January 30, 2009

The Future: What We Make Of It

"The toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a success."

Irving Berlin

". . . keep on being a success."

That sounds a bit like Mr. Berlin might have smiled as he said those words. Like he thought being successful was easy, at least for him. But if you've read his biography you know that's not the case.

Without saying so he is telling us that you either continue to work at being successful or you won't be any longer and that doing so is hard work, like digging out of a hole rather than in.

Last year a lot of us thought we were successful and saw little reason to keep working at it. Now we see how quickly things can change.

There's not much we can do about today . . . what about tomorrow?

January 29, 2009

Attitude: Good, Better, Best!

“The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better.”

Barbara Pletcher


Suggested by Glenn Busse, Directed Electronics

At the very least, another take on the importance of attitude but there is more to it than that.

We revere athletes who attempt to break seemingly unbreakable records regardless of whether or not they succeed.
How different is it then to do the same for people who approach everything as though it was a record that could be broken, including attempting to make bad situations better?

You'll never hit the target if you never take a shot and you'll probably never take a shot if you assume there's little chance you'll hit the target.

Circular logic that needs to be broken.

January 28, 2009

Preparation: The Elixir of Success

"If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six sharpening my axe."

Abraham Lincoln

What a great quote to summarize the importance of preparedness.

And Senaca tells us that it isn't luck but rather preparation that helps us achieve our goals (
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.")

I could occasionally benefit from more preparation both in my business and personal lives.

And it's not a matter of time that I don't better prepare. I obviously have the time to go back and do what I should have done in the first place.

What about you?

January 27, 2009

Management: What Do You Know?

"To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge."

Benjamin Disraeli

And I would add, to accept that you are as well.

A side benefit for leaders who readily admit they don't know everything is a willingness on the part of those they lead to teach and help them learn, with the opposite being true for those who don't.

How is your management on this point? What about you?

January 26, 2009

Planning: What Has, What Is, What Will

"Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is."

Wayne Gretzky

Possibly the most over used, abused way too oft quoted advice given by consultants, now me included it would appear. And some suggest Wayne never even said this, that his father did.

Whatever the truth, the concept is real. Anticipate!

Warren Buffet had this in mind when he said, "If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians."

It comes down to planning based on studying what has been, what is, and doing a really good job of divining what will possibly, probably be, with a fall back "Plan B" for those situations where things do not turn our as you expect.

What's your approach to readying yourself for whatever is ahead?

January 23, 2009

Networking: A Full Time Job

"It's all about using people . . . in a nice way."

Name withheld by request

The above came to me from a CEO during a discussion we had regarding the importance of networking. Because in her opinion it can be construed negatively, she requested I not use her name.

I suppose it can be negative but I don't see it that way. We all "use" each other one way or another so why not through our varying abilities to help each other with our networks?

My bigger concern is that far too few individuals see value in networking . . . until they feel threatened. When they lose their job or fear they will, that's when my phone rings and my email inbox fills up.

You can't turn your network on or off nor can you jump out there and simply say "I'm here!", expecting people to care. If you want to "use" someone you had better have been "used" by them previously, otherwise you'll be staring at a blank screen.

Do you network?

January 22, 2009

New Thinking: The Path to New Growth

"He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality, and will never, therefore, make any progress."

Anwar el-Sadat
3rd President of Egypt

It is ironic that this quote came from a Middle East leader; an area where new political thinking can get you killed, which ultimately was the fate of Mr. Sadat.

However along with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Sadat did sign the 1979 Israeli/Egypt Sinai Peace Accord bringing at least partial solution to an area where dogmatic thinking is the rule.

If they can find new ways to view old problems, surely we in business can as well.
Are there any issues in your business so difficult that you cannot imagine coming up with a new solution?

Before you answer, keep in mind the obstacles to resolution that Sadat and Begin had to face.

January 21, 2009

Word of Mouth: Nothing Better

"Informal conversation is probably the oldest mechanism by which opinions on products and brands are developed, expressed, and spread."

Johan Arndt
16th Century Lutheran Theologian

If you didn't see that Mr. Arndt said this a few hundred years ago wouldn't you guess it came out of some contemporary business book? You certainly would if we substituted "Word of mouth" for "Informal conversation", which we well could do.

Honestly, what if anything can be more important than people talking positively about your company, brand and product?

January 20, 2009

Leadership: Real or Fake?

"The leader of men in warfare can show himself to his followers only through a mask, a mask that he must make for himself, but a mask made in such form as will mark him to men of his time and place as the leader they want and need."

Sir John Keegan
British Military Historian

He's telling us that great military leaders must not only hide their true identity but craft one that others will want to follow.
  1. Can a military leader successfully pretend to be something he or she is not?
  2. Can they fake a leader's "mask"?
What about business leaders?

January 19, 2009

Management: Starting With Me

"Rule your mind or it will rule you."



Too much of it and we are in danger of repressing creativity. Too little of it and like the author H. Jackson Brown Jr said, our talent is like an octopus on roller skates seemingly going in all directions at once.

Much is written and said about managing others but what about managing ourselves? Are we not the first person we need to direct?

January 16, 2009

Attitude: The Importance of How You Think

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right."

Henry Ford

Attitude. We all have it with the only question being, which type?

What is your outlook for the immediate future?

January 15, 2009

Communication: Do They Understand?

"Speak not so you can be understood, but so you cannot be misunderstood."

Matthew Kim
Bill Matthies' 6th grade teacher

Mr. Kim made a point I've never forgot even if I haven't always practiced what he taught me.

Putting aside our business communications with each other, how much communication with our customers does not meet the second criteria?

January 14, 2009

Management: My Way or the Highway?

"If you deal with every customer in the same way, you will only close 25 to 30 percent of your contacts, because you will only close one personality type. But if you learn how to effectively work with all four personality types, you can conceivably close 100 percent of your contacts."

Rod Nichols

Mr. Nichols is suggesting there are four personality types; a claim that others who study personalities would dispute (there are many opinions as to how many actually exist.)

But regardless of the number there is another point to be made assuming you believe as I do that there are more than one (I believe there are many.)

Using the same management style with all is not as effective as is tailoring the approach given the differences inherent in each individual. This does not mean you give in to one but not another; only that you recognize the individual needs of each.

For some managers "my way or the highway" is as far as it goes.

What do you think?

January 13, 2009

Change Management: In the Eye of the Storm

"Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm."

Peter Drucker

Note that Mr. Drucker's comment was made 10 years ago during a time he would presumably say now, pales in comparison to the tribulations we face today.

But here's the thing; even if you wanted to you cannot stay as you are. The time to mark time while others alter their business model is over.

Like it or not you will change with the only question being, will you actively do so or simply wait until the wave passes? Before you answer, notice that this is a very big wave.

Depending on what you decide, the outcome will be very different.

January 12, 2009

Decision Making: Truth or Consequences

"Fullness of knowledge always and necessarily means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance, and that is always conducive to both humility and reverence."

Robert A. Millikan
1923 Nobel Prize in Physics

To this I want to add my own suggestion; know the difference between what you know and what you think.

Mr. Millikan is telling us to to accept that we do not know everything, which is sage advice.

I suggest we further separate what we know to be true from that we believe to be true, two very different things all too often not considered.

If more managers were to begin their statements with:

"I don't know for sure but . . ."

there would far fewer arguments and much more effective decision making.

January 09, 2009

Company Culture: Open or Closed?

"Unlike top management at Enron, exemplary leaders reward dissent."

Warren Bennis
Organizational Consultant

Does your management encourage opinions that contradict the company's culture? If you are management do you?

Before you answer think about what this means.

If employees do not feel comfortable saying whatever is on their minds, either because they know they will be in trouble if they do or even if it they just fear it will lead to ridicule, it then follows that the company certainly does not reward dissent.

Is encouraging dissent a good thing? Always?

January 08, 2009

Self-Assessment: What Would You Change?

"In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these."

Paul Harvey

Ok, so under the banner of misery loving company, we're not alone, etc., remembering may make us feel better but is that the only reason for looking back? If we had a time machine there has to be a better way to use it.

Rather than just remember we should learn from what has previously happened; what worked and what didn't.

Suggestion. Take a situation you've lived through in the past; one in which you played a critical role with the outcome being less than you would have liked.

Re-evaluate what you did looking for ways to improve upon things had you acted differently.

You might be amazed at the conclusions you will reach.

January 07, 2009

Discernment: Born To Or Developed?

"Opportunities are seldom labeled."

John A. Shedd
2nd President and Chairman of Marshal Field and Company

Nor are looming disasters. It is up to us to see which is which, ideally before they are obviously one or the other to everyone else.

This quote was part of a group entitled "Discernment"; a word you don't often hear, a word the dictionary defines as "acuteness of judgment and understanding."

Having acute judgment and understanding is a very, very good thing particularly when one's ability in both is both contrary to what the majority thinks
and proves correct.

But I don't think it just happens. Those who are more often than not right are so because they go about forming their opinions differently than do the rest of us.

They consciously, methodically reach their decisions.

January 06, 2009

Hierarchies: What Do You Do?

"We cling to hierarchies because our place in a hierarchy is, rightly or wrongly, a major indicator of our social worth."

Harold J. Leavitt
Management Expert

If you doubt this think about how many people answer the question "What do you do?" with their title. Titles do little more to describe job function than does a person's name.

While I don't think hierarchies are inherently bad they are dangerous because they can become too comfortable.

I use to wonder why large corporations reorganize so often. To be sure, much of it happens because the new leader wants his/her regime in place but in some cases it may also occur just to break down the status quo and that's not a bad thing.

January 05, 2009

Objectives: What Are You Trying To Do?

"Management by objectives works if you first think through your objectives. Ninety percent of the time you haven't."

Peter Drucker

Mr. Drucker was not one to sugar coat things, this quote being but one example of his famous directness. And there could be some exaggeration in this although if so I wouldn't be surprised to learn the real number is at least 75%.

In my (relative to Mr. Drucker) very humble experience, the problem is not so much that clients don't have objectives as it is the fact that they don't have specific objectives that they then tie to specific actions measuring everything as they attempt to reach them.

How about you?

January 02, 2009

Reinvention: Change Or Die?

"You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water."

Rabindranath Tagore
Indian Mystic, Author

But do we need to "cross the sea"?

I also came across a quote from Tennessee Williams which said "Security is a kind of death" which to me implies the need to evolve.

Can you prosper staying where you are whether "you" are a company or an individual?

Or do you need to change to live?