People come to me for input on a wide variety of topics and I have no explanation as to why there is such frequency in doing so. My Twitter DM’s are loaded with questions from my— literally— dozens and dozens of loyal followers; I get stopped at the grocery store in mid-selection of the perfect banana; people try to pick my brain at the gym in-between deadlifts and frankly, as an introvert, it drives me crazy.
But you got to give the people what they want.
With that in mind, welcome to the first edition of my Life Advice mailbag in which I answer the tough questions concerning career choices, love interests, friends and family beefs and everything else. If it catches on, who knows, maybe it will become a regular addition to the already stellar DBB lineup. Amazingly enough, many of these questions (and subsequent answers) hold parallels to the goings-ons of the Detroit Pistons.
Long time reader of DBB, love your stuff. So get this, in 2011 I bought a failing company in a highly competitive but close-knit industry in hopes of turning it around. I’ve had very little reason to celebrate since my purchase. Historically, the company did reasonably well including being recognized as an industry leader three times in the span of 15 years. In 2014 I hired an out-of-work but highly respected Project Manager to help inject some life into a lifeless environment. He’s made a lot of moves, says the right things when questioned and is generally a good dude. After three years in charge, though, he’s basically given me one good year sandwiched by two shit years. Should I start looking in another direction?
Tom - Beverly Hills, California
First thing’s first, Tom. You’re in this for the long haul, right? I mean, you’re not one of those slick businessmen who takes on failing companies and tries to flip them to make a quick buck, are you? If the answer is no, read on.
Three years to completely turn around a floundering business isn’t a long enough to sufficiently judge the work of the new Project Manager. If he’s as “highly respected” as you say, then five years should be the minimum. At the end of five years, if you’re still not satisfied with his work, then go ahead and post an ad on careerbuilder.com.
One of the worst traits any business can have is a revolving door at important positions and Project Manager certainly qualifies as “important”. In general, people view constant turnover as chaotic and it leaves a sour taste in their mouth. Would you take a position if the previous candidates in that same chair were let go without given a real chance?
Plus, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Say you dump the new PM after three years - what’s the new plan? You’ll no doubt be starting over from scratch. Can you afford it?
You say this industry is close-knit? Well, guess what: whether good or bad, people love to talk and your company will be a talking point not only now but in the future. Fair or unfair, reputations go a long way in all business decisions.
As far as being a “good dude” - who cares. Don’t blindly give him a vote of confidence because you like him. Give him five years, every available asset and then make a decision. Good luck.
My brother would kill me if he knew I was writing you but he needs help. He’s the varsity head coach of a high school team that struggled last year after coming into the season with high expectations. The core group is on the younger side with mostly juniors and sophomores running the show. They’re a talented bunch, good kids and all but something needs to change. Help!
Jeff - Houston, Texas
Jeff, I’m going to ask you three questions and I want you to answer them truthfully:
Can you knock down 95 percent of your free throws?
Can you consistently hit 30-foot 3-pointers?
Can you sprint back on defense?
I’m guessing your answers are no, no and yes. Not everyone can do those first two even at the professional level let alone high school. What your brother’s team should target is mastering the variables they can control and let the chips fall where they may.
Getting back on defense takes no talent. Knowing your defensive assignments takes no talent. Watching film and preparing yourself takes no talent. These are all things that are controllable. Control them.
Second, the group should also have precisely defined roles and each player should know exactly what’s expected of them while pulling no punches.
For example, let’s pretend he has an athletic yet offensively raw big guy:
“Your job is to rebound, protect the rim and shoot only when you’re near the basket and that’s it. Be the best you can be at those three facets of the game then we can talk about expanding your role.”
The minute he tries some dumb shit that doesn’t include rebounding, protecting the rim or shooting near the basket, your brother needs to have a firm talk with him and remind him of his role. Sound harsh? Oh well
this is a business.
Defining roles and controlling what you can control will solve a lot of team related problems.
I’m a limousine driver and during one my recent trips to the airport—as crazy as it sounds— I absolutely fell head over heels for the passenger (we’ll call her Mary) I was driving. After I dropped Mary off, I noticed she accidentally left her briefcase behind at the airport before she boarded the plane; I have no idea what’s in the briefcase. During small talk on the way to the airport, she mentioned her trip was to Aspen, Colorado. My question is this: should I do everything in my power to get that briefcase back to Mary? I’m thinking I could grab my roommate Harry and we set off on a road trip to reunite Mary and her briefcase! How romantic, right?
Lloyd - Providence, Rhode Island
Lloyd, I’m not going to lie, that idea is really weird. Pump the breaks just a bit. Do you know Mary’s last name? Just look her up on Facebook and send her message stating you have her briefcase and that you’ll return it to her—offer to meet in a public place—once she gets back in town. DO NOT go to Aspen, there is zero chance that works.
Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time and hopefully this reaches you well. Without any say in the matter, I was recently transferred (including a relocation) to a new department in our company. This means I’ll have new co-workers, new bosses, new everything. The department I’m heading to has had no real consistent success to speak of over the past eight or nine years. Now, I’m extremely confident in my abilities but don’t want to step on any toes; how can I fit in with the current group but— at the same time— stand tall to help them right their ship?
Avery - Tacoma, Washington
Avery, I hear versions of this story all the time. This new department that your heading to seems to be underperforming in recent years, so why are you worried about causing a rift? What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll tell you: they continue to underperform and they’re in the same boat they’ve been in.
Seemingly what they need is authority both vocally and in action. It’s important the leader is ‘one of them’ as opposed to direction coming from management; someone who’s in the day-to-day trenches and not simply looking down from their ivory tower.
Don’t worry about stepping on toes. Their way has proven not to work; they probably saw your production from afar and said to themselves “we need a guy like that in our office”. Take it as a compliment.
You say you’re confident, prove it.
I’m organizing a bachelor party for a friend of mine in which there will be about 12 guys heading out of town for a cRAzY weekend. Here’s the problem. One (we’ll call him Jeffrey) of the guys that has already committed to go has told me in confidence that he doesn’t want another guy (we’ll call him Lord) to come along. Now, Lord has been a good friend to the bachelor and deserves to go but Jeffrey has a closer relationship to the groom. What should I do?
Charles - Jupiter, Fla
Charles....can I call you Chuck?
Man, the ego on this Jeffrey guy is something, he seems like a real dick. What Jeffrey has to understand is this weekend isn’t about him, it’s about the bachelor. 25 years from now when the groom is reminiscing over his party by looking at pictures or videos, his good friend Lord will be noticeably absent from all those memories and that’s not fair to the bachelor or Lord.
Chuck, these guys aren’t in fourth grade. Put your foot down and invite Lord.
Good luck to all of my readers, I hope you can find some happiness in your future endeavours. Until next time, take care of yourself and each other.