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Get Out of Jail Free

by Adam Zack — November 14, 2017

Threat of failure looms large

My favorite part of Monopoly is the Get Out of Jail Free card. I could take risks with borderline crazy chances and hunches, and if they didn’t work out and I ended up in the clink I could produce that special card, and voila! No more jail. Not even probation or community service to do! I emerged a free man with a clean record, able to learn from my mistakes and forge ahead exonerated, my record expunged, a twinkle in my eye and an extra bounce in my step. Ah, if only there were such a thing in real life. There isn’t, is there? But wait, I have the power to make things happen and I want my employees to stretch for new ideas, to try different things, to use their creativity and ingenuity to make magic happen for our customers. But you know what? In a lot of companies employees are scared to death to try new creativity. Why? Because the threat of failure looms large and failure is seen by many employees as a jail sentence and they don’t have a get out of jail free card. We even set up the jail analogy by using terms like “probation period” for new workers. So what can you do about it? At your next manager meeting talk about the need for new ideas and the initiative it takes to move them forward. Like a sh...
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No News Is Good News (Not)

by Adam Zack — November 8, 2017

El Jefe (Spanish for “the chief” or ”the boss”

I know this guy who owns a store and he was telling me a story about his store. He had set up a demo of a product by a vendor and committed to supply some sausage for the demo. Problem was he forgot to tell anyone at the store about it. So the demo person shows up when he’s not there and is looking for the sausage. No one at the store knew a thing about it. They are a good team, so they took care of business. When he got back to the store the next day, his maintenance supervisor told him the story, and said: “Communication, Jefe*, communication”.I grew up in an era of management and ownership where communication was non-existent to weak at best. The boss would swing through the store, declare the areas of his dissatisfaction, and move on to the next store. The departments that were spared the critiques felt a surge of relief, declaring “Whew! No news is good news!” They took it as a compliment that their department was good enough to not have any corrections pointed out. That’s terrible leadership. The boss couldn’t take the time to be like Santa and at least have a “good” and “bad” list. How hard would it be to point out something that pleased Jefe and not just...
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Winning

by Adam Zack — November 1, 2017

Adam Zack

Winning can be inspirational

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”         -Vince LombardiI’m in a quandary about winning. I was at the gym yesterday. We work out in small groups and start with a very brisk power walk with weights, about a mile or so. I usually finish first in the walk. (Don’t be too impressed – long legs and most of the other class is middle-aged ladies.) When the rest of the group got back the trainer said “Man, you really kicked our butts today!” I replied that it was the only thing in class that I could win at, because all of the other exercises are really hard and the middle aged ladies kick my butt. I got to thinking how much I like to win. I love to win. I hate to lose. Whether it’s playing cards, my sports teams, driving somewhere or getting the best deal on airfare – I have the need to be first. To win. The quandary comes with my recent “Leading groups effectively” class and the need to be right all the time. It’s not a good thing to have to be right. No bueno. So is the desire to win in the same boat as the desire to be right? Everyone loves a winner, so the saying goes. Everyone definitely does not love the dude who just has to be right all the time. In fa...
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If I should die before I wake

by Adam Zack — October 25, 2017

What have I done for you lately?

One thing we all have in common is that we are going to die. That’s sounds especially grim and Halloweenish, I know. Definitely doesn’t sound inspirational. But it’s true. I was asked the other day to help my dad write a eulogy for a dear friend of his that had recently passed. This man was one of the great family friends of our childhood. Always quick with a joke, polite as could possibly be, a great family man and humble all the way to his Irish soul. It was an honor that he’d ask me to help, and it made me think that when I die – when we all die – have we done the right thing by our friends, family, employees and customers? Will there be tears of sadness or attendance by duty only? Making the effort every single day to serve the people in our life and go to bed with the clean conscience of “I have no regrets today” helps thoughts of mortality not be so scary. If you asked your employees what they’d say at your wake and the best they can do is “He wasn’t a bastard every day” then maybe it’s time to step back and examine the everyday interactions we all have and instead of “What have you done for me lately?” ask “What have I done for you lately?” In one way, your suc...
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The Help

by Adam Zack — October 18, 2017

Adam Zack

Helping, Fixing or Serving

It’s good to help, right? People need our help and it makes us feel good to help them. They say, “Thank you, how can I repay your kindness?” We of course defer and say, “No, no, it was my pleasure to help you.” But deep in the blackboard of our mind a mark is tallied, and they now owe us a debt because of our help. When I first heard this analogy last week, I had to step back and really think about it. I always have wanted to help. It feels really good. But does it make the helped feel good? Do they now feel the obligation of owing me one? Something really to ponder. In fact, think of help in terms of The Help. To be referred to as “The Help” immediately conjures up images of a maid, a butler, a driver – some kind of subservient role. No one wants to be referred to as The Help. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen really nails the subject Helping, Fixing or Serving? I have long had the need to be a fixer. Need advice? I’ll give a solution. Don’t need advice, but just want to talk? I’ll give a solution. Something not working right? I’ll give a solu...
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In Defense Of Outsourcing

by Adam Zack — October 11, 2017

Did they communicate my brand?

Ok, this week’s topic is going to read like I am so biased, and of course I am, but I have not always been on this side of the issue. What I am talking about is whether you should outsource your advertising and marketing projects or do them in-house. Duh, of course I am going to say, “outsource.” DW would cast a horrible karmic curse on me if I advised our retail partners to take their marketing efforts in-house. But’s there’s much more to it than just taking the biased side in support of my employer.You may remember from our introduction that I was on the operations side of retail for over 25 years, and still am on a consulting type basis. I know how it seemed like every warm body with a marketing degree seemingly knew what was best for my business and through their incredible savvy could transform my ad and brand into an award winning, life changing, profit generating, cost saving program! I must be the fool to ignore their expertise! And there were a lot of these people. A LOT. So being the prideful know-it-all that I was, I resisted. I politely declined meetings. If they were persistent, I politely took meetings and then politely told them “No, I’ve got it covered.” If they impolitely ...
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Why you gotta be so mean?

by Adam Zack — October 4, 2017

They thrive on writing negative reviews.

And all you’re ever gonna be is mean(Why you gotta be so mean)Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me(Why you gotta be so mean)And all you’re ever gonna be is meanWhy you gotta be so mean?         -Taylor SwiftMy mom told us “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” So we had our mouths shut a lot, at least in front of her. Today’s social media world seems to have grown up without a mom who gave them the same advice. We are consistently looking for validation and direction from social media and online forums as to what we should actually do every day. Where should we eat? What should we watch? How do I get home the quickest? Which wine should I buy? Is this movie any good? The Internet age has turned everyone it seems into a critic. Rotten Tomatoes and Yelp! They have compiled the opinions of average schmos like you and me into multibillion-dollar business that have made (or broken) many a business and career. Don’t get me wrong; an accumulation of opinions can be a good thing when trying to make a major decision like buying a car or deciding on a vacation destination. Like professional restaurant and movie c...
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Don’t take that tone with me

by Adam Zack — September 27, 2017

excuuuusssee meeeee!

Non verbal communication trumps the actual words every time. Every single time. Your tone may not exactly convey what you are trying to say, but it says everything to who you are talking to. Someone asks for your help, and you say “Sure, what can I help you with?” Sounds great on paper, right? Roll your eyes and sigh when you say it sounds like you are definitely not in for helping. “Your hair looks great today” sounds like a lovely compliment, but say it with a emphasis on Your and a slight smirk on your face and you are just being sarcastic and untruthful. Do it the opposite way: “You’ve put on a couple pounds, haven’t you?” when said with a smile and a sincere handshake is sure to make the other person think “Wait..is he being serious?” You learn tone the hard way as a kid, when your mom said “Don’t use that tone with me, mister!” and you tried to play semantics and replied “What?? I said excuse me.” when you said “Excuuuuusee meeeee” with the sarcasm of a 11 year old. It’s especially complicated in todays world where texting is so prevalent in communication. Does ALL CAPS mean I am getting yelled at? Or that it’s important? Or do they just like caps? Is a one word answer ...
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Be the Butt

by Adam Zack — September 20, 2017

I don’t like to be joked!

When brothers and I were growing up we teased each other relentlessly. Actually, we still do, but back then we didn’t really care about each other’s feelings. Making sure it wasn’t you that was the butt of the joke was our daily goal in life at the time. I think all kids are a little sensitive about being the butt of the joke, and my youngest daughter Alyssa really did not like it. “I don’t like to be joked!” she’d exclaim while we yukked it up at what she thought was her expense. It wasn’t true, but it is a memory that carried into teenage years and since the family still liked to joke and tease, we instead joked her older sister, who received several funny nicknames and learned that being a Polack was kind of funny. (“Wait, why am I the Pole???” she’d say.) With Halloween coming up I was reminded of an old store manager who was big in the stomach and big in the seat. One year for the store costume contest an employee dressed up as the manager, complete with pillows stuffed in his shirt front and the back of his pants. It really was funny, but it turns out the manager loved to joke people but did NOT like being the butt of the joke. He retaliated like a spoiled kid and gave the guy who dresse...
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Cookie Cutter

by Adam Zack — September 13, 2017

It’s not as good, but you save a few cents.

You’d think that anything that has to do with homemade cookies is good. Unless you’re on a diet, there’s not much better than fresh baked cookies (and an ice cold glass of milk). So in our love of cookies, we want to make them faster and faster because our friends and family all like them so much. So we buy a cookie cutter so that they all are the same shape and size, and pretty much we are pleasing the masses with our delicious cookies. Then Nabisco hears about our cookies and buys the recipe and now our cookies are everywhere! But now they’re not quite as special as they were. In a cost cutting move, Nabisco alters the recipe a little to eliminate the butter. And the chocolate isn’t Belgian anymore. Oh, and that fresh coconut? It’s freeze dried now. It’ll be easier to get back on that diet now, because the Cookie Cutter approach isn’t so special. In fact, the term cookie cutter is pretty negative. Cookie cutter houses? Cheap and definitely un-custom. As the need to differentiate from chain grocery stores becomes more and more important it’s vital to realize that the cookie cutter approach to marketing and merchandising is not what will set you apart. In fact, just the connotati...
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