Do You Know Who You Are?

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You can’t be true to your values until you know that you have them.

Do you know who you are? No, not just your name, who you really are. It’s a sad reality that most people don’t actually know themselves all that well.

We all have values that inform various decisions in our life and most of our values change over time. As we grow older, become more experienced or are influenced by a different set of circumstances, some of our values tend to change. That is normal.

But some of our values run much deeper, we don’t necessarily choose them, we discover them. We grow into these values and that “growth” often begins at a young age. Once these values are “set” they stay with us throughout our life; these are our core values.

Research shows that most people have between 6 to10 core values. The research also shows that when asked, most people cannot tell you what their core values are.

Whether you are consciously aware of these values or not it is these values which most affect your life. They impact, or should, almost every aspect of your life; who your friends are, how you live your life, what you do for a living, etc.

If the life you live matches your core values you are likely to be more successful than average. You find fulfillment in what you do, in how you live and you probably have little conflict in your life.

If you’re living a life disconnected from your core values, as many people are, you are likely leading a life full of conflict and unhappiness. In some cases people will try to live the values of someone else to make them happy. In either case these people are unfulfilled and probably often feel like they just can’t “get it together.”

If you’re a person living apart from your core values it may just be that you are not consciously aware of what they are. If you’re ever going to reach your full potential in life you’re going to have to become consciously aware of what truly matters to you. Only then can you live your life accordingly.

A coach, a mentor or someone who truly cares about you can help you discover your core values. It may take a bit of effort and a fair amount of introspection but the payoff is a life lived to it’s fullest and a life of very few regrets.

So, do you know who you are?

When Leaders Lie

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A leader, at least an authentic leader has many tools and skills at their disposal. They have excellent judgment, they have far reaching vision and they are outstanding communicators to name just a few.

Of all the tools and skills they possess however, none is more important than credibility. Credibility makes everything else “work”. Without credibility they don’t need a vision, without credibility nothing they say will be believed, no matter how well they might have said it.

If you’re a leader who lies to your people then you have almost certainly lost the right to lead. Your people may still be complying with the requirements placed on them but they are no longer committed to you, or in most cases, the organization. Their trust is gone and gone with it is the respect that you desperately need to lead.

I think big lies hurt the most but the effect of a series of small lies, you know those little white ones, can have the same effect over time as one big whopper. When you are less than honest, completely honest, with your people they begin to doubt everything you say even when you are honest. When they can’t believe what you say they assume the worst and morale plunges.

I have this concept that I talk about from time to time. It’s the concept of a “credibility bank.” We begin a relationship with a certain amount of credibility and everything we say and do either adds or subtracts from that credibility. When we do what we say we will, when we tell the truth, we receive a small deposit into out credibility bank.

When our actions fail to match what we say, when we are less than completely honest with people, we suffer a substantial withdraw from our credibility bank.

That means it takes much longer to restore our credibility than it does to lose it. You may want to think about that the next time you’re tempted to “shade” an answer “just a little.”

Now, there will be some people reading this who believe that being 100% honest with people is naive. They will say there are times when you just can’t be honest, that you “must” lie for the other person’s own good. They say there are times when we must lie to protect another person. They also frequently mention “company secrets.”

Hogwash!

Every one of those “excuses” is a sign of a leader too lazy to do it right or a leader who lacks the confidence to have difficult conversations with their people.

If you have company secrets (those things which really would negatively impact the competitive strength of the company if widely known) then look your people in the eye and tell them you can’t share that with them. It should be noted that there are very, very few real company secrets. Often, management doesn’t share the info out of a mistaken belief that knowledge is power.

An authentic leader is caring enough to find a way to deliver the truth in a manner that doesn’t hurt and in a manner that builds relationships over the long haul. It might not be easy but an authentic leader puts in the effort to build their credibility at every turn.

Don’t take your credibility for granted, it’s easier to lose than many people think. Always make sure you know the truth and that the truth is what you tell. Your people need a leader they can trust and you need your people to trust you.

Racist Rants? Not Exactly!

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I posted the following tweet to my LeadToday Twitter on Sunday morning:

You’ll reach your goal sooner if you begin today instead of tomorrow. There is likely no real reason to wait, go for it!

Lots of people ReTweeted it and many made positive comments about it. One comment most certainly wasn’t positive. One person replied by saying, “it was spoken LIKE a true Republican who got courage from a suit but knew nothing of getting their hands dirty doing real work.”

I made a mistake by deciding to engage this person in a conversation (as I sometimes do) and replied by saying something about it not being a political tweet and that I had to go wash my hands…. I included a smiley face so they would know I was kidding.

Her response bitterly stated that I shouldn’t tweet humor after the shooting in Colorado. In subsequent tweets she said she could tell I was the typical white racist republican that made money off the poor but knew nothing of real work.

It was at that point that I blocked the person.

All that from a basic Sunday morning tweet that was simply supposed to make people feel better about themselves.

I like to learn from my interactions on Twitter but I’m struggling to see the lesson in this one. My instincts told me I was heading for trouble before I responded to her original tweet but I ignored them and replied anyway. Maybe the lesson is “listen to your instincts.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have blocked her at all. Perhaps I should have stayed engaged and maybe helped her see a brighter side of life. Maybe the lesson is “don’t bail on difficult conversations.”

Perhaps she is more insightful than thousands of other people and my tweets are really insensitive racist rants. Maybe the lesson here is…. Nope, no lesson here. My tweets are anything but racist rants.

It could be that the woman was struggling with something in her life and it manifested itself with harsh thoughts directed randomly at whomever crossed her path. She was certainly one of the most bitter people I’ve ever come across, on Twitter or anywhere else. The lesson here must be to not take Twitter comments too personally.

I suppose it’s also possible she’s just an unstable person in which case it would be a mistake to take any lessons from our encounter.

So…. Help me out, what’s my lesson here?

Your Attitude is Your Choice

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We make choices all day everyday. When to wake up, what to wear, what to eat, and many many more. Some of our choices are conscious decisions and some, regrettably are unconscious.

When our choices are conscious we have the opportunity to control them, when our choices are unconscious they just kind of happen. Unconscious decisions tend to become habits and it seems that they are most often bad habits at that.

One of our most important choices is the choice of our attitude. Do you realize that you, and only you, choose your attitude? Everyday.

When we make it a conscious choice we almost always have a better attitude. When our choice is unconscious we let other people and other things make that choice for us and that choice is often a negative attitude.

Another choice we can make to help ourselves have a positive attitude is the choice of who we associate with. A sad fact of life is that not everyone really does love a winner. There are people near us that might actually prefer that we fail. They see the negative side of everything we do and say. They have more influence on our attitude than we might imagine.

Stay away from those that would like to see you fail, stay away from those that tell you that you can’t succeed and never, never, never tell yourself that you can’t have everything that you deserve.

Our attitude is either our greatest asset or one of our greatest stumbling blocks. It’s completely our choice and it’s a choice we need to make every single day.

Is President Obama Lying?

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If it is not the truth it is a lie.

I wish Mitt Romney was more forthcoming. I wish he would release his tax returns sooner rather than later. There is no question that he will eventually release all of his returns; if he doesn’t he will not be elected President. He’s a smart guy, he’ll figure that out but his credibility will continue to take a hit until he does.

I wish Mitt Romney didn’t have bank accounts in foreign countries. I’m no financial wizard but I’m pretty sure there are very few reasons for an American citizen to do that and none of them would make the average person feel too good about Mitt Romney.

But I have no issue with Mitt Romney’s former ownership stake in Bain Capital. He took over the mess that was the Olympic Games in 1999. That’s easy, easy, easy to verify. The games were a disaster and the International Olympic Committee was considering stripping the United States of the games. Mitt Romney stepped in and literally rescued the games. It was indisputably a heroic effort. It was also a very full-time job. There was no time to manage Bain Capital. As is often the case, he remained an officer (on leave) of the company after leaving the active decision making process. He simply did not have time to participate in day to day, month to month or year to year decisions.

What he had to do however was sign off on various SEC paperwork. It is fairly common for officers no longer involved in day to day operations to fulfill that government requirement. I had lunch last week with a former Fortune 100 CEO who said he signed similar forms for a couple of years after he retired, simply because of his former position in the organization. I certainly don’t understand all the SEC regulations around reporting (I can’t imagine any one person could) but I do know that what Mitt Romney did was an accepted business practice. It was acceptable to the SEC and it was acceptable to the Federal Accounting Standards Board.

President Obama knows that too, so do many of the lawyers that work in his campaign. They also understand that while it doesn’t look too good, there is absolutely nothing illegal about it. They understand as well that most Americans have no understanding of the SEC, their tons and tons of regulations or any of the government accounting standards.

They appear to be using those two “circumstances” to mislead the American public. Intentionally. Speaking half-truths in an attempt to mislead potential voters. Claiming Mitt Romney is a felon or a liar is as disingenuous as any political campaign in the history of the United States. (Yes, I am familiar with the Presidency of Richard Nixon)

The Obama Campaign, and likely even President Obama himself are lying to the American public in an attempt to smear Mitt Romney. That does a great disservice to the American people.

This is a long campaign; in it’s somewhat early stages. I’d like to know what these two guys plans are to fix the problems of the United States.

We deserve detailed plans!

We the People of The United States of America (remember, one of these guys works for us and the other one wants to) have the right to know that.

We don’t need our current employee blaming the guy before him and we don’t need our job applicant telling us the current guy has failed and that’s why he deserves a chance. To blame the guy before you, after 3-1/2 years is ridiculous, saying you’re qualified because the guy that currently holds the office has failed is even more ridiculous.

How about a real discussion around the actual issues of the day? How about showing some authentic leadership. We’ve seen nothing that looks like authentic leadership in this campaign from the incumbent President, and it’s been a while since Governor Romney has displayed any either.

We deserve better than this campaign has given us so far, maybe someone should tell these guys that we’re not as dumb as they think we are. We the People of The United States of America should use every form of media available to inform both President Obama and Mitt Romney that they need to have a serious discussion befitting someone that wants to hold high office in this great country.

It’s Hardly Simple

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The more complicated you make your business the more complicated your business will be. The more complicated you make your business, the less business you will do.

Seems simple enough doesn’t it? But the reality is that way too many businesses lose sight of that fact and it costs them customers because of it. Almost everyone is familiar with the age old acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid – but in our drive to be “better” or “improved” keeping it simple isn’t that simple at all.

Smart business people know that complicated is often not better. We can make it so hard for a customer to do business with us that they won’t. We develop “policies” and “procedures” to improve our service but to many customers these are just barriers and hoops they need to jump through if they want to do business with us.

The fewer policies we have, the less rules to follow, the easier it is for a customer to do business with us.

Never implement a rule or policy without knowing exactly why that policy is needed and without knowing exactly how it impacts a customer. You should also know that YOU have no real idea how it impacts a customer until you ask them. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never really see our business the same way a customer does so ask them.

If you’re hoping for a long life for your business then here’s one more important point: never, never, never assume a post like this was intended for someone other than you.
The moment you think “our policies are all good, all useful, all well thought out” you are in trouble. I would encourage you to reexamine each and every one of your policies and procedures and ask yourself why they are there and if they help or hinder a customer trying to do business with you.

By the way, policies don’t just sometimes make it hard for customers to do business with us, they can also make it hard for people to work for us. The most innovative companies in the world also tend to have the smallest policy manuals around. Remember, the more you limit your people in some ways, the more you limit your people in every way.

Get that policy handbook, HR manual, whatever your company calls it, get it out and shrink it today. Once it’s shrunk it will work hard to grow again so review it often, it like a bush, it always looks better right after it’s trimmed!

Hey Big Shot, Read This!

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I was riding high as a 20 something salesperson described by the corporate leadership as the best salesperson they had ever seen. I was IT!

So IT in fact that one day the General Manager called me into his office and offered me the job of General Sales Manager. If I accepted, I would pass over the District Sales Managers and the Regional Sales Managers. With a simple “yes” the people I worked for would now be working for me.

I had no idea what the job consisted of but what I did know was that it paid a LOT more money and came with a huge office and a company car. I consulted with my top advisors (my golfing and drinking buddies) and quickly decided to accept the job.

So began my career in leadership and what a miserable beginning it was. You see, I was promoted into a leadership “position” and given a fancy “title” but no General Manager and no amount of promotions could make me an authentic leader. Only time, experience, great mentors and willing, committed followers could do that.

On my first day as General Sales Manager I assumed I was a leader and I assumed everyone else thought I was too. (I mean geez, why wouldn’t the district and regional managers be happy for me?) That was just the start of my many, many mistakes. My mistakes were so numerous that all the Internet couldn’t hold them. But of all my mistakes, here is the biggest: I assumed that my title or position made me a leader. I was dead wrong.

I held that position for nearly 3 years, almost 36 months of floundering and limiting the growth of those I was “leading.”

Finally, a couple of guys from Dale Carnegie Training came through my door and started me on the process towards true leadership. I learned quickly that no title and no position, no matter how grand, no matter how much it pays and no matter how coveted it is, will ever make you a leader.

Caring for others, sharing your experience, practicing intentional recognition, providing consistent feedback and developing more leaders are just a few of the traits that make an authentic leader.

I have written about this before but it bears repeating again and again, if you hold a title or position do not make the mistake I did, do not assume either of those make you a leader. The position may give you a nice office and the title a hefty paycheck but only influence with others makes you a real leader.

Find yourself a mentor, take some leadership classes, or read a book on leadership. Whatever you do, do something. The people reporting to you need you to be a good leader, they want you to be a great leader and they know that in all likelihood, if you don’t succeed, they won’t either.

If someone saw fit to trust you with a leadership position don’t squander the opportunity, get busy developing your leadership skills today.