Helping People Win at Work

Last week I attended a local PMI chapter meeting. The speaker for the evening was Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company, giving a talk on “Helping People Win at Work” and how he’s shaped the culture at WD-40 and inspired people to perform their very best. Garry was one of the best speakers I’ve heard in a long time; by the end I was ready to drop everything and go work for the guy, even if it meant pushing papers in the mail room.  During his talk you got the sense that you would never have a dull moment with Garry, and that he was loving life and wanted everyone around him to love theirs as well.

There were so many good sound bites out of the 60 minute talk, but I’ll try to share a few that I remember.  And I’ll completely butcher this, he was way more inspiring than I’ll be in my retelling.

Garry started off with an amusing anectode about an around-the-world trip capped off with what was suppose to be a quiet night in a London hotel room.  Alarm bells start going off, and after delaying for a bit,  Garry eventually finds himself in the cold night wearing only his underwear and slippers. The episode caused him to reevaluate his standing in the world; how many other ‘alarm bells’ were going off in his head that he was not paying attention to and that would leave him ill-prepared for the future?

I really liked his beliefs on mentoring and the proper context of the manager / subordinate relationship.  To paraphrase his analogy, the shepard is there on behalf the sheep; the sheep are not there on behalf of the shepard. The people you manage need your guidance and leadership to understand how to perform at a higher level, not your threats, criticism, and scorn. You are there to help them succeed; they are not there to do your bidding. This is also referred to as a Servant Leadership model.

There are no mistakes, only “learning moments”.   A learning moment occurs when you review an outcome, which may be positive or negative but never bad, and act on that to make yourself better. Of course, according to Garry, if you experience the same learning moment multiple times, “we’ll have to share you with a competitor”.

An organization needs a hierarchical set of values to drive behavior, otherwise people won’t know what to do when faced with difficult choices.

I haven’t had a chance to check out Garry’s book yet, but based on what I heard during the presentation, I’ll definitely pick it up soon.

Work Teams Concepts and Skills

In July 2005, I took an excellent class at UCSD called Work Teams Concepts and Skills.  It was one of my required classes for my project management certification.  I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but was surprised to find it very informative and applicable to many aspects of life.

In preparation for a move in a few months, I was about to throw out my notes, so I decided to copy them here for future reference before tossing them.  This is one of those posts that will be more useful for me than it will be for you, I suspect.


  • Characterizations are a form of assessment that you place on other people.  They ascribe a property to a person, like “John can’t manage a project”.  We hold these as unchangeable facts and we listen to others through our characterizations.  It can be very hard to strip these away.
  • The skills that got you the promotion are not the skills you’ll need in your new role/job.
  • Assertions are stated facts without evidence.  These will cause you to lose trust.  When you treat assessments as facts, you are viewed as opinionated and not open to new ideas.  When you make assessments without grounding them, you are seen as a windbag, someone who has an opinion about everything.
  • Transparent judgments are equivalent to invisible judgments.  You don’t have transparent judgments, they have you.  They drive your life and you have no choice in the matter.
  • Who has authority to judge you?  You need to give authority to the people you trust to make assessments about you in the domains you are concerned about.
  • An assessment is based on past events, made in the present, which shape the future.  A declaration is a stand taken in the present that shapes the future, with no historical background.
  • With a declaration, the world follows the word.  It immediately changes the future and creates a new reality.  The declaration can be valid or invalid depending on the authority of the speaker.  You create life with your declarations.
  • Expressives are a psychological state, an expression of feelings or emotions.  Interpretations can be disguised as feelings, but they shouldn’t interfere with them.  Whether I feel this or that is not subject to interpretation.
  • Conversation for Action – a request or promise or offer.  Nothing happens until a request is made.  Once the request is made, the world is changed.  There are new possibilities.  Hold people accountable for requests that aren’t made – this is a breakdown in the preparation phase.
  • A request will solve a current problem, once fulfilled.  You need to understand the context behind the request.  This opens up alternatives and opportunities.  Requests bring about action: I request [what] by [when].  A request can never be specified 100%.  There is some shared background or understanding that lets you make the request with less than 100% information.  In evaluating a request, passive resistance is not acceptable, such as not responding to the person making the request.
  • People must have the ability to say no.
  • Only the customer can declare satisfaction.
  • When promises are broken, morale decreases and people are no longer motivated to keep their own promises.  An offer is a conditional promise.
  • Anger: You hold me responsible for failed activities and projects when I don’t have the capabilities to change the core problems.  I’m held accountable for problems that I’ve inherited and you don’t listen to my problems.
  • Fear: I fear that you will view my performance as unacceptable because we are unable to deliver to our customers.
  • Resolution/Resolve: I know this better than anyone at the company and I resolve to make things better for myself and my team and meet all customer expectations.
  • Confidence: I know what needs to be done and I have been through more difficult times in the past.

Million Dollar Ideas

In no particular order, here is a list of money making schemes I’ve had at various points in my life.  Feel free to steal any of these; I haven’t had much success with any of them yet.

  • Turn my personal book collection into a lending library for friends and family.  Charge them a nickel for each day the book is late.
  • Develop a website where users can import their iTunes XML file and run fancy reports on which artists, genres, etc. they like based on their star ratings.  Charge per file upload or a yearly fee for unlimited uploads.
  • In the summertime, hike a cooler of ice cold beverages to the top of your local mountain and charge $2 a pop.
  • A dead simple “I’m reading” widget in Facebook with a link to Amazon allowing me to earn sweet, sweet referral fees.
  • A wall calendar called “The Bikes of Mission Beach.”  Each month would feature a different type of funky beach cruiser and the people that ride them (this is more interesting than you might imagine).
  • A cheap but high quality real estate photography service.  Have you seen some of the pictures out there in the MLS?
  • A web identity photography package; basically, a way for people to get semi-professional photos for, Myspace, etc.

Myjunktree and Comment Spam

A while back I wrote a brief post on my attempts to stop credit card offers.  Not long after, I received a comment to that post from someone named Kelset claiming to be a satisfied customer of Myjunktree, which is a for-fee service that removes your name from mailing lists, etc.  The comment contained the phrase Stop Junk Mail, which was linked to the Myjunktree site.

Normally I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, but my spam-meter went off the charts when I received a comment a month later from Tim Henry, claiming to be one of the owners of Myjunktree.  His lengthy comment gave some background on the company and a laundry-list of services they provide.  Again, no issues with this comment by itself.  However, the IP address for Tim was exactly the same as for Kelset from the previous month (  Clearly there is some sock-puppetry going on at Myjunktree.

Further Google searching (1) (2) (3) yields many other examples.  The pattern is pretty clear: in the June/July 2008 timeframe, a lot of comments start appearing on blogs from either Kelset or Garetjax claiming to be satisfied customers.  They link to Myjunkfree using phrases like “Stop Junk Mail” or “Remove Junk Mail” to boost the website rank.  Then in late August, another comment is posted from Tim Henry with his marketing message.  You’ve got to assume that all these comments are somehow related to Myjunktree signing up with Fresh Start Studio in April 2008 for ‘identity, branding, website, and SEO’.

Some of my favorite bits of evidence:

  • At, Tim Henry posts in comment #14 that he moved to Myjunktree and is really enjoying the service.  Well, as one of the owners, isn’t that a given?  Looks like someone forgot to use their “satisfied customer” moniker instead of the “owner name”.
  • This question posted by Kelset to the Blogger help group, asking why he can’t see his blog, where he posts as ‘myjunktree’.
  • This comment posted by Garetjax to, of all places, Matt Cutts’ blog.  Oh the irony!  Clearly they have no idea who Matt is and his role at Google.  Still wondering why your blog isn’t showing up in search results?

There’s something sadly ironic about a company using sock puppets and comment spam to tout their junk mail elimination service.  I can’t wait for their “prevent comment spam” solution – I’m sure my phone will be ringing off the hook when that is announced.