The ONE thing! Not your average new years resolution blog

I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting. I’ve adopted the approach of…Living life looking through the windshield, not the rear view mirror. I know you have to stop and do a situation analysis every so often, so I leave that for today. The last day of 2013.

In that humbling reflection, I realize that I am not where I want to be. I know that I am not fulfilling the plan laid out for me, I need to pursue it relentlessly.

In that spirit, I have a challenge for you dear reader. I am doing this challenge as well. There are four categories, pick one and ponder, meditate and pray for discernment on the one thing you must do in 2014.

  • Habit you must break/adopt
  • Goal you must accomplish
  • Debt you must retire/repay
  • Relationship you must restore/end

I know you are thinking there are more than one. That’s normal. Meditate and pray more, what is the one thing you must do. The ONE thing.

Then, once you’ve settled on it, and it feels right, develop a plan. When my employees come to me asking what to do, my mantra is Have a plan, work the plan. Break it into smaller achievable tasks and DO IT.

It’s not a resolution, because you are doing what you should have been doing all along. Feel free to message me with your one thing, and I’ll do the same. We can be accountability buddies.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year.

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Leadership in Crisis

SOS - Crisis - HELP!I realize this is a break in format for the Carving Freshies blog. But, this has been weighing on me. Maybe it is cathartic, maybe it is a catalyst for my own reality check. At least, I have enough thoughts that I believe will provide value. This entry is about leadership. There are many resources on leadership available. There are classes, courses, workshops, seminars, books and people make careers out of the study of leadership. For example, I found a list of 15 traits of great leaders and I can only add to the list. I don’t consider myself an expert in the study of leadership, but I am first-hand witnessing a leadership crisis in an organization on the brink.

Today, I want to offer action steps for any leader that is facing a crisis in their organization.

Reality check – This starts at the top. The organization’s leader must set aside their ego and recognize their role in creating the problems. Owning fault and taking corrective action is crucial to moving the organization forward. This is the time to be open, vulnerable and transparent. Call a meeting with your team with the express purpose of identifying problems and forging plans for long-term fixes. Addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause ensures the crisis will linger and drain resources.

You haven’t hit rock bottom – It seems that no matter how bad the situation, something worse is always around the corner.  The head of a vital department loses confidence in the organization and departs with their rolodex of prospects. The most senior member of another department announces she is pregnant. One client is 90 days past due on invoices which means the organization will miss another payroll.  

When it doesn’t seem like it can get worse, a client shares that their funding fell through. Although the organization has more than $50,000 committed in expenses incurred and contractual obligations, the client says there is no money coming. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

The point is the corrective actions in the reality check must be strong enough to end the downward spiral.

Cash is king – When in crisis, a leader cannot be speculative about their time spent. Working for barter, a percentage of the company, stock options, spec work today with the promise of a big payday in the future are all fools gold. Now is the time to find alternative ways to infuse the bottom line. Can the organization give a seminar that people will pay to attend? Consider calling a dormant client to see if they have smaller, quick-turn projects.

All revenue generating opportunities must meet only one criterion, will the organization make a profit. Stockpile cash, it is the best insulation a company can have in a crisis.

Suck it up, Buttercup – An organization in crisis will have to make sacrifices. The leader must make the deepest sacrifices. Focusing on the parts of the job they like, the tasks they enjoy must be sidelined. Everyone else is looking to the leader to set the example. Will they stay true to their values? Will they do what is right for the client or provide a recommendation that will not be in the client’s best interest, but means more revenue for the company? If a leader has a flexible moral, ethical compass bad decisions will follow.

Also, this is not the time to be a lone wolf. If the organization is in crisis, ask for assistance. Instead of going to the cave and trying to solve problems in isolation, leaders should garner the help of all their people to develop and implement solutions. This means confiding in people, asking them for advice, cultivating ideas for action, and gaining commitment to solve problems.

Secrecy builds distrust – Great leaders are candid, forthright and transparent. These qualities engender trust and loyalty. When in crisis, the best leaders are present and accountable. As soon as there are closed door meetings, disappearances for hours or simply being absent (under the disguise of working from home) distrust builds. It is not just staff that distrusts, vendors and clients are not immune. An organization in crisis should view this as an opportunity to sharpen the saw. Leaders should leverage the platform to have their team accomplish tasks with a sense of urgency. It can’t be accomplished unless the leader is totally transparent.

Windshields vs. Rear-view Mirrors – An organization in crisis provides an unrivaled opening to move forward. Lead the organization looking through the windshield not monitoring what is in the rear-view mirror. If the leader just wants to get through the rough patch and get back to business as usual, they are in for another reality check: Business as usual no longer exists for their organization. If they wait for business as usual to return, the organization becomes reactive to the changes in the marketplace…the irrevocable changes that occurred while dealing with the crisis.

Everyone loves a growth strategy rather than a retraction strategy, so take the time in crisis as the opportunity to change the game in your favor. This is the time to launch new products/services, try different lead generation tactics, make bold moves to gain market share.

Now, for those of us who are witnessing the demise of an organization, how can you get through to leadership? Have this list handy, find common ground about the organizational crisis and then ask them, don’t you want to have no regrets about your team’s effort? This is the time to take massive action. Otherwise, how will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror if you haven’t given it your best shot?  How will you tell your kids you’ve given up? How will you tell them to keep going when you aren’t modeling that behavior? The pain you are feeling is temporary, quitting is forever.  I’m invested, you’re definitely invested. Let’s round up the troops and put together a plan that will get us on the right path.

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Fearless Predictions: NFL 2013

The NFC is stacked, it is really hard to whittle down to six playoff teams. The AFC isn’t. I don’t think there are six playoff teams in that conference.

In this year’s version of fearless predictions, I can brag about correctly picking the SuperBowl teams last year. If I am right this year, it will be a fun season in Denver.


East – New England (Even without Hernandez and Welker, Brady/Belichek finds a way, plus it doesn’t hurt that they have 6 automatic wins in the division)

Will we see this handshake again at the SuperBowl?

Will we see this handshake again at the SuperBowl?

North – Cincinnati (I really like Giovani Bernard, surprise pick for Rookie of the Year)

South – Houston (Mainly because Indy overachieved last year)

West – Denver (MVP – Peyton Manning)

Wild cards – Baltimore and Pittsburgh


East – NY Giants (feels like Dallas, Washington and the Giants could all finish 9-7)

North – Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers is amazing, he is also a good follow on twitter)

South – Atlanta (Adding Steven Jackson was one of the best off season moves)

West – San Francisco (The two games vs. Seattle are Must See TV)

Wild cards – Seattle and New Orleans

The championship games – I like Baltimore visiting Denver (replay of last year’s heartbreaking playoff game and this year’s kickoff game) and Seattle going to San Francisco in the third match-up of the season.

SuperBowl prediction 2013I have Peyton winning his second SuperBowl in Eli’s house.

What do you think will happen this season?

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What a weekend! Denver ends summer with a bang

Labor Day weekend is the traditional end of summer.

College Football and the fall get underway and people begin to wrap up summer plans. Well, Denver doesn’t want summer to fade away. This weekend alone, there is:

Plus, charity races, the Rockies are hosting the Reds, Chet Neimeyer tennis tournament, if you can’t find fun this weekend – look in the mirror, the problem may be with you.

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WalMart Siberia aka – The Propane Tank Exchange Cage

WalMart store frontThis poor job of setting expectations, ineffective communications and disastrous customer service happened today (July 5, 2013) at WalMart Supercenter Store #3566 in Denver.

I went to WalMart to purchase a propane tank exchange. The dozens of times I have done this at many different stores, it is pretty straight-forward. You purchase the new tank, take your receipt to the cages with the tanks, someone checks your receipt, opens the cage, takes the empty tank and gives you a new full propane tank. This process takes about 90 seconds. Today, the process never ended.

As usual, the WalMart price was the lowest around. The tank exchange including tax was $19.25. I paid the cashier and she said that the guy with the keys would be at the tank exchange in 2 to 3 minutes.  (As you will see, this was the poor job setting expectations.)

My receipt is time-stamped 1:44pm. You can start the stopwatch (tick, tick, tick)

The propane tank exchange cage is located near the garden area of WalMart. It is outside, paved, no shade available. Today, the high in Denver was 93°, by 1:44pm, it was already 90°.

At 1:50pm, the guy wearing a blue hat working the garden area passed by, I asked if he could help me. He said, he doesn’t have the keys.

At 1:54pm, I go to see blue hat and ask him to call the guy with the keys to the cage. He said, yes, he’ll be right there.

At the 15 minute mark of waiting, I decide that I need to improve WalMart’s motivation to provide customer service. So, I wheel the empty propane tank into the garden area of the store and spot blue hat helping another customer. When he is done, he sees the He yells ‘That is a fire code hazard, get out of here with that thing’. I yelled back. “If you would have called someone 5 minutes ago like you said you would it would have been locked up by now.” As I return to the propane tank exchange area, I see him on the phone.

At 2:05pm, I see blue hat in the garden area again and I say, “Hey it is 90 degrees out here, no shade and it has been 20 minutes. Now, I need the key guy and your manager.”

Within a minute, a sweet lady who I assume is the garden department manager comes out and says, ‘the store manager has made the decision that we can’t have the keys here. I am so sorry. I know it is hot and this has taken too long. I am calling the guy with the keys myself.’

I felt better, someone empathized with my situation and apologized for the inconvenience they were causing.

At 2:10pm, 25 minutes into this disaster, I go back to the counter where blue hat and the sweet lady are standing. The sweet lady says, “Are you kidding me? They still haven’t come…” I replied, “My patience is on empty, just like my tank.”

At 2:14pm, I put the empty propane tank in my car, I show the sweet lady the time stamp on my receipt and that 30 minutes have passed. I said, “I am done. I am getting my money back.” The sweet lady apologies and said I’m going with you.

While I’m waiting in line to make the return, another lady who is in a button down shirt gets my attention as my turn comes up at the return desk, and she shows her amazing conflict resolution training when she says to me…

“So, I hear you are upset…”

I quickly assess that I am not getting an apology, sympathy or an accommodation for this horrible customer experience. I decide that before she makes this situation my fault, I interrupt her and say, “I have good reason to be upset. I purchased a propane tank exchange more than 30 minutes ago, look at the time stamp on my receipt and the time on my phone. Way over 30 minutes…I was lied to when I was told someone would be at the exchange cage in 2-3 minutes.”

I continued, “Here is what I am going to do. I am going to get my money back from you people. Then, I am going to your competitor and I am going to pay more for the propane exchange. And I’ll be a happy customer paying more because I received excellent customer service.”

Apparently, all of this stupidity must have been captured on surveillance video because more button down shirt managers started showing up. It was a WalMart Manager Palooza.

There was a huddle that looked like NFL referees contemplating a video replay and while they were figuring out a ruling, I got my refund. The sweet lady apologized again and I left.

I went to Yosemite Conoco, a gas station five blocks away from WalMart. I paid $26.95 for the exchange. The cashier gave me the keys to the cage. I swapped out an empty tank for a full one and returned the keys. In 90 seconds, I had a new propane tank.

To WalMart #3566 – Do you think an hour of my life is worth $7.70? I pledge allegiance to Yosemite Conoco. By saving me an hour of my life and costing me only $7.70, I will now buy gas from you, wash my car with you and swap out my propane tanks with you.

Hey WalMart, you like to sell apples? How about them apples?

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Denver Free Summer Concert Schedule for 2013

As the calendar turns to June, one of the great summer traditions in Denver are the FREE outdoor concerts that are open to the public. Bring something to sit on and your favorite summertime libation to enjoy these shows. An inside tip: Arrive Early. Parking is limited and all these shows are well attended.

Below is the 2013 schedule of free summer concerts:

·         Sunday – City Park (Colorado Blvd. & E. 17th Ave)

·         Tuesday – Concert at the Crescent, Crescent Amphitheater (Belleview Ave. & DTC Blvd)

·         Wednesday – Elway’s Backyard, Cherry Creek (University Blvd. & E. 1st Ave)


City Park Jazz concerts

Summer concerts are from 6:00 – 8:00pm at the Bandstand/Pavilion in Denver’s City Park, rain or shine. The food trucks will be lined up and ready to serve.

  • June 2, The Hazel Miller Band (Legend)
  • June 9, AOA with special guest Aleks Girshevich (R&B, Acid Jazz, Funk and Pop)
  • June 16, Neil Bridge +7 featuring Karen Lee (Jazz Piano)
  • June 23, Salsa Con Jazz (Latin Jazz)
  • June 30, The Ron Miles Quartet with the Denver Municipal Band
  • July 7, Sam Mayfield (Classic Blues)
  • July 14, Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts (Faculty/Student band)
  • July 21, Kenny Walker Sextet (Upbeat with a heavy bass line)
  • July 28, Los Bohemios (Cuban Son, Salsa, and Boleros)
  • August 4, Henry Butler (jazz, Caribbean, classical, pop, blues, and R&B)

Concert at the Crescent

Shows at the Crescent Amphitheater begin at 7:00pm. Sorry, pets are not allowed at the Crescent.

  • June 4, Tunisia (Hip-Hop, R&B, Top-40, Rock)
  • June 11, American Honey (Country)
  • June 18, Syndicate (High-Energy, Dance Music)
  • June 25, Chase N the Dream (reggae, jazz, pop, R&B and blues)
  • July 2, Forever in Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond Tribute Band)
  • July 9, That Eighties Band (80’s Cover Band)
  • July 16, Moses Jones (Dance Music)
  • July 23, Hot Lunch (Contemporary Funk)
  • July 30, Soul X (Justin Timberlake/Black Eyed Peas Fusion Band)



Elway’s Backyard

Elway’s Backyard opens at 5:00pm, with bands playing a super-set beginning from 6:30 – 9:00pm

  • June 19, Message in a Bottle (Police Tribute Band)
  • June 26, Railbenders (Country)
  • July 3, The Samples (Reggae influenced rock/pop)
  • July 10, Something Underground (Pop/Rock)
  • July 17, Justin Lane Band (Hard Hitting Country)
  • July 24, The Trishas (Unique blending of country, folk and blues)
  • July 31, That Eighties Band (80’s Cover Band)
  • August 7, Forever in Blue Jeans (Neil Diamond Tribute Band)
  • August 14, Funkiphino (Funk)
  • August 21, Under a Blood Red Sky (U2 Tribute Band)

 Please post any other free outdoor concerts in the Denver-area that you know about right here.

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Scott Fujita signs contract at Machu Picchu

scott fujita signs retirement contractNormally, this would be a simple, touching story of a man making an extraordinary gesture. However, my predominant emotion is forehead-smacking anger – over a related situation.  Pictured to the right is Scott Fujita, linebacker, signing a one-day contract so he can officially retire with the New Orleans Saints. Fujita had the most career success while playing for the Saints. He played last year with the Detroit Lions. Fujita is in Machu Picchu with his friend and former teammate Steve Gleason who is suffering from Lou Gehrig disease. Props to Fujita and I hope Gleason is able to enjoy as much of life as possible before the horrible disease he has overwhelms him.

My anger is related to the Elvis Dumervil contract situation/faxgate with the Denver Broncos. Denver negotiated a restructured contract with Dumervil and had a agreement in place. Elvis even tweeted @EKD92 he was returning to Denver, but his agent was unable to fax the signed agreement to the Broncos before the deadline. The end result is the Broncos don’t have Dumervil on the roster, he signed a new deal with the Ravens and they have a $4.9 million charge to the salary cap without having a player in that role.

How can a man in the Andes Mountains of Peru be able to get a contract to New Orleans but an agent with offices in a Philadelphia suburb can’t fax a contract to Denver?

I can’t come up with a reasonable explanation.

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Prayer for Illumination

Sometimes I find a prayer that expresses our shortcomings and asks Our Savior to fill us with hope.

As a general category, I’ll call these…Prayers for Illumination

Blessed Father

You have called us to live in faith and freedom

    but we live with tightness in our chest.

You have called us to move in a new direction

    but we cling to the familiar path we know.

You have called us to reach out in love to your children

    but we draw inward for protection.

You have called us to live boldly, trusting You

    but we live carefully, in fear.

Help us to understand that your Word is 

one of communion, not domination

    one of welcome, not exclusion

        one of liberation, not oppression.

Be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.

In your holy son’s name, we faithfully pray.


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NHL Owners: Earn my loyalty back!

I am a long time hockey fan. Growing up in Chicago, my first team was the Blackhawks. I remember the owners, the Wirtz family, refused to allow the first period of home games to be broadcast on LOCAL RADIO. This would ensure that everybody who wanted a full game, would go to Chicago Stadium. Wirtz also refused to allow home games on local TV. Yet, when a dinky regional cable outfit, SportsChannel, won the NHL TV broadcast rights, I spent many nights at a sportsbar watching hockey because I’ve never lived anywhere that carried SportsChannel.

Later in life, I moved within driving distance of Landover, Maryland and the first team I ever owned season tickets were the Washington Capitals. Later, I got a job offer to move to St. Louis. At the same time, the Blues head coach, Mike Keenan, announced that he acquired Wayne Gretzky – I accepted the job. In St. Louis, I saw Brett Hull score his 500th career goal and joined him at the Trainwreck Saloon later that night when he bought the entire bar a round.

Sakic retirement bannerLiving in Denver, I’ve seen the Avalanche hoist the Stanley Cup. I remember being at the Pepsi Center and seeing on the ice at the same time Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Its impossible to sit still when 5 hall of fame players are sharing the ice for one team. I was also lucky enough to be at Super Joe’s retirement ceremony. His #19 hangs in my office, just like it does at the Pepsi Center.

I remained loyal after the 2004-05 season. I thought if the owners were willing to cancel the entire season because they would lose less money than if the season were played, an overhaul of the system was necessary. As I recall, the players salaries went from an average of 76% to a hard salary cap of 57% of revenue. The players salaries were immediately rolled back 24%.

Teams dismantled their rosters, but the fans were given an overhaul of rules changes:

  • The red line doesn’t exist for two-line passes,
  • the team icing the puck must keep those players on the ice rather than get fresh skaters,
  • touch-up offsides,
  • no more freezing the puck along the boards,
  • speedy face-offs to minimize downtime,
  • the trapezoid in the corner when goalies cannot play the puck and
  • most significantly, a shootout to determine a winner in tie games.

The product on the ice was improved, games were sensational in person. Add HDTV and the home viewing experience has never been better.

The reincarnated NHL system was set-up to ensure if the overall revenues grew, players and owners would both benefit. The cap for the 2005-06 season was set at $39 million per team. Last year, the cap was $64.3 million. With a $25 million increase in 7 years, you would think the league, owners and players were all doing well.

This brings us to the unmitigated disaster of 2012. The owners felt they were overwhelming winners in the last lockout, they used the strategy again. But, this time there were two major differences:

  1. The system wasn’t flawed, the primary motivation for this lockout was owner greed.
  2. Fans learned that the world didn’t stop when the 04-05 season was canceled.

We found other ways to occupy our time and spend our disposable income. For example: I am a much better skier now than in 2004. I’ve spent more money on lift tickets than hockey tickets since the canceled 04-05 NHL season.

Do you know what is even worse? The disposable income issue is not even the biggest problem for the NHL. I see APATHY among my friends, family and fans when it comes to the NHL. I know why. People are not going to make a financial and emotional investment in something they cannot trust. Who trusts Gary Bettman and NHL owners? I have very little confidence that a 10-year agreement means total labor peace. Who would be surprised…if at the first sign that owners aren’t getting their internal ROI, they just demand another lockout and tangle up the collective bargaining agreement in court.

So, what can the NHL do to win my loyalty back? For starters, resolve the outstanding issues with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and agree to allow NHL players to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics starting one year from today in Sochi, Russia. Can the NHL be seriously considering not allowing players under contract play in the Olympics?

Other than that, I don’t know what else to do…and I’m afraid, I don’t care nearly as much as I used to care. Trust takes a long time to build and only a very short time to destroy.

By the way, do you notice that I’ve never mentioned lowering ticket prices? Sure cheaper tickets are better for fans, but my loyalty is not for sale. Dropping a ticket price 10%, from $58 to $52 -will not change my behavior. It won’t! That is called a sale. Giving me a one-time deal is no better than a bargain-hunting groupon. It doesn’t make me loyal, it makes me think you are worth less.

Do you have any suggestions for ways the NHL can win us back?

Posted in Avalanche, Avs, Colorado Avalanche, Denver, NHL, Stanley Cup, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Racist or Obvious Parody: Volkswagen SuperBowl Ad

Volkswagen SuperBowl AdBefore you get into the controversy, click the image to take a look at this Sunday’s SuperBowl Ad from Volkswagen. 

What is your first reaction? Funny? Offensive? Effective? Racist?

Sit with that reaction for a minute. There are influential people that believe the ad is racist and are chastising Volkswagen.

On this morning’s Today Show, check out the following exchange: (I’m transcribed the interaction rather than a video because NBC will likely have me remove the video)

Matt Lauer is interviewing Ad Critic Barbara Lippert. Lippert was with Adweek for more than 20 years before leaving for

Matt Lauer: First reaction when you see the ad?

Barbara Lippert: I was shocked. Didn’t anyone look at this? This is so racist. My problem with it is that there’s no link to Volkswagen. Its a German car and they are showing happy people because they have black accents. And maybe Jamaicans didn’t find it offensive for a Jamaican Beer or something, but it’s just saying that black people are happy.

Matt Lauer: I take a completely different view of it. I have to be honest with you. I thought if you buy this car, it puts you in a happy place and what’s happier than all the memories we have on being on beautiful islands on island time? That’s the way i took it.

Go back to your initial reaction when you saw the ad. Whose opinion do you more closely align with Barbara or Matt?

Here is my opinion and analysis:

This is a humorous ad delivered using obvious parody. When you first hear the Jamaican voice in the elevator, you have a mental image of the person saying those words. When the person is revealed to be a 6’5″ clean-cut white guy, you now have the necessary tension that makes this ad effective. You are engaged with the scene as your mind shifts its paradigm. Then, you are treated to funny vignettes, which engages you emotionally. If an ad doesn’t connect emotionally, it doesn’t work. (My fave: Don’t fret brother, sticky bun come soon) Next, you get the real payoff to show this is not a racist ad – when is the question asked to Dave, “You’re from Minnesota, right?”

Dave acknowledges that he is from the ‘Land of 10,000 lakes’ and the natural conclusion is: When Dave drives his Volkswagen, it makes him happy. The hero in this ad is the Volkswagen. Driving a car makes you happy??? Yes, more obvious parody. Also, it is the link to Volkswagen that the ad critic failed to see.

With all due respect Ms. Lippert, you are seeking to be offended from something that is not offensive. Candidly, I am stunned that your claim of a racist ad is based Volkswagen using “black accents.” Jamaica is a country, it is a culture. It is NOT a race. To address the people who could be most sensitive to the tone and content of the ad, Volkswagen Marketing Officer, Tim Mahoney, said Volkswagen conducted research, including interviewing more than 100 Jamaicans, to ensure the ads were not offensive to the country and culture of Jamaica. Well done, Tim!

So, what do you think? Has Volkswagen produced a racist ad?  If so, please comment below, but most importantly, help me understand what you believe is racist about this ad. Just calling something racist like Ms. Lippert did, does not make it racist. In fact, calling out something as racist when racism doesn’t exist is just as harmful to race relations. It adds to the confusion and ignorance about racism.

Posted in Advertising, Super Bowl | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments