Commitments: Let the Game Come To You

Throughout my career, one of the most helpful pieces of feedback I have received is to “let it come to you.”  My first boss, Joe Haynes, gave me this advice.  I don’t know the origin of the phrase officially, but most often I have heard it used in sports…”let the game come to you.”  About a year ago, after an incident at my current job where I wish I would have applied this feedback, I decided to research a little bit more about this phrase.

One of the articles that I read was a review of Phil Jackson’s book Eleven Rings:  The Soul of Success.  In the review it explained Jackson’s characterization of Michael Jordan’s play.  He described Jordan’s ability to lay back when he wasn’t on his game, and to not force it.  Jordan had a deep confidence in his ability, and he never felt as if he had to prove his greatness.  This was contrasted to Kobe Bryant, who although a tremendous player, pushed hard even when he wasn’t on his game or when the defense had him.

“Jordan was also more naturally inclined to let the game come to him and not overplay his hand, whereas Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn’t going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns. Michael, on the other hand, would shift his attention to defense or passing or setting screens to help the team win the game.”  – Phil Jackson

In my career, I have always been the young one, feeling like the underdog.  I remember celebrating turning thirty professionally.  I felt like I no longer had to explain away my lack of years in life.  For some reason being the young one at the table made me feel like I had to go above and beyond to prove myself and build respect.  I would put the pressure on myself to be good all the time.  When things went wrong, I would overextend myself, giving more than was reasonable and trying too hard.  Let’s call it the Kobe Bryant model.  In hindsight, these moments were times that I should have just backed down…”letting the game come to me.”  This personal reaction, driven often times by a lack of confidence, often hurt more than it helped.

Today, looking back, I am grateful for these experiences as they have helped me to be a better professional, leader and coach to my team.  I have a renewed commitment to “let the game come to me” and to help develop this skill in my team.  Thanks Phil.

Marketing Plan Choices: What Do You Recommend?

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Do you recommend we invest in additional lead generation or shift our marketing mix towards brand awareness spend?  In just the last week, I heard or participated in this discussion at least 5-6 times within my team as we put together our marketing plans and budgets for 2015.  Although our operationally-focused company has a conceptual belief in building name recognition, our willingness to do things that build awareness, particularly things that cost money, is limited.  One of our company strengths is that we invest in marketing (and other programs) and focus on measuring their success with a laser-like focus.  The good…It brings an attention to execution excellence that is outstanding.  The downside, it often brings a lack of focus on long-term choices which cannot be simply measured.  The implication of this is those long-term choices often get put on the back burner in our plan recommendations.

It takes me back to my days as a P&G junior marketer, and the introduction of marketing mix modeling (MMM).  I don’t know when this process first took hold at P&G, but my first exposure to them was in 2003 when we were trying to effectively plan our multimillion dollar marketing budget and identify the right balance between advertising and trade spend.  At the time, retailer influence was growing dramatically, and the only way to afford the trade spend and price promotions being requested was to cut our television and print spend.  Was this the right plan?  If you looked at the traditional media metrics of reach, frequency, GRPs and TRPs there was no way to spread our message more efficiently than with these marketing choices.  As brand managers had a fundamental belief that investing in this media helped drive the effectiveness of our customer promotions (price promotions, coupons, displays at retail, etc.).  Our sales partners, and our retail buyers didn’t necessarily share this belief.  The beginning of MMM was an attempt to not only guide our decisions, but reinforce to these other important constituents how all of these pieces worked together to drive revenue.

As with anything, the results of this effort were only as good as the information and effort that was put into the tool, as well as how effectively we interpreted the outputs.  I don’t know if we ever reached the goal of driving cross-functional alignment to our marketing choices, but we did learn a lot.  At the core, we learned that all of our marketing choices helped make the others more effective….that in a perfect world we would run in all parts of our marketing mix simultaneously as this created the best revenue results.

Since then, the progress in both the modeling and the marketing analytics industries has been substantial, as has the shift to digital media.  About a year ago, the Council for Research Effectiveness published a whitepaper regarding the state of MMM.  Don’t read this one unless you are ready to geek out.  As I think about the conclusions in this analysis, one particular thing comes to mind:  no modeling, no analytics, no measurement of return-on-investment works without applying our human instinct to interpret the analysis.  We are often stuck believing that the “data will tell us something.” My experience is that although true, the data will tell you something, applying experienced-based reason and intuition is the critical step to turning data into something that drives the business.

This brings us back to the fundamental question for our marketing plan next year…should we invest in additional brand awareness spend (media and content) as a part of our marketing mix?  Smaller companies, like CHG Healthcare, don’t have the budgets to invest in sophisticated models such as those P&G put together, yet we still need to to make decisions regarding our budget and marketing plan choices.  So, my recommendation as we work to put together our recommendations for next year is spend time in the modeling, in the data and analytics, but to more importantly apply your reason and intuition and recommend what you believe to be the best plan to grow our business.

Having it All: Learning to Build My Energy Level

It has been a rough week.  I counted today the number of meetings on my calendar in the last three days and it was enough to scare anyone.  Answer:  20 in three work days.  I have another 18 left to accomplish in the next two days.  Add onto to this, my little two year old has a double ear infection which led to one night of about 4 hours of sleep.  This is also week two of my new workout regimen of CrossFit which is a bit intimidating just by itself.

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This is what it means to have it all!  Actually, I think it is more like a test of my ability to maintain my energy level.  I have always prided myself in having high energy, and dedicating it to whatever I am doing.  That said, the last few years have tested me beyond anything I have ever experienced.  I have won some weeks and lost some weeks.  This week definitely feels like it is stacking up to one that I have lost, so I thought maybe sitting down and writing down a few things that have worked in the past to rebuild my energy would maybe help me to make it a little better.

Energy Builders:

  • Sleep at least 7 hours a night.
  • Workout 3-4 times per week, even if it is for 20 minutes.
  • Close my office door and take a deep breath at least a few times a day.
  • Make a short list each morning (maximum of 1-2 things) in my head on my drive down the canyon of the things I am going to accomplish today and get them done!
  • Play with my kids as much as possible and let their endless energy empower me.
  • Try to learn something new every day.
  • Keep at least 90 minutes of free time on my work calendar.
  • Say no to involving myself in at least one things each day.

There is no secret sauce in this, but what I can tell you is that this week I am on track for only about two of these things.  Maybe that is why feel like I am holding on for dear life.  Let’s use this as my moment of learning for today!

Creating a System

I am excited to report that after two weeks straight of Jon traveling, our new system seems to be working.  What a difference a year makes, and it is a good thing.

Last year (2013/2014 school year), both of our kids went into a great daycare/preschool for the first time.  For Katharine (our then 3 1/2 year old), it was her second year, and for Matthew (our then 16 month old) it was his first time in any kind of away from home child care.  We were super excited about getting both kids a spot in the school as there aren’t many to go around, but worried about balancing two busy work lives with daycare schedule.  Once we got through the drama of the first two weeks of Matthew’s adjustment to the school, we felt like we were settling in.  Oh, but we were wrong.  The next 8 months proceeded to be full of sick days, Jon traveling more than he ever had and me trying to hold on for dear life.  On the positive side, the kids absolutely loved the school and were growing so much every single day.

As the end of the school year approached last June, we were thrilled to be planning on a full-time nanny for the summer.  It felt like it was going to be a vacation.  Not rushing to get two kids out the door in the morning, not dealing with sick kid coverage and unplanned time off work.  We had a great summer but those brief 9 weeks between school years moved faster than I could have imaged.  As this school year began approaching and our fall travel schedules began to fill in, I started to freak out  I seriously didn’t think I could survive another year like last year.

Enter problem solving mode….we ended up deciding to build a system.  We hired a wonderful babysitter help with the kids.  She helps us both with the kids and doing odds and ends around our house including a weekly grocery store run.  We are two weeks in to our new system and I feel like I may survive.  That this small choice to get some help has built more sanity in my schedule than I ever could have believed.  The downside – guilt.  I feel like I am yet again outsourcing my life.  What is it about guilt?  It seems to haunt me despite the positive energy the system is helping me to build.  Another topic for another day….

For now, I am highly recommending a system.  It is helping to bring order to chaos and allowing my time with my kids to be as positive as possible.

Commitments: Reach for It

 

Yesterday, after a long day at work, as I was playing with my kids at the park, this quotation that I found a few months ago came to mind.  I found it on a particularly rough day….one where I had been dealing with crazy political issues at work which caused me to stay late and miss most of the evening with my kids.  It seemed like I was realizing in real-time that I just couldn’t do it all.  That night, I felt ready to fold, ready to give in.  I got them to bed and spent a bit of time reading and trying to get my head around what to do next to stop feeling this way.  And, I happened upon this quote.  One of my personal principles had always been to “reach for the stars”.  I have always believed that in doing so, I stretch myself to make the best things happen no matter what hand of cards I have been dealt. 

Reading this quote, this was the first time that I had thought about the impact my “reach for the stars” philosophy had on my kids.  It helped me to realize that the act of me stretching myself was helping them learn that they could too.  Often with our kids Jon and I use the saying “never give up, never give up” to cheer them on when they think that they can’t accomplish something.  It is a line straight from “Dora the Explorer”, the most quality television programming we seem to watch these days.  Ironic that we say this to our kids, but sometimes feel like we can’t live it ourselves. 

This quotation was helpful to remind me during the dark night that I found it, and again yesterday, to keep trying, to keep reaching – to prove to myself and my kids that it is possible to be a good mom, a good leader, a good marketer and a good wife.  It doesn’t mean that I am always perfect at any of them, but I promise to always keep “reaching.” 

Becoming a Mother

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One of the ultimate moments the pieces of my life intersected was in December of 2009.  And I mean literally intersected.  I was about 7 days out from the due date of our first little one (Katharine) and after a night late at work, I came home and started feeling like it was time for a baby.  Jon and I waited for a few hours and then headed nervously to the hospital with our bags packed.  The hospital sent us through triage and let me know that although things were close, I wasn’t in labor.  So, we headed home and tried to relax….anticipating what was to come.  During the night, I awoke to what was more “labor-like” pains.  As morning approached, things kept progressing but given the false alarm we had the evening before, I wasn’t convinced that it was for real.  So, what else to do but keep working (from home at least).  This was my pattern.  I had been on a tear of working 65 hours a week for at least a year so I didn’t even think twice about it.  I had so much to do before I had this baby!  So, I worked all day…writing market research plans, deploying marketing initiatives, cleaning up email….all the while, in labor.  As the day went on, my clock was ticking and I just kept working.  Time kept moving, labor pains kept increasing….and I kept on working.

Needless to say, the work had to stop at some point, and ultimately so did the labor.  About 36 hours after our first hospital trip, at about 10pm after a long-day working from home we headed to the hospital again.  Under seven hours later, little Katharine Elizabeth Snavely entered the world on 12/30/2009 at 4:56am.

This moment of becoming a mother was something like I had never experienced before.  A moment of true love with tears of joy and a purity in the moment that rarely, if ever, existed in my life before.  Since her birth, I have experienced my life more purely than I had ever been able to before.  It is amazing the perspective a little person can give you.  Katharine helped me to realize that life is about choices.  That the choices that I had made before, such as working through labor the last day of my pre-kid life, had often been determined by my historical patterns.  That instead of truly making an active choice, I had often times been letting my past experiences dictate my current reality.  In a sense, becoming a mother opened my life up to me again by enabling me to choose to enjoy it versus just live it.

There is so much more to becoming a mother than this story.  I hope to share stories of motherhood here, and how it has helped me to enjoy my life, to learn, and to love in a way I never imagined.  Our second, Matthew Thomas Snavely was born 2+ years later in Park City, Utah – the place we had moved to to when Katharine was just 3 weeks old.  He was born to a mom that was much more balanced than the woman who wrote market research surveys through active labor with her first child.  He was born to a woman who had let the pieces of her life intersect while not allowing any one of them dominate the other.