Now THIS is Ridiculous!

I read with great interest a story in the Sunday paper about the success of a local company. This is a huge, very well known company that has been very successful for a long time. The story highlighted their recent success in a relatively new market for them, specifically the snack market. 

One of the representatives from the company cited the following reason for their unprecedented growth in this market:  “The snack market is growing globally because of the increasing time poverty among consumers. We all have less time to prepare proper meals at home.”

The words “time poverty” instantly caught my attention. I had never seen a lack of time described that way. My first thought was “what a load of you know what.” Time poverty certainly had to be the invention of some clever marketing person hoping to give poor time managers “permission” to pig out on food they probably shouldn’t be eating.

So I did a bit of research on “time poverty” and discovered that not only is it a problem in the United States it is in fact a “crisis.” 

Now THAT is ridiculous! 

Much of the research said that people today are over-loaded with choices on how to spend their time and lack the ability to choose what they do and when they do it.

Now THAT is completely ridiculous! 

Poverty is defined as:  The state of being extremely poor or the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.

There simply cannot be an ever increasing crisis of Time Poverty because there is not an ever decreasing amount of time! 

What we do have is an ever increasing level of poor judgement. We play the “victim” because we have so many TV channels that we just don’t have time to watch it all. We complain of a lack of time…to our “friends” on Facebook for 3 or more hours a day. 

We have companies like the one in this story telling people it is so normal and acceptable to be a crappy time manager that we make “snacks” just for people like you. 

The subtle message there is that you can’t succeed at managing your time. You’ll never be capable of “choosing” so just give up and pig out.

Well guess what – YOU DO have a choice, lots of them in fact and you do have the full ability to make them. Don’t buy into this garbage about “time poverty” because it just ain’t so! 

No one in the world has more time than you. No one in the world has even one more minute in the day than you. Not one single person. 

What someone may have is the ability to prioritize better than you. They may have real goals and plans that help guide those priorities. You can give yourself those tools too. 

It’s just a choice you have to make. I’d urge you to make it today. 

Now that’s NOT ridiculous! 

Are you Unbalanced?

I wasn’t going to write a post for Monday this week. Monday is a holiday in the United States and I figured no one in the U.S. would read it anyway. 

Then I figured there were a lot of unbalanced people who won’t unplug even on a holiday.  So I’m writing this for the people who will be reading it. If you’re not reading it that’s okay too because I didn’t write it for you.

I remember years ago asking for some advice from one of the most successful people I’ve ever met. He was an insurance salesperson. Not just any insurance salesperson mind you but perhaps the most successful salesperson in the history of selling.

He sold insurance for over 40 years and for each and every one of those 40 years he was his company’s top salesperson. He once showed me one of his quarterly commission checks that was well over $1,000,000. A quarterly check! He averaged over $6,000,000 annual income, selling insurance! 

Now he didn’t show me that check to brag or boost about his success. He showed me that check so I would understand what was possible if I was willing to work for it.

The advice I was seeking was in regards to an upcoming presentation that was of great importance to me. I asked what I could do to improve my odds of success. His advice confused me until I asked him for further explanation. 

The advice he gave me was to go home and take a nap each day until the day of the presentation. I remember thinking “that’s it, a nap” – that’s the best you got? That’s bizarre! 

I asked him to explain and he responded with a series of questions. He asked if I knew what I was talking about – I answered “of course”. He asked if I had succeeded with this type of presentation in the past – I answered “frequently”. He then asked when I was most likely to make a mistake – I answered “when I’m tired”. 

He just smiled.

It was in that moment that his “bizarre” advice made perfect sense. He went on to explain that the most successful people he knew had balance in their lives. They worked hard but they also worked hard at not working. They very intentionally stopped what they were doing from time to time in order that they might do nothing. Or at least do something very different than they did to earn a living.

So if you’re on holiday I hope you’re not reading this. If you’re on holiday and you’re reading this I hope you relax and enjoy the rest of your day. 

If you just can’t make yourself stop then ask yourself this:  if you can’t stop working long enough to enjoy your success are you really successful? 

That’s it for this little post – I’ll be busy doing nothing until Tuesday! 

BTW….I’ll write more about my friend Tom, the insurance salesperson. Every conversation with him was filled with life lessons I’ll share in future posts. 

The Cost of Doing Nothing

nothing2Have you ever heard the saying there is no such thing as a free lunch? I think it’s meant to convey the fact that nothing is really free. Every thing costs somebody something. Just because you didn’t pay for it doesn’t mean that someone else didn’t.

Well, I have some even worse news. Not only is nothing free, it turns out that even nothing costs something. Worse than that, nothing could be the most expensive thing you ever do. Or perhaps I should say, don’t do.

Let me explain. Suppose you’re a leader within an organization. You become aware of a problem, issue, concern or challenge that needs YOUR attention. This is a kind of messy problem and it is your “hope” that it would just go away. (tip: they never do)

You have an idea of what needs to be done but you’re just sort of stuck, you can’t make yourself do it. So you do nothing.

The problem gets worse. Often times you’re the last to know it’s gotten worse. That’s because the only way you can keep yourself from doing something is to ignore the problem. You become so good at ignoring the problem that you don’t even see it growing until it blows up in your face.

It’s then that you realize the true cost of doing nothing.

Almost all big problems started out as small problems. They are fertilized by no decisions and watered by no actions. They grow like weeds.

Some leaders grow problems but authentic leaders deal with them before they have the chance to grow. They know that the problem they don’t want to deal with today will only be bigger tomorrow.

If you’re in a leadership position, any level of leadership position, I can almost promise you there is some issue, problem or concern that you have been avoiding. It might be a personnel issue, a quality issue, a personal issue or some other business issue. Whatever it is, don’t let even one more day pass before you deal with it.

Failure to face our challenges results in real expense, it could be the loss of productivity, the loss of morale in your organization, lost business, or the loss of a key employee.

Whatever the cost of solving the problem in the short term, the cost of doing nothing is almost always higher. So have a good honest talk with yourself right now and commit to make that problem you’ve been avoiding go away once and for all.

Is This Ethical?

leadershipHave you ever asked yourself that question? If you’re in business or in any kind of leadership role the answer most certainly should be “yes.”

That simple question is the beginning of a series of check and balances that help us maintain our integrity and remain above reproach.

It could also be the beginning of a very slippery slope which leads you to ethical decay, a loss of credibility and loss of your ability to lead.

It all depends on how you answer it. Let’s be clear about this, it doesn’t depend on the answer, it depends on how you answer it.

A “yes” or “no” stated with conviction solidly answers the question and it’s likely that ends your little self-debate right then and there. Your conviction comes from a set of closely held principles that are firm and not open for discussion or debate. (These principles determine who you really are, at your core, when no one is looking)

The problems start when you answer the question with a hem and a haw. Throw in a couple of “well, maybe if” and you are well on your way to making a compromised decision that very well could lead to an ethical lapse.

Here’s the deal; if you think something might be unethical it almost certainly is unethical.  Your core principles know it, they are telling you and for some reason (likely personal or financial benefit) you’re trying to convince yourself that your principles are wrong. They are not wrong.

So maybe you tell yourself “just this once” or “everybody else is doing it” or some other self justifying silly thing. What your principles will tell you however is that there is no such thing as “just this once” because you either have ethics all the time, every time, or you have no ethics at all.

You know that’s true and so does everyone else.

Here’s what you may not realize: once your ethics can be called into question, every single thing you say and do can be called into question. Your motives for doing everything you do can be called into question.  People lose trust in those whose motives are murky.

Without trust relationships wither. Without a relationship there is no opportunity for leadership.

Is this ethical? That’s a great question, make sure you know where the answer came from.

How Customer Service Disappeared

customer-service.0822.12I frequently hear people complain about the lack of customer service. I complain about the same thing. Cell phone and cable companies are my favorite targets. Oh, and let’s not forget the airlines, take your pick, any of the major airlines are easy targets for customer service complaints.

Pretty much everyone I know laments the loss of decent customer service. We all seem to remember a time when people just cared more about “the customer” and their job in general.

I wonder if that’s true? Do people really care less these days?

Do companies just invest less in customer service training? Is it possible that when they do train their people that the training just misses the mark?

I personally don’t think any of that is true. I have a completely different thought. I think it’s a leadership issue. To be more precise, I think it’s a careless leadership issue.

Careless as in there are fewer leaders that truly care about their people today than there has been since the advent of capitalism. Authentic leaders know that if they want their people to care about the customer then they need to FIRST care about their people.

I remember years ago when Northwest Airlines was still in business the pilots went out on strike. The pilot’s union and Northwest management both began running ads in the media stating their case and ripping the other side to shreds. Northwest hinted at the fact that their pilots were greedy idiots without the ability to form a cognitive thought. The pilots said it was the airline that was greedy and that they were cutting corners on maintenance that made the airline unsafe to fly. It was pretty ugly and emotional on both sides.

Then one day a local radio station interviewed one of the pilots. This was a very rational guy who explained how he saw the root cause of almost every problem at the airline.

He said the basic problem was that the airline was using unhappy, unengaged, and disillusioned employees to try and make happy, engaged and loyal customers.

He made a powerful case that it was nearly impossible for a unhappy “service worker” as he called them, to happily service a customer. He said it was normal, and should be expected, that if you’re unhappy you won’t exactly kill yourself trying to make somebody else happy.

I have agreed with and believed that ever since I first heard it.

Which brings us to the state of customer service today.

Today, the disparity in pay between those at the top of a company and those in the company who are most likely to provide service to the company’s customers is greater than it has ever been. The disparity is generally greatest in the cable, cell phone and airline industries. Is that a coincidence?

Executive pay in many cases continue’s to grow at double digit rates while the people in the trenches doing the heavy lifting receive increases of 1-2% on average. If that!

That disparity is easily explained by the relative “importance” of the job. Obviously top executives have a lot more responsibility than a front-line customer service rep. Or do they?

Whether they do or not is almost immaterial for this discussion. Here’s the point, if leaders say or do things that cause their people to feel as if what they do is unimportant they will respond accordingly.

Once a person feels unimportant they will be hard pressed to make someone else, a customer for instance, feel important either.

As leaders continue to build walls between themselves and their people, customer service will continue to decline. I don’t believe the building of walls is intentional, but a wall is a wall. Some of the walls are built with cash and some are built with actions but they are built all the same.

If you’re a leader who wants your people to provide a higher level of service to your customers, then don’t ask what your people can do for your customers. Ask what you can do for your people.

Try Not to be a Wimp!

PCI believe in treating other people with respect. I think being honest is important, very important. Where there is no honesty there is no integrity either.

Absent integrity, there can be no leadership.

This is a post about political correctness. PC as it’s known has been so important that it almost seems more important than honesty and integrity. It’s “better” I’m told, to tell a little white lie than to risk offending someone.

That’s a load of you know what. That’s the kind of nonsense that weak, lazy leaders say to keep from dealing with real issues. It’s the kind of silliness that lets people think they are doing better than they are right up until the time they are told they are fired.

I remember doing some work with one of the top MBA schools in the country. I taught a day-long sales training program and then these very bright students worked as teams to prepare sales presentations based on the content of my day long session.

A team of marketing and sales executives from Fortune 500 companies was assembled to judge and rate each team’s presentation. As the judges were discussing the presentations one of the professors from the business school stopped by to see how things were going.

The executives told him some of the students were exceptional and some, not so much. On a scale of one to ten some would receive 9’s and 10’s and others only a 5 or 6. The professor was upset by the low scores and urged the executives to raise the scores. He explained that the students were the “best and the brightest” and they would not be able to handle a mediocre score.

I remember one of the executives from 3M telling him that it would be better to learn from a “5” here than out in the “real world” where the low score would truly be costly. He then said the scores would stand.

When we were all gathered back in the main auditorium the professor stated that the students should accept the scores “with a grain of salt” because the executives just “don’t know how we do things here.”

No kidding.

The school was so concerned about “offending” the students that they deemed it better to send them out into the business world thinking they were awesome rather than with realistic expectations as to their skill level.

That’s what it’s come to. Rather than risk offending, we lie. We shade the truth. We tell ourselves “we’re protecting someone”.

That’s not leadership.

If you’re going to build tomorrow’s leaders you’re going to have to put the PC junk away. You need to start using good old fashioned Human Relations Skills and tact to tell the truth. You need to tell it in such as way that the person can accept it in the caring fashion that you intended it.

YOU need to find the courage to lead. You need to risk offending someone to help them. You need to risk that they might take it wrong in order to do what’s right. You need to decide that integrity and honesty are more important than Political Correctness.

You need to lead!




The Truth About Great Leadership

leadershipThere is simply a ton of stuff written about leadership. You can find it all over the web. There are sections in libraries and bookstores dedicated to the topic. I’m not sure we could even count all the blogs with a focus on leadership.

If you can’t find something “new” written on the topic of leadership everyday you just aren’t looking. It’s everywhere!

Much of it is very very good. Much of it is very true. Much of it is very motivational and positive.

This is not a positive post. It’s not very motivational either but it is very very true.

I write lots of very positive and motivational leadership tweets over on my Twitter @leadtoday. I believe in everything I write. Leading others is both fulfilling and rewarding. If it’s not both of those for you then maybe you’re not really leading or you need to change your leadership focus from you to your followers.

I have read (and even Tweeted) that if “it’s lonely at the top” you must be doing something wrong. That’s mostly right. But not always. Sometimes it’s very wrong. Sometimes “the top” is the loneliest place on earth.

I also often say that if you’re going to lead you simply must be able to make decisions. That is always right. The good news is that most of the decisions a leader is required to make are easy. Cut and dried. Black and white. Easy!

Sometimes the decision to be made is so big and important that no matter how much consult or input you receive it’s still you making the ultimate decision on your own. Alone.

Sometimes that big decision isn’t even made at the top. Sometimes it’s made from the middle. That doesn’t make it a smaller decision, that can make it even bigger. It can make it harder too, harder in the sense that there is less “protection” in the middle than there is at the top. Either way, making that decision can put you in a pretty lonely place.

Authentic, experienced leaders know that the toughest decisions are the ones that involve people. Money decisions, decisions about vendors, buildings, processes, and investments can all be dwarfed by decisions that involve the lives of other people.

Some leaders run from those decisions. Some hope they just take care of themselves. Still other leaders become almost paralyzed struggling about what to do. The amazing thing is that in most everyone of those instances the leader knows what needs to be done. They know what’s right, they just can’t make themselves do it.

They struggle because doing what’s right may come at great personal expense. When I say expense I’m not talking about money, if it was about money the struggle would be short-lived. The type of expense I’m talking about is personal, long-lasting and emotional. It is the kind of expense that changes lives forever, maybe even the life of the leader. It’s the kind of expense that hurts people, sometimes good people.

It’s a truly monumental decision.

Authentic leaders, the ones who make a real difference in this world, make it. They may only have a few decisions of that magnitude to make in their lives but they make them. They know that avoiding the decision IS a decision. It’s a decision to do nothing and it frequently leads to disaster. So they make the decision.

Authentic leaders know that it takes courage to make these decisions. That courage comes from rock solid principles and the conviction to stand by them, no matter what. They don’t make these kinds of decisions in the absence of fear, they make them in spite of the fear.

You can make a lot of poor decisions on the smaller things and still succeed. If you’re going to succeed as a leader you must get nearly all the big ones right. Perfectly right.

That’s what great leaders do.