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Learning about excellence from C. F. Martin – Wally Bock

Martin GAnother thoughtful post from Wally Bock

The airport shuttle was packed with musicians and vendors in town for the International Music Products convention where I would be speaking. Across from me were two young men who, it seemed, hadn’t seen each other since the last convention.

“So, how’s it going?” one asked.

“Great! Lottsa work, and the money’s good. I can finally get my Martin.”

In case you need a translation, “Martin” is a guitar manufactured by C. F. Martin. They’ve been making guitars with “steadfast adherence to high standards of musical excellence” since the first C. F. Martin set up shop in the new world in 1833.

Here’s how they put their principles in the preface to the 1904 catalog.

“How to build a guitar to give this tone is not a secret. It takes care and patience. Care in selecting the materials, laying out the proportions, and attending to the details which add to the player’s comfort. Patience in giving the necessary time to finish every part. A good guitar cannot be built for the price of a poor one, but who regrets the extra cost for a good guitar?”

Excellence is a generous but demanding master. Sometimes even your efforts at improvement can threaten to compromise your principles.

The current CEO is Chris Martin, the sixth generation of his family to head the company. Soon after he took over in 1986, he brought in an outside expert to help the company formalize its quality program.

One day, the consultant, named Vince, walked into Chris’ office and said, “Chris, people work really hard here, and I keep telling them, ‘Hey, we’re not trying to make the perfect guitar!’”

Chris Martin’s reply tells you everything you need to know about C. F. Martin and the pursuit of excellence.

‘”Vince,” Martin said, “we are trying to make the perfect guitar.”

Here’s Wally’s original

LeaderValues August Newsletter – Rose Valland biography, 3 Questions to ask your team every week

Rose VallandClick here to see this month’s LeaderValues newsletter 

Having recently watched (and enjoyed greatly) the movie Monuments Men, this month’s leadership biography, by Victoria Yates, is on Rose Valland,  a relatively unsung hero of the French Resistance in WWII.

Rose was instrumental in cataloging artworks looted by the Nazis, and her bravery was portrayed in 1964’s The Train and most recently in Monuments Men.

The featured article is 3 Questions You Must Ask Your Team Weekly, a practical guide to keeping things focused and on track in thsi age of rapid change and continual distractions. Külli Koort is the marketing director of Weekdone, a start-up that builds employee status reporting tool based on popular management methodologies like PPP and OKR.


3 Questions You Must Ask Your Team Weekly – Külli Koort



Leaders often get caught up with their own daily responsibilities. While the time deficit is becoming more pressing and the team’s needs are growing, there is one simple change to implement that makes your employees feel heard and improve your decision-making.

If there are few things we can’t change, its these facts that:

  • There are 1440 minutes in everyone’s day. Not a minute more and not a minute less.
  • There is a tidal wave of information and it keeps on growing.

Therefore, with the limited amount of time and the huge amount of data, how to spot the most crucial information with minimum effort?

It’s about asking the right questions and getting the necessary information for your everyday decision-making. You probably already have a world-class team, now you need a world class communication and collaboration process.

One such method is called the PPP process, or sometimes referred as the Progress, Plans and Problems. It is used by companies like Skype and eBay for recurring status reporting. As Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide has said:

“PPP reports communicate three essential facts about an ongoing project: progress, problems and plans. These are both informal and informative”

- Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide – The Power of P

So, which are the three essential questions to ask from your team-members weekly?

1. What are your biggest achievements for the past week?

This part reflects the first P in the PPP process – the progress. These are your employees’ individual accomplishments for the period ending. This section is something your employees should be most proud of by containing activities that are directed towards future goals. In order to have an overall picture, it’s crucial that everyone limits their answers to key achievements.

2. What are you going to do next?

This part communicates the future plans, or the second P if you may. These are the objectives for the next reporting period. Activities, tasks or items that need to be done and moved to progress. Writing these key activities down is crucial for every team-member, since it makes the executor committed to the task. In the long run, it’s all about the ability to prioritize and carry your plans through.

3. What challenges are you facing?

The third P, problems, communicate the tasks or items that your employees have planned, but aren’t able to finish. In an open and trustworthy environment, this is the perfect part for feedback and guidance. When team members are encouraged to answer this question honestly, it creates an amazing opportunity to spot the disasters before they escalade. So, don’t fire away with harsh comments, instead listen and recognize these brave people.

How to get maximum benefit out of these questions?

Asking these questions is easy, but in order to get actionable data and great overview, a more thorough procedures are required.

Overall, there are various methods how you could put PPP work for your team. First option is to ask every team member send a weekly email that includes answers to these three questions. This is the quickest solution, yet it fails to give a good overview of the whole team. Secondly, you could make one spreadsheet for individual use. But as the information compiles period after period, it gets harder to manage the data and tougher to spot the key learnings. What is more, as the time passes people might forget to update their plans, progress and problems on time. The third solution is to use an online status reporting tool, like Weekdone, that is based on the PPP system. The advantage is that each week, you get automatically compiled report bringing the crucial data together and keeping you always in the loop.

Whichever way you choose to go, it’s important to stay persistent and ask these valuable questions on a regular base. Make a pleasurable habit out of it and not an annoying duty by giving feedback to your employees based on their reports. This will make them feel heard and that their progress truly matters.

Author bio: Külli Koort is the marketing director of Weekdone, a startup that builds employee status reporting tool based on popular management methodologies like PPP and OKR. You can connect with her and the Weekdone team on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Hey leaders – 5 tips to positively powerful presentations … Robert Cordray

SpeakingGreat leadership requires great communication skills

And one of the most challenging forms of communication is presenting in public!

Public Speaking

Hosting a work or group presentation often comes with a great deal of anxiety attached. Many people do not like to stand up in-front of groups because they wonder how they are going to sound and if the audience will enjoy the presentation.

Fortunately, preparing yourself to properly articulate words and capture the attention of your audience will help to chase some of these fears away.

5 Tips to Positively Powerful Presentations

1. Plan The Right Way

Speaking extemporaneously is a gift that some people have. However, chances are you don’t have this talent if you are afraid of public speaking. Start drafting ideas for the presentation once you receive the assignment. By having at least a structure in place when you sit down to complete the bulk of the work, the presentation itself won’t seem so overwhelming.

Use notecards if permitted during the actual speech, and put cue words and phrases on them. Writing out your entire presentation and reading it word-for-word is not the best idea. Not only will the speech sound robotic, but you will be more focused on reading a single word than anything else.

2. Use Audience Interaction

Think about what you like when you go to a presentation or listen to a speech. Sitting in silence for a lengthy period isn’t fun for even the most attentive of audience members. Find a way to incorporate audience interaction into your presentation.

For example, you might start by asking a question of the larger group, or, if time permits, plan out an activity where the audience divides into smaller groups to discuss an issue.

You could have them fill out surveys or answer quiz questions as an ice breaker or as an introduction to the topic you are going to discuss.

3. Harness The Power of Visual Aids

Visualization is an extremely important component of a strong presentation. Audience members can hear what you are saying, but that doesn’t mean they will retain or fully comprehend the information. A presentation that delves into statistics needs to have charts and graphs to properly display them.

You can pass this information around to the audience members so that they have copies to take home. Use pictures to depict a new plan for a management team, or show images and video clips of a new product or service that your company is launching.

4. Know How to Speak

Even if you have spent the last few months preparing and you have the coolest graphics in the world, people aren’t going to listen if you don’t have some basic speaking skills in your pocket.

  • Your voice needs to be loud and clear enough for everyone in the audience to hear.
  • Looking into the audio devices available well in-advance of the presentation date is wise.
  • Make eye-contact with the audience members.
  • Know what language the audience speaks, and do not use words that they are unlikely to understand.
  • Find a tone somewhere between boringly formal and overly casual that addresses your goals while engaging the audience.

5. Strong Introduction and Conclusion

You want to make sure people are listening when your speech starts, and you want to make sure that they take something away from it when it is over.

  • Use a hook question or a quotation to grab their interest at the start.
  • When you near the end, reiterate your main points, and let them know how to contact you for more information.
  • Opening up a question and answer session helps audience members to recognize you care about their absorption of the material.
  • If you are selling something, give free samples.

Being a Trained Professional

Creating a strong presentation is important because this is the first impression you’re providing to the audience members. Using these tools helps to let the audience see that you are a trained professional who cares about his or her purpose and goals in the presentation.


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Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience. He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale

Original post by Robert is here