Tag Archives: blog

New Year Resolutions

Back when I was in the 5th and 6th grade, I remember walking after school with a teammate to basketball practice; I still laugh when I think of all of us groaning as we “ran the lines.” I wasn’t a basketball all-star, but I participated.  Moving into middle school, I didn’t make the A-team for basketball, but I did play in one varsity game that we won. Read More

Why Steel Pipe Doesn’t Always Follow the Steel Market.

Steel pipe is separate from the steel market due to one major factor, steel pipe is price driven by coil versus general steel shape products such as angle, channel, and beam.  Coil must be made from a slab (vs a billet) and that coil market drives the pricing in the steel market.  Coil is used in the automotive, appliance and any other industry that uses sheet.  Since coil may be in short supply or high supply it is the availability and price of coil that drives steel pipe pricing at any given moment.    Read More

Chances to Shine

I am often asked, what can I do to get a promotion or how do I advance or how do I get a raise.  Often times the question is asked by a good associate.  That question has always been tough for me to try and explain to the would-be-great-associate so that it makes sense.  It usually isn’t that they don’t work hard, because they do.  It isn’t that they don’t think and perform their tasks well. They usually follow the rules, get their job done and go home.  So what is it that separates a good employee from a great employee?

In a recent discussion with a couple of our Divison Managers, the topic came up.  How do we explain the “thing” that “gets you noticed”?   The thing that makes the boss say,  “That is the person I want on my team.” ” That is the person I want to take to the next level.”  I was frustrated because, if I can’t explain it to myself, then how the hell do I explain it to a valued associate without insulting them?  It’s not about working longer, or staying later, it’s about your efficiencies during the day.  It’s about taking the blinders off to see what is going on around you. There is always a juncture with an associate where they have reached a point they feel they deserve a raise or a promotion, that usually results in a manager sitting down and pointing out all the small flaws in the associates game, how they need to think like a manager, act like a manager etc etc.  What the hell does that mean anyway??  There are a lot of bad managers!!! In my experience that has led to the employee feeling down, frustrated and crushed because they felt they were doing a good job. (And they were most time) Then we sometimes lose a good associate out of frustration.  They are thinking “he treated me fine yesterday and now I’m am a failure?? How did that happen??”

 (Side note: if you ask the question,  be ready for the answer as you may need to improve your own game if you cant show up on time, you may want to avoid the question of “how do I get a raise around here?”)

In our discussion it came to me…what separates the average, or the good from the great- it is taking advantage of chances to shine.  I’ll try and explain… In life, business and marriage there are chances to shine, “opportunities” , if you will, to shine.  A chance to make a difference. These always take extra effort and work, I don’t care how many people tell you otherwise.  To get noticed you have to do a very simple thing, Pay attention and work at it. Work at it all the time!  I am not talking about bringing your boss coffee in the morning, I am talking about real issues that make the business move, sales solutions, new markets, operational efficiencies, etc.

Now that being said don’t confuse a chance to shine with being a decision-maker.  It has nothing to do with making decisions. Have you ever heard “if I could make the decisions, I know exactly what I would do”.  Well, then why don’t you voice that?  The problem is; many times the new manager wants to make a decision for the sake of making a decision not an intelligent, educated decision. The first questions in any decisions are; Do I have to make the decision right now? Do I have an expert to help me? am I an expert?  Have I done my research? Many owner/executives lack the time to do the research and that is why some Ideas or suggestions just never seem to come to fruition, frustrating staff and causing inefficiencies.  This is exactly the point where you can shine.

You need to look for chances to shine. Don’t be so naive to think that if you are putting a bunch of effort into something you won’t get noticed.  It may take a day, a year or 5 years but someone will notice.   Paying attention and being a facilitator/problem solver will allow people to see you.  You need to put so much effort into something that you cannot help but be noticed.  That causes people to say, “ That’s the right person for the job for sure”   When there are ideas on the table, take them on, research them, provide the intel to allow them to be implemented.  Be early, not late.  If someone under you is struggling, learn the job together, help them through it, make them better. Take on things and own them like they were yours.  Become someone that people rely on to become an expert. (Again this has nothing to do with decision making) Your supervisor will then turn to you because they know you will do the work, do the research and provide the best options possible.  Not all of your research will be implemented, not all of your hard work will produce results and many times you may be the bearer of bad news, that something won’t work, but you will get noticed and you will be appreciated. Do these things often and accurately and that will give you the chance to be a decision-maker.  What your supervisor is looking for is people that make educated, researched, intelligent decisions, not just decisions.

 These chances to shine happen every day and people just pop by them with excuses like, “I don’t know anything about that”. “Not my Job” “I don’t have time”  “I’ll do it when they pay me to do it”  or they are so wrapped up in their social media, games or other apps that they don’t see their opportunity to shine.  If you make a difference and make everything better around you then your effort will be seen, rewarded and appreciated.  Your manager/boss needs help and if you listen, you will know exactly how to help.  That will get you a raise, that will get you a promotion, that will make you valuable to the team.  You have to find these chances to shine every day, there is no shining moment and then you are done it is an all-the-time-thing, not a some-of-the-time-thing.  Do that,  and you probably never have  to ask for a promotion or a raise again. Read More

Changes

Mention the word change and a collective groan is often heard in conference rooms and offices regardless of your location.  Change is painful, we too often believe. Change will be uncomfortable and may create a scenario wherein you lose control. You may not like the end product; then you have to change it back.  Change just might break your business, or a relationship, or you personally.  Change is a six letter four letter word.  Why?

We know change is necessary.  We know changing is how we stay in business or stay in the relationship.  Change is also required for an end to occur such as the end of a relationship, or the end of a business.  No wonder hesitations and anxieties increase when you announce a change process.

I feel one more demonstrative is necessary here.  Have you heard the rule which states an organization that fails to change will die?  Yeah, me too.  Simply, this analogy is wrong.  An organization which is healthy, then declines to the point of death has done what?  Yes! It has changed—likely unwillingly, but the organizational change occurred, from healthy to out of business.  I am encouraging you to take back control of change and reduce the likelihood of a change death spiral. So then, how do we lead change?

There are many change management theories.  John Kotter wrote Change Leadership wherein he presents steps to manage change.  Agile organizations pride themselves in quick changes, flexibility to change quickly with markets or trends.  Leadership theories have been developed using leadership change as a method to garner higher motivation of followers.  Everywhere we turn there seems to be a newly coined change management phrase, or trend to manage change successfully.  Lewin’s model of change was the theory or model I was most in tune with when dealing with change.

Lewin’s model suggests an organization needs to unfreeze, then make a change and wait to ensure the impact is desired, then refreeze.  Can we plan for change using a model like Lewin’s when at our core as humans, changing is what we do each day we wake up? Just start the change.  So, if we look at the Lewin model and change it around, how about working in an organization that stays in a position of unfrozen, meaning flexible and able to implement change at any time.  Once a change is made, the organizational process involved then freezes to verify desired outcomes.  If the change is effective, the organization leaves the change in place and then unfreezes the process again, ready for more input and output from all levels of associates.

Do you need to change staff positions?  Start by placing an individual in a new role, freeze the staffing process to test, verify the fix or change it again if the first move doesn’t work.  Once the fix appears satisfactory, you unfreeze the organization and are free to make the next change.  But start by making a move.

In our business, we are testing associates in new roles, examining and working with new sales and marketing tactics, modifying logistics plans, streamlining yard operations via numerous changes, and also encouraging front-line associates to question business processes and to recommend different practices all simultaneously, with short pauses to ascertain effectiveness after each change.  We have stopped the fear of making a mistake by admitting up front each change may be a mistake but letting all impacted know we can change back.  Associates not prone to change anxiety were quick to the game when we first started this; associates with anxiety were slow to embrace this method, but now trust the process and appreciate the lower key method to change.

Here is what we have found in the last two years.  Our three largest initiatives with solid outcomes started with small acts of unplanned work.  Yes, the desired outcome was defined organizational change, but no strategic change plan was put in place.  We started the changes via small acts or projects and allowed the processes to guide us, to guide the work.  We followed this through, and now we enjoy the fruition of the changed processes, and along the way we were able to recognize strength in associates we did not know existed (promotions), weaknesses in areas we did not expect (area for new change) and had fun at changing our business (reduced change anxiety).  I consider this a significant victory and one we hope to repeat continuously.

I will end with this.  Of course, there is no secret answer which fits every business scenario requiring change.  Instances will require foresight, superior planning and judgment, and change management principles to be soundly administered.  But, on a daily basis, I believe much less anxiety should be spent on change, and the processes we now define as change should be treated as simpler decisions and acts we each make and acts we empower our associates to make in good faith and for the common good of our organizations.  Remove the change stigma, unfreeze and look for the positive—take the positive directions.

Best of luck and successful leadership.

Dr. Scott Read More

Managing Like A Master Or At Least A Sensei

First let me state that I am not an expert at Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu or any other martial art, so I don’t need the Kobra Kai dojo at my door threatening to beat me up.

As the story goes; the student says to his master, “I know everything,” the master says “then you know nothing.”

If most of you have watched any one of the 42 karate kid movies, you are familiar with the DOJO, or school or place where you do “business.”

I have been to a few Dojo ’s; some are in the scariest part of town in an old rundown building that you probably should already have your black belt. As you enter any good Dojo, the one thing you will notice is the cleanliness and organization.  Everything in its place, clean mirrors, clean mats, it is just organized.  The interesting part is that there is no cleaning crew that spruces the place up for you, it is the students of the Dojo that take pride in the place of learning.  It is those-that-learn that clean.

Your Dojo is a reflection of Your Sensei.  Your Dojo is where you practice your trade, hone your skills and become a Student of the Art.  It is a place of learning, a place of pride, a place of belonging; it is a reflection of you!

So keep your Dojo (place of business) clean and organized 

A Sensei is Humble.  A Sensei knows the amount of work it takes at each level. He has respect for anyone who is going to get on the mat and hammer out the process.  A Sensei knows that no matter how much they know, no matter how much they learn there is always someone smarter and better than they are.  A Sensei appreciates the work, the time and the effort it takes to put mind, body, and spirit together to achieve your goals.  A Sensei has a great amount of respect for those that have handed down the ART  and by being humble they show the respect to those that have come before.

Stay humble.

A Sensei is quick to correct errors.  The Sensei wants to correct errors before their student develops bad habits.  He owes it to the student to not let them develop bad habits that will hurt them later.  It is the Sensei’s responsibility to his master and the master before that to make sure the student is a reflection of his work.  If the student fails the Sensei fails.

So be quick to correct problems. 

A Sensei is hard working.  Working with his students, working on himself.  Ever improving, ever learning.  The Sensei understands that he too is a student of the art and he must learn to teach.

So work hard on improving yourself.

A Sensei is there to push you, push you out of your comfort zone, beyond what you think your limits are.  To help you discover what your maximum potential is.  A Sensei Is not there to cause injury to you but to make sure you are pushed every day, so you grow.

So push your people to grow.

A Sensei wants to promote you.  A Sensei wants to promote you, he works on your skills and improves your ability to get you to the next rank.  His job is to make you better them himself so that you too can pass on the Art.

So work to promote your people, make them better than yourself.

A Sensei Is respectful and demands respect.  Respect keeps everyone working in a common direction.  If you disrespect your students how can they have respect for you or anyone else in the Dojo?  While you are at the Dojo, the goal is to learn and work, to stay focused and not get caught up in horseplay.  It is an Art, and it must be treated as such.

So be respectful and businesslike.

A Sensei is responsible for anyone that enters the Dojo.  To be part of a good Dojo there is an interview process to assure you are of a good character to be a member.  If you are a good member of the Dojo, you make everyone better and you are responsible for that.

Don’t let bad character into your Dojo.

Keep your rank to yourself in public. A good Dojo does not allow you to wear your rank outside of the Dojo.  What you are in the Dojo and your depth of knowledge is only for the Dojo.  The only thing others need to know is that you are a member just like everyone else is.  It’s about the Dojo, the members, and the Art, not your rank.

Remember it’s about your Dojo, not you.

Lastly, those that don’t understand the Art and are not willing to practice the Art do not need to know about the Art.  Those outside the Dojo will not understand what it takes, how much work it is and the sacrifices you give for the art.

Therefore you cannot explain it to them.  So you keep your skills to yourself.

So keep confidential stuff confidential.

In closing, I will tell you that much of my day to day activities are influenced by my martial arts training – stay humble, have respect, don’t allow bad behavior, push and grow your students, be quick to correct errors, promote your people, and never stop working on yourself.  It’s all about your Dojo and the people in it, in the end, it will be about the craft and how the individual respects it, use it for good and handing it down to well deserving students.

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Why Hire a Millennial?

Well, first you can’t spell it.. secondly I have been up all night thinking about it… Lastly, I am an 80’s kid farm boy from Idaho who never finished college and got to the top the hard way, so I really struggled with them, so what the hell, here we go…

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Choosing the Right Leaders For the Job.

In our current business environments, many managers find themselves scratching their head at the dozens of leadership articles crossing their desks in magazines or emails.  Even social media now seems to target those of us in management positions with the latest leadership tactics in attempts to gain our “click.”  Yes, there are dozens of leadership theories—each with valid points and weak points.  No, we as leaders will never perfect each of these theories in practice and ride away in a blaze of leadership glory. Read More