Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pathways to Success: Having an Owner's Mentality

For ten years my wife and I owned a duplex. It was . . . challenging. Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord and that included us. However, it was a learning experience. Owners and renters have a different way of thinking. Even great renters don't have the same stake in the property as owners and therefore they don't take care of the property as well. This concept works with managers and employees as well. Motivated employees think like owners.

Here are five ideas for ordinary employees to think like an owner and see their candle shine brighter.

1. Owners don't say "that's not my job." I read a story a year or so ago about John Elway, former Hall of Fame quarterback for the Denver Broncos and now the General Manager of the team. He and two members of the team's management were about to leave for the day when one of them noticed several boxes of t-shirts that needed to be sorted and put on tables for an event in the morning. One of the managers started to call one of the administrative assistants to come in and sort the shirts but Elway stopped him and said, "no, let's just take care of it right now." The three of them sorted the shirts and let the administrative assistants leave for the day.

Good owners are not afraid to get their hands dirty and work alongside their people. Good owners pitch in when needed. When employees act like an owner, they take on the less glorious jobs when they need to be done. They take out the trash, answer phones, and empty the dishwasher in the break room.

2. Owners don't watch the clock. This does not mean following the example of Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Meyer, who is famous for putting in 130 hour work weeks. That's ridiculous and unproductive. It means being willing to put in extra time when needed and not expect anything in return. There are times when  a large project needs to be completed or there is a big event and good owners dig in to get it done. Sadly, there are many employers that are takers and will suck the life out of their best employees, so there is a converse to this. Good owners also don't work themselves to the bone. They take time to recharge and ensure that they have something to give. Watching the clock goes both ways.

3. Owners pay attention to the tiny details. When we owned the duplex, I spent much of my time picking up garbage, painting, pulling weeds, and fixing screens. It was someone's home and I wanted it to feel like a home. Owners know that the tiny details count.  

4. Owners move like a shark. Some sharks have to keep moving or they will die. Owners are always moving. They are always looking for something that needs to be done.  Six years ago my wife and I were trying to stay afloat with a toddler and infant twins. She would constantly remind me to move like a shark. There was always a bottle to be washed or clothes to be folded or a diaper to be changed. If we did not stay on top of it, we would get less sleep, which was our most valued commodity. When an employee is thinking like an owner, he or she never stops moving but keeps a constant eye out for projects to be done to keep the business or organization running.

5. Owners anticipate needs. As a landlord, when a tenant moved out, there was a lot of uncertainty. I would walk through every room with a notebook and write down the broken screens, holes in the wall, and every surface that needed to be cleaned. I knew that I would need to paint, fix screens, and clean, so I always had what I needed for those tasks with me when I arrived. I would almost always need a trip to the hardware store for the unexpected items like broken doors and cracked floor tiles. It was impossible to anticipate everything but I would make it much easier on myself by thinking it through beforehand and preparing my supplies properly.

Much of this comes from experience and once that experience is earned, an employee who thinks like an owner can start making everyone's life easier by anticipating the organization's needs.

There are two final items to be covered on this topic. The first is some managers seem to go out of their way to demotivate employees. If you read a "how to be a terrible boss" list that is popular on LinkedIn, it would look like a how to list for these managers. These insecure managers suck the life out of their employees and make it so much harder to care about their work. Kudos to the employees that can still think like an owner in those conditions.

The second item is that I want to clarify that I do not have this all figured out. Every day I work at having an owners mentality at my job. This is something I aspire to but have not figured it all out yet. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Five Thing You Learn When You Are Colorblind

As far as disabilities go, there are many that are far, far worse than being born with colorblindness. It falls mainly on the level of annoyance but it does change how one lives life.

One of nine males are born with a form of colorblindness and there are many different kinds of colorblindness. The two types of color blindness are red/green and yellow/green. They are exactly what they sound like, which is the inability to see colors on those spectrums. Yellow/green is less common and also less severe. Red/green is more common and tends to be more severe. Even within the types of colorblindness are subgroups, where a person can't see different types of red and green. My particular colorblindness is on the violet scale, which is the most unique type of red/green.  The rarest form of colorblindness is when someone has both types, called monochromacy. That is true colorblindness, like watching television on a black and white set, and anyone with that is not allowed to drive a car in the United States. If you put two colorblind men in the same room, chances are that they would see color differently from the other.

Colorblindness in women is extremely rare but, strangely enough, the genetic trait comes through mothers. I have three sons who are not colorblind while one of my sisters has two sons who are both colorblind and another sister has one son who is not. If Agnes has a son, it is probable that he would be colorblind.

Here are five things I have learned going through life with colorblindness.

1. I have been answering the same question over and over again my entire life. When I tell someone I am colorblind, before they can respond, I always tell them the same exact thing. I say "I am red/green colorblind. That means I cannot see all of the colors on the red/green spectrum. It's not like I see the world like a black and white television, I just can't see certain colors. It's kind of like you have the box of 64 crayons and I only have 12." Every single time, the person looks at me for a moment then points at an object and asks "what color is that?" I then give the same response I always give, "It's (whatever color), I can see colors, just not all of them. If I can't see  a color, I don't always know I can't see it." Then they always pause and point at another object and ask "so what color is that?" At that point I usually say "it's (whatever color), I think. I don't actually know." That is usually enough to satisfy them and the conversation moves on.

2. Some careers are unavailable to people who are colorblind. I have a friend who joined the Army and his colorblindness meant that he could be a medic or a Chaplain's Assistant, but all the other jobs were unavailable to him. I cannot be an electrician or graphic designer. Working in a clothing store would be challenging. In some cities I could be a police officer and in others I couldn't. I can never be a commercial or military pilot. With help from technology, people with colorblindness can be housepainters but they still have to be careful not to mix up the colors.

3. I cannot match clothes and that has led to interesting responses from people. Usually someone would say something like," that's an interesting color combination." Then I would have to explain that I am colorblind and have the conversation laid in point #1. Before I got married I had to rely on roommates for help. I would often ask friends or relatives to show me clothing combinations that worked and I did not stray from them. Much of my wardrobe was black and grey. If I needed to dress up, I wore a white shirt with a tie so that I wouldn't have to worry about it. One time in college I was eating lunch with a group of friends and one of them commented on my pink shirt. I asked what he was talking about since I was wearing a white shirt. Everyone at the table then told me that it really was a pink shirt. I had been wearing it regularly for quite a while without knowing it was pink. Whenever I talk to someone else with colorblindness, they almost always tell me that something similar happened to them.

4. I ask for help a lot. I used to remind my friends that I am colorblind and if they see me wearing a bad color combination, they should tell me and not worry about offending me. I often ask sales people at a store what color something is before I buy it. The only downfall of that is having to start the "what color is this?" conversation. Any time something is color coded I have to ask for help, even if I am pretty sure I know what color it is. After a few mistakes, I've learned to just ask. It's humbling to ask for help for something that most children can do with ease.

5. The frustrating part of being colorblind is not knowing when I don't know something. Since I have never seen the colors that I can't see, I don't know when I make a mistake with colors. The stakes are pretty low and I have found ways to cope but sometimes I wonder what I am missing. I have heard about glasses with special lenses that fix certain kinds of colorblindness but since my kind is so rare, I doubt they would work for me. Maybe someday I will try them then write an article about it.

That is my experience with colorblindness. If you have a friend that is colorblind and he's wearing a strange color combination, now you know why. Unless he's a hipster and then all bets are off.