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I’ve learned many things throughout my career, and one of them is that in everyday life, there are many lessons that can be applied in the professional sphere to become an exceptional entrepreneur. We only have to stop and watch to catch those red-handed moments, to later apply them to our business management.
Being a sales executive means travel is a part of the process, thus, airports become part of your life. Although this situation has changed drastically due to the recent health crisis we’ve gone through, changing face-to-face meetings to online calls with half suit coat and half shorts. But that’s another story. We can dig into it on another occasion. Airports make a bizarre and interestingly great place to see human behavior under stress. They create opportunities seldom seen in any other venue.
Caught red-handed lesson #1
The lessons learned, all around us, give us great stories and teaching moments that often apply to business leadership and building culture. Many years ago, I was stuck in Denver on a long layover. I had a laptop over one shoulder, a stuffed, 2-day carry-on bag over the other, with a heavy projector case strapped over that same shoulder pad.
In my left hand, I held a large Pepsi balanced on a book I had been reading. In my right hand, a plastic fork, knife, napkins and a foot-long hot dog covered in cheese and chili. Did I tell you I was a health nut? Well, I am. I only eat things that have enough preservatives, so no one will ever know when I finally reach my expiration date.
As I was reaching the end of the moving walkway, the 10-pound projector case began to slip from my shoulder. I lifted my shoulder as high as I could to keep the strap in place. I only had 5 ft (1.52 m) to the end and then another few steps to my gate. My destination was in sight, and once I reached it, I could set this all down.
Just as I hit the silver metal end, the bag slipped and dropped from my shoulder straight to my forearm with such force it acted as a catapult. My hand barely moved, but my chili dog shot 8 ft (2.44 m) in the air. I actually had to jump to the side before being impaled. Funny thing — I still want that chili dog to this day. I was so hungry and watching it splat on the floor was so disheartening; I can actually taste it somehow.
- So, caught red-handed lesson #1 is: You’ve got to have the desire. The kind that propels you forward. It’s the passion to excel — to compete and complete. But, if you try to juggle everything by yourself, the odds are, you’ll never reach the end of the walkway without dropping something important. Get help before you spend all your time just cleaning up messes instead of enjoying the meal.
Caught red-handed lesson #2
Continuing with the chili dog accident, once I managed to take control of my juggling abilities, which proved to be sub-par, I ran to the nearest chair. Unpacking must have looked like a Grand Canyon mule reaching the barn. I could hear startled travelers jumping over the soiled sausage in surprise. I’m not sure what they thought it was.
Then, as I turned around to clean my mess, it was gone. A little residue was still there, but the dog, bun, and much of the mess had vanished. I felt like I was in Disneyland. Did the fairies get to it? As I turned around, I spotted the quick cleaning janitor with a bucket, exiting a nondescript door. I apologized as he reached me. Instead of a grunt or wave-off, he actually seemed happy to clean it up.
“Not to worry, these things happen. Sorry, you lost your dog. They’re pretty tasty. Go tell ’em I said to give you a new one, and they’ll hook you up,” he explained with a grin as he darted from my eye contact to the floor and back to me.
This was the Paul Blart of janitors. The man was not a cleaner — he was in the customer service business. He was so efficient. Not only that, but he recognized the issue and did something about it immediately. I was lucky to catch him before he disappeared onto the next need. Great job, Denver Airport employees!
- Caught red-handed #2 is: Recognize people who get it. Not just those who don’t. Too often, we see management walking the floor looking to catch the inappropriate. That creates a culture of fear. Do the opposite. Catch those doing the right thing. A spoken word to someone caught red-handed doing the right thing is a great banner to others. Nothing more needs to be said to the others at that time. First, recognize (catch) it. Then be genuine with your praise. Create a culture of people who are continually caught red-handed doing the right thing.
These two lessons might be obvious to you, but keeping them consistent throughout your working hours day in and day out isn’t easy. Keeping it simple is one of the most complex attributes to acquire and when we’re juggling product, sales, coaching, customers and employees. Things can get messy really quickly.
Entrepreneurship is an amazing ride, but it is so easy to lose sight of the little things that ultimately make the biggest difference and set you on the make-or-break thin line. Stop juggling between departments, ask for help, and you’ll achieve great things implementing the good caught red-handed management culture.
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