The Real Cost of Mediocrity (1548 words)

Try Harder, Overcome Mediocrity

Have you ever wondered what the real cost of mediocrity within your organization might be? Has there ever been a time when a mess-up by someone internally, proved to be quite costly in both money/resources and time/energy? Has there been a time when a mess-up by someone in your organization caused a huge toll on an outsider, i.e. supplier or customer? Training, ego and attitude can be the answer

In the world of selling, the real cost of mediocrity can be extreme

In selling, there are generally two categories: hunters and farmers. The hunters are the sales people, both inside and outside, that specialize in going after new business—their thrust is the hunt, bringing in new customers. Farmers on the other hand specialize in nurturing house accounts and business that the hunters have brought in. Too often, organizations will settle for farmers that are mediocre, or careless and don’t tend to their crops. The prices businesses or organizations pay for allowing this kind of behavior are truly unnecessary.

My first real job in outside sales, other than selling encyclopedias door-to-door, was in selling to retailers. The owner of the business, Ray Kahn, once told me, “If you lose an account because you were out sold, it’s okay. But, if you lose an account because you weren’t paying attention to that account—you’re out of here!” He understood the real cost of mediocrity. Several years later, I saw first-hand that he meant it. Ray fired a hunter/farmer salesman, Mike that had been with him for a decade. Unfortunate for all that were involved, Mike got complacent and lazy, losing a major account because he wasn’t paying attention to the needs of the customer.

When a farmer doesn’t pay attention, it is an absolute travesty

Mike was an okay hunter, but not a great farmer. This situation is not unusual. If you manage sales people and you tolerate a farmer not tending to their crops (accounts), I believe that you are just as guilty as your farmer sales person. It is you, after all, to whom they are accountable.

Not long ago, I traveled to the American East Coast to speak on selling at a chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA), of which I am a member in Los Angeles. This NSA chapter had been meeting at the same suburban area hotel on the same Saturday of each month for the previous three years. This particular Saturday in January was to be different.

The “you know what” hit the fan late Friday night

Following dinner that evening, my contact with the group dropped me back at the hotel where I was staying and where the meeting would be the next day. In passing, she asked if I knew that I’d be presenting the next morning in the hotel’s restaurant…during regular service hours…to the public? Their usual meeting room had been booked out from under them. Well, that was a surprise that was to me.

Three days earlier, when the NSA Chapter’s program chair called the hotel to check if everything was in place for their coming Saturday meeting, the hotel sales contact, Lois, told the program chair that they had no reservation for the group for the coming Saturday. And, Lois told the program chair that the room they usually use, along with every other meeting room and space in the hotel was also sold out. Wow, what a predicament! Even worse, Lois offered no possible solutions to a long-time customer.

The meeting chair asked Lois how this could be? Especially since the group had been using that meeting room the same Saturday of the month for the past three years and had an on-going relationship. Lois answered by stating that she thought it was odd that the organization had not signed a contract for the coming year. Lois continued by stating that since the hotel’s customers “call them” she didn’t give it a second thought. Excuse me! If I was Lois’ boss, I’d do to her what Ray Kahn did to Mike—fire ‘em! There is no excuse for this kind of behavior.

That farmer, Lois, definitely was not tending her crops (accounts). Can you believe it? Worse, the sales person was ignorant enough to state, “Our customers call us.” She sold the room out from under this group. Perhaps because the group to whom she sold the room was generating higher revenue? Perhaps she was only mindful of her commission check? Perhaps it was her way of telling this NSA Chapter that they were no longer welcome at that property? This clearly demonstrates mediocrity.

The Real Cost of Mediocrity

What do you think might be the real cost to the hotel from Lois’ debacle?

To the credit of the hotel’s General Manager, late that Friday evening, I worked with him and food & beverage (F&B) manager for over an hour looking at possibilities to make the next day’s presentation work, even though it was to be in the hotel’s restaurant, during service hours to the general public. The hotel general manager explained to me that he, and his staff had been working on the problem for the past three days. They had even called other hotels to try and move the meeting—but without success. Further exhibiting the real cost of mediocrity.

Let’s take a rough look at the real cost of mediocrity to this hotel:

A hotel general manager making around $100,000 a year, working a six-day work week equates to about $333 per working day. If we take into account that the general manager, food & beverage manager, sales staff and others had been dealing with the issue for three days and just add up the general manager’s pay, that gives us about $1,000 cost to the hotel. I’m sure Lois’ commission on the sale of the room and F&B was nowhere near that much.

Now let’s add in the damage to both the national brand and that particular location. This group happened to be a gathering of local-area professional speakers. Since many are intimately familiar with hotels, their expectations tend to be a bit higher than most. What will they say to local meeting planners about this hotel? I doubt it would be complimentary. If the approximately 50 professional speakers mention the situation to only one meeting planner over the following year—that’s potentially 50 local meeting planners that have received a poor report about this property. What’s the cost of that?

If only one of those 50 meeting planners decided not to book a meeting at that property based on what they heard, how many thousands of dollars would that property not receive in future revenue because of Lois’ behavior? Let alone the tarnished perception of this particular brand nationally could cost the chain dollars. Surely it would be more that Lois’ commission on that particular room, on that particular Saturday.

The Rest of The Story

This had been the second time that this property, or should I say Lois, had pulled this kind of situation on that particular NSA Chapter. As such, the board of directors immediately decided to start looking for another property at which to hold their monthly meetings. By the next month’s meeting, the chapter had already found a new home for their monthly meetings. That adds even more to the real cost, as the revenue from the chapter was valuable to the hotel during slow times.

Gosh, because that farmer, Lois, was too unorganized, oblivious, lazy, apathetic, ignorant or greedy, the real cost to the hotel’s productivity and revenue was, and will continue to be, substantial. What does this mean to you? In selecting and/or maintaining the wrong people to represent your organization’s interests, you will pay dearly for their impoverishment of skills.

Solutions

The TEA Master Key should prove helpful. The three key areas necessary to explore in serving your customers well are: Training, Ego and Attitude.

Training your employees well is a given, the subtleties are in their understanding the DNA of your organization’s culture and an advanced understanding of how to most effectively use the “tools” that you have made available to them. Understandably, this takes time, but few companies devote the necessary hours to this endeavor. And, if your employees are not continually learning, you must re-examine the limited value they deliver to your organization.

Ego is good, when kept in check, allowing one to be confident, yet not arrogant. Unfortunately, too many employees let their ego get in the way of their performance, i.e. too much ego that they never admit a mistake. Mistakes are good, if one learns from their mistake. Years ago, Ray Kahn would say, “If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning, and I don’t need you. But, if you do not learn from your mistakes, I don’t need you either.” Other ego issues revolve around one’s need to be right! In serving customers, it is more important to get things done, than to focus on being right.

Attitude can make, or break, an employee and a customer’s perception of your organization’s value proposition. Employees with an attitude of apathy are like termites eating away at the fiber of your organization and one day that fiber that holds your organization together will give fail. On the other hand, employees with the attitude of service, not servitude, flourish and with them so does your organization. Give your employees plenty of reasons to have superior attitudes—it will serve you well. Embrace TEA to avoid the cost of mediocrity.

Sipping from a Fire Hydrant (843 words)

How do I stop the insanity? Monthly, I get about 60 trade magazines mailed to my office. Daily, I receive about 10 electronic newsletters in my email in-box. And, social electronic networking—between Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, I’m bombarded hourly.

Information Assault

How about you? Are you finding it hard to decide where to dedicate your time? For over 20 years I have been listening to my friend, Dr. Terry Paulson, talk about “today’s” information flow is like trying to sip from a fire hydrant. Well Terry, it just gets worse—and the productivity professionals—yeah sure thing. We have a two-fold challenge; information flow and information retention.

For the Rest of Us

Back in the mid-1990s I used to teach a full-day course for the Dun & Bradstreet Foundation titled, “Managing Multiple Priorities” which was a solid program (for the day) on getting stuff done. The course was deeply based in tactics yet strategy is the real issue. Let’s face it, how many “pending” emails are in your inbox, neatly stored in an archive system? With how many sources of information flow are you dealing? Most importantly, how many much of this information do you really need?

A couple years ago, for some unknown reason, America Online closed the email account that I had been using for over a decade and I thought the world had come to an end. After a while I realized that it was no major disaster and actually was a nice spring cleaning. The point is that we hold onto so much that we might “someday” use and all that stuff is creating what I call, information constipation. Right this minute, look around your office. What can you toss? Before you read another word, get up and toss it—yes, I mean right now! Admit it, didn’t that feel good?  That’s what we all need more of; the willingness to toss stuff.

Toss and Block

The, what to toss question has both physical and emotional elements. Letting go of the physical stuff is generally easier than the emotional. As an example, it is much easier for me to toss my piles of trade magazines than it is to decide that I no longer need the subscriptions—thinking that I might miss out on an important piece of information. Then there is the issue of what to block all together. More on making those decisions later.

While reducing clutter in one’s mind and workplace is a very liberating experience, one must make decisions on one’s standard operating procedures (SOPS)—what to accept, to keep, to toss, or to block. This goes for both the mind and workplace. Without doing this, you will soon be, again, in confusion. Below, I’ve listed some helpful “dumping” questions. But first, you really do need to develop some sort of system for yourself on easily retrieving the stuff you really, really, really do need. And that is very little. Perhaps understanding why we do not get stuff done will help in the decision process?

Why We Do Not Do Stuff

The information below is from a survey I recently conducted. I asked the question, “What keeps you from doing what you say?” While I consider the first two items to be effectively the same, I listed them separately because they are subsets of the issue.

16% – Poor prioritizing

10% – Lack of time

11% – Fear of failure/lack of self confidence

9.5% – Lack of focus/distractions

9.5% – No motivation/purpose/passion

8.5% – Over commitment

8.5% – Change in priorities

4% – Circumstances beyond personal control

5% – Miscellaneous

18% – Denial (Survey respondents stated, “I always do what I say.”)

Reviewing the above list; which one is your Achilles heal? I realize that you may have more than one issue, however, there is one over-arching issue that when resolved, the others cascade behind and become resolved.

Getting Over It

At the end of each day, we all do a quick mental review and are either pleased or displeased with the day’s activities. When pleased, we sleep well—but, when we believe we could have achieved so much more; sleep can be an elusive commodity.

Below are some questions to ask yourself about the flow and retention of your physical and mental junk.

  • Do I really, really, really need to look at this?
  • Do I really, really, really need to keep this?
  • What’s the worse thing that could happen if I didn’t have access to this?
  • Am I really, really, really willing to tell others to stop sending me stuff?

My best suggestion is for you to adopt the philosophy of first only accepting what you really need and secondly scan and dump most of what you do accept. This will keep you in the know, and out of the clutter. The reality is, you will be able to find the info again if you really need it. The great lesson that I learned from AOL closing my account was that I really didn’t need all that information that I was hording. How about you?

Your Journey to Emotional Ownership (1056 words)

Pain and pleasure are such close cousins.  In life, it’s painful not to experience pleasure.  Too often though, it’s the holding on for dear life to familiar pain that keeps us from having what we say we really want.

In 1988 I joined the National Speakers Association, a trade group for professional speakers.  No, I wasn’t a speaker yet, but I wanted to be.  I had closed down my manufacturers’ representative company to accept a position of vice president for my principal manufacturer. Two years later, I found myself without a job.  It was now time to fish or cut bait.  Was I going to pick up another line and go to war with the manufacturer that fired me or was I going after my dream?  I went after my dream.  A decade later, I’m a nationally recognized keynoter on business alliances.

This experience, for all of the pain and pleasure, has yielded a path, my path to emotional ownership.  Since discovering this path, I have interviewed several business leaders and found that my path was also theirs.

Whatever pleasure you seek; there is usually pain in the way of having that pleasure.  I believe this path is also your path to the emotional ownership, of staying the course to having what you want in your life, both personal and professional.

In your personal and professional life you continually have challenges.  Challenges without solutions or answers generally cause extreme pain.  To solve or remove this pain, you must either move into action or simply do nothing and hide out.  Action means possibilities. Doing nothing is a formula for failure.  Doing what you have always done and expecting different results is called experiencing insanity. Nobody intentionally wants to be insane.  You will succeed at what you want through understanding and remaining on your path.

What is your challenge?  What would you like to do you are currently not doing?  What major decision would you like to make?  Your first step will be to think up ideas on how to deal with your challenge.

1. Idea:

Some ideas are gold and some are worthless. You must constantly seek possibilities to your challenges.  Earl Nightingale would sit with a yellow pad thinking of solutions to his day’s challenges every morning before the rest of his family awoke. Dr. Robert Schuller’s idea of possibility thinking is to list no less than 20 ways to solve your challenge.  His 20th is how he started the church that is known today as the Crystal Cathedral.

2. Excitement:

When an idea crystallizes, excitement sets in. Your view of the challenge is like a world of possibilities.  All is right as you are moving closer to dealing with your pain.

3. Hope:

Hope is the apex.  Hope without how will get you nowhere.  From this pinnacle the slow degrade begins.  As the reality of the challenge sets in doubt begins.  Unfortunately, at this point, hope turns into nope!

4. Reality:

When the reality of the steps, work and pitfalls involved in creating a solution set in, a feeling of hopelessness is not far behind.

5. Desperation:

Many people are living lives of quiet desperation.  Even people who are moderately successful find it difficult to make a new decision that would position them for greatness.  When the pain is at a level so high that anything else must be better, the point of decision is near. This is where tension can help you to mobilize, but too much tension can immobilize you.

6. Purpose:

Clarity of purpose allows you to see and understand the value of your struggle.  You must know you are playing in the right sandbox and for the right reason.  Now comes the promise of success.  Through example or belief, you now know success is possible and you can make a decision to go for the success.  If you are off purpose, are settling for less or see your world from the window of scarcity, you might make the decision of indecision and only move toward failure.

7. Decision:

The decision to move forward or to make no decision, the choice is yours. Knowing what to hold on to and what to discard is crucial to your well being.  This is where your emotional ownership comes alive.  No decision, no ownership and a continual decline.  Yet, with a new decision, all becomes possible.  Look for your emotional strength and security rather than comparing your self to what is not real. Be cautious of not falling into the impostor syndrome, thinking that you are not really good enough.  Look for your moments of decision. A friend quit drinking, and I ask him about his moment of decision.  He told me that it was one night while he was hanging out his second-story bathroom window, about to fall out and in a drunken stupor and realizing that he should change his life.  He said that he knew if he didn’t make some changes soon, he would no longer have a life.

8. Paying the price and taking risk:

This is the truth detector.   This is the point on your journey where you must internalize the intellectual ownership of your decision.  You must be willing to pay the prices.  Nothing good is free.  Having a track record of previous success and concrete examples of other successful person’s journeys will help.  It’s now time to stick your neck out!

9. Getting help:

Relationship building at its finest.  Nobody goes it alone.  Every successful person seeks help.  You may end up with some unlikely partners; especially people that can help you connect with your inner strength.  Receiving help connects you back to all your previous steps.  Also, you must accept help in anchoring back to your moment of decision.

10.  Accepting Success:

Self-confidence and self-worth go hand in hand.  Accepting that you are worthy of success is key. When you have completed your journey to Emotional Ownership, you do it all over, repeatedly.  Additionally, you must realize that you are currently at different steps in different aspects of your personal and professional life.

Every day you are starting another journey in a different area of your life; personal and professional. Your journey always comes full circle; you can never just sit back because another phase of your total life journey is about to start. Enjoy your journey.

Getting What You Want from Others (624 words)

Getting what you want by asking for it nicely

Getting What You Want

Getting what you want from others is easier than you think. I believe the single group of people, which do the best job of getting what they want from others, is children. Children are cute, persistent, and frequently down right demanding. And this works for them. However, for adults, there is a different set of rules. Apply the rule of delivering value first and getting what you want is so much easier.

Cute

While playing the big sad eyes card worked well with your parents, it does not fly with very many other adults. While there is an exception, I would be accused of being a sexist if I went down that path—so I’m not going there. An adult approach to cute is sincerity—which, by the way, works quite well.

Persistent

When a child wants something, he or she is singularly focused of obtaining that which they desire. Constant asking, whining, and temper tantrums are standard operating procedure. For the most part these are somewhat tolerated at some level. But, when an adult tries this they are shut down immediately. Children get away with only being focused on their needs but adults must focus on the needs of others.

Demanding

Children can demand, your boss can demand, and sometimes your spouse can demand—but, that’s about it. Demanding is usually a dead-end street. Rather than going up against a brick wall, adults have to search for the soft underbelly in getting what the want. Adults have to be very aware of the needs of others.

What’s an Adult to Do?

Since adults have to stay focused not on what they want but rather the needs of others, how do you get what you want? My first recommendation is to make relationship bank deposits before you attempt withdrawals. Here is an important caveat; each time you do something for another person, regardless of the magnitude, it’s still only one point in your relationship bank account. A whole bunch of little things generally adds up to more than one big thing.

Getting What You Want by Asking for It—Nicely

A friend that passed away many years ago would continually remind me of the three great words that will change one’s life: ask for it. However, he left out that the magic is in how you ask—that’s my addition.

  1. Reframe your request so it appears to serve the other person. Let’s face it; if I think something is going to serve me, I’m more inclined to do it. Most people are that way too.
  2. Launch your request in the realm of reality. If you ask for the impossible, there is no room for discussion. Have an understanding of the request compliance range (authority) a person might have.
  3. When you make a request of another, do so from the window of what you absolutely need, what you’d like to have, and what would really float your boat. Giving the person choices makes it easier for them to comply.
  4. If you want something from another person, first tell them what you can do for them. Hearing what you can do for me always puts me in a more pleasant mindset; resulting in an increased willingness to help you.
  5. Sincerity in requesting something of another is far superior to the Machiavellian approach. Sure, you can do a snake oil sales pitch, but today most people see right through it—yes, I know—there are exceptions.

Getting What You Want through Sincerity

In my half-century, plus of attempting to get what I want, I have found the most productive method to be sincerity.  Couple a truly sincere approach with the other four above point, and getting what you want from others becomes less cumbersome of a task. Surely it’s better than screaming?

The Nerve to Say, “Get Out of My Rice Bowl” (526 words)

To whom was this task assigned? You say it was assigned to me? If so, why are you meddling in a task assigned to me? This is a nice way of saying to a colleague, “get out of my rice bowl.” And you are thinking, “That’s what I should say to Jim or Jane.” However, you remain silent.

If the above scenario rings true for you; might I suggest that you answer this next question? What’s the price for not speaking up? Yes, what’s the personal, professional, and organizational price for not speaking up?

“But,” you say, “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.” Gosh, you think it is okay for them to put their nose in your business but it is not okay for you to suggest to them that they keep it out? How’s the logic of this working for you? For me, it’s not.

Conservatively, many organizations suffer from 20% productivity losses due to redundant efforts and organizational sabotage. With the above number, you can easily monetize the cost of another person getting into your rice bowl. Do these offenders deserve to squander that much of your company’s resources? I don’t think so.

What’s the personal price you pay for letting others get into your rice bowl?

  1. Immobilization; getting nothing else done because of your anger.
  2. Resentment; starting to take your frustrations out on others.

These prices are simply too high for any reasonable person. Since you are a reasonable person, what are you going to do?

No, going postal is not the answer. The answer is that you are going to learn how to stand up for yourself and be willing to tell others to get out of your rice bowl. You’ll be so much happier and more productive once you do. You start with admitting that you’ve been weak. People at work call you Matt, and walk all over you. That’s the past, not the future.

  1. Say this to yourself, “I’m done taking dirt from one hole and putting it into another, then another, and another.” Excellent! How did that fell? You say it felt good? It’s going to feel even better when you stand up to Jim or Jane and politely tell them to stay out of your rice bowl. Spinning your wheels is just no fun.
  1. Now say, “We’re done squandering resources around here.” Yes, when people in an organization are unwittingly conducting redundant activity—resources are truly being squandered. Adding insult to injury; too much opportunity has been lost.
  1. Say, “The days of lost productivity are gone.” Rice bowl invaders are saboteurs of all things good in an organization. You want to do better, you want to improve your situation, and you want the madness to stop.

“But,” you say, “Jim or Jane will yell at me if I tell them to get out of my rice bowl.” I guarantee you this, if you do nothing; they will continue to walk all over you. However, if you repeat the three affirmations listed above, several times a day for just one week; your self-talk will change—for the better. It’s now up to you…

Will the Real Leader Please Stand? (1016 words)

Today’s organizational leaders have much working against their success. Sometimes leaders can be their own worst enemy. However, this is not cause to crawl under a rock and hunker down for the duration of these difficult times. Sure, the press almost daily is exposing yet another dishonest corporate executive, especially in the financial industries, but that’s not you. Business enjoyed a good half-decade run, following the 911 recovery, and here we are again up to our, rear-ends in alligators. Today, more than ever, is the time for action—for demonstrating to your employees that you have a plan—even if you don’t. Get out of sluggishness and into action, today!

Make Your Rain Making Visible

Similar to the Native American rain dances of old, they were never performed in isolation, but in view of the tribe; to give the members of the tribe hope—your people need to see you leading the charge in action, not just in words. To build confidence within the people of your organization, they have to visually see your efforts to turn things around, including your personal rain making efforts. This gives them the hope they need to persevere during the current cuts, challenges, and fears caused by today’s economic realities.

This lesson was learned at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of North America, in the early 1990s—the executives learned the hard way; wasting one entire year in their efforts to change the organizational culture. The lesson learned was simple: people believe what they see, not what they hear. The executives were telling everyone what they wanted to happen but were not living the vision themselves.

Similarly, a friend’s mistake has always stayed with me. He and his investors went bankrupt on a golf course project in the 1970s. Their 20/20 hindsight revealed that their mistake was that of spending their money building the golf course before they built the club house. Potential members could not see the progress from the earth moving in the distance so many decided not to act on the special pre-opening offer; money the group badly needed to finish the project. Most people have to see it to believe.

What’s Old Might be New

Robert Rickenbach, owner of a fiber optics connector fabrication company discovered that the railroad in India could use his connectors in a different application than for which they were originally designed and opened an unexpected international market for his company. What about you? What unexpected, or explored, markets could benefit from your products, services, and other offerings?

In your effort to develop new markets, new applications, and/or new products and services, how much time have you spent? It has been said by persons wiser than I, that most people spend more time planning their vacation than they spend planning their life. What about the success of your organization? How much time have you spent in REAL product/market development strategic planning sessions? For most, not much is the honest answer.

Who can help? The quick answer is: your suppliers, your employees, and your customers. Sometimes innovation is a happy accident and sometimes it is the result of intense organizational processes, individual champions, and intellectual properties—and most times, a result of tireless hard work. What are you doing to innovate?

Back in the mid-1990s I served as a trainer for the Dunn & Bradstreet Foundation, delivering full-day public seminars throughout the USA. One of the exercises I conducted when doing a seminar within a company required an unorthodox approach to problem solving. Interestingly, it was never the organization’s leader that came up with the solution but rather others generally in administrative or support positions. Proof for me that leaders need to encompass all in their organization for solutions to today’s pressing challenges.

Your Responsibility and Accountability

Let’s face it; nobody really enjoys the mirror being brought up close. However, in times like we are now facing, that is exactly what is needed. No matter how good a leader you might be, you know that you can do better. And, if you are a lousy leader, you are unlikely to be reading this article. Listed below are some of the pitfalls, conscious or unconscious, to leading in a recession:

  • Not being aware of the depth of your organization’s situation.
  • Not having a “rainy day” contingency plan.
  • Not being open to innovation in market, product, and process.
  • Not honestly looking in the mirror.
  • Living off past glory.
  • Expecting others to act as rain makers.
  • Hunkering down expecting the current economic situation to quickly blow over like a tropical storm.

Your “to do” list should include the following:

  • Honest evaluation of your organizations current situation through the traditional SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis process with your company’s stakeholders; first your employees, then with your suppliers, and last with your customers. Oh yes, and LISTEN! Generally the SWOT analysis is done only in the bubble of the executive suite, thereby missing needed additional perspectives.
  • Step it up and lead the charge, even if it is only activity for activity’s sake. Activity begets enthusiasm, if positioned correctly and your employees see that you are putting in the time.
  • Look to other industries for answers in as much as you can adapt ideas. It is foolish to think you can adopt, however adaptation is an important form of innovation that will serve you well.

If your organization is zipping along, perhaps you have already conducted the steps necessary to thrive? Perhaps this article is merely an affirmation that you are on the right track? However, if your company is struggling—it might mean that your leaders, or you, have been asleep at the wheel. The good news is that there might be enough time to turn things around and put your company back on the productive path. Plant this thought in your subconscious mind: your employees have been there for you, helping you to make your organization what it had been. Don’t you think you owe it to them to show up and rebuild? It’s their livelihood also!

Can You Call Yourself a Leader? (525 words)

Can You Call Yourself a Leader?

Call Yourself a Leader

During any era, especially these tumultuous times, some leaders fail to lead; and elsewhere, leaders emerge. Leading in good times is so much easier than leading in difficult times where the leaders’ mettle is tried. In leading others, rather than being about authority, it should be more about inspiration. Every leader in these times must ask him or herself, “Do I inspire those around me?”

Leadership, at the forefront is about trust; getting others to trust and believe in you, your abilities, and vision. Below are some steps you can take to better help you to emerge as a true leader in these times:

  1. To call yourself a leader, you must convince others that you have a vision. Your vision must be crystal clear to yourself and others, and must ring true so those you lead feel safe in following you.
  2. To call yourself a leader, you must convince others that you have the knowledge, skills, and tools at your ready that will enable you to deliver. Just having a clear and purposeful vision is not enough. Having the tools necessary to deliver the implementation of your vision is just as crucial. Your people must believe to the depths of their souls that you have what it takes to make things happen.
  3. To call yourself a leader, you must convince others to let you take hold of the steering wheel for the time necessary to move your vision into action. Without someone steering, nobody gets anywhere. For too many, the decision of indecision is their preferred strategy. That does not work in leading an organization through the land mines of today’s globally volatile economy but rather definitive action is needed. Any if you are going to call yourself a leader, take definitive actions.
  4. To call yourself a leader, you must help others to imagine how your vision will result in helping to make their lives better. Nobody wants to make their life worse. However, it is your job as a leader to help those you lead to see the light, the glimmering light of hope through ultimate actions. As you inspire your organization to be better, to do better, through your own personal actions. They are “listening” to what you “do” more than listening to what you say. Be the example of what’s right, rather then embody the problem.
  5. Celebrate every milestone on the way. As you steer your organization toward your vision, have milestone markers set up along the way and be sure to celebrate every marker reached. This helps those in your organization to viscerally realize that the organization is moving toward the intended vision.

Leading others is about building a trusting relationship with them; they have to trust your direction, strategy, and implementation tactics. Trust is the most powerful relationship glue on earth. To call yourself a leader you must earn trust; trust is not bestowed upon you based on title, position, or any other outward trappings. Nor is trust instant but rather an accumulation of all that you say and do. You must keep your word in all aspects; actions, rewards, and penalties—otherwise your word is only partially valid which actually translates to: no trust. Say what you are going to do, do what you say, and say what you did—therein are found your successful leadership strategy.

Our Sow, Does She Have Too Many Nipples? (880 words)

When I mention our sow, of course I mean the United States Government. I believe we can truly thank our elected federal officials for doing such a fantastic job of bringing home the bacon. If one were to visit www.cfda.gov, one would find the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.

We Did It to Ourselves?

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website proudly illustrated for the electorate is a pie chart at which Americans should marvel at the work done for them by their elected officials. This pie chart will inform you of “…a full listing of all the Federal programs available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia ); federally-recognized Indian tribal governments; Territories (and possessions) of the United States ; domestic public, quasi-public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups; and individuals.”

The pie chart (May 1 2009 updated) lists:

34% Department of Health and Human Services

21% Department of Agriculture

19% Department of the Interior

12% Department of Education

11% Department of Housing and Urban Development

Bringing Home Too Much Bacon?

An agency search at the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance website yields 63 agencies. While some make perfect sense for their existence, others will definitely make you wonder. Further searches reveal 1893 programs listed and 3229 Regional offices. One might argue the point that this is a demonstration of both government excess and patrician payoff. I’m sure you can list a number of recent anecdotal examples government excess and squander-style spending from your own circles of friends, colleagues, and clients.

Perception is Reality

While I’m confidant that our Federal politicians could, via double-speak, justify every agency and every program—they would have to, or why do these agencies and programs exist? However, I believe that most reasonable and curious Americans would do a double take at the way our government spends our tax dollars.

Even if many of the agencies and programs are justifiable, which I believe they are not, there is still the ingrained perception of the American citizenry of gross government waste, incompetence, and protectionism. Does this mean that everyone that works for the government is incompetent? Of course not! I have met, and worked with a number of committed government employees that are fabulous at their jobs—many of the supervisors—not so much.

The Important Issue

I have stated in my seminars and workshops for years, “If you hire a lousy employee, you deserve who you hired.” The same goes for elected officials. We have done it to ourselves. Just to mention a few examples: single issue voters, uninformed voters, ignorant and uneducated voters, voters in denial, voters expecting reciprocity for their vote, exclusive-party voters, and (my favorite) self-interest exclusive voters.

At some point a society has to stop sewing more nipples on the community sow. Our sow can only allow so many to suckle before the sow goes dry. It appears to me that such a day may be soon approaching.

Our Responsibility to Give a Portion

I received a response from Paul Knecht about a recent comment I made. Paul states this about giving, “There is a rule. It was taught to the earliest Jews and is still taught to those who follow Judaism and Christianity. The landowners and their gatherers were told to not harvest all of the crops but to leave some standing so the poor, widows and foreigners could harvest also. There is an expectation that the haves share with the ‘have nots’”.

While Paul makes an excellent argument, the question is how much to leave behind for the poor to harvest? My argument is not the idea of voluntarily leaving a little for the poor but rather the fact that the various taxing entities (Federal, state and local governments) in theUSA pilfering an outrageous percentage of one’s crop. Paul’s example, to my knowledge, does not state exactly how much to leave, and I cannot imagine a farmer leaving 30-40% of their crop for the poor to harvest. That’s the “total rate” at which the greater majority of successful Americans are taxed today.

The Pendulum’s Swing

Should a society help those that are truly and honestly in need? I believe so. However, just because one stubs their toe, they do not need a $900 ambulance ride to the hospital—a ride and an emergency room visit that is paid by the local taxpayers. In a society, when the benefits to the needy outpace the earning capability of the able bodied, something is truly wrong. The sow definitely has too many nipples.

The question becomes, “How did we get where we are?” Perhaps the answer is that for many it was easier and more expedient to write a check to the needy than to lend them a helping hand? Then it was necessary to pay people to organize the handling of the checks. Then a time came when the checks were expected. Today, those checks are demanded!

At some point one has to stand up and say, “Enough!” At some point one also has to say, “Enough” to the politicians. Politicians see their job as being responsible to “bring home the bacon.” Do You? Perhaps the time has come for Americans to no longer give to those that only ask and refuse to do?

Responsibility—You Have Got to be Kidding (892 words)

Some Americans say it is the responsibility of the super-rich to be socially conscious by frequently demonstrating their benevolence. Why is this so—who made that rule? Simply by virtue of their ability to create wealth or possibly because of their birth; they are mandated to redistribute wealth—why?

What about self-reliance? When did that go out of vogue?

How about the American privilege to succeed or fail? Must everyone have a safety net placed two inches below their feet? Don’t you think such a safety net will dismantle one’s desire to succeed—one’s passion to succeed—one’s will to succeed? Where does responsibility fit in? Why must fish be given to the lazy? Isn’t it better to teach them how to fish?

I personally believe in paying community rent. I’ve done this my entire adult life; volunteering for youth fraternal groups, social service clubs, youth sports and today, running a 501 (c) (3) charity that I started a few years ago. However, I did this of my own free will and accord. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me do it.

For over a decade, I served concurrently as an American Youth Soccer Organization referee and a United States Soccer Federation referee—the former position for pay, and the latter as a volunteer. Frequently I would be asked why I would referee for free when I could be down the street being paid. I did both. I paid my community rent. And, it was my choice.

It’s All About Choice

Choice is the issue—my choice to volunteer to make a difference, or my choice not to volunteer. When the day comes that I’m forced to volunteer, my passion to make a difference will disappear. I recall descriptions shared with me by my Austrian friends, of Soviet era East Germany , with bails of hay sitting in fields uncollected and rotting because they were never picked up by the State. With passion gone, nobody cared to deal with the problem, because it was the State’s problem.

Apparently, America is on the path of risk taking aversion. Be clear on the idea that I’m not damning the persons that truly need a helping hand. However, I am damning the persons that are, daily, suckling at the nipple of the sow by the name of The United States Government or that of state and local governments. At some point citizenry must contribute to their society—one cannot forever take. If one chooses to take, and not contribute, they have not lived up to their responsibility and in my opinion, have not earned the privileges enjoyed by contributors to said society. Why on earth do freeloaders deserve a free ride?

Safety Comes With a Price

America is a relatively safe country. And for those that desire to earn their way, can select from countless communities in which to live. During my tenure as a soccer referee, I found it a privilege to safely spend a Saturday with local youth, enjoying the beautiful community in which I live, and not having to worry, as countless do in third-world countries, about improvised explosive devises (IED) exploding around me.

As with safety; infrastructure, higher education, geo-political clout, and freedom comes with a price. While my hat is sincerely off to all great Americans that have served their country in military service, there are also additional ways to serve one’s country—lead by example; demonstrate personal responsibility. Live an exemplary life by contributing well-adjusted offspring to society, by making a difference in one’s community, and by exhibiting financial responsibility.

With Privilege Comes Responsibility

This is where the rubber meets the road. Sure, we all want stuff—that’s the American ideal of consumption. And consumption feeds capitalism, our country’s economic system—and that is okay. Capitalism allows the citizenry to achieve or fail. While societal safety nets can serve, safety nets cannot be a society’s ideal, goal, or standard method of operation. People must be allowed to experience the anguish of failure in order to truly savor the sweetness of success. In America, we are afforded the privilege of freedom—freedom to succeed or fail.

Do we have the right to take away one’s passion? We do it by continually intruding on the lives of our citizenry with either social, financial, or emotional safety nets. My greatest fear for America is that we are teaching our citizens to depend on the federal, state, and local governments for their daily sustenance and shelter. If this trend continues, will there be any Americans still working? At what point will we disassemble our great democracy and fall into the carcass similar to our neighbor to the south? Shouldn’t it be your and my responsibility to stand up for the concept and ideal of privilege through responsibility as opposed to privilege on the backs of others?

Ed’s World

As I have continually stated, I live in a glass house and have not always lived up to the ideals that I espouse. However, I do not slit my wrists with a desire to bleed out in my bathtub, but rather pick myself up when failure rears its head in my life and try to do things differently, and with the sincere desire to do better. You can do this too—leading by example can be your wonderful contribution to society.

We Love Our Excuses (803 words)

Excuses reign supreme within the under achiever’s personal stand for both business and life—this doesn’t have to be. While I personally blame my three older sisters for all the problems in my life, the universe doesn’t care. All that matters to the universe is my definitive action.

I Need Help

Here is an overused word; “Please help me,” “I could use a little help,” “Can you help me out?” We are so used to asking for help that we have become co-dependent in the many facets of our lives. Ever thought of doing it yourself? Back in the 1980s Lifespring, an outcropping of Est, taught countless thousands that “hope with the how” was a hallow promise. Twenty some odd years later, I think they were right.

Exploring help and hope reveals why so many people in today’s society have excuses for everything. From the proverbial, “The dog ate my homework” to the tiresome old saw, “It’s not my job” we find ourselves mired in mediocrity—and it is not necessary. So what do you say, what’s your favorite excuse?

It’s My Boss’ Fault

When did your boss become responsible for your success? “When I was hired,” you say—really? So your boss gave you an opportunity to achieve and your failure is on his or her back? I don’t think so! Granted, there are some real idiots that have climber their way to extreme levels of personal incompetence in overseeing others; however they are not as prevalent as many would have their friends believe.

Sure, union workers have absolutely no motivation to achieve, but they are not reading this article. You are. Today, now, is the time to give it up. Stop blaming your boss and start looking in the mirror. If you are lucky enough to still have a job you can be responsible enough to make a difference at your place of work.

They Don’t Like Me

“They don’t like me in this department,” you say—so what! They are not paid to like you. And, you are not paid to like them. However, everyone is paid to be professional, responsible, courteous, and respectful of one another. If co-workers are truly sabotaging your effectiveness and success, then you have something about which to complain. If not, suck it up and get your job done. Do you think your company’s off-shore competitors coddle their employees? I don’t think so! Oh, you didn’t realize that your company has off-shire competitors—wake up. Everybody has off-shore competitors.

This Job Just Isn’t Fulfilling

“This job doesn’t float my boat,” you say? OMG, it’s not 1985. Sure thing; we all want a fulfilling position and some of us are lucky enough to have such a job—or were smart enough to select a career they love. While you might read volumes about X-gen and Y-gen workers and about all their demands, most of that went out the door when the recession started. As a matter of fact, many boomers lost so much of their retirement in the collapse that thousands are delaying their retirement or are returning to work. I’m not suggesting that employers go back to pre-1920 policies of worker abuse but I am suggesting that we are in a time of balance. I realize that many believe the Federal Government will take care of their needs, but that is not a constitutional charge of the government. And at some point the money will run out–dramatically reducing entitlement programs. My suggestion is this; if you have a job, be appreciative and work hard to serve your employer.

I’m the Wrong Color, or Gender, or…

“The world is against me,” you say? Have you noticed who the President of the United Stated of America is? He sure is not a bald old White man. It is time to get off the tired excuse of your skin color, gender, country of origin. If your English is lousy, I’ll give you that one…if you’ll accept that your lousy English is a matter of choice rather than a condition of your birth.

I admit that I see racism and bigotry frequently in business environments; I’ll also state that I see it emanating from people of all walks of life and not just one group of people. My take; the citizenry of the United States of America have become so sensitive to race, gender, sexual orientation, political, and religious issues that they have allowed themselves to effectively become immobilized. Don’t you ever get tired of whining? I sure do.

Where Are We Going?

Where is America going? Your guess is as good as mine. I will state this however; Capitalism breeds entrepreneurialism and entrepreneurialism is the sustenance salvation available to you, me, and to any American, just for the taking. So what’s your excuse?