Author Archive for: ‘Leslie Phillips, President & COO’

Where a Strength Goes Weak


Just about any weakness can be attributed to one or more strengths that are overused. 

That’s an interesting start to a leadership article. Grabbed my attention. And so did the next paragraph which describes how an emerging leader’s passion for taking care of her customers was turning into a liability. Wait! Turbo-charged customer service is who we are! 

According to Dan McCarthy (who was a business leader until 2011 when he joined the faculty at the University of New Hampshire), there are six common leadership strengths that can be overdone…to the point they become weaknesses:

#1 – The results focused leader. When overdone, the results become more important than…fill in the blank…the people, the customer, the culture, the fun, etc. 

#2 – The courageous leader. Taken too far, this leader becomes uncompromising, burns bridges. 

#3 – The caring, compassionate leader. Too nice can mean not dealing with underperformers, avoiding conflict, inability to make tough decisions. 

#4 – The empowering leader. What? You can overdo this? Yes, if you give too much responsibility to those not ready for it, and not enough direction to those that need it. (So, remember to lead situationally!) 

#5 – The motivational leader. Even this one can be a weakness, IF it means pushing people beyond their limits, or burning your team out. 

#6 – The visionary, brilliant leader. Think Steve Jobs. This leader is two steps ahead, which is great for setting strategy, but if overdone, erodes an ability to relate to (and listen to) others. 

All of the above are strengths. Be aware of yours and work them, but the point?

Be open to feedback, and learn to “dial it back”, especially when under pressure.

Still Getting Things Done


Many of us have read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. And even if we haven’t, we’ve heard of it because GTD is one of our favorite abbreviations and a key component of our time management model. But, the book was published in 2001, so I was really intrigued by this article, getting things done in a digital world, which checks back in with Mr. Allen as…a lot has changed since then, right? 

In short, he says…not so much. “There’s always more to do than you can do…That’s always been true.” Now, we have new potential addictions: apps, games, email, text that attract and distract us. “Most people are living in a constant emergency-scan modality.” And, he says, this makes the GTD method that much more critical “because it keeps you focused on what you need to be doing.” 

Need a quick refresh? Here you go:

Step 1: capture (identify the things that are not automatic — that are bugging you, that are incomplete, that keep you up at night…and get them down in a system you trust — even if just one word, “car” because you need to get it inspected)

Step 2: clarify (what’s the very next action you need to take about “car” – call for an appointment? write that detail down…and by the way…David Allen says even if you can’t do all 5 steps…do this one and you will see a huge difference) 

Step 3: organize (decide when you are going to take the next steps with each and park later items with a date so your brain knows they will pop back up and not be forgotten) 

Step 4: reflect (look at the items already on your lists) 

Step 5: engage (where do I put my attention and resources right now?) 

And remember the two minute rule!

“Once you decide the next action, if it can be done in two minutes or less…do it…It’ll take you longer to stack…track…and look again than to just do it.” 

Great advice…especially when we are busiest. 

Where is the Grass Greener?


I saw this Robert Fulghum quote on Earth Day last week:

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.


I had two thoughts that surfaced after reading this.  First – it’s a great message about taking care of where we are.  And then about the saying and how it usually comes up, and that is…no matter how hard we try, it is human nature to…sometimes…in a weak moment, think…”they have it better than me.”   If I really think that is true, I should ask myself…is it luck, or hard work, or natural talent, or commitment, or…what…what do I think makes their grass greener? In the end, maybe I can learn something that will help me “greener” my grass, too.


Waiting Until You Have Time?


There are inverse correlations in life. Many of them, actually, but the one I’m thinking of involves this: most of us believe in the benefits of personal and professional development (reading, learning, practicing), and most of us have the best intentions around “doing” that when we have time…and yet, when we are busiest it is usually because personally and professionally we are getting bombed with need to-do’s, have to-do’s, want to-do’s — all of which call on us to prioritize, organize, communicate, take action, listen, practice patience, inspire others, #bekindpositivegracious…precisely the skills we are usually looking to develop or hone and yet…we have no “time.”  There are 11 questions in Leadership Caffeine; but since we’re busy…here are six we should make time to ask and answer: 

  1. How am I truly doing as a leader? Am I getting the frank feedback I need from my team…?
  2. Am I taking accountability for myself and the team on the field? Is it the best team with the right people in the right positions?
  3. Am I a “net supplier” of level-up talent? Meaning, am I grooming people (including myself) to grow with MG?
  4. How am I measuring performance and success of the team? Do the measures promote continuous improvement? Do they connect to the bigger picture?
  5. Am I developing myself? What investments have I made in the past year to strengthen my skills and gain exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking?
  6. Do I understand that my physical well-being directly impacts my mental well-being and professional performance? Am I taking care of myself? Do I need help getting started?

“Balancing your passion, capabilities and values with your daily work and backing this balance with physical well-being is essential for your satisfaction and success…Get started by asking and answering the questions noted above. And if the answers are less than ideal for you, take action.”

On the Move


I heard a personal trainer say last week: “sitting is the new smoking.”
This startled me. I’m sure that was his intent. And then I found this article with nearly the same title. Ok, let’s add this to the ever growing list of things that are bad for us. For many of us, that’s not a problem — food service operations doesn’t involve a lot of “sit time.” 
And, yet, we hear how important (like super, super important) it is to not just move around during the day, but to get your heart-rate pumping for a sustained 30 minutes (minimum) every day (strive for 5 at least!). Heavy breathing…is so good for us. 
Now that the snow has melted, the birds are singing, and spring is in the air, what are some ways to make this a habit and a gift to yourself?

Listening to the Heartbeat

If you get lots of emails, you probably have a system for keeping up. Recently, I created a filter in Gmail to grab all emails from SmartBriefs (my main source of self improvement reading material) and label them “To read” so they get out of my inbox and into one spot I can go to when I have a moment (and when I am writing Cliff Notes). Pretty cool. Google will organize me if I ask it to!


Trust, respect, and dignity. Three keys to a great workplace. With my new filter in place, this one caught my eye in a list of articles.  And in the first paragraphs, I thought, wow, what great timing! This short article basically says, hey companies…it’s good that you care what your customers think and that you survey them…but what about your employees? “Too few organizations measure how satisfied employees are with their company, their boss, their colleagues and their work environment.”


But not us! Our employee survey is live (see link below) and we want everyone to respond…every single employee’s opinion matters. Ultimately, how we frame our days at work (our sense of purpose and satisfaction) is our collective heartbeat.


“There is undeniable proof that when work environments demonstrate trust, respect, and dignity to every player in every interaction, engagement goes up, customer service goes up, and results and profits go up.”


This is the smile-smile-smile that makes it all worthwhile…rhyme unintended!

Hello March…and Fresh Starts


February is the longest-shortest month of the year, so hello March! As we begin to think of spring – and fresh starts, here’s something to consider from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.
“…what I try to encourage people to do is forget about passion and focus instead on leading a life that’s based in curiosity. Curiosity is so much easier to access than passion. You may not know if you have a burning life passion, but you’re probably curious about some stuff. If you’re awake at all, right? There’s something in the world that kind of interests you—that little bit makes you want to turn your head a quarter of an inch. That sort of catches your ear. That sort of catches your eye. That’s where the inspiration and the ideas are hiding like fairies off in the corner.
So what I tell people is, don’t worry about finding your passion. Just look around today and ask yourself if there’s absolutely anything that you can find in the world that you feel even one percent curious about. And then follow it. Make the effort to turn your head more than a quarter of an inch. See what it is. Examine it and then find the next thing. And the next thing. And that trail of pursuing your curiosity very loyally—with a kind of discipline—knowing that your curiosity will eventually take you to your destiny, I think that’s where you find your passion. Eventually, it will lead you there.”

Stop Focusing on the Actual Goal


For a company that is wild about wildly important goals…say what?!?

You need a goal (or two, but not more than 3!) and it needs to be measurable. The process of identifying and agreeing upon a goal (what can be even better, cleaner, tastier, safer) brings focus…to everyone. And, by the way…”focus” is the single word to which both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates attribute their success — not determination, not smarts, not courage, not creativity — but focus. 
BUT, to achieve your goal? Spend your time focusing on your “systems“.

“If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day…When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time. None of this is to say that goals are useless…goals are good for planning your progress, while systems are good for actually making progress.” 

So, you have a goal…pulse-check…what are your systems for achieving it and maintaining the desired result? Focus, focus and refocus on that.

The First Step

It’s not rewarding. It’s not coaching. It’s not training. It’s not orienting.


It’s hiring.
How good are you at it?


You probably have a few people you’d love to clone because they do a great job, are self-motivated, are a team player. AND, you probably have more than one with attitude, attendance, quality of work issues. Even if you have only one in that second category, it’s too many. You cannot reach all your goals unless the entire team is on board and capable of doing the job that needs to be done. So, how do you accomplish that? You spend the right time on hiring (no warm bodies!) and you see recruiting as a 24/7 activity. Make your operation a “magnetic” place to work, so when you have an opening you have people in line who want to work for you. And…before you hire someone who is unemployed, be sure you’re comfortable with why they are.


There are plenty of articles debating what is more important: skill or attitude?


Both! Short-change either one and you will live to regret it.


Top 5 things you must say yes to before you hire the next person:
1. She has a great attitude.
2. She has the skills to do the job (and I know this for reasons beyond that she told me so).
3. She is self-motivated. (A major thing managers spend time on is motivating others — hire people that are pretty good at motivating themselves, too!)
4. She really wants to be part of this team.
5. My gut says she’s the right one.

New Day

Yes, there’s no “year’s” in between those two words!


“…you can go about resolving until the cows come home, and you still have to live your life just like everyone else on this planet – ONE DAY AT A TIME… What you can do is set up day-to-day goals for yourself… for example, instead of deciding you are going to give up sugar for a year, resolve to go one day without eating sugar. Anyone can do virtually anything if it is for only one day. When you go for one whole day without eating sugar (or any other new behavior), you are a totally different person at the end of that day. Learn to let that totally different person decide on the second day whether to do it again on this new day… let the new you make the decision and then you”ll be living in your present moments.”  Dr. Wayne Dyer


So, whether you are waging an effort to give up a habit, or are trying to establish a routine you think will make your life better… or even if you are undecided about whether you want to improve anything at all… commit and take advantage of a structured time to process your day, everyday. Reflect, let go, and start again.
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