. They have to have developed trust with you first.

You develop trust in how you communicate with them and how you are as a person. Do you care about them? Do you listen to them when they are talking? No, I mean LISTEN to them not just hearing them. It is about who you are as a person. Are you capable in what you do, your competence? Are you credible? Do you know what it is that you are talking about and are you believable? These are very simple attributes that I am sure each of you have in a large quantity.

Read the book, have a fresh look then at how you operate. It will be worth your while. You will be building better relationships every day. You will be more conscious of how you are being with others. That is a terrific beginning, isn’t it?

The Time is Now.

Disruptive Activities in Learning

Disruptive Activities in Learning

Internet based learning will be viewed as one of the most significant disruptive forces for the human race. For our purposes here I am going to suggest it started with Salman Khan and his Khan Academy. In 2008 a not for profit educational organizational organization was started with the aim of providing free world class education to anyone, anywhere.

Move forward a bit and we find Udacity a learning business funded by Sebastian Thrun. Udacity is the result of free computer science classes offered in 2011 through Stanford. These were classes that Thrun offered on line which became Udacity. He has been called the “Godfather” of Free Online Education.

One day in 2011 he sat down in his living room and started to create an online class. He begins “Welcome to the first unit of Online Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” Over the next three months the Professor offers the same lectures, homework assignments and exams to the masses as he does to the Stanford students. A computer handles the grading and students are steered to web discussion forums if they need extra help.   Some 160,000 people signed up for those classes.

Higher education is an enormous business in the US – we spend about $400 billion annually on Universities. Suddenly, something that had been unthinkable, that the internet might put a free, University caliber education within reach of the poor seems tantalizingly close. This information is available from Wikipedia.

But this is not the end of the story. Only 10% of the students actually finished the learning. Thrun calls this a painful moment. He is currently pivoting to a position that involves charging money for classes and abandoning academic disciplines in favor of more vocational focused learning.

The Time is Now.

The Science of Successful Learning

The Science of Successful Learning

There are many things that people can do for themselves in order to learn better and remember longer. We have to remember that the responsibility for learning rests with each and every individual. Teachers and coaches, too, can be more effective right now by helping their students understand these principles and by using these principles to design each learning experience.

The book “Make It Stick” discusses the science of successful learning. Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel are the authors. Two of them are cognitive scientists who have dedicated their careers to the study of learning and Peter Brown is a storyteller. The book is not about how to change the education system, although there are clearly implications for that as well,  rather the book is written for students and teachers who have a high priority to make learning effective. It also outlines ideas and thoughts for adult learners who want to hone their skills so that they can stay relevant.

This book is obviously one of the elements we used in constructing our learning programs at “Learning Without Scars.” One of the critical lessons that I learned from this book, that we have utilized in our class learning paths, is that simple quizzes after reading a text, or hearing a lecture, produces better learning and remembering than rereading the test or reviewing lecture notes. In other words, it deals with what we should have learned as students from our school and. Periodic practice stops forgetting, strengthens richer retrieval paths, and is essential for hanging onto the law of knowledge that we want to gain. Putting new knowledge into a larger context helps learning. People who learn how to extract key ideas from new material and organize them into their mental model and connect that model to prior knowledge show an advantage in learning complex mastery. This book is the diamond in the learning universe.

I highly recommend that you read it and think seriously about the content. It might initiate ideas that you can use to become a better you. All the best.

The Time is Now.

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

Branch Operations.

In most dealerships the senior management structures are similar. There is a President, perhaps a CEO, in larger dealers a COO, followed by the Departmental Executives. There are numerous customer facing functions, and support facing functions.

The “Executives” focus on goals and objectives and market share. That is important, performance matters. Everything looks at goals and objectives: financial performance, sales, gross profit, expense control. All are very important. What about the Customer Experience? Who is responsible for ensuring that the Customer is at the forefront of everything that we do?

Who is the person that creates the “vision” for the dealership? Who is it that inspires every employee to be driven to get better at what they do – at “delighting” the customer?

This is an area that Simon Sinek points at in his recent book “The Infinite Game.”

He posits that we are all too concentrated on winning and avoiding losses. We are focused on the short term with no real attention paid to the future. But he isn’t talking about next year or the year beyond. He is talking in terms in decades. How can we make our businesses sustainable over time?    

This caused me some interesting reflection time. Most of you know I swam when I was a young person. Swimming is all about improving your own performance and less about “beating” the other swimmers in your race. I think that gave me a focus that was somewhat different than my peers. I was always about making everything better. There was no such thing as “best.” That is a “point in time.” Think about GE under Jack Welsh, arguable one of their best leaders to date. He was always about the short term. His comment was “Isn’t long term just a series of short terms?” Well to be honest it isn’t. As a result, GE since he left has had serious performance failures. Jim Collins, author of “Built to Last” among others, famously compared two companies in the same Industry and pointed at similar things. Most of our businesses focus on the short term. A study by McKinsey reported that the average life span of a S&P company has dropped since the 1950’s, over a span of fifty years, from sixty-one years to eighteen years today. Harvard Business Review, and many others, report that 70% – 90% of acquisitions fail. A rather serious statement on the ability of business to merge two businesses together.

Sinek contends that is because of our focus on the short term at the expense of the long term. In his book “Start With Why,” on of the most watched TED Talks ever he says; “Most people know What They Do, some can even tell you How they do it, but very few people can tell you Why they do it. It isn’t about making money.

“The Infinite Game” uses the United States as an example of a “Business.” It started with the War of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was not a statement of getting rid of the control of the country by Great Britain. It was about “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” That made the effort worthwhile. They then got to work on writing the Constitution which set out a series of enduring principles to protect and advance their big, bold, and idealistic vision of the future. That is a future that we still strive to achieve and will constantly be aiming at that vision. It is not an end game it is a journey.

In order to stay in the game long term, to stay in business, long term we must be good operationally at all of those win/lose games we play; market share, gross margin and expense control, asset management, etc.. That this is critical, is something on which we can all agree. But in order to have long term sustainable success it is also about the culture of the company. What makes each employee strive to be better at what they do in order to satisfy their customers.      

I highly recommend that you read “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek. It might provoke you to reevaluate your view on how your business operates. 

The Time is Now.

Badges, Socrates, and Education Today

Badges, Socrates, and Education Today

The following comes from a book called The End of College by Kevin Carey which is background information for the internet-based learning environment.

One of the struggles in the changing world of education is the recognition of alternative methods of learning. In each of the traditional Universities and Colleges and Junior Colleges there is a degree. In the vocational or technical school setting there is a “journeyman” standard applied. With the internet-based learning programs none of these are available.

In the book Carey talks about the digital world and how the evidence of learning throughout an individuals’ life will be maintained. “People will control their personal educational identities instead of leaving that crucial information in the hands of organizations acting from selfish interests. To earn a “degree” you had to accumulate credit hours. As Carey says “The creators of the credit hour didn’t mean for it to measure how much students learned. The colleges used it that way anyway.”

Robert Hutchins, of the University of Chicago wrote, “the intellectual progress of the young is determined by the time they have been in attendance, the number of hours that have sat in classes, and the proportion of what they have been told that they can repeat on examinations given by the teachers who told it to them.” Hutchins also predicted that rapid rise in the cost of college and university. He said that the schools would start competing to attract students and would build all manner of facilities that had little to do with learning. He was very outspoken about how the schools operated. He said “You pay no attention to what you teach, indeed to what you investigate. You get great men for your faculty. Their mere presence on the campus inspires, stimulates and exalts. It matters not how inarticulate their teaching or how recondite their researches, they are, as the saying goes, an education in themselves.”

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who for a time was the President of George Washington University. He understood something crucial about the University. He understood that “people will pay extra money for the feeling associated with the name brand.”

I want to leave off here today, because there is a lot to digest.  There’s a great deal more to come over these next weeks, as we take a close look at education and learning.

The time is NOW.

How Do You Measure Learning?

How Do You Measure Learning?

Over the past two months or so you have heard me talk about the end of college as we know it today. Kevin Carey goes into a lot of detail about this in his terrific book “The End of College.” He exposes the fact that Colleges and Universities have a monopoly on “the degree.” Without this monopoly there would be a significant change in the view of the value of this piece of paper: the parchment, the degree. You need that degree on your resume. It tells your prospective employer something about you. But it really doesn’t tell them much about what you know. It doesn’t really measure your learning.

The Internet is disrupting the universe of education,  just as it has most other aspects of our lives. As an example, the Khan Academy can take your children all the way from Kindergarten through graduating from High School.  It provides wonderful learning opportunities for children and young adults. There are learning avenues for professionals and university level courses. Businesses such as EdX and CorpU are disrupting this aspect of learning as well. We are involved with Learning Without Scars in this area: adult education.

The problem for on-line learning is a fundamental question: how do you measure the learning of the students? I started down this path with the book “The Six Value Medals, The essential tool for success in the 21st century,”by Edward de Bono. This is the gentleman that coined the phrase “Thinking outside of the box.” He assigns medals to knowledge and this got me thinking.

At Learning Without Scars, we are now using badges. We have four categories of badges based on the category of learning in each of our classes. We have split them into: Sales, Finance, Operations, Leadership. And we have four recognition levels for each of these learning categories: Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Then we have the badges and categories split into their respective departments: Parts, Service, Product Support Selling and Parts and Service Marketing. We struggled a bit in determining how to assign a specific value to each class. We came to the conclusion that each class would earn a badge and the accumulation of badges would be the differentiator. What we do is set a point value for each knowledge level within each category of learning for each department.

We are currently seeking input from our clients on how we should present these badges. Should they be a patch that can be put onto an employees’ uniform? Should they be put into a holder, like your name plate, with differing badges represented in a manner like a pin? Or even a pin that could be put on your collar. How should be present this? We are designing the badge to include Socrates and thinking we should use the wings to represent the discipline and department. Time will tell.

What I think will be the end game is that this could lead to a skill set requirement for each job category in the Parts and Service businesses. That could be compared to a Skill Set Inventory for each employee. Then we could be on the path to being able to provide a “meaningful” job certification with learning prerequisites. I believe that would be very helpful to the Industry.

I would have appreciated knowing what the prospective employee knew in an interview. Not just information obtained in the interview and discussion but an objective measure of the skills of the employee related to the job I was trying to fill. That is where we are trying to take the measurement of learning. That should allow us to more objectively measure the probability of success of each prospective employee. This will work particularly well when we start adapting and having remote employees, and more part time employees, this would work particularly well for people who have retired and want to keep working. After all they have a lot of knowledge.

Keep tuned in as we will continue to share information on this important area as we come to our conclusions. Please let us know how you would approach this important subject. If you would take a moment and send us an email it would be sincerely appreciated.

The Time is NOW.

Personal Responsibility – Part 3

Personal Responsibility – Part 3

In the last two posts, I have discussed the work of Jordan Peterson, and how it ties into education and learning.  I’ve also covered what it is to commit to learning as an adult, and the unique challenges those of use who have real-life and on-the-job experience can face when returning to a “training” program.

R. C. Sproul once said “everyone wants to leave their mark on the world.” So, what will your mark be? There is nothing more powerful than knowledge and learning. Learning is not about getting a better job, although that could happen. It is not about getting more money, and that too could be possible. It is not about power, or some other aspect of your goals and dream. It is about your ability to be able to communicate and to think and to influence. That is your power. And each individual has control of that. They can invest their time in their own development. They can pursue what is meaningful. They can take personal control of that responsibility.

 I believe deeply that everyone wants to be able to do a good job.
 Further than we can all do more than we think we can.
 Finally, though, we are all fundamentally lazy.

 

I believe that success is for everyone. Every person, every individual can be successful. It depends what the definition is of success. Your individual success starts with your honest understanding about who you are as a person.

Each of us has differing likes and dislikes. That allows each of us to have differing dreams and hopes. That means we can create our own paths through life. But the path is not clear and it is not easy. In fact, it is tough. The problem with many of us is that we have a clearer picture of all of this when it becomes too late. We learn wisdom with age and effort. I have not found a substitute for the aging aspect of it. Perhaps there will be people much smarter than I who can find that answer. It might already be too late for me at this point in my career.
As a younger person I was a swimmer. And I learned a lot about life from swimming. You never are competing against the other people in the pool with you. You are competing with yourself. That is a really important truth to learn about life. It is all in your control, it is all up to you.

So, stop hoping for things. My daughter likes to say, “hope is NOT a plan.” Stop wishing for things. It’s time to take an active role, instead of a passive one. Don’t stop dreaming or working through goals. Start acting on your hopes, your wishes and your dreams. Make them happen. Because I believe you can. Don’t put it off. Start.

The Time is NOW.

Personal Responsibility – Part 2

Personal Responsibility – Part 2

If you remember my last post, I left off with the challenges that face us when we move into the realm of teaching and learning as adults.  Open-mindedness is a critical component of the entire process, and we become more “set” in our ways with each passing year.

That brings me back to Peterson. His most recent book is “12 Rules for Life – an Antidote to Chaos.” (I strongly urge everyone to read this book) One of his rules is “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.” If you start out in a learning situation wouldn’t it be nice if each learning had the attitude that you should pay attention because the person doing the teaching might knew things that the students did not know.

So, for adult education, which is what we are doing at learning Without Scars, we have an audience of students who already know a fair amount about subject matter we are covering. It is our job to provoke their thinking to take them to places of learning that they didn’t think they needed to go. And we measure our success with assessments through the classes and at the conclusion of each class.

We require each student to achieve an 80% mastery level before they can go on to the next class. Of course, in my opinion, they should all achieve 100% as we do not limit the number of times they can go through the class.

Which then takes me to personal responsibility.

Each of us is responsible for ourselves. We are all responsible for our position in life; our education, our personal status, our parenting, our life skills, our work skills, out interests. We are responsible for a lot of “stuff.” So, when you look in the mirror, which is a dangerous thing to do, I want you to ask a question of yourself – “am I doing the best I can?”

Now please remember, the person in the mirror is the easiest person in the world to lie to – juts don’t do it.

As Peterson puts it in one of his other rules – “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. And one last rule – Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient) Did I say it was a terrific read?

 

I will wrap up the topic of Personal Responsibility this week.

The time is NOW.