There is No Requirement to Plan

So much has been written about planning. Trainers, speakers, coaches, motivational types, they all write and speak about the importance of planning. Especially this time of year. 

 

They will tell you that you must have a plan for 2019. They will use all the standard cliches about failing to plan is planning to fail…you’ve heard it all before. That’s ridiculous, nobody would intentionally plan to fail. 

 

The truth is that you don’t need to plan to fail, it kind of happens all by itself. There is no special effort required. If fact, the less effort the better. Giving a half-hearted effort with no plan only delays the inevitable failure. So just sit back and watch it happen….to you. 

 

Don’t let people bully you into making a plan that you have no intention of following. I can hardly think of a bigger waste of time. Step up and be honest about it. Let them know straight away that you have no intention of putting forth the effort required to implement any plan. 

 

Most people will leave you alone after that. They leave you alone because their plan does not include helping others. Well, truth be told it’s far more likely that they don’t have a plan either. 

 

It’s actually a rather small number of people who have a real plan. Now by “real plan” I mean something written out. It includes an honest assessment of their current situation and a realistic look at their desired outcome. 

 

Within their real plan are short range, medium, and long range goals. Their plan has a budget within it. It’s a two part budget, one part details the money they are will to invest to achieve their desired outcome but more importantly it details the time they are willing to invest in order to succeed. 

 

The best plans also include things they will STOP doing so they have the time to invest in more productive activities. Of course it’s not a real plan if it doesn’t include implementation steps, start dates and completion dates. The plan does NOT include words like tomorrow or someday because people who make real plans know those “dates” can’t be found on a calendar. 

 

You can spot people with real plans because they are typically the people who people without plans complain about. People without plans are jealous of people with plans because they tend to have more of the stuff that the people without plans want. 

 

If that’s confusing to you don’t worry about it, I’ve been confused by it for years. 

 

It’s never too late to develop a real plan. If you’re one of those people who are tempted to once and for all develop a real plan for success in 2019 I have a warning for you. Once you invest the time to develop a REAL plan for 2019 it will continuously pull at your “lazy strings” until they are completely unraveled. 

 

Before you know it all the comfortable excuses you used in the past to explain away your “bad luck” or “unfortunate circumstances” will be forgotten. You won’t accept circumstances created by someone else, you’ll make your own. 

 

You will find yourself accomplishing more than you thought possible. You’ll use your old excuses as fuel to motivate you. You won’t stop until you’ve achieved the goals you built into your real plan. 

 

 Or…you could just do what you’ve always done. There is absolutely no requirement that you have a plan for success. You can just wander through life the way some people do. Like pretty much everything in life it’s a choice. 


YOUR choice!


Not Every Leader Leads – Part Two

In my last post we talked about following an ineffective leader. We also discussed working through the frustration that comes with that situation. 

 

If you can manage to work through the frustration and lead yourself you are way ahead of most people. Too many people spend their days wallowing in their lack of leadership. They should be focused on leading themselves to success. 

 

If you have the leadership skills to deal with the frustration of following a leader who doesn’t lead then it’s likely you also have the leadership skills to “lead up” in your organization.

 

Leading up is the second part of the process for overcoming the lack of leadership when you’re working with a leader who doesn’t lead. Here’s the thing about “leading up” in your organization; while it is absolutely necessary when your leader isn’t leading it is also beneficial when your leader is already an effective leader.

 

If you’re a leader at any level in your organization then you should be adding value to everything and everyone you have contact with. I know it can seem counterintuitive to help people succeed at some cost to your own success but that’s Authentic Leadership. If you can help anyone then you should help them. It is the right thing to do. While it may feel as if you’re potentially costing yourself a promotion or raise by helping other people look good you’re not.  

 

Doing the right thing is never wrong. 

 

So, let’s talk about the “how to” of leading up. First before you can lead anyone else you must lead yourself. Allowing the frustrations of your position or job to dominate your thoughts and actions is not leading yourself. 

 

You must maintain control over your emotions because failing to do so will have a huge negative affect over your attitude. When it comes to influencing those around you, especially those above you in your organization, attitude is everything. If you can’t control your emotions then you won’t control your attitude. 

 

To lead up in your organization you need to remove as much work as possible from your leader. That will inevitably mean doing more than what’s in your job description. It will frequently mean doing it will little or no recognition, at least for you. Trust the fact that someone notices your effort. Even in the very unlikely event that no one does you can take pride in your efforts because you will have done what’s right. 

 

Leading up requires that you have the ability to say no to your leader. Whether your leader is an effective leader or something less than effective they need someone in their sphere of influence who has the courage to tell them the truth. Sometimes that will mean telling them what they don’t what to hear. If you’re going to lead up you’ll need to find a tactful way to do that. 

 

Leading up also means doing the things that others are unwilling to do. Anyone can do the easy stuff; leaders who lead up tackle the tough jobs that other people avoid. Making a difference for the people above you, or anywhere in your organization, will sometimes mean sacrificing your personal objectives for the sake of others. It may mean working with people you would prefer not to work with. But leading up teaches you tenacity and resiliency that people unwilling to lead up with never know. 

 

The reality is that there are people in leadership positions all around the world who don’t actually lead. If you find yourself being “led” by one of those don’t allow your attitude to be impacted by the lack of leadership.

 

Choose to control your emotions. Choose to lead up in your organization. Make the choice to have a positive impact on those who could have a negative impact on you. 


All is takes is a decision to LeadToday!


Not Every Leader Leads – Part One

Most people reading this will have at one time or another worked for someone who is in a leadership position but doesn’t lead. Maybe you’re in that spot right now. 

 

So what does a person do when their leader doesn’t lead? 

 

There are three choices. The first one is to change where you work. Running from the problem is too easy and besides, there are no guarantees that your leader at the next place will be any better.

 

The second option is to spend every working minute, and sadly many non-working minutes as well, being frustrated with the person who is supposed to be leading you to success. That ruins your relationship with that person. Let’s not forget, just because they are a bad leader doesn’t mean they don’t have some influence on your future. Being frustrated and complaining about it all the time can also wreck other important relationships in your life. 

 

Friends may stand with you at first but after a while they begin to wonder why you don’t do something about it and they begin to drift away from you. Eventually your family may even follow them out of your life. 

 

I do not recommend the second option. 

 

The third option is the only one of benefit to you. It also has the advantage of benefiting the person who is supposedly leading you and it even benefits your organization. 

 

It’s a two-step process.

 

The first step is dealing with the frustration. You can’t will it away. You must meet it head on and take concrete action to minimize it. I say minimize because you can’t ever completely eliminate it (at least I never met anyone who could) but you can make it manageable. 

 

Dealing with the frustration requires that you understand it’s not your job to “fix” your leader. It’s also not your job to point out all of their weaknesses. Your job is to add value to everyone you come into contract with, that includes your leader. 

 

To do that you need to build a good working relationship with your leader. Look for things you have in common and try to identify their strengths. DO NOT say they have no strengths, some will be easier to find than others but everyone has strengths. Clearly somebody saw something in that person because they were placed in a leadership position. Try hard to see those same strengths yourself. 

 

Next, figure out ways to help your leader use their strengths more effectively. Do that while filling in whatever gaps they may have with your own strengths. Yes, you may need to sacrifice your own ego to do this but that’s better than beating your head against the wall in frustration all day long.

 

You need to take some pride in what you’re doing. It might seem on the surface that helping your leader succeed and look good is backwards. But if you’re a leader yourself you’ll have no problem doing just that. You are helping another person grow and that is the essence of leadership. 


In my next post we’ll look at the second half of the process. It’s the part where you “lead-up” and use your influence to help your leader grow even more. The cool part of that is when you help grow the people above you in an organization you’re helping yourself grow at the same time.

No, Sales Don’t Fix Everything

Sometimes I’m at a loss for words. I know frequent readers of this blog may find that hard to believe but sometimes I am so flummoxed by something I hear that I don’t know how to respond.

 

I recently had one of those conversations when the subject of selling came up. I pretty much despise discounting of any kind. If a company has built value into their products and services then they should be able to sell that value to customers. The purchase price of that product should reflect the value that was built into it. 

 

In a perfect world that’s the way it would always be. But the last time I checked the world wasn’t perfect. 

 

So salespeople, even at times very good, well trained salespeople will be forced to offer a discounted price to earn the business of a customer. That happens for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is a competitor pricing their inferior products well below the price of the superior product. Then they sometimes deceive the customers into believing the products are nearly identical. 

 

They in effect commoditize the product and tell the customers “it’s all the same so why pay more.” It’s not exactly ethical but if you don’t have a lot of mirrors around and you don’t need much sleep at night it works.

 

The skill of the salesperson must match the quality of the product. If not then the customer may not have the opportunity to compare the products on a level playing field. 

 

That’s what first attracted me to sales training. Companies with high value products need salespeople who are skilled at showing that value to customers and prospects. 

 

Without highly skilled and professionally trained salespeople the companies that sell products with high value will leave their customers and prospects vulnerable to the offers and “deals” on inferior products put forth by their competitors. 

 

The customer loses in that scenario. They may not realize it at first and truthfully some may never realize it but they lose all the same. But the high value company loses as well. If they can not receive fair value in return for the value they offer then they will fail as a business. The failure may come quickly or it may take a while but the end result will be the same. 

 

If your business is selling high value products and services then you must be compensated fairly for those products and services. That requires a well trained and professional sales force.

 

This is a bit of an aside but if you’re training your salespeople today in the same way you were 10 or 15 years ago then you are only partially training your salespeople. The marketplace is far more chaotic today then it’s ever been before. There is more information available to customers and prospects (much of it misinformation) than ever. There are more ways to purchase something than was imaginable only 5 years ago. Sales has changed and your sales training needs to change as well.

 

Which brings me back (finally) to the point of this post. In a conversation with someone who should know better, who in fact MUST know better, they used that oft stated cliche “well, sales fixes a lot of ills.” 

 

I immediately corrected them and said “no, sales HIDES a lot of ills.” The problems are merely disguised for a time. If too many of those sales are heavily discounted then you have a problem.  If you are a high value company you have two choices: stop selling high value products or go out of business. 

 

Businesses don’t succeed because of an impressive top line. Businesses succeed when their bottom line is reflective of the value they sell into the marketplace. 

 

What truly flummoxed me was this person’s disagreement with that statement. They insisted that if you were selling enough you would be successful regardless of your profit margins. 

 

For emphasis they repeated, “it’s all about sales and only sales.” 

 

That is almost scary! I wonder how many people in business feel profits are optional? I never considered there would be people in a for profit business that felt that way. Now I’m wondering if I‘ve discovered the cause of a whole lot of business failures. 

 

Sales are not what keep a business going. Profitable sales are what keep a business going. If you don’t know that, if you don’t live that, then you won’t be in business very long.

 

Just so we’re clear, profit isn’t the only thing a business should make. They hopefully make a real difference in the lives and businesses of their customers. They do that by providing them with high quality products and services. But if they hope to do that consistently, for the long haul, they MUST make a profit. 


Because no no matter how much we may want it to be so… sales do not fix everything. 

I Just Don’t Know

“I just don’t know” may sound like weak words to many people. But to Authentic Leaders and their followers they are some of the most powerful trust building words that can be spoken.

 

Leadership is not about knowing it all. It’s not even about knowing more than the people you lead. Leadership begins with integrity and at the heart of integrity is honesty. Trying to fool people into believing you know more than you do causes immense damage to your credibility. When your credibility is gone integrity soon follows it out the door and so does your opportunity to authentically lead. 

 

Saying “I just don’t know” is not a sign of weakness in a leader, it is a sign of authenticity, a sign of honesty. It is a sign that the leader has enough confidence in what they do know to admit what they don’t. 

 

In every successful endeavor I’ve undertaken it succeeded because I knew what I didn’t know. But I was able to find people to work with me who could fill in my gaps. In pretty much every endeavor I’ve undertaken that didn’t succeed I either couldn’t find people to fill my gaps or, and this is far more likely, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. (Or perhaps I was just fooling myself)

 

I’m sure at some point I figured out I didn’t know as much as I thought I did but by that point I could not bring myself to admit it to others. That caused a myriad of problems. Upon reflection everyone of those problems came from the fact that I wasn’t a strong enough leader to say, “I just don’t know.”

 

One thing I’ve learned without a doubt in this: if you’re pretending to know more than you actually do others will see through your charade sooner or later. When that happens you’re not likely to ever lead them again. Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of this, that’s just how it works. 

 

I’ve grown through the years and now I’m almost proud to string the words, “I just don’t know” together. Others may think that makes me weak but I know that makes them something other than an Authentic Leader. 

 

Courage is a basic requirement for Authentic Leadership. It will sometimes take courage to admit when you don’t know something, especially when it’s something that many people think you should know. 

 

Don’t damage your credibility by pretending to know more than you do. Summon the courage of an Authentic Leader and admit your knowledge gap and then find the people who can help you fill it. 


Leaders don’t know it all and there is no requirement that they do. Authentic Leaders know that much for sure!

Thanksgiving Is Better as a Verb

Once a year the United States stops for a day to give thanks. That day of thanks is known as Thanksgiving Day. In the English language Thanksgiving is used as a name therefore it’s a noun.

 

But in a twist that causes great confusion for people attempting to learn the English language “Thanksgiving” is also an action which means it’s a verb. 

 

Which one is it for you? Is Thanksgiving a day you don’t have to work or is thanksgiving something you do?

 

Stopping for a day to reflect on all we have to be thankful for is fine but living a life full of thankfulness is better. The challenge is, at least for me, is that we take soooooo much for granted. 

 

The fact that a day is set aside to give thanks somehow seems to make it okay to give thanks one day a year. But we all know that’s not okay. So here’s an idea….

 

Since smartphones are such a big part of our life let’s use them to help us remember to live a life of thankfulness. When I open the calendar on my iPhone it says “Thanksgiving Day” on only one day a year. 

 

I’m going to scatter “Thanksgiving Day” throughout the year on my calendar. I’m going to use that device I look at many times a day to remind myself that Thanksgiving is best when it’s a verb and not merely a noun. I’d add Thanksgiving to everyday except for the fact that if I saw it everyday it wouldn’t be long before I didn’t even notice it anymore. 

 

I’d never presume to tell you what you have to be thankful for but I am certain that no matter your situation you have many things and people if your life that you would miss horribly if they were gone. 


Be thankful for them!


What Are You Working On?

“If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.” Dale Carnegie

 

When you think of self-help authors in the last 100 years, Dale Carnegie’s name will come to most people’s minds. His influence went beyond those who read his books, and is still being felt today – over sixty years after his death.

   

This particular quote from him speaks to the importance of pushing forward when the odds against your success seem insurmountable.

 

The key part of the quote is the beginning…. “If you believe in what you are doing.” For most people pushing past obstacles is only possible when they are certain what they do matters. When you believe what you’re doing is important and makes a difference you will find a way to get the work done.

 

I think most people, well hopefully not most but too many for sure, never stop long enough to ask themselves if what they are doing is important. They never stop long enough to consider if and how their work matters. They don’t wonder if they stopped doing what they are doing if they and their work would be missed by anyone.

 

Sadly, the quality of their work and their level of success is reflected in their lack of interest in doing something exceptionally well or in doing something that makes a difference in the world.

 

I completely understand that circumstances very often dictate what a person does for a living. I get that many times people simply take a job for the money because they have families to support and bills to pay. In my younger days I too had jobs where I was more interested in putting in my time than in putting in real effort. 

 

But your job or career is not your entire life. If you’re in a place where you can’t make a difference for your organization that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in the world. Find someplace outside of your job or career where you can do something that matters to you….and others. Something that you can believe in. Something that will leave a part of you behind when you’re gone. 

 

Here are some questions to consider as you look for that meaningful work. Hopefully you will find it right where you are. 

  • Do I believe in my work?
  • If not, what work can I believe in?
  • What work is most important for me to do today?
  • What, or who, distracts me or keeps me from doing the work that is most important to me and my future?
  • What unimportant things should I stop doing in order to invest my time on the important things that can make a difference?

When you have concrete answers to those questions take these action steps to get and keep yourself moving forward.

  • Remind yourself of the importance of your work as you begin each day, and at any time you feel distracted or feel like stopping.
  • Recognize the power of momentum, and get going.
  • Read this quote from Dale Carnegie often to help you stay focused on your key goals and to keep you focused on doing the work required.

Don’t waste time lamenting that your “day job” is less fulfilling than you would like. There are enough hours remaining in the day to “work” on something that does matter to you. 

 

Know what you want to achieve, realize it can happen IF you’re willing to work for it and then get started.  You’ll never finish what you never begin. Why not begin today?