Archive: September 2009

“No excuses” is tough to live with in a recession

September 30th, 2009

No excuses is an important part of my belief system as a leader. Employees don’t want to hear them, and deserve better. As leaders we don’t want them, right? We don’t want to hear them from vendors. It is the worst thing to hear when you are on the phone and someone else blames another. I have spent a life time living and learning that excuses sound like defending. And defending it just not useful in any situation.  It drives a wedge right down the middle of the situation.
How wonderful is to hear no excuses? The best thing in the world. When my son or daughter actually listens when we ask them to pick up their towel off the bathroom floor without hearing, “it is not mine”,  that is a good thing. In business,  no excuses is a rare commodity.  It requires each of us to be humble. We might need to accept responsibility for something that is not fully ours. We might want to simply say “I can help you”. We need to learn it is ok to be wrong and to admit it. Think of the last time that you saw a press conference on TV and someone made excuses! All we want to say is if they had simply made “no excuses” and took responsibility, the whole thing would go away very quickly and the media would have very little to talk about! 
So as a leader make no excuses, and try on the following today in your workplace:

    – Don’t campaign for the job you have. Everyone knows you have it. No one wants to hear about how hard things are.
    – Try to practice the advice your mother shared. ” If you have nothing nice to say than keep it to yourself”. Employees and customers have enough to think about without our problems.
    – Listen to the great words of Dale Carnegie. “Be thankful for the problems of your job. They provide about half your income. Because of it were not for the things that go wrong, the difficult people you have to deal with and the problems and unpleasantness of your working day, someone could be found to handle your job for half of what you are being paid…”

Leading a company is like climbing Mt. Washington

September 24th, 2009

Some of you may know I have a passion for all things outdoors and recently I was able to tackle something on my “dream list“. Sort of like a bucket list, accept this is about maximizing and thinking through what you would like to do with your time versus checking them off like a “bucket list.”  This is all chronicled in the book the Dream Manager, which is a great read for leaders and employees alike.
So one of my recorded dreams was to climb Mt. Washington. This is the White Mountains of New Hampshire, home to the worst weather on the planet. Yes cold and windy any day of the year. You just never know what you are going to get when you get to the top at somewhere over 6,000 foot of elevation. Sometimes it gale force winds at 70 mile an hour or below freezing temperatures with late summer snow flakes! So like any sane person you go about making preparations for all the possible outcomes. You pack warm clothing. Some extra food. First aid kits. Sleeping bags in case you can’t make it to the huts. And on and on.
And for two days I hiked and at the end of our second day we had reached the summit! It was a mild 47 degrees and no wind. Mild for many places. Down right balmy and fairly unlikely in a place that gets a handful of clear, calm days each month. As I sat exhausted eating everything I could get my hands on in the restaurant of the weather observatory at the top, it dawned on me that leading a company is like preparing for a climb.
You can prepare, train, anticipate and plan for every possible outcome. And it still does not happen in a way that you plan for. You just don’t know what you are going to get. Yet in the preparation you proactively avoid problems. Little things do not become big things. Important when facing the uncertainties of mountain weather; doubly important in business. There are problems everyday in business. The real challenge is if you knew about the them or anticipated them in advance. A problem known is more than half the battle in most cases. So are you planned and strategic in your outlook for today and tomorrow?  What can you do today to cut off a challenge in your day?
There are added benefits to the planning too. When I walked up that mountain my employees know I am recharging my mind and spirit for what lies ahead while I wear out this old body. No injuries that time will not heal. And in the process I am preparing and planning for whatever my company will face next week and the week after as the economy continues its crazy dance. Are you ready to lead today?

Living “from the heart” is Leading from the heart

September 17th, 2009

I was taught to live life from the heart. To lead from it. To sell from it. Parent from the heart. You get the point. So much about business life mimics the rest of life. Insert _____ from the heart in all aspects of your life. It requires honesty, directness in communication and perhaps most importantly, some humility. It requires you to give it away and take risks. So much about sales and leadership today is anything but from the heart behavior. Leaders today are operating more efficiently because they must do so to survive. The opportunity is to include employees further in the business. They can take it. They want the truth. Anything short of the truth creates doubt and issues in clarity when it is needed most. I have made mistakes with this as a leader. Not to hide something. But because I thought they deserved a break from the pain of the recession. I let up a little. I softened the bad news. I told them it was under control — and it was not. I got real and they engaged.
Today information is not to be kept as advantage; it is best shared so the team can utilize it to better the business.  Leaders need to admit mistakes, not blame others. During times uncertainty leaders revert to hierarchy as a means of maintaining control and making sure there is order. “People have jobs to do, they can’t be worried with the strategic challenges of the business.” This is a major error in judgement. Outside-In® leaders get involvement. They seek opinion. They get others involved. They learn that control comes from giving it away.
Leading from the heart in an Outside-In® organization requires a change in most leaders way of operating.  Employees know the difference between the corporate line and real communication. Employees know what is plastic. Guess what? So do prospects. Sales people that try and dump their products on their prospects without involving them in the decision don’t make the sale. Those that look and sound like the stereotypical images of sales people fail. There is only one way to build business and that is by building relationships based on trust and credibility. Where real conversation solves real business problems. I find when I am myself, flawed, direct, open and imperfect in sales that people like it and you often get real in return!

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