Sunday, August 10, 2014

Time to Turn a Page

As you know, I have been privileged to run one of the best utility companies in the country for more than 9 years.  Daphne Utilities has been a great place to manage and its future is bright  That's saying a LOT since the accomplishments we have achieved together in the past are truly significant:  
- Recognition from both The Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine for our winning workplace practices
- A bond rating of AA- since 2009 (even more significant considering the dire financial situation they were in prior to 2005)
- Multiple "Awards of Excellence" from the US EPA (water quality, customer outreach and environmental programs)
- Numerous "Best Operated Plant" awards from multiple trade agencies
-Multiple awards from the Mobile Area Council of Engineers including "Engineering mMnager of the Year" and
 "Engineering Project of the Year"
- Published articles in more trade publications than I can count
...and so much more!

However, it is time for me to move on and explore a new road. On September 1, 2014, I join the incredible team at Algae Systems as their Vice President of Operations and Market Development. We are treating wastewater as a resource, cleaning it of nutrients that can harm the environment using algae, which is then harvested and converted into carbon-negative crude oil and leaving only clean water. This process can truly have global significance and I extremely excited about applying my talents to helping this company achieve remarkable things!  It's exciting stuff and I am ready to get started! 

For those of you who I speak to regularly and especially those of you for whom I support with management support and presentations / training sessions, please know that this work is something that I am absolutely continuing!  Please feel free to reach out to me if you need my assistance in any way. I am here to support you and the building of great teams at your place of business!

Till then, wish me Godspeed on my journey.  I ready to get started!  Excelsior!l

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Download Link for ACE2014 Presentation

Thanks for attending my presentation at the American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE2014) in Boston, Mass.  If you’d like to download a PDF of my slideshow with notes, please follow the link below.  As always, if I can be of any help to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

DATE:            Thursday, June 12th  ( 9am )
TITLE:             “So I Have a Great Financial Plan…NOW WHAT?”

OVERVIEW: Even the best financial plan still means taking more of your customer’s money.  If you have not proven your worth to customers long before this, you will likely get pushback from angry crowds at your public meetings which will make your oversight bodies very reluctant to pass the rate increases you need.  Here are some low and no cost ways to begin communicating value to your customers now so that they recognize your worth when that critical day arrives to ask for their support!


If you would like more information on the presentations I can provide you and your organization to help you achieve remarkable results, please download my Press Kit at the link below:

First, Solve The Problem

This is not really surprising but the plan almost never went like clockwork.  Something always happened. Team members got captured.  People suspected a trap and had members of the team locked up.  Equipment broke.  The weather changed.  Wildcards were thrown at them all of the time. 
What made the team great, however, was their response when things did not go perfectly.  

When plans went awry, the IMF Team focused first on solving the problem, not pointing fingers at who was to blame. 

If Rollin Hand got locked up, the team didn’t waste time trying to explain why they were not at fault for him getting caught.  That would not have been productive.  Instead, they immediately looked to solve the problem first.  “Blame Allocation” was never part of the Mission.

At a later time, after the crisis had passed and the Mission completed, I am sure that Phelps had an after-action review so they could figure out exactly what happened so they might avoid it again down the road, but not in the middle of a crisis.
ACTION:  What do you or your staff focus on when bad things happen?  Is your first thought to accomplish the mission or save yourself?

 What about your Team members?  Do they waste time making sure everyone knows who is to blame, rather than just completing your mission?

What are you going to do to change this in not only yourself but in your team as well?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over-Communicate the Mission

Nearly every Mission: Impossible episode began Phelps briefing them on their mission.  Why was it important to do this?  Jim Phelps cared deeply about his people and knew that the best way to have then be successful in the mission was for them all to know and understand the mission…the whole mission, not just their little sliver of it.  He never knew when he or any one of the other team members might be hurt or arrested during the mission and everyone needed to know and understand the specific missions of everyone else in the team so that they could pick up the slack should one person stumble or fall.

He took the time to go over every detail so that each person was comfortable with what the goal was, how their actions helped ensure victory, what was going on around them and what contingency plans had been made. He answered their questions and stayed with them until everyone was comfortable with their understanding of the larger task at hand.  Hearing this level of planned detail helped assure each Team member that the plan was sound.  It wasn’t enough that Phelps knew the mission… the entire Team needed to see the big picture to ensure success.

At your utility, it’s not enough for you to be the grand puppet master and the only one to know the whole picture.  If you want your entire team to be successful in the long run, they need to understand how their part of the mission supports every other part of the mission.  They must see where they fit into the bigger picture.  How the mission of your utility is NOT to have a maintenance department…or a pump operation.  It’s to serve customers in such a way that they see and deeply appreciate your value over the long haul. 

It is important that your people understand the mechanics of the big picture.  For instance, if they want a pay raise, it is important to know that customers fund this with their bill.  Unhappy customers can raise enough objections to stop a rate increase dead in its tracks and can, therefore, stop the funding mechanism of a pay raise.  This is why remarkable customer service is so important to even the most junior field worker at your utility.  Don’t they deserve to know this important fact?  Have you taken the time to explain this to them or are you just assuming that they know?

If you truly care about your people and truly care about winning, you will take the time to over-communicate the mission in detail with YOUR team.   

ACTION:  Use every opportunity to communicate the big picture to your people.  Ensure that they understand their role in your overall success.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Links to UMC2014 Presentations

I just returned from the Utility Management Conference in Savannah, Georgia where I had a fabulous time presenting to two groups there.  

First was a session on the need for Media Training for utility executives.  The following links will provide you notes on this session:
Media Training Slideshow w/ Notes
Media Training Manuscript

The second was a session on performance management entitled "How to Deliver Oscar-Winning Performances at Your Utility".  The following notes will give you an overview of this session:  
Oscar-Winning Performaces Slideshow w/ Notes
Oscar-Winning Performance Manuscript

Do you need a dynamic speaker at your next event? I can help!  Here is a link to my Press Kit:
Personal Website –
Company Website –
LinkedIn –
Twitter –
Blog –
Email –
Phone -  wk: (251) 626-2628  - or -   cell: (251) 689-5020

Let Them Do Their Job

One of the things that Jim Phelps did very well was to allow his team to do their jobs without micromanaging them. 

Willy was an expert at logistics.  Phelps didn’t dictate how Willy was going to set up a fake hotel or hospital in the middle of a hostile country.  Willy was an expert at this and Phelps let him do his job.

Barney was an electronics expert and engineer.  Phelps didn’t tell Barney what brand of listening devices to use.  Barney was an expert and he let him do his job.  

Rollin Hand was a master of disguise.  Phelps didn’t dictate to him what brand of disguises to buy or how to apply them.  He was an expert in his field and he let Rollin do his job.

Remember also that there was a lot at stake... on "Mission: Impossible", Phelps was warned that every mission carried with it the risk of being "caught or killed".  On top of this was the fact that a failed mission could have led to the outbreak of war (including nuclear attacks!) Despite this, Phelps was smart enough to let his people do their job every time.  He didn’t dictate their tools or methods.  He judged them for their results. 

The last time I checked, nuclear war has never been the likely result of a water line break or a sewer spill.  If you think about it, you will realize that there really is time to let your people take ownership of their work and do their jobs without excess micromanagement from you.  They need a little time to think through the process, to plan a course of action, to gather the proper materials.  If you make all the decisions for them, then they will never learn on their own.    

What is YOUR job as a manager?  
- To establish what success looks like.  
- To communicate this to your people. 
- To let them do thier job.
- To judge them for results.
- To work with those who can be improved.
- To replace those who fail to deliver results consistently.  

You have PLENTY to do without doing your people's jobs for them. Stick to what is your and leave them to do what is their's.  

ACTION:  Let you people do their jobs and judge only their results.  This is the way to both win and build ownership amongst your team.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Let Them Know That They're Important

If your people are truly valuable and important to you, you should take active steps to let them know that they are so.  One of the ways we do this is by giving them our time and respecting them while we are meeting with them.  There is nothing that communicates disrespect quite like taking a call on your cell phone or checking email in the middle of meeting with your people.  Don’t do it!  (Unless you really are Jim Phelps and people are calling you regularly asking they should cut the red wire or the green wire to diffuse some time bomb, it is likely that you are not nearly as important as you think you are.)

Your people deserve to meet with you undistracted.  Turn your monitor off on your PC so that you won’t be tempted to glance over at those pesky email pop-up notifications.  If your phone rings, don’t even check it to see if its “important”.  Just reach into your pocket and turn it off.  If your people ask you if you need to take that call, just say, “No, I’m helping you right now…when we are done, I can call them back and help them later.”

If this just seems impossible, then try this cutting edge smartphone app that almost no one seems to know about.  It’s called “voice mail”.  Apparently, if you don’t answer your phone, your phone will answer itself, take a message for you and will play it back to you anytime you want it to!  AMAZING! (You really should try this!) 

ACTION:  Show your people that they are important to you by honoring the time you spend with them.