Posts Tagged ‘Dave Anderson’

Drive Drama-Babies from Your Dealership

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

There is little that is less productive for a team member to engage in than drama, and to subsequently become a “drama-baby” in the process. In fact, there is little that equals drama’s ability to distract from priorities, waste time, drain energy, and make Alps out of anthills.
“Drama” is the result of immature acts, committed by small-minded and selfish people who are either indifferent or oblivious to the negative value they inflict on both culture and teammates. While any of us may be prone to fall into the drama trap occasionally by overreacting to a simple event or conjuring up exaggerated and gloomy scenarios unlikely to ever occur–and normally doing so based on limited information—the drama-babies I’m addressing in this piece are those who are known for it. When you see him or her walking down the hall you can almost smell drama and a headache. Some drama-babies have perpetrated drama for so long they don’t even realize they’ve become a cultural contagion of toxic behavior.
The following points are designed to create self-awareness and strategies to help stop drama in your workplace, and to curtail the development of drama-babies. While you won’t ever eliminate drama completely from entities populated by human beings, you can do more to model productive behaviors personally, and to leverage peer awareness and peer pressure to demonize and minimize drama throughout your dealership.

Three Quick Thoughts on Drama and Drama-babies

1.    To create context for this piece, consider that Urban Dictionary defines drama as: “A way of relating to the world in which a person consistently reacts to or greatly exaggerates the importance of benign events.” Drama-babies have a predictable knack for overreacting to everyday events, for choosing to be offended, and for making everything possible be all about them.

2.    Typically, drama-babies are those who are chronically bored, or who have an inordinate craving for attention. They covet sympathy and continually bait others into “rescuing” them in some manner: normally through inordinate attention, sympathy, counseling, or helping. The bottom line: drama-babies don’t really have much of a life, so they endeavor to create a false reality that feeds their fancies and dramatic appetites.

3.    Drama-babies enjoy manipulating others, oftentimes dragging them into their hyperbolic fantasyland to gain attention, or make their own dullard existence more interesting.

Five Evidences of Drama

Following are five evidences of drama in general, and of drama-babies specifically, followed by five suggested remedies. Be aware of these symptoms; watch for them; address them when they manifest; and encourage peer accountability to discourage dramatic behavior from top to bottom in your dealership.

1.    Having one supposedly serious crisis after another.

Example: Over time, drama-babies communicate an unlikely and immense trail of crises in their lives that may include exaggerated family, health, or relationship issues.

2.    Constantly telling other people about one’s personal or career problems.

Example: You normally know far too much information about drama-babies; every headache, heartache, and hemorrhoid is described in agonizing detail.

3.    Claiming to have experienced negative experiences that are highly implausible.

Example: They’ve been personally affronted, offended, insulted, dismissed, disrespected, or slandered by an array of haters and bullies they encounter in their everyday lives: in traffic; at the Wendy’s drive-thru; from law enforcement and flight attendants; in attacks by social media trolls or Russian hackers; and even the occasional stalking or kidnapping by little green men in UFOs.

4.    Making claims without sufficient facts, or lack of detail about supposedly serious events.

Example: Starting or hearing rumors and blowing them out of proportion; or, presenting with authority what they have minimal—if any—facts to base their claims on.

5.    A pattern of irrational behavior and reactions to everyday events.

Example: Someone took Sue’s Diet Dr. Pepper from the break room fridge and she’s convinced a teammate is set on destroying her. Or, John didn’t get the credit he thought he deserved for the project’s success so now he’s updating his resume because he “knows” he’s about to be fired.

Five Remedies for Drama
1.    Start with your own example.
Go to work to work smart, and focus on the aspects of your job you can control. Speak more in terms of what is positive, possible, and productive. Stop being consumed with what someone else is doing or getting and mind your own business. Don’t gossip and reject gossipers. Look for ways to add value, bring solutions to the table and positively impact team members and customers alike.

2.    Get your mindset right and keep it healthy during the day.

My book, Unstoppable, goes into extensive detail for how to develop this essential discipline. In a nutshell: limit your intake of garbage media, websites, and conversations, and replace it with a structured routine that inspires, motivates, and educates. And start it before you get to work in the morning. Get in the zone before you leave your house for the dealership.

3.    Keep yourself and others so busy with high expectations and the productive activities necessary to achieve them that there is no time for drama.
Remember that human beings, including yourself, develop to their potential within the confines of a structured and effective daily routine—one that leaves no time to initiate or listen to drama-baby nonsense.

4.    Conversationally, firmly, and respectfully address drama and refocus the perpetrator on something more productive, and encourage team members to do likewise. This type of peer accountability is essential to driving out drama. Set the example with words like:

“This is starting to sound like drama,
I’m getting back to something more productive.”

“This is starting to sound like drama,
let’s both get back to something more productive.”

“You can’t control it or affect it, so get back to something you can control and affect.”
“Let’s get back in the zone.”

“Let’s leave the drama zone and do something productive.”

“Let’s make today about performance, not excuses.”

5.    Stop pandering to dramatic people with constant hugging, coddling, pep talks and rescuing.

You teach people how to treat you, so if you respond to drama unproductively, you’ll encourage more of it. What you reinforce with positive attention, including drama, you can expect to see more of. And if YOU are a leader who engages in drama personally, you are giving those in your charge license to do likewise. Inevitably, if it hasn’t happened already, you will become the unofficial momma or papa of a whiney and miserable family of drama-babies in your department.

As a leader you’ve got to do better, and you’ve got to start now.

How to Lead from the Middle

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

The challenges posed by leading from the middle were framed well by John Maxwell who wrote, “One of the toughest things about being a leader in the middle of an organization is that you can’t be sure of where you stand. As a leader, you have some power and authority. You can make some decisions. You have access to some resources. At the same time, you lack power in other areas and if you overstep your authority, you can get yourself into real trouble. Unless you are the owner or CEO, your power is on loan from someone with higher authority. And that person has the power to take that authority away from you by firing you, demoting you or moving you into another area of the business. If that doesn’t create tension, nothing will.”

When you learn to lead well from the middle you’re not as likely to stay in the middle; whereas leading poorly from a middle management position makes promotion less likely, and eventual obscurity more certain. Following are nine sample ways to lead from the middle of the pack in your organization: the sales manager serving his or her GSM well, and the GSM doing likewise to the GM, the GM to the dealer, and the like.
1.    If they have not already been established, ask your boss to clearly define performance expectations and parameters for making decisions. You’ve got to be on the same page as your boss concerning what’s most important, by when, and your permissible boundaries to make it happen. Don’t guess or wrongly assume. Without clarity you can’t aggressively execute what you’re responsible for getting done.

2.    Take initiative.  A key characteristic of effective leadership is a bias for action that translates to an ability to make things happen. Bring ideas to your boss, as well as solutions rather than just problems. If you see what needs to be done do it! It is better to be told to wait than to wait to be told. Once you understand what’s expected as outlined in the first point, take the initiative to figure out how it can be done; then execute.

3.    Execute your work with impeachable integrity. Don’t be another has-been in the business lore of high achievers who self-destructed because they got results the wrong way. The end doesn’t justify the means if you cut corners, violate values, or abuse others to get the job done. Effective leadership isn’t just about getting results but getting them the right way.

4.    Stop trying to fix your boss.  You can’t fix your boss any more than you can fix your spouse or any other human being. Besides, your job isn’t to fix your leader; it’s to add value to that leader. Supplement their weaknesses and adjust your attitude towards the leader in areas that cause friction for you.

5.    Develop a solid relationship with your leader.  You don’t have to be good friends, or even hang out, but there had better be some common ground of trust, respect, and mutual understanding within a relationship or you’ll be miserable most of the time— and eventually starting over again elsewhere.  The first reaction to working for an ineffective leader, or one with whom you don’t get along is often to withdraw from him or her and build relational barriers. You’ve got to work to counterintuitively fight that urge. If you make your leader your adversary, you will create a no-win situation. Instead, find common ground and do your part to go the second mile to build a solid professional relationship.

6.    Publicly support your boss.  Some managers foolishly do just the opposite: they publicly gossip and complain about, disrespect, or seek ways to undermine their boss. Discuss disagreements privately with your boss, and don’t talk to other people about your boss. He or she will find out, and you’ll also reveal character flaws to all listening to your rants that diminish you in their eyes. Others will also realize you may be doing the same to them or would someday if the opportunity arose. Andy Stanley said it well, “Loyalty publicly results in leverage privately.”

7.    Manage yourself.  You will not impress your leader for long with your ability to manage others if you cannot first manage yourself. This includes managing your attitude, emotions, time, daily routine, discipline, character choices and self-accountability.

8.    Accept responsibility for your results when they fall short.  Just own it—your results, attitude, decisions, all of it. In fact, if you want to earn even more respect and influence, take responsibility for more than your share. That sort of confidence and humility will draw others to you. When things go wrong, put away your black belt in blame and search for solutions not scapegoats. Be coachable, make adjustments, learn from shortfalls and mistakes, and grow both personally and professionally.

9.    Lighten your leader’s load.  Perhaps the best way to accomplish this is by doing your own work with such excellence and integrity that you’re the one your boss never has to worry about getting it done, or holding accountable, or micromanaging. Then go further by looking for tasks you can take off your leader; especially those areas where you’re strong but he or she isn’t. Be the “go-to” person every leader craves, values, and takes a special interest in.

Following these steps for leading from the middle creates a triple-win: you win because you’re more effective, fulfilled, and successful; your boss wins because with people like you around, he or she can grow to entirely new levels; and the organization wins as well, as both teammates and customers reap the rewards of effective leadership at the helm of any department. While no one in business should ever truly be considered as “indispensable,” you can come pretty darned close in your own boss’ eyes by living these nine mandates every single day.

Learning Leadership from Coach John Wooden

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

The late and legendary John Wooden is regarded by many to be one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. In his storied 40-year career as a coach his name became synonymous with success, having had only one losing season: his first. As the head of UCLA’s men’s basketball program, his teams won 10 National Championships in a 12 year span – 7 of which were in a row – and had four undefeated seasons. Prior to his death in 2010 at the age of 99, he was honored in the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Success leaves clues, and hungry leaders who are in search of effective principles to use with their teams have much to gain from the “Wizard of Westwood.” For years I have used his quotes and examples in my seminars, and after countless remarks about how helpful they have been to attendees, I want to share some with you in this piece. Following are 5 principles you can apply to help build your own championship team.

1.    Don’t become infected with success. Far too many leaders and organizations for that matter, can’t survive success. They develop a been-there-done-that attitude, grow complacent and stop executing the essential disciplines that made them successful in the first place. Leaders stop holding people accountable, stop recruiting, stop training people, and the list continues. Becoming infected with success has nothing to do with your skills, knowledge or talent as a leader; it’s all rooted in your mindset. Wooden said it well, “You become infected with success when you think that your past wins future games.” The mindset to live in the past, both in the victories and defeats, is a dangerous trap that will cause you to let up. Rehearsing past setbacks, defeats and rejections can make you hesitate to take the next shot, while reliving past wins (the big month, quarter, or year) will cause you to sit on the ball when you should be running up the score. As a leader you can’t borrow credibility from what you did once upon a time. Shift your focus away from “living” in the past to “learning” from the past; prove yourself over again each day; and attempt, as Wooden put it, to make it a “masterpiece.” If you’re not doing this as a leader, I promise your team isn’t either.

2.    Bring out the best in people. Wooden said, “You don’t handle people. You handle farm animals. You work with people.” Bringing out the best in people is purely an issue of skillset, and if you haven’t developed it you’ll find yourself more often “handling” people than “working” with them. Here are some simple yet overlooked ways to help you develop the human capital on your team. First, keep respect and consideration for others foremost in your mind. People don’t buy into leaders who bully, continually berate, or only tell people the ways they’ve fallen short. You can’t expect to bring out the best in people if you can’t even respect them as individuals. Next, try to make the work environment fun – just not at someone else’s expense. We spend a lot of time in the workplace, and people that have fun are generally more productive, and more engaged. Lastly, seek out individual opportunities to deliver a sincere compliment to someone. The quicker you can do this following a productive behavior or performance, the more it will mean to the individual, and the more likely you are to see that same result again. Remember that sincerity, optimism, and enthusiasm are more welcome than sarcasm, pessimism, and getting personal.

3.    Don’t blame, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses. This is pretty straightforward so I won’t spend much time on it other than to say: If your mindset is to blame others and make excuses for why the job didn’t get done, you’re teaching your people by example. Wooden understood this, and neither gave nor accepted excuses.

4.    Dispense discipline and accountability effectively.  This takes a blend of both skillset and mindset. Knowing how to hold people accountable is important, but the follow through in actually holding a performer accountable is equally essential. Some of us know exactly what to do, but we choose not to in order to avoid potential discomfort, or hurt feelings. Understand though, that accountability, discipline, and criticism aren’t tools to humiliate, demean, or punish. Their objectives are to correct, redirect, and to improve performance; to correct something that is preventing better results. Protect your culture, team morale, and the customer experience, and help the person by caring enough to confront them and potentially make you both uncomfortable as you exercise this leadership duty. Very simply, coach Wooden said “Even if there is a price to be paid, don’t be afraid to use appropriate discipline. It may hurt in the short term, but will pay dividends in the future.” Rest assured Wooden wasn’t slacking up on accountability in the midst of UCLA’s 88-game winning streak. He was holding his team accountable daily both on and off the court.

5.    Treat people fairly. Don’t fall for the politically correct nonsense that treating people fairly means you have to treat everyone alike. Fairness is giving everyone the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn’t mean treating everyone equally. That’s unfair because not everyone deserves equal treatment.  Now obviously you treat everyone alike in terms of courtesy, respect, and regard as a human being. Those are non-negotiables. In terms of opportunity, rewards, privileges, and even scheduling however, you should dispense according to what people earn and deserve. Now Wooden was very good at treating people in accordance with this, understanding that what people gain too easily they esteem too lightly. In doing so he enhanced teamwork, and prevented entitlement form taking over.
As you work to build a team of champions, which of these basic principles have you gotten away from? Prioritize one or two key things you need to start doing – or stop doing – to coach like Wooden and leave your lasting leadership legacy.

The Cost of Choosing to be Offended

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

This article is about staying more focused on what matters most so you can get more of the right things done daily and improve results. But first I need to set the stage by presenting what is often the biggest obstacle to that goal: getting sidetracked throughout the day by what—in the full scope of reaching your potential as a human being—is trivial and in some cases, doesn’t matter at all in that regard. In other words, choosing to be offended by someone or something and stepping out of your personal high-performance zone in the process. If you have listened to my Game Changer Life podcast episodes, or have read my new book, Unstoppable, you are fully aware of this danger and how to overcome it.
Without question, one of the chief culprits that inhibits maximum productivity for multitudes is a growing and uncanny knack for choosing to be offended by what is minor—often dozens of times throughout the day—and losing focus on what matters most in the process. The good news is that no one can offend you without your consent; you have to take the bait and step out of your zone, and thus diminish your effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus, and productivity as a result.
In today’s politically-correct charged, hyper-sensitive culture of crybabies, there’s seemingly no shortage of opportunities from which the masses have chosen to be offended by on a daily basis. It’s not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be offended by, but to bring to your attention to a wide range of culprits today so you can evaluate which offenses you have invited into your life, and determine if they are worth the loss in effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus  and results they incur.
Here’s a sampling of common offenders: public prayer; the pledge of allegiance; religious symbols on gravesites; the headlines; the book title; a comic strip; FOX News; MSNBC; an announcer’s commentary; a speaker’s voice; an Instagram post; her hairdo; that tie; a pastor’s sermon; the nut job in traffic; another’s belief system; this kind of music; that politician; her singing voice; the flight attendant’s attitude; their protest; the waiter’s lack of urgency; his glance; the fact she ignored me; the amount of time she spent on my issue; the way he answered my question; the dessert they brought to the dinner party; the punishment I got; the punishment he didn’t get; having only two restroom choices (Men and Women); right wingers; left wingers; that team’s mascot; I only got three “like’s” on the photo I posted; those late-night TV jokes; he said “midget;” she said “handicapped;” what the president said; her constant sniffling; he blew his nose too loud; the gift she gave me; he never gave me a gift; what they provided for lunch; they didn’t even give us lunch; the time I spent on hold; his sock color; her dress; those 150 year-old statues of old dead guys; your pricing; that advertisement; her accent; his flashy watch; that beat up car; their failure to take a stand; a certain point of view; his loud mouth; her silence; his firm handshake; his flimsy handshake; he didn’t even shake hands with me; referring to the former Bruce Jenner by the wrong pronoun; and I’m sure that for some readers now scurrying off to their safe space to speed-dial momma and their therapist and report they have been offended—this article in general up to this point.
Am I saying you should be a doormat and just put up with anything without addressing it or mentioning it in some way? Of course not. But I am suggesting you become far more concerned with what you invite into your life and evaluate the following to determine the negative daily impact it has on your effort,   energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus, and overall productivity:
1.    Just how easy are you to offend, and how many times does that break your focus and cause you to spend time out of your zone during the day saying and doing less than what’s optimally productive?
•    Examples: getting worked up over what another department, coworker or customer said or did to you; fretting because you didn’t get the credit, or because someone else got more than you believe they deserve; and the like.

2.    How often do you share what offends you with others, and what impact does that have on their attitude, focus, and productivity?
•    By spreading the misery you’ve invited into your life with others, you also take them out of their zone, and can diminish their efforts, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude, focus and productivity.

3.    How much longer are you willing to invite into your life what really doesn’t matter when considering the big picture of fulfilling your potential as a human being?
•    Maturity is about gaining discernment, knowing which battles are worth fighting, and understanding that to maximize your results daily you don’t have time to set everyone straight, enter every debate, and be more consumed with being “right,” than remaining effective.

4.    How much of your limited time and energy are you willing to invest in things you cannot control, and render yourself a powerless victim as you complain about it?
•    Blaming, making excuses and investing your energy into what you can’t control all combine to create an anti-focus that can turn you into a pathetic, powerless, whiney victim unfit to lead a lemonade stand, much less a more substantial enterprise.

5.    When was the last time choosing to be offended by something helped you stay focused, motivated, and achieve your goals?
•    If it’s not moving you toward becoming a better person, making a great contribution to your team or family, or elevating results in some way, how much time do you want to waste on it?

6.    Would you recommend whining and complaining to your team members or kids as viable strategies for reaching their goals?
•    If this is what they see you do, they’re learning from your example. Everyone leads by example, that’s not the question. The questions are: what example are you leading by, and how does that impact those following you?

7.    Is what you’re offended by worth your loss of peace, focus, attitude, time, energy, enthusiasm, passion, and productivity? If it is, do more of it. If it’s not, grow up, give it up, and go up.
•    Samuel Johnson said, “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” The stakes are too high for you to choose to be easily offended. Effort, energy, enthusiasm, passion, attitude and focus misspent and lost is gone forever.

The question many leaders must look into the mirror to face and fix so they can grow up and go up is not how offended they are by what has happened, but this:

How did they get so mentally soft and emotionally weak in the first place? That is what should offend you.

An Rx for the “Ashamed Generation”

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

An entire chapter in my book, Up Your Business, addressed the dangers of entitlement within organizations and offered remedies for weeding it out. In If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown I presented ten strategies to combat the negative impact political correctness has on high performance business cultures. After watching trending cultural currents in recent months I am presenting additional strategies to explain how to survive and prosper despite the encroachment of a force as atrocious as either entitlement or political correctness: a potent mix of bitterness, envy, and resentment projected against financially prosperous entities by a swelling number of malcontents I’ll classify as the “ashamed generation.” Following are background observations that relay the evolution of this unsettling phenomenon. Afterward, I’ll present tactics to prevent its influence and values from infecting your culture.

  1. Finishing college and entering the workplace over the past years have been the first generation of kids brought up under the farcical “don’t keep score and everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. The intent behind “tell them they’re special, give them a participation trophy, and prohibit punishment for poor behavior because it might hurt their feelings” was designed to engender a higher level of self-esteem in young people. This failed approach has backfired by creating a generation largely marked by entitlement, selfishness, disrespect, and a false sense of their worth to the marketplace.
  2. Upon entering the workplace with an “I’ll be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up and life is obligated to make me happy” arrogance these folks are soon deflated by the realization that life isn’t easy, they aren’t special, and making it big will require work. The false self-worth built through two decades of political correctness quickly fades as they earn below-average wages, in ho-hum jobs, suffer for lack of discipline, weak character, and glean the first clues that despite all the smoke they’ve had blown up their collective backsides, they just might be losers.
  3. As they fail to live up to the hyped expectations created for them, they are shamed, demonstrating the principle that those not prepared for life will be shamed by life. Shame provokes one of two emotions in human beings: get your life together or blame others for your state. Many in this generation choose the latter.
  4. Human nature drives people to seek purpose in their lives and to make a difference in the world. When one begins to feel that making a difference by building something up is too difficult or out of reach, the alternative is to seek purpose and attention by tearing something down; in this case, the prosperous people and companies they’ve come to resent and envy. Sadly, the ashamed generation failed to learn in their PC classroom that throwing rocks at another man’s Bentley won’t get them out of their rusted out Yugo. Ironically, this group’s mindset has infected generations beyond their own, attracting adherents from past eras who struggled, gave up, have been going through the motions, and in defeat decide to latch onto the same blame bandwagon embraced by the ashamed generation.
  5. Thankfully, there are many from the ashamed generations’ era who were raised in a manner that made them understand and appreciate the value of earn and deserve, and discount the whole concept of monuments to mediocrity like the participation trophies, and the unearned praise and weekly allowances their counterparts relied on for affirmation. They learned discipline, respect, hard work, and personal responsibility. They are refreshing exceptions to the huddled mass of their counterparts crowing out their chorus of complaints and demands. Many of these fine young men and women make meaningful contributions to businesses, churches, volunteer organizations, and the armed forces.

To those caught up in the entitled, bitter, and envious mindset that pervades the ashamed generation, I suggest the following:

  1. No one is impressed with the spin your parents and teachers fed you about how special you are. Respect is earned through the consistent demonstration of character, competence, and results. All life owes you is what you’ve earned and deserve.
  2. If you are one of the moochers circulating petitions asking the government to eliminate your share of the one trillion dollars in outstanding student loans, forget about it. When you go to the party and leave with the goods, you pay the tab. 
  3. Gather your worthless participation ribbons, trophies, and other testaments to your mediocrity and toss them. Then borrow a dictionary and look up the words earn and deserve; memorize them and begin to live according to their standards. Here’s a head start: earn is defined as having acquired through merit, or in return for labor or service. Deserve is defined as being worthy of or qualified for.
  4. Shut up and pay up. Many of the hardworking people you’re assailing pay six and seven figures in income taxes annually, you pay squat—and you’re ticked off at them? Don’t cry “pay your fair share” when you pay little or no share at all.
  5. If you’re a Warren Buffet-type, ashamed generation sympathizer, and don’t believe you pay enough in taxes, simply write a check to the IRS to relieve your guilt and leave the rest of us alone.

To those endeavoring to thrive in their business despite the assault of the ashamed driven generation’s mindset and its potential to affect morale at all levels within your organization, consider the following.

  1. Make it extremely difficult to get hired. Dig into an applicant’s life and determine what they’ve done, overcome, and flush out their life philosophy on hard work, success, prosperity, earn and deserve. Don’t give questionable candidates the benefit of the doubt during the interview, and if doubts linger, keep looking.
  2. Don’t reduce your vision or standards to accommodate the comfort zones of others. Rather, stretch your people to reach your expectations and if they don’t measure up remove them.
  3. Require team members to qualify based on past performance for the right to participate in spiff programs, contests, and other perks they now take for granted. If they don’t average producing “X” over the past 90 days, they cannot participate in incentive programs whatsoever. This earn and deserve philosophy will help weed out entitlement and make those who do qualify for your generosity more appreciative.
  4. Require the team to qualify for perks they now take for granted, ranging from donuts on Fridays to lunches on Saturdays. In order to get their free lunch on Saturday, they must collectively produce at least “X” during the week. This simple change in your earn and deserve philosophy will begin to change attitudes toward benefits people now take for granted and evoke more humility and gratitude.
  5. Celebrate excellence in your organization by launching a top performers club where people qualify quarterly. Give the winners the best schedule, office, opportunities and more. When the whiners squawk about how unfair life is simply tell them, “When you do what they’ve done, you can get what they’ve got.”
  6. Install minimum performance standards that cause the laggards to fire themselves faster if they cannot attain them. Letting underachievers stay on a great team is the equivalent of giving them an adult participation trophy.
  7. Replace longevity bonuses with performance bonuses. This eliminates entitlement and sets the standard that tenure, experience, and credentials don’t substitute for results—and in your organization people are rewarded for stepping up, not simply for showing up.

The cultural currents and trends in society surrounding your enterprise will adversely influence and infect your culture unless you take deliberate steps to protect it. If you fail to shape your business culture according to personal values and standards, society’s values and trends will shape it for you—to your great disgust and peril.

The Lost Art of Taking Personal Responsibility

Monday, November 28th, 2011

 For decades, I’ve written extensively about discipline, accountability, focusing on what you can control, and taking personal responsibility rather than blaming. These are principles I have personally embraced and applied in my life to prevail through tough times.

 In the early 80’s I worked in my parents’ restaurant business that failed. It was in the midst of 20+% interest rates, 10% inflation, and unemployment as high as today. I held three jobs to make ends meet, selling products door-to-door for two companies, and in the evenings delivering tortillas to restaurants for 50 cents per case. It wasn’t the work that I wanted or was qualified for, but it was the work that was available, and I felt lucky to have it.

 While living with my wife and daughter in the ugliest trailer, in the least desirable part of town, I changed careers and began to sell cars. In seven years I advanced from salesperson at a dealership in Texas, to the number two man in a successful $300,000,000 dealership group in California. When I declined the pay cut offered me by new owners I was forced out. Despite this misfortune, I chose not to whine, sue, or pitch a tent and “occupy” the dealership in protest. Instead I founded LearnToLead which, by God’s grace, prospers to this day.

 As I pursued my aspiration to write, six dozen publishers rejected my ideas for Selling Above the Crowd and No-Nonsense Leadership. Consequently, I exerted the effort to self-publish, distribute, and publicize both books. Their success attracted into my corner Wiley, the world’s largest business publisher with whom I’ve now published ten books. My publishing experience reaffirmed my belief that if something is important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.

 I don’t share this history to impress you, but to impress upon you that I’ve been broke, at the bottom, and the chief architect behind numerous failed ideas and ventures. But upon hitting the wall I chose to bounce, not splatter. Like many of you, when things got tough I didn’t opt to whine my way out, wish my way out, wait my way out, or demand someone bail me out. Rather, I took personal responsibility for my life and worked my way out.

 There exists today a dangerous trend that must be blunted—a burgeoning blame game and pity party spreading across continents that vilifies success, demonizes the financially successful, and endeavors to penalize prosperity. This assault has become a convenient and clever diversion for society’s malcontents to shift anger, frustration, and responsibility away from their personal failings, and thrust it upon those who have made productive life choices, or who have found ways to convert stumbling blocks into stepping stones and succeed. Here’s a glimpse at the forces that are fanning the flame:

 Millions are hurting financially in America. But for many, the pain is prolonged by their refusal to accept personal responsibility for poor decisions that have caused or augmented their struggles. Worse, politicians, unions, and the media encourage and enable their “I am helpless” mindset by assuring them that they are blameless in their mediocrity, and that the country’s most financially successful citizens and companies are the culprits. Protestors are “occupying” cities throughout the world, demanding substantial transfers of wealth to help turn their languid lives around.

The fact that things have reached this state should come as no surprise. Most people forty years and older would agree that the trend towards blaming more, entitlement, and undisciplined lifestyles has accelerated in recent decades. Not coincidentally, so has the national poverty rate. But, as convenient as it is to assail others or outside conditions for one’s lack of economic progress, nothing impacts the quality of one’s life more than his or her inside decisions. Those who don’t take responsibility for the consequences of their decisions, and instead blame others for misfortune, surrender control over their own destiny. This folly perpetuates their misery.

 While you’re not likely to read this in most headlines, many people suffer primarily because they’ve made poor life choices that created or compounded their financial hardship: the decision not to work hard or at all; not to self-educate oneself; not to live within one’s means, not to save money, as well as choosing to engage in habits like smoking, drinking, illegal drugs, gambling and a variety of other vices that deplete their limited resources and impair their soul. In reality, if society’s malcontents and protestors could kick the person most responsible for their woes they’d be unable to sit down for weeks. The sad result of this failure to take responsibility is an inability to progress from their current state, because they refuse to acknowledge their role in creating, or prolonging,  it in the first place.

 Following are five tenets that help you recommit to the lost art of taking personal responsibility. They are truths that place you on a path to rise above the masses that go through life assuming the position, thinking, talking, and walking like victims. Please share with those you know who are suffering from any of todays’ fashionable “it’s not my fault” fantasies. These include entitled family members and mediocre employees who went into retirement years ago but remain on your payroll, expecting to be rewarded for showing up versus stepping up.  

 1. Becoming precedes getting. Until you become more than you are in areas like attitude, discipline, character, work ethic, and knowledge, you are unlikely to get much more than you’ve got. When you do get more (usually because it is given to you) without becoming more, you rarely get to keep it for long and won’t have the skill to replace it once it’s gone.

2. Attitude is a choice. While you cannot usually choose what happens to you, you have the power to choose your response to it. The quality of your response will greatly determine the quality of your life. No one and nothing can assault your attitude without your consent.

 3. Discipline is a choice. No one is born disciplined or not. Discipline is developed when you get clear about what you want, decide to pay the price necessary to get it, and resolve to give up what hinders your quest. If you’re undisciplined it’s not genetic, it’s because you’ve chosen to go through life seeking prizes without paying prices.

 4. Growth is a choice. Personal growth isn’t automatic, and it doesn’t come naturally with age. Personal growth must be intentional. In other words, you must choose to read the books, to attend the seminars, to learn and assimilate success principles, to study the lives of life’s giants and decide how you can apply what made them successful in your own life. If you’re not growing, it’s because you have made the decision to not pursue growth.

 5. Character is a choice. Your character is determined by the moral qualities you’ve decided to embrace and live out in your life. If you lack strong character, you can’t blame mom and dad, the government, economy, or your teachers. Ultimately, you get to choose what’s important to you, and what’s not. Your character will develop—or not—in accordance with those convictions.

 Here’s what economic protestors and their critical kinsmen in life’s various arenas must understand: Needy people can’t expect to advance by demanding more of what someone else has earned. Rather, they must advance through education, perspiration & determination. I don’t know anyone who has risen from rags to riches by complaining,  protesting, or clamoring for the government to pick the pockets of those more successful than they and use the proceeds to subsidize their own inadequacy or complacency. While a humane society must support those who can’t help themselves, it owes absolutely nothing to those who won’t help themselves.

 A recent television program featured a contemporary study in personal absolution: a healthy, articulate, unemployed man who assailed “the system” because it had “failed him” and made it “impossible” to find work. In fact, he has quit looking for a job and now lives his life on the sideline cheer-leading the blame game. It is impossible to know how many of the unemployed persist in their parasitic assault on national resources not because they cannot find work, but because they don’t like the work they find. This particular man remains idle despite the fact that 150 million other Americans have found jobs including the physically and mentally challenged, blind, deaf, and mute. In fact, six million Americans work two jobs or more. It would benefit the temporarily unemployed to understand the difference between the system failing them, and making poor decisions that cause them to fail themselves. This particular gentleman has chosen to regress from loser to quitter: a loser being someone who comes up short and tries again, while a quitter simply gives up.  

President Theodore Roosevelt had encouraging words for those who roll up their sleeves to make things happen, rather than critique, complain, demand, or quit. It’s fitting to conclude this piece on personal responsibility with his famous acclaim for the man in the arena:

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

 Note: I recently filmed a four minute video on this topic: “Whining is no Substitute for Working!” Click here to view: http://budurl.com/l4tv .

dave@learntolead.com

Don’t Confuse the Scoreboard for the Game!

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Good leaders are students of the numbers. Great leaders are students of behaviors. This is because great leaders know that their own and their people’s behaviors will ultimately determine the numbers, and that by watching them, reinforcing them, and intervening when they’re off track, they can influence outcomes before they’re final. Because many managers spend more time managing “stuff” than leading people, they often confuse the scoreboard for the game. They ponder reports, crunch numbers and get dazed by data, never taking their eyes off the scoreboard as they anticipate what numbers the team is producing. On the other hand, the best and most astute leaders stay in the game. They invest more time in the trenches with their people than in their office with “administrivia,” positively impacting the numbers that show up on the scoreboard.

While spending adequate time with the numbers part of your job is important, you can’t afford to become a passive leader who awaits results versus doing all you can to personally impact them. Many managers who at one time led effectively now simply tweak, tinker, tamper, manage, massage, maintain, administer or preside. While these folks may still have a leadership title, they lead no one and impact nothing. They are ceremonial leaders at best, perfectly content to record history rather than to help make it.

If disappointing numbers catch a manager by surprise, it normally indicates they didn’t spend enough time evaluating, coaching, and redirecting the daily behaviors of their people that created those numbers. Because of their neglect, the ineffective seeds their team members sowed each day inevitably manifested in the form of a lean harvest. There’s no need to let this happen to you. By studying the daily behaviors of your people and acting upon them, you don’t need a crystal ball to predict where a particular department in your enterprise is headed. Just pay more attention to what’s happening today because it becomes the future. Following are two sample behavioral areas to manage daily.

 1. Are people doing enough of what matters? In other words, is activity translating into accomplishment? What’s more important than people staying busy each day is making sure they are busy doing what matters most. By meeting one-on-one with each team member and helping them to structure their day so that they are working within the discipline of priorities, you can ensure that their daily behaviors will stay on track and bear fruit come scoreboard time.

 2. What are people doing with their down time? When traffic and the activity it creates slows down, do your people convert their down time into prime time by practicing, prospecting, planning; and following up, or do they become passive and watch, wish and wait for something to happen? It’s the manager’s responsibility to create daily, structured activities that keep people in motion and engaged with productive tasks in-between customers.

 While the two aforementioned disciplines are basic, they are often overlooked, and require diligence to ensure day-in, day-out execution. If you owned a professional sports team, it would be hard to imagine that you would tolerate a well-paid coach who lounged in an office, paid scant attention to the game, and passively waited to see what numbers appeared on the scoreboard, as he held his breath, crossed his fingers and hoped for the best. No, if you were in the owner’s suite, you’d undoubtedly insist that your coach maintained a positive presence on the field, with the team, observing, analyzing, reinforcing, and redirecting as necessary in order to ensure there was a “W” on the scoreboard at the game’s conclusion. You’d make sure that your coach and team exercised the daily disciplines necessary to win the game. What have you done today to ensure the same level of focus and accountability within your business?

Revisiting “The Calm before the Storm!”

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Fifteen months ago, in June of 2010, I wrote a magazine column, The Calm before the Storm! In it I suggested that despite the economic upswing, a debt-induced financial crisis loomed and could cause tough times in 2011. I also offered eleven steps one could take to strengthen their business foundation and prepare for a downturn. This may be an appropriate time to revisit the eleven steps, and evaluate which of them you can employ to help bullet-proof your business. While implementing these strategies back when they were first presented would have helped you to better maximize them, it’s certainly better to do so late than never.

 Please read and share with those whom might benefit from the suggested actions. The article link is here: http://budurl.com/q2k3

Excuses, Mediocrity & How to Rise Above Them!

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

A clear sign of leadership maturity is the willingness to take responsibility. One aspect of this virtue is refusing to make excuses for personal failures or for those of others. I readily admit that listening while others blame is one of my pet peeves. Little rubs me rawer than when someone attempts to defend failed actions or inferior results by compromising, sanitizing, or trivializing the truth. Occasionally, I must endure the whininess in person at one of my workshops, as a leader goes to great lengths to defend why he’s keeping “five-car Fred” on the payroll. In other instances, it’s a self-righteous lecture I occasionally receive via email from a reader in denial. I rarely have time to respond to the complainers anymore. Over the years, replying to their reasoning has drained far too much time. I may be a slow learner, but I have picked up on the fact that people who rationalize failure are practically un-coachable and mostly unchangeable.

 Excuses for failure remind me of a quote I heard and embraced years ago: “Excuses are the DNA of underachievers.” This same speaker went on to say that living in denial makes you a prisoner of wrong actions and outdated beliefs since it is impossible to change what you don’t acknowledge. Most would agree that excuses are a prime contributor to mediocrity. When you begin to explain away why you, or others, failed to deliver results, you become quite ordinary and blend into a crowded mass of mediocre souls slogging through life, all the while complaining that they haven’t caught the breaks or are victims of bad press or perceptions. In their sanctimonious minds, they are simply misunderstood. But what they fail to understand is that success, and failures, are not accidents. You either set yourself up for them or you don’t. Successes and failures both result from a series of choices and actions one makes over time, of sowing and reaping. While one may catch a good or bad break occasionally, over the course of a lifetime, you don’t succeed or fail by chance.

Those who become mediocre in their thinking, actions, and results, forego the opportunity to turn their fortunes around by shifting their focus to making better decisions and taking wiser action. Instead, they continue to bemoan conditions and render themselves powerless to affect their own futures. If you look up the dictionary’s definition for “mediocre,” it says: moderate to inferior in quality; ordinary. This definition reflects an accurate picture of what happens when one engages in the blame game.

 If you’ve succumbed to the blaming habit, you’re in grave danger of becoming “moderate to inferior,” if you haven’t descended into that state already. Here are five thoughts concerning mediocrity to help you, or someone you care about, right your course and stay on a path of personal responsibility that elevates your self-worth, the value you bring to others, and to your organization.

  1. Mediocrity begins with “me.” It is not something that someone or something does to you. It is a result of choices you’ve made, conditions you’ve accepted, or wrong actions you’ve taken.
  2. Mediocrity is a personal concession to less than your best. What the mediocre are really saying is, “this is good enough so deal with it.” When you substitute excuses for results, you are boldly making this concession and resigning yourself to living out a career and life that’s “good enough” rather than the best it can be.
  3. You break free from mediocrity by making better decisions, not by waiting for more favorable conditions. This should encourage you, because while you cannot control conditions, you do have control over your decisions.  
  4. Living in denial prolongs your marriage with mediocrity. If you don’t face it, you cannot fix it. The box you’ve put yourself in will one day become a casket. 
  5. Make your break with any mediocre aspect of your life by deciding to do the following:
    • Put away your black belt in blame and accept responsibility for your results. Understand that one of the best days of your life is the day that you renounce excuses, grow up, and become a man or woman of responsibility and accountability. 
    • Stop defending mediocrity in others on your team, and face reality about their skills, talent, discipline, attitude, or character. Only when you first see people as they really are can you help them become what they’re meant to be.
    • Commit to personal development so that you elevate the quality of your thinking, and are able to make better personal choices concerning your own attitude, character choices, application of knowledge, and strengthening of discipline.
    • Get clearer about what you want and then resolve to pay the price to achieve it; deciding up front that you’ll ditch the excuses and hold yourself accountable for results.

 One of the saddest epitaphs for many who choose to lead mediocre lives will be that when they die it will be as though they never lived. But what’s sadder yet is that when the sweat of their death bed wakes them up to the fact that they’ve missed their life, they’ll be haunted by the classic lament of life’s biggest underachievers: “I could have, I should have, if only I would have.”

 Each day you have two choices: performance or excuses. Choose well, it becomes your legacy.

The Truth about Potential!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

A top reason an under-performer is kept on a payroll despite failing to realize results is because his or her manager touts the person’s “high potential.” This is notwithstanding the fact that the employee has accomplished little or nothing of significance in their job up to that point.

While it is important to have employees with high potential, continually touting someone’s potential is normally an indication that the person hasn’t actually done much yet. The dictionary’s definition of potential bears this out: a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed; possible, as opposed to actual. To fully appreciate the implications of this definition, it’s also helpful to grasp how latent is defined: potentially existing but not presently evident or realized.

Have you or your managers been hiding behind “potential” as a means to rationalize keeping someone who does not presently add value to your team? Consider the following four thoughts in this regard:

1. Potential is common. In fact, it can be confidently stated that everyone has potential at something.

2. Unfulfilled potential is nearly as common as potential itself. The world abounds with those who, on their deathbed, are haunted by personal confessions like, “I could have,” “I should have,” “if only I would have.” Calvin Coolidge nailed it when he said: “The most common commodity in this country is unrealized potential.”

3. Continually falling short of one’s potential may indicate serious flaws within an individual: lack of drive, passion, character, discipline, focus, work ethic, energy, or persistence. Someone who cannot develop or control these aspects of their lives will normally require enormous amounts of management time and energy as their leaders beg, threaten, and regularly pump up a laggard with “potential” in order to get them to do their jobs. To once again quote Coolidge: Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. As author Liane Cordes observed, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

4. You are expected to work with someone according to their potential for a period of time, but eventually you must work with them in accordance with their performance. In other words, there comes a day when people with potential must stop belching out the baloney and bring home the bacon. How long should you work with someone according to their potential depends upon several factors. Common sense is more useful here than a cut and dry, pre-established cut-off date. Here are three guidelines:

A. Even if the person is not growing as fast as you’d like, do you see measurable progress in reasonable periods of time. and without “one step forward and two steps back” regressions? If so, continue investing in the employee.

B. What is holding them back: teachable or unteachable deficiencies? Both knowledge and skills related to job competence can be developed through training. But if they lack “inside” traits related to their character, drive or attitude, there is little you can do to influence these factors in a meaningful way. You should cut your losses and redirect your energies into finding and developing people who possess those vital critical success factors.

C. Has your management team done its job to create a culture conducive to developing the potential of others? An employee may have a bag filled with fertile seed, but the seed in their bag won’t produce a harvest unless there is fertile ground in which to sow. Creating this environment includes duties like setting clear expectations, ongoing training and coaching, and a value system that rewards results over tenure, experience, and best efforts. It is the responsibility of your leadership team to: select employees with the “right stuff” in the first place, and then draw out those assets in order to make up the difference between where someone is currently and where they have the potential to grow. In the absence of fulfilling these responsibilities, discarding someone for failing to perform is reckless and unfair.

The Nike slogan, “Just do it” never resonated with me, because it smacked of procrastination. “Just do it” indicates that you haven’t done anything yet. In order for each of us to move forward in our jobs and in life, we must move from “just do it’ to “just did it.” The same holds true for the underachieving high potentials that remain on your team. It’s on your watch that they continue to waste resources and opportunities, relegating you more of an enabler than a leader as you preside over their mediocrity and abet the diminishment of your enterprise.