Mediocrity — It Drives Me Crazy! (780 words)

Since I live in a metaphorical glass house, I’ll be the first to admit that I screw up—a lot. And, making a mistake is a far cry from simply being lazy. I’ll never forget the comment that my boss, Ray Kahn, made to me sometime in the late 1970s; “If you aren’t making mistakes, I don’t need you because you are not taking risks. However, if you keep making the same mistakes, I don’t need you because you are not learning.” These are very powerful words, and they have made a difference to me my entire adult life.

It’s Good Enough…

How many times have you heard this one? “It’s good enough for government work.” The government (pick one; federal, state, or local) might be deserving of this; however it need not be applied to your work. Every job has certain acceptable tolerances that are sufficient enough for the product or service to work properly.

What I’m talking about is outside the scope of acceptable tolerances. Is it acceptable for a school bus driver to only take a child half-way home? I don’t think so. So then why might it be acceptable for a worker to do his or her job in a half-ass manner? Do I want to buy a product or service that only does only half of what it is promised to do? Not so much.

I Just Can’t Stay Focused

Why should your lack of focus mean that I deserve an inferior product or service? Lack of focus, if not a medical condition, clearly stems from boredom and apathy. If someone has a medical condition that inhibits their lack of focus, you can be sure that I don’t want them operating heavy equipment or guarding confidential data.

I’m talking about the people that do not like their jobs so they go out drinking every night and stumble into work with cobwebs in their brain. I’m talking about the people that while are at work physically, they are mentally on vacation in Maui . I’m talking about the people that spend so much time with their noses in other people’s business, in the metaphorical “rice bowls” of their co-workers, that they have no time to do the jobs that they are assigned. I’m talking about the people that make the choice to defuse their focus. Who needs them?

The People that Work for Me Suck

I’ll never forget the comment an acquaintance of mine made when I visited his hardware store in my town. He told me that he had awful employees. I asked him who hired these folks and he replied, “I did.” Wow! Isn’t a person responsible for the quality of employees that he or she hires—apparently not—per this guy’s philosophy? My friend Larry Winget says, “If your life sucks, you suck.” Stinging words are they not? But, are the words true? I think they are.

While there are wonderful persons that run businesses and supervise workers, there are a few here and there that need to get fired. I’m not talking about the great leaders but rather the idiots that daily masquerade as decent human beings. I’m talking about bosses that couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag if their life depended on it, yet they are responsible for others. Bosses like this bring the worst out in themselves and the people they supervise. These bosses are truly deserving of an old fashion tar and feathering party.

What Does It Matter?

If you have given up on life, it doesn’t matter—just fake a back injury and live on welfare the rest of your life. Or, as I’ve heard it said far too many times; just get a government job. However, doing at the very least a good job and better yet a great job should matter to every American. The days of US nomination in industry are long gone. There is competition, for your job, scattered among the far corners of the globe—it matters!

Perhaps one of the reasons that Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great did so well is the fact that Americans love their heroes? I completely believe that it is the mandate of any employer to create an environment of success in which their employees can succeed. And it is the responsibility of every American worker to excel to their highest lever—otherwise don’t whine when jobs are sent off-shore or illegal aliens are hired because they will work for nickels rather than dollars.

What does it matter? It should, and must, matter a lot. If it doesn’t matter, what kind of a crap-hole country are we leaving to our children? It matters to me.

Personal Responsibility—What Happened? (941 words)

Your personal responsibility begins with your decision to jump on the flamingo

Personal Responsibility for Those that Select to Ride

Personal responsibility, is it your thing? The ability to communicate one’s opinion is a right; at least it is in the USA . But, what about one’s responsibility to communicate? Unfortunately, it is not a requirement. I believe every individual has the personal responsibility to communicate directly, sincerely, and honestly in situations of conflict. But, today so many want to play it safe and defer troublesome conflict by using a referee.

Recently, I read in one of the “Ask” columns published in the Los Angeles Times. A woman was looking for a neighborly way to resolve her issue of a neighbor’s cigar smoke floating into her townhouse. Unfortunately, the guidance the author of this “Ask” column offered was flawed. The columnist offered some data about the hazards of second-hand smoke and a recommendation to the woman to ask the cigar smoker to smoke somewhere, other than the smoker’s own patio. Sure thing, like that’s going to happen.

Outside for Solutions

Why do you suppose this woman needed to consult the “Ask” columnist about her challenge? Could it be, as John Grey stated in his book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus that women tend to solve problems by committee and she needed several opinions? Or could it be that this woman was not confident enough in herself to chat with her neighbor about the problem? After all, she did ask for a “neighborly” solution—leading one to believe that she was not an extremist on the issue. But, why does this woman think she needs a referee to help her?

I find it both interesting and disturbing that so many people believe they have to seek outside guidance for simple problems like the above. What ever happened to sincere communication? When did we quit talking to one another? Where’s the personal responsibility?

Recently I heard a Trader Joe’s radio commercial that made a pungent point. The announcer stated that, unlike their competition, Trader Joe’s does not have big screen monitors in their stores. Rather, the announcer stated that one would only find customers engaged in lively conversation with other customers and crew members at their stores. I thought about this when I visited my local bank branch later that day as there was a huge screen with some sort of programming on it. I guess it was to keep me occupied so I would not talk to other bank customers about how long the line was and why they did not have more help scheduled for the afternoon?

Talking is Good for Personal Responsibility

In contrast to what we all learned in school, talking is good. Listening to another person’s point of view and experiencing their window on the world eliminates distrust, misunderstanding, and encourages possibilities. What happened to sincere communication with others? In the above cigar smoke challenge, the woman could have acknowledged the cigar smoker’s right to enjoy a cigar on his own patio while also explaining the challenge she was having with his smoke ending up in her house. On this subject, I firmly believe that two people can have a reasonable discussion leading to resolution.

Since smoking a cigar is generally a 30-90 minute activity, she could have nicely asked the cigar smoker to give her a quick shout or phone call before he lit up so she could close her window until he had finished his cigar—each compromising a bit and offering the other a concession. Now how difficult is that? But instead, the “Ask” columnist suggested an in-your-face un-solution. The columnist’s un-solution will only lead to escalated conflict. Like the smoker is really going to go somewhere else and smoke his cigar after his neighbor get’s in his face? Sure, that’s really going to happen!

Eruption of Conflict

I have been a professional speaker and consultant in the area of business relationships for over two decades and it never ceases to amaze me just how many problems, in both the workplace and in personal lives, are caused from poor communication. This ugly problem seems to rear its head at an ever increasing pace. Workplace communication is frequently misunderstood and lacking personal responsibility on the part of the sender, and receiver.

What does this mean to you? In communicating with others, you have to take personal responsibility to be clear on the end result you are seeking. Only then can you make a request of another. Also, if you want something, you’ve got to ask for it—and not through a referee. Ask in a way that urges, motivates, and makes the other person feel good about giving you what you want. The woman that was seeking to eliminate the cigar smoke in her townhouse could have easily done this. How much more difficult would it of been for the woman to have had a conversation with her smoking neighbor, than taking the time to write to an “Ask” columnist? In the end, she received faulty counsel.

Reluctant to Communicate

Talk to one another; take a moment to be courteous and you’ll be amazed with your results. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out, just a little bit, by asking questions. Use questions that allow you to take the temperature of another person’s feelings and attitude. Then utilize the age old adage; listen twice before speaking once. Ask a question and then be quiet and listen. Let the other talk. Please do not try to verbally over power the person to whom you’re speaking—I see this all the time. Rather try to understand what the other wants and needs. Make an effort to help them get what they want and they will be more willing to help you in return. And, please—be careful of receiving advice form newspaper “Ask” columnists…take personal responsibility.

Transforming Your Commitment into Reality (858 words) 

In a tough economy, it is quite easy for sales and business development persons to blame the economy for their lack of prospecting and follow through. It is equally as easy for business owners and leaders to hunker down into sluggishness and immobility. Put more bluntly; just blame your shortcomings on the economy, everyone else does.

The Question

What keeps you from doing what you say? That was the survey question I recently put out to a wide range of business leaders and solo practitioners.  I was quite amazed at one of the responses that kept repeating, “I always do what I say.” First, that was not the question, however quite a number of respondents seemed to feel it necessary to tell me that they were not guilty of my query.  Second, I did not believe a one of them. Be it to customers and colleagues or family and friends—even to one’s self; not a one of us ALWAYS does what we say!

Why We Do—Not

Below, I have listed for you my survey results. The first two on the list are one in the same to me; however 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 (I always do what I say response)

Total equals 100%

A Quarter of the Respondents

As I stated earlier, I believe that poor prioritizing and lack of time are one in the same. Adding them together and that is the reason one-fourth of the folks that responded offered as the key reason for them not doing what they say. Is the answer to hire a productivity professional? I really do not think so. These people need a reason to do better. They are in their comfort zone and are not being challenged. Unfortunately, their attitude is I’ll get to it when I get to it. If something really matters to these people, they will make it priority one and find the time—I guarantee.

What About Denial?

The next to the highest ranking answer category (18%) was what I refer to as denial—they just will not admit any shortcomings. Every one of the twelve-step programs for overcoming dependencies calls for your admission of problem as an early step. How in the world can you fix it if you will not admit there is a problem? Sure, some might be near perfect in doing what they say, in one area: customers,colleagues, friends, family, or self—but come on, we are all human and imperfect.

Pain Verses Pleasure

I believe that, for the majority of the population, pain is more persuasive than pleasure. Simply put, people tend to be more motivated to avoid pain than by the promise of pleasure. Yes, sure—you have examples to prove me wrong; however I will stand with my statement. And, if you really think about the population in general, you’ll surely agree with me—especially in the area of getting things done.

Mechanisms for Achievement

Regardless of the reason behind non-performance, ultimately you want to end the anxiety of lost opportunities and unfulfilled promises and learn how to get the things done that you said you would. In achieving the results you want there are four basic mechanisms for doing this:

  1. Do it yourself. You have a “come to Jesus” talk with yourself and motivate yourself to do better. This method tends to be short lived and you will most likely backslide into your old habits of non-performance.
  2. Get a friend to be your accountability buddy. If you seek help from a friend by giving them permission to hassle you when you do not do what you say, you will get things done for a while. However at some point your friend will give up hassling you. This is because at some point they will perceive that to push you any harder will damage the friendship and they value the friendship more than your productivity.
  3. Get a distant colleague as your accountability buddy. This method will generally last much longer than the first two as long as both accountability buddies are somewhat pushing equally. Since there is much less of a quality of friendship at issue, each will feel empowered to drive the other harder and for a longer period of time.
  4. Get a paid accountability advisor. If you are really serious about doing what you say, there is nothing better than a paid advisor. First, since you are spending your money, you appreciate the relationship more. Second, it is your advisor’s job to not accept your BS excuses for non-performance. A paid advisor with whom you communicate weekly, will in almost every situation, help you to go further toward ending your anxiety of lost opportunities and unfulfilled promises and help you to stay focused in the area of getting the things done that you said you would.