December 31, 2009

Office Gossip: "Did You Hear . . . ?"

"One who is too wise an observer of the business of others, like one who is too curious observing the labor of bees, will often be stung for his curiosity."

Alexander Pope
18th century English poet

What is the ratio of time you spend thinking/talking about your customers, competition, co-workers?

What do you think is the value of doing the first two versus the last?

December 30, 2009

Beliefs: The Easy Truth

"It is easier to believe a lie one has heard a thousand times before, than it is to believe a fact that no one has heard before."

Author Unknown

For years I conducted research on behalf of clients. All too often, what they assumed to be true was readily accepted whereas what they did not expect, was rejected.

"Tell me what I know, not what I need to know.

December 29, 2009

Ideas: Think of Something, Do Something!

"Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them."

Alfred North Whitehead
Early 20 century English Mathematician/Philosopher

Ideas are about the future and without them, you don't have much of one.

But without action, ideas are worth nothing.

How is your company when it comes to coming up with new ideas and of greater importance, acting on them?

December 28, 2009

The Future: Who's In Charge Here?

"The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating."


This will be comfortable for those who believe they control their destiny, not so much for those who feel they are subject to fate.

Which are you?

December 24, 2009

Relationships: The Role of the Individual

"As a general thing, people marry most happily with their own kind."

Robertson Davies
20th century Canadian playwright/journalist/professor

Professor Davies was referring to marriage between two individuals but I think this applies equally well to business relationships, which after all, consist of people.

To what extent do you consider individual differences in business relationships that involve you?

December 23, 2009

Employees: On Their Own?

"The will to win is useless if you don't have the will to prepare."

Thane Yost

This relates to yesterday's post; one of the reasons people fail to get things done as expected.

It makes me wonder how much discussion managers have with employees regarding how they will achieve their objectives as opposed to what those objectives are.

How much (if at all) should a manager get involved with how the work will be done?

December 22, 2009

Failure: "I Can Explain"

"It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn't."

Martin Van Buren
8th President of the United States

And yet so many spend so much time explaining why they didn't get the job done as expected/requested/required.


December 21, 2009

Betting on Decline: The Eternal Optimist?

"A lot of people become pessimists from financing optimists."

CT Jones

How many successful business managers do you know who were also pessimists?

David Tepper.

Are hedge fund managers who take risky market positions based on assumptions of industry segment and/or company demise, optimists?
Or is optimism only associated with positives assumptions?

How optimistic/pessimistic are you as a manager?

December 18, 2009

Management Tail Chasing

"I'll go anywhere as long as it is forward."

David Livingstone
19th century Scottish explorer

This makes particular sense when physically exploring because there is nothing worse than having to cover the same ground more than once.

But I think it applies in business as well.

Is there any good reason to pay for the same thing twice, which is what you do when you repeat behavior, particularly bad behavior?

December 16, 2009

Assumptions: Management's Achillies Heel

"The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable."

Paul Broca
20th century French physician, anatomist, anthropologist

While I don't know for certain, I am willing to bet that more plans fail due to faulty, unchecked assumptions than for any other single reason.

In other words, planning the future on faulty foundations.

And I would also bet there is a linear relation between unchecked assumptions failing, the more certain those who made them were that they were correct.

I'll have to check that.

December 15, 2009

Management Certainty

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."


And why do you think he feels this way?

Isn't the goal to be as certain as possible of the outcome of our decisions?

December 14, 2009

The Bent Truth

"What is the difference between unethical and ethical advertising? Unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public; ethical advertising uses truths to deceive the public."

Vilhjalmur Stefansson
Early 20th century Canadian Arctic Explorer, Educator, Ethnologist

You can tell the truth and still deceive, and not just in advertising.

Do you?

December 11, 2009

The Power of Reinvention

"You'll find boredom when there is the absence of a good idea."

Earl Nightingale

Your customers will be bored, your employees, you; literally everyone in anyway connected with your business.

But this is not limited to your product or service. Good ideas positively affect everything.

In addition to everything else you must do, do you consciously work to create new ideas?

December 10, 2009

Leadership: Paying Your Dues

"You're gonna have to serve somebody."

Bob Dylan

Is it possible to be a good leader if you were never a good follower?

December 09, 2009

Planning to Worry

"The nicest things about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression."

Sir John Harvey-Jones
Chairman Imperial Chemical Industries, Retired

So, is he in favor of planning?

What about you?

December 08, 2009

Do You Have the Right Time?

"Last week is the time you should have bought or sold, depending on what you didn't do."


It does feel as though we often end up on the wrong end of timing, doesn't it?

Or is it that our expectations are too often wrong?

December 07, 2009

The Power of An Open Mind: Can You See It?

"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."

Jonathan Swift
Early 18th century Irish essayist

I dabble in small, independent investments and as a result, meet a lot of entrepreneurs with new products and ideas. As you would expect, most do not warrant a second look while a very small number do.

Often these are ideas that most people initially reject; however, due to the entrepreneur's ability to see "things invisible", a few succeed.

How about you? Do you look for that which most cannot see?

December 04, 2009

Strategic Withdrawal or Doubling Down?

"The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will and the other from a strong won't."

Henry Ward Beecher
Mid 19th century social reformer

One of the most difficult tasks we all continually face is knowing when to quit.

In business, do so too soon and we miss opportunity. Too late and we are out of business.

How do you strike balance between the two?

December 03, 2009

The Truth: Not Exactly

"No legacy is so rich as honesty."

William Shakespeare

If you can't leave anything else behind, at least leave the truth.

But I will admit, that is unfortunately easier to say than do. From little white lies to massive distortions, we all at least occasionally misrepresent; if not purposely than accidentally (I think more often purposely.)

1 to 10 scale with 1 equal to dishonest and 10 equal to honest, how do you rate yourself? (I assume all responses will be anonymous.)

December 02, 2009

Finding the Best and the Brightest

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."

R. Buckminster Fuller


I suppose if we could always see it we would only surround ourselves with those who have it.

How do you decide who is and is not talented?

December 01, 2009

Evolutionary Management

"We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden."

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

18th Century German Writer

Paraphrasing . . . use it or lose it and that includes mentally as well as physically.

If you are 50, attempting to manage as you did when you were 30, no matter how successful you might have been, it won't work.

If you are 30 and believe you've discovered management tricks the older managers have not, unless it's that you need to evolve, you're in trouble.

November 30, 2009

Teamwork: All For One Or One For All?

"No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I suppose because all that rowing was always only about getting the shell across the finish line before the other team?

Maybe it's similar to the lack of attention paid to the effort of any one individual ant by all the other ants in the colony. If they don't all work, the colony dies.

But still, no praise for individual effort within a team?

November 27, 2009

Management: Age Is Only A Number

"Age is no guarantee of maturity."

Lawana Blackwell

Nor of much else including wisdom.

While the odds improve that one will be wiser, more mature as they grow older (because they've had more years to become so), whether or not that will actually happen is another matter.

Do you assume older managers will be better than younger ones, or vice versa, and regardless, why, in what ways?

November 25, 2009

Managing Versus Complaining

"Complaining is good for you as long as you are not complaining to the person you are complaining about."

Lynn Johnston
Canadian Cartoonist

When as managers we review employees and have something negative to say about their performance, are we complaining?

If so, is Lynn right?

November 24, 2009

Results: Nothing Less!

"Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts."

Edward R. Murrow

Often I heard from employees and kids why something expected would not be happening.

I found it difficult to explain that no matter the reason, our client, the teacher, coach, etc., wouldn't care why something they were told would happen, wasn't going to as they assumed.

However, as Mr. Murrow said, the fact that I found getting this point across to be difficult, did not relieve me of the responsibility to do so.

In the end, reward goes to those who perform rather than those who explain why they don't and that is just as true for us adults as it is for our kids.

November 23, 2009

Great Ideas! Everyone Has Them

"An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that only exists as an idea."


I generally like to hold back my thoughts hoping to hear yours but in this case . . .

There are no perfect ideas, plans, etc. Even what in retrospect appears to have been great, most likely started off as something else and evolved to its current state.

Have an idea, develop it to a point but then take action.

November 20, 2009

Before You Can Tell Someone Else What To Do . . .

"The first and best victory is to conquer self."


Particularly for a manager of people, money or things.


If you don't have it, someone will impose it on you.

November 19, 2009

The First Step to Success Is . . . The First Step

"Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and not in reaching it."

Mohandas Gandhi

What did our parents tell us; it's not whether you win or lose but that you try.

Well, I'm not so sure all parents who say that, mean it every time, in every situation; however the concept is a good one.

And just as it is in our personal lives so it is in business; if we never try, we never succeed.

November 18, 2009

The Value of Consultants

"Good counselors lack no clients."

William Shakespeare

Do you suppose he was talking about consultants?

If so, my capability apparently varies one day to the next.

How about you?

November 17, 2009

Your Customers: Are You Listening?

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."

Bill Gates

How true, assuming you listen to what they have to say.

And now that I think about it, if Bill did listen, he has to be extremely learned.

November 16, 2009

Now What?

"Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness."

Marshall McLuhan

Eight words that say so much.

That we make and act on too many assumptions. That they have limited value. That they live on even when proved false.

But what are you going to do? When it comes to business, we know much less than we don't know.

The problem isn't making and acting on assumptions, it is not being prepared to change our minds when what we thought we knew, proved not to be true.

November 13, 2009

Self-Assured or Self-Centered Management?

"Too many people over value what they are not and under value what they are."

Malcolm S. Forbes

True, unless you are extremely self-confident (maybe too much so.)

Which are you?

November 12, 2009

Employee Appreciation

"He who does not thank for little, will not thank for much."

Estonian Proverb

Other quotes having to do with gratitude say we don't express it as much as we should. We feel it, think it, but don't say it.

They're probably right.

Everything we get and become is, to varying degrees, the result of what others have done for us and on our behalf and nowhere is this more true than in business.

What do you have to be grateful about and who have you thanked?

November 11, 2009

Employees: Let Them Do The Job

"Our work is the presentation of our capabilities."

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
18th century German writer

All employees should read and embrace this thought; however, if employers do not give them the latitude necessary to do their best work, they will know it and will perform accordingly.

November 10, 2009

Managment: It's Not What You look Like But What You Do

"Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works."

Steve Jobs

And not just for products.

I've seen many organizational structures that seemed logical, capable, which failed functionally.

Define your organization but don't fall in love with the structure. If it's not working, change it.

November 09, 2009

The Future: Will It Happen To You Or With You?

"When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people; those who let it happen, those who make it happen and those who wonder what happened."

John M. Richardson, Jr.

I like this, particularly because it comes from an educator; one, I hope, teaches this concept to his students.

But I'll bet if you are option 1, you are almost by definition, also option 3.

Which are you?

November 06, 2009

Don't Look Now . . .

"In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday."


A simple reminder how quickly things either change or appear to have changed.

Our responsibility as managers is to determine which.

November 05, 2009

Management Myopia, What To Do

"I have done that", says my memory. "I cannot have done that", says my pride, and remains adamant. At last, memory yields."

Friedrich Nietzsche
19th century German Philosopher

I heard a song this morning with a line about old men playing cards, drinking beer, "lying about their lives."

Old guys sitting around, embellishing past accomplishments is one thing, but in business, being too out of touch with reality can be disastrous.

All the more reason to have objective voices telling us what they think of what we do and say.

Do you? Do you listen to them?

November 04, 2009

Management: Not How Much You Have, It's What You Do With It

"It is pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness; poverty and wealth have both failed."

Kim Hubbard
Early 20th century American humorist

And they do not necessarily bring success or failure in business either.

Certainly having more assets at your disposal is usually better than not, but it doesn't mean you still won't squander them.

November 03, 2009

Tell Me What You Think

"If I had to reduce the responsibilities of a good follower to just one rule, it would be to speak the truth to power."

Warren Bennis
Organizational Consultant

I'll bet many of you never even thought about followers having responsibilities, nonetheless they do. Every relationship imposes them on both parties regardless of rank.

Of course, along with the requirement that the follower be ready to speak the truth to those in power is the responsibility of those in power being ready to listen, and of greater importance, not penalizing the follower for having done so.

Does it work that way in your organization?

November 02, 2009

Management: "Are There Any Questions?"

"If there are no stupid questions, then what type of questions do stupid people ask? Do they get smart just in time to ask questions?"

Scott Adams
"Dilbert" cartoonist

Interesting perspective on what our teachers always told us.

Being stupid does not mean you can't ask a non stupid question, anymore than
not being stupid insures your questions will all be (what?) unstupified.

We all have a little pointy hair'd boss in us sometimes.

October 30, 2009

Management: Be What You Want Those Who Follow You To Be

"A man who lives right, and is right, has more power in his silence than another has by his words."

Phillips Brooks
19th century American Clergy/Author

Leading by example.

It's more than words on a chart.

October 29, 2009

Risk Analysis: Looking to the Future

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward."

Vernon Sanders Law
Retired Professional Baseball Pitcher

It is true that we often do not see the potential consequences of our actions until they occur, but why should it be that way?

I think it's because we too often do not attempt to understand what may happen, choosing instead to simply act.

What do you think?

BTW, if you don't know (I didn't), Vern Law is also credited with having said, "A winner never quits and a quitter never wins."

October 28, 2009

Good Enough . . . Isn't

"He who stops being better stops being good."

Oliver Cromwell
17th century English Political and Military Leader

Not to mention great.

Once again an indication that minds much wiser than mine, believe the need to evolve and grow is at the top of the list of things necessary to succeed.

Well at least that's how I see it; what about you?

October 27, 2009

We're Starting Over, Put Away Your Assumptions

"Do not judge men by mere appearance; for the light laughter that bubbles on the lip often mantles over the depth of sadness, and the serious look may be the sober veil that covers a divine peace and joy."

Edward Chapin

Just a better, albeit more lengthy way to say, never judge a book by its cover. And never more appropriate a time to remind ourselves how true this is.

The economic clouds are parting, or so it would seem, but don't expect to look up and see things as they were; things you think you can rely on based on appearance.

The new rule: what was, isn't, what will be, different.

October 26, 2009

Coming Out of Our Shells?

"The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Similar to his "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself", but with a slight twist for business.

We went into our "shells" last fall as things began to unravel, and are just now starting to come out, cautiously looking to see if all is well.

Too cautiously maybe?

October 23, 2009

Change: Holding Back the Tide

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable."

John Kennedy

Of course he was talking about politics but there is corollary in business.

Resist active change (peaceful revolution) and you hasten the demise of the business (violent revolution.)

October 22, 2009

A Laughing Matter

"Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on."

Bob Newhart

I think so too and what could be more useful when making critical business decisions than to gain new perspective that will come from having "stepped back"?

All the better if it is laughter that makes that happen.

What role does humor play in your business?

October 21, 2009

Invisible Power

"Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength."

Eric Hoffer
Early 20th century American writer

Business succeeds when it promotes the best people with "best" being more than just technical knowledge.

One's position in an organization does not prove his or her power.
Real power is transparent.

Too bad not everyone understands that as did Mr. Hoffer.

October 20, 2009

What's "Done" Isn't Always

"A computer lets you make more mistakes, faster than any invention in human history-with the possible exception of hand guns and tequila."

Mitch Ratcliffe
Internet Strategist

He's right.

A lot of people, sometimes me included, confuse output with production.

They are very different things and often "done" is actually not.

Do you measure production? How?