Partner with Tucson Project to Support Children in Foster Care this Holiday Season


You Are Invited

To spread the gift of Holiday Joy to children in need

Tucson Project has partnered with Benchmark Family Services, a network of professional, therapeutic foster homes and committed staff across four states, to present the 2012 Benchmark Family Services Holiday Gift Gala!

Benchmark’s mission is to work alongside referring agencies to provide stable and caring placements for youth in need of out-of-home care.  They advocate for children by ensuring reasonable opportunities for healthy physical, psychological and emotional growth and development in the most normal and least restrictive setting possible. The organization is dedicated to the process of making that happen, especially during the holiday season, and needs your help!

Your donation to the 2012 Benchmark Family Services Holiday Gift Gala will ensure that the foster parents of kids in need are properly supported as they care for the youth placed in their homes. Many business and community leaders are on board as well as hundreds of individuals. Our community is very excited and eager to see this project succeed. You can be a part of that excitement by supporting our youth with a donation of clothing or toys. We are happy to acknowledge your donation on our website and during our holiday event on Saturday, December 22.

Just simply visit one of the websites listed below to choose from any of the items on the BFS Holiday Gift Gala Wish List: -

Target -

Toys ‘R Us - Wish List #31923197

Wal-Mart - Wish List #80503262047


4 Basic Essentials Every Entrepreneur Needs For A Successful Business


Small businesses and the entrepreneurs that run them have long been considered the backbone of the American economy. Many financial analysts predict that the success of small business will be the vehicle that drives America out of our current financial downturn. Some key small business statistics, as reported by the SBA:

-       There are 27+ Million Small Businesses in the US.

-       Between 60% & 80% of all new jobs created in our country can be attributed to Small   Business.

In his book EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey lays out his “playbook” for how his small business went from a card table in the living room to a multi-million dollar national organization. The book lays out the basic essentials needed to have a successful business, which include: having a dream, creating a vision, maintaining a mission statement and setting goals. These are simple, but essential components to every successful business, project or life.

Most major businesses or projects started out as someone’s dream. But according to Ramsey, having a dream should not be a one-time phenomenon. He says that “Dreaming is the lifeblood of people and organizations that are alive and thriving,” and one must keep dreaming about ways to do things better, and though it always starts with a dream, it should never end there. Dreams are only dreams until you decide to do something to make them a reality. Ramsey says, “Dreams only become a reality when you pull them gently from the clouds and convert them to visions.”

Formulating a vision and sharing it with your team is the next step necessary to making your dream a reality. As you are formulating your vision, consult with other leaders and advisers in your organization. Take constructive criticism and feedback, as it will only help your vision to become stronger. Vision casting is an important role for any leader. Vision casters must sell their vision to the entire team. Present the vision in such a way that it makes team members really buy into it. This will take some creativity and a lot of repetition on the vision casters part. Remember to reexamine or restate your vision frequently. A company is organic, and as such, it should always be growing and changing. As it does, you should be constantly asking how the organization could be better aligned with its vision and great care must be taken to ensure that it reflects the vision at every point.

A company’s vision statement explains who they are and where they are going, while a mission statement begins the story of how they are going to get there. A good mission statement gives your vision clarity and definition just as a good vision statement gives your dream clarity and definition. Creating a mission statement can seem like a daunting task, as you must somehow condense the essence of your organization into a few carefully crafted sentences. A good example to look at would be Google. Their vision is “to create the perfect search engine.” If that sounds a bit vague, it’s because it is. They explain a little more how exactly they plan to go about doing that with their mission statement: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Google fulfills their mission statement in order to realize their company vision.

Once you have gotten your vision and mission statement hammered out, you should focus on setting goals which will help you achieve your mission. Goals cannot be nebulous or vague; they must be specific and measurable. They also should have time limits on them. Don’t make it a goal to “increase my customer base,” instead try to break your ultimate goal into several smaller, more attainable goals, such as: “network with 5 people this month,” or “make 10 phone calls each week.” You will be more motivated to accomplish them if they are actually attainable. This means that you should encourage your team members to make their own goals, as well. If they set them for themselves, they take ownership and are more motivated to accomplish their goals, instead of meeting your quota. Finally, put your goals down in writing. This helps make them more concrete, and serves as a reminder should you begin to stray.

Share your goals with your team. Shared goals create an environment of communication and team unity. Ramsey explains that having shared goals is like a sports team. Football teams know the goal is to move the ball down the field and cross the goal line. “When things go well we know the goal: put the ball over the line. When things blow up, we all still know the goal: put the ball over the line.” No matter the circumstances, everyone on the team knows and is aiming for the goal. With this sort of communication, there will be less frustration because everyone knows the play. Good communication increases goal ownership for all team members. “When there is a fumble, even one of the linemen…knows his job just changed; pick the ball up and do something your body was not designed to do, run across the line.” If you watch a football game, you won’t see team members just standing around when the ball is loose saying, “that’s not my job.” They will immediately rush to fall on the ball. Especially in a small business, there is too much work to be done for someone to stand off on the sidelines saying, “that’s not my job.”

Think of this section like a pyramid with a dream at the top and goals on the bottom. Accomplishing goals achieves the mission, achieving the mission realizes the vision, and realizing the vision makes the dream a reality. Each step of the pyramid is critical for the success of a business.

Managing Generational Differences in the Workplace


With longer life expectancies pushing back the average age of retirement, individuals born in different generations are becoming more and more common in the workplace. Traditionalists (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1965), Generation Xers (1966-1980), and Millennials (1981-1999) all have extremely different outlooks on life and all are trying to work in the same environment. Simple misunderstandings or miscommunication between generations can often create unnecessary tension. Some employers try to head off this future tension by keeping the generations separate from each other. This is a mistake because team leaders seeking to build the strongest team, should have a generational mix for many different reasons.

Different generations bring different perspectives to strategizing and problem solving that will often prove important for a team. Multigenerational teams can relate to the needs of clients and markets of all ages, increasing customer satisfaction. As the Baby Boomers (which made up 27.2% of the workforce in 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor) and the Traditionalists (which made up between 7%-8%) march towards retirement in the next ten years, their experience and wisdom will be lost to the younger generations. Properly utilizing the talent of the older generations allows younger team members to learn important business lessons from them. Team builders should celebrate the diversity, creativity, and richness a multigenerational team can bring to a project.

Conflicts over communication and perceived work ethic are some of the most common forms of generational conflict. The Traditionalists and Baby Boomers prefer more face-to-face and written communication than Generation X and the Millennials, who would be perfectly happy with an email or text message. As such, older team members may think that younger team members are not personal or respectful enough, while younger team members may think the older generations are too slow to respond, or unwilling or incapable of embracing changes in technology. Millennials think Baby Boomers are workaholics, and the Baby Boomers think Millennials are lazy or uncommitted. Generation Xers are skeptical of the sincerity of both, and Traditionalists just wonder why everyone can’t deal with this logically and respectfully.

Communication among the team about generational differences is essential. Often, a person will make a judgment about an individual without realizing that their judgment is a generational stereotype. Opening up the floor for a generational discussion keeps the discussion from being personal, and will make the team more relaxed and open. As the different generations begin to understand each other, their tensions will lessen. The benefits of working on a multigenerational team will become clear. The younger team members will benefit from the older team members’ vast experience. The older team members will benefit from the younger team members’ tech savvy and global mindset.

Speak to the Traditionalists professionally and respectfully, letting them know you value their experience and contribution. Be a little more relational with the Baby Boomers. They see relationships and business as more connected than the others. Encourage participation by asking for input, and let them know how they can make a difference. Generation Xers may prefer electronic communication to face-to-face meetings. Be direct and straightforward. Let them know exactly what you want and when you want it. Generation Xers love to think outside the box; let them know that you are open to non-traditional solutions to engage their creativity. Millennials do not like condescension. They tend to be positive and upbeat and appreciate the same attitude in others. Many are motivated by personal goals. Engage them by tying their actions to personal goals.

A manager must become ‘all things to all people.’ Millennials grew up with near constant feedback from teachers, coaches, and parents, so the annual or quarterly review will not suffice. Generation Xers tend to be more individualistic and resist micromanagement. Baby Boomers want their supervisors to be more democratic, and Traditionalists want managers who are respectful and logical. The key here is flexibility.

If teams were composed of people who were exactly the same, they would never be any good. Each individual brings different strengths to the team, and differences, even generational ones, should be celebrated as part of what makes that person’s contribution to the team unique. Certainly not everyone will fit into the generational model. Good managers will take the time to get to know their team members’ needs and preferences and not just stick them into their ‘generational box.’ Don’t try to hide or minimize the differences, they are your greatest strength.

Successfully managing multiple generations takes a certain amount of patience and creativity that few are willing to commit to, but the rewards make the efforts worthwhile. The first challenge for team builders is communication both among the team and between the team builder and individual on the team. Each generation favors different communication styles, and learning to communicate effectively with each will increase the team member’s motivation and sense of belonging.

How Lean Thinking Can Increase Efficiency and Productivity


During difficult economic times budget cuts abound, while the pressure to cut costs and increase efficiency rises. Some managers believe that imposing a temporary hiring freeze, delaying maintenance, or restricting travel will “increase efficiency” enough to get the organization through the downturn. This method merely creates the illusion of productivity, rather than actually increasing it. True productivity streamlines processes and systems, allowing key tasks to be performed quicker while eliminating activities that do not add value. Managers should have a management strategy that focuses on systems and operations. Systems are where value is created, costs are incurred, and level of customer satisfaction is determined. One of the best strategies to accomplish this is through ‘Lean Thinking.’ So, what is Lean Thinking?

Jim Womack and Daniel Jones highlight five core principles which define Lean Thinking as a means for understanding value (Womack, 2002)1:

  • Specify the value desired by the customer
  • Identify the value stream for each product or service providing that value and challenge all of the wasted steps
  • Make the product or service flow continuously
  • Introduce pull between all steps where continuous flow is impossible
  • Manage toward perfection so that the number of steps and the amount of time and information needed to serve the customer continually falls.

Supporting Lean Thinking is a toolkit of practical operational methods, such as value stream mapping and rapid improvement events. These and other tools help establish a culture of constant improvement.

The private sector has employed the lean management strategy to great success. The strategy was created in the Toyota plants in order to streamline their manufacturing process and allow them to build high-quality, low-cost vehicles. Companies like GE and IBM also saw the value of incorporating Lean Thinking into their company’s culture. GE says Lean Thinking allows them to “delight our customers and relentlessly look for new ways to exceed their expectations.” GE has applied Lean Thinking to their healthcare division, and it has drastically reduced ER wait times, allowing patients to be treated more quickly.

Lean Thinking does not belong solely to the private sector, as the strategy has many benefits for the public sector as well. Ken Miller, author of We Don’t make Widgets: Overcoming the Myths that Keep Government from Radically Improving gives three reasons why the government should adopt Lean Thinking:

  1. Lean focuses on operations. The whole point of Lean Thinking is to rethink the way we produce what we produce, to increase our capacity to provide value to those we serve. Lean recognizes that inefficiency resides in our systems and our operations—the way we have designed our work. Lean is not another planning model, measurement method, or accountability system. Lean is not a pithy slogan or something you tell employees to do. Lean actually focuses on the work of the agency.
  2. Lean has a measurable impact on time, capacity, and customer satisfaction. That is, it actually works. Lean projects produce amazing results, and they are often completed in as few as five days.
  3. Lean involves employees. Specifically, the employees who work within the process or system being improved. Government agencies have tried employee involvement before, with suggestion programs, quality teams, and so forth. While the intent of those programs was good, the focus was too small. Employees may be able to suggest ways to improve their own performance, or the piece of the process they’re involved in. But systems cut across silos. Most employees can only see a part of the whole system. Therefore, what might help them personally be more productive could actually hinder the larger system. Lean projects, on the other hand, involve all the key players in a system (including the “customers”) to analyze and improve the whole system.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports impressive results of their implementation of Lean Thinking. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control was able to reduce air construction permit processing time by 76 days and reduce the backlog of permits from 199 to 25. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources saw a 94% reduction in their wastewater permit processing time (from 542 days to 34 days) and eliminated the steps in the permitting process from 150 to 38.

The EPA reports that agencies employing Lean tools can expect to:

  • Eliminate or dramatically reduce backlogs
  • Reduce lead times by more than 50 percent
  • Decrease the complexity of processes and eliminate unneeded process steps
  • Improve the quality and consistency of work products and activities
  • Allocate more staff time to “mission critical” work
  • Improve staff morale
  • Enhance process transparency to internal and external audiences

It may not be immediately apparent to government mangers why they should apply private sector manufacturing techniques to the public sector. In the government of Scotland’s evaluation of their Lean Thinking implementation, they discovered “within the public sector, however, there is engagement with the principles of Lean, but less with the full range of tools and techniques. Most organisations, for example, used just a few tools, such as value stream mapping.” They found that many government managers did not find the tools and techniques used in manufacturing obviously transferable into service environments: “In some cases, the limited range of Lean tools in use in the public sector may be because the service sector has yet to understand the value, relevance or purpose of the tools being applied from within the toolkit.” Some tools may need to be adapted for greater process flexibility in order to better meet the customer’s needs.

Also, some government managers may not understand the real value Lean thinking can bring to their agency. The EPA acknowledges, “Many government leaders and managers didn’t join government to manage. Instead, they are driven by a deep desire to address an issue or solve a problem.” The daily operational side of management may not appeal to people who want to solve big problems or create bold new programs. A balance between policy and processes must be obtained. “But the key to results in government is a combination of innovative policy and improving the performance of operations. Effort is need to uncover and celebrate the value of improving operations—the work that gets done day in, day out,” the EPA continues.

Improving processes and eliminating non value-added activities allows government agencies to increase capacity with the same personnel and scarce resources they already have. This trimming down will also free up more time to focus on the agency’s highest priorities and new initiatives.

Teaching Your Team to Learn


“We all teach. The question is not do we teach, but rather, are we good at it?” John Maxwell says in his “A Minute With Maxwell” video clip that just as there is a difference between talking and communicating, there is a difference between “teaching”­—merely giving someone facts or instructions—and investing in a person’s life in a way that makes a difference. A good teacher is not just someone who knows her subject material, or even someone who can communicate her subject material; a good teacher is someone who invests in her students, and watches their lives improve as they apply her subject matter.

“The greatest reward in life is to pour yourself into somebody and then watch it take…The reward of the teacher is the growth of the pupil.” The ultimate goal of any teacher or leader should be to pass on what they have learned to the next generation—to watch them become confident and competent teachers and leaders themselves. By being exposed to their mentors mistakes and experiences, students learn what to avoid and what to pursue. From those new experiences, they learn something new to teach future generations.

In his latest book, The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential, Maxwell explains how ones teaching abilities affect the way their subordinates view their leadership. At the first level of leadership, people follow you because you have the title. As you learn to communicate effectively with them and take the time to invest in their lives, their perception of you will change.

If you want to become more than “the boss,” you must learn to develop the talent of your team and teach them to be leaders in their own right. Inspire others to follow you because of who you are, and not only because of your title. The difference between the position of leadership and the pinnacle of leadership is the ability to teach well. “There is no higher calling than to teach people positive things in life, have it connect with them, and watch them grow.”

Realize that everyone has the ability to teach, therefore, the art of teaching is something that should be learned by everyone, including co-workers, parents and anyone in our lives, in order to truly inspire as many people as possible. In business, these situations usually arise when certain workers cannot complete a task on their own, so they recruit the help of nearby employees to show them tips on how to complete it. Everyone can relate to this situation, since no one person can solve every problem on their own. We need to learn to lean on the experiences and knowledge of each other in order to succeed.

For those new to the workforce, realize that before you can even start you will have to listen to a teacher (your boss) on what to do. You’ll have to be trained in what you will be doing, and the basics of the company. So from day one, you will be exposed to teaching and learning. As you go through this experience, ask a lot of questions! There will always be something you need clarification on, and rather than waiting to run into a difficulty later, just ask as soon as possible. The idea of learning is to really absorb all the information possible.

The reason teaching and learning is so important is so that a huge group of people have a pool of knowledge to work with and solve any problem. If this is achieved, the company will operate with a high efficiency rate. Although it may seem awkward and difficult at times, the benefits for accomplishing this is are extremely valuable.