Understanding Success – Part Two

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the second post of a who knows how long series of those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The series will be at least a few posts, maybe as many as six. 

Once successful people have made the choice of a positive attitude it makes it much easier to understand the difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t.” Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Mr. Ford obviously knew something about what it takes to succeed. 

He also knew about the unbelievably destructive nature of thinking that you can’t. It’s really not possible to simply talk your way to success but it’s pretty common for people to talk their way out of it.

Do you talk to yourself? You just proved that you do when you asked yourself that question. Talking to yourself isn’t bad but negative self-talk kills dreams so be VERY careful about what you say to yourself. 

Every time you say “I can’t” you willingly give up a measure of control by telling yourself and others that you are willing to surrender your success. They more often that you say “I can’t” the more likely it becomes that you won’t. 

It’s perfectly fine if you willingly choose not to do something, just be certain that “I won’t” is a conscious choice and that you’re not unconsciously forcing it upon yourself by repeating “I can’t” over and over. 

Successful people find a way to say, and think, “I can.”

Remember, pretty much everything that’s ever been done was at one time thought impossible yet it was eventually done by someone who said “I can” and they quickly followed it up with a big “I WILL.” 

Nothing is truly impossible until every person on the planet agrees that it’s impossible. Never agree that anything is impossible…. be the one who proves it isn’t.

One more thing….be certain that your “won’t” isn’t simply coming from the fact that you don’t like doing something because here is one thing that nearly all successful people have in common: successful people have developed the habits of doing things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 

Focus on the fact that YOU CAN!

Understanding Success – Part One

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the initial post of a who knows how long series on those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. The series will be at least a few posts, maybe as many as six. 

First and foremost successful people understand the role that attitude plays in their success. They awake each day with the same choice to make as everyone else in the world and the choice they make is to have a positive attitude. It’s not that less successful people choose a negative attitude, they simply make no choice at all and allow the nattering nabobs of negativism to choose their attitude for them. 

If you want success and happiness in your life (by the way, each of our definitions of success may vary but I personally believe that if you’re not happy then you’re not successful) then begin each day by making the choice of a positive attitude. No matter what else is going on in your life it’s your attitude that is the one choice that no one can ever take from you.

Never doubt for a moment this absolute fact of success: Your attitude is a choice and it’s yours and yours alone to make.

By the way, just a thought here: if you’re a leader who desires to have a positive impact on your people then you should know that it’s pretty tough to have a positive impact on others unless you first have a positive impact on yourself.

Focus on your attitude.


Are You Leading by Example?

Okay, that’s actually kind of a trick question because there is really only one answer. The answer is of course yes! If you’re actually leading then you’re leading by example, whether you intend to or not.

You’re leading by example because your followers are always watching. They are watching to see if your words match your actions. If your words and actions don’t match then your people will be required to make a choice. Should they do what you say or should they do what you do? In virtually every instance they will do what you do far, far faster than they will do what you say. 

The reality is that most of your people, regardless of their skill, desire, and natural abilities simply don’t know how to succeed, especially early in their careers. They can be told how to succeed but the most effective method by far to help them succeed is to show them. 

 That makes you their model of successful behavior.

So, here’s a few questions to think about as you go about “modeling” for your people….

Are you the type of leader who models a consistently positive attitude for your people?  You probably won’t like this and likely might choose not to believe it but in fact your people’s attitudes are most often a reflection of your own. Don’t criticize others for reflecting the attitude that they see in you. Check your own attitude before you check the attitude of your people.

Are you the type of leader who models the work ethic that you expect from your people? This one gets more challenging as the workforce gets younger. One of the more common expectations of the millennial workforce is a flexible work schedule. Just to be clear, they don’t expect to do less work than their more experienced co-workers, they just expect to be able to do more of the work in the hours they choose. 

You as a leader must model the drive, the urgency, and the motivation to perform at a high level until the work is complete. As a modern day leader you must also adapt to the reality that not everyone will be willing to perform at that high level with the identical schedule as you. Keep the end result in mind and focus on the goal, it should matter more that a project is completed on time than what time of the day a project is completed.

It will be nearly impossible to motivate your people to do more than you’re willing to do yourself. When you ask for more from your people than you’re willing to give then you’re modeling unsuccessful behavior and your leadership is doomed to fail.

Are you the type of leader who models the importance of caring? You’re people won’t care what you know until they know that you care. An Authentic Leader will do much more than say that they care, they will show it. They will show it by investing time to get to know their people. They will show it by risking a bit of the “aura” of leadership and showing people their true self. When your people know you care they also know it’s okay for them to care.

When your people care for one another, when they truly value different perspectives, when they genuinely value uniqueness as much as similarities then you’ve got yourself a team. 

You are most certainly leading by example. The only question is what kind of example are you. It’s your responsibility as as leader to make certain that the example you set is one that leads your people to the success that they seek. 

So, how will you answer the questions today? 



How to Make a Decision-Maker

I remember when George W. Bush was President he made a comment (I don’t recall the context) that he was the “decider.” He was laughed at and made fun of because of that statement. I really never understood why… I still don’t.

The ability to decide is a fundamental requirement of effective leadership. If you don’t have the ability to make a decision then you don’t have the ability to lead. In the absence of decisions leadership flounders and dies. Now, for those of you who want to put the qualifier “good” before the word decision you go right ahead. 

The reality is, you should be just as concerned with a lack of ability to make any decisions as you are about poor or bad decisions. Just as many organizations and businesses have failed because of no decisions as have failed because of poor decisions. It just might take a little longer. 

If you’re a leader who is interested in the development of the leaders who will follow you then helping them discover their ability to make decisions should be a major focus area for YOU. 

Help them to understand the difference between a “satisficing” decision and a maximized decision. Satisficing is an approach to decision-making that prioritizes an adequate solution over the optimal solution that comes from a maximized decision. While a maximized decision is always preferable sometimes time constraints and a lack of access to complete information will require a leader to go with an adequate solution. 

A maximized decision requires that you know and understand every option. They require considerably more time and energy and still, a maximizer decision-maker often has doubts about their decision because they find it hard to ever be truly certain.

Share with your future leaders where you find your information when making a decision. As you consider your sources you’ll likely find that a great many of your decisions are in fact satisficing decisions. 

You get as much information as you can and you combine it with your experience and instincts and you decide. That is what a decider does, they decide! Your future leaders have experience and instincts too and a lot of that came from you so how bad a decision can they make?

It’s never good to hold your people to a standard that you don’t hold yourself to. If you’re largely a satisficing decision-maker then don’t expect your people to always be maximizer decision-makers. They won’t be perfect decision makers, they will just be like you.

If you’re building tomorrow’s leaders then you must let them decide today. Start small, they don’t need to begin with million dollar decisions but they do need to begin. In order for your future leaders to begin you must stop. Stop deciding for them. 

Once you allow them to decide then you must stop second guessing their decisions. You can coach, you can gently suggest but you can’t overrule. Even if you believe they are wrong. Perhaps one of the best things to do when allowing others to make decisions that you have made in the past is to consider the very first principle from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The principle says, “Don’t condemn, criticize or complain.” 

One of the very best ways to learn to make decisions is simply to make them and then study the outcome. If the outcome was less than desirable then adjust the decision and study the results again. Some outcomes will be good, some will be bad, some may be worse than bad. If the person making the decisions is truly a leader they may learn more from a poor decision than they learn from a good one.

YES, I understand a poor decision can bring with it financial consequences. I’d simply encourage you to consider any negative financial consequences to be an investment in your future leaders…they are after all the future that you’re creating. 


Are You Kidding Me? Again?

Okay, this is another of those posts which I’m not supposed to write, social media “experts” tell me I should stay on topic, which would be leadership. But I could make a case that this post IS about leadership although it could also expose me as politically incorrect to those who don’t know me. For those who do know me, well, they won’t be surprised at all. I’ve long thought we (both Americans and most of the rest of the world) have gone over the cliff with political correctness and now we have further proof that my thoughts are correct.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has sent an email to athletic directors with a list of “cheers” that have been deemed contrary to good sportsmanship.

Now I’m all for good sportsmanship. I think youth sports can teach kids a lot about life. It teaches them the importance of teamwork and it demonstrates that passion and commitment can lead to success. Perhaps most importantly, it teaches them that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. They learn that there are usually rewards for extra effort and that lack of effort leads directly to failure. 

Apparently the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has some other lessons in mind. I can’t imagine what those lessons are but I’m sure their intentions are good, no matter how misguided they are.

So what cheers have they decided to ban in the name of sportsmanship? Here’s the list from the email: 



“We can’t hear you”

“Air ball”

“You can’t do that”

“There’s a net there”

“Season’s over”

Now to be fair, “season’s over” is only banned during the playoffs of whatever sport you might be cheering for. 

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association stated in their email that these chants, when directed at the opposing teams and their students were meant to “taunt or disrespect.”

Ya think? My answer to that would be “so what.” 

If you’re a basketball player and you don’t want people yelling “air ball” at you then I’d suggest that you don’t throw up an air ball. I was a goalie on my high school hockey team (for a very short time) and I heard “sieve” yelled in my direction often (why it was a short time) and yet I somehow survived. I never figured they were supposed to respect me just because I was on the ice, I assumed that I needed to earn their respect by not letting them slap rubber past me all night. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if next we heard that beating the opposing team is the ultimate in disrespect so scores should no longer be kept and we’ll just give everyone a trophy for participating….. oh wait, never mind on that last point, I’m too late.

In my not so humble opinion, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association is looking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. They are making babies, perhaps permanent babies, out of kids who will one day not have well-meaning adults protecting them from vile chants like “you can’t do that.” 

Parents who protect their kids from every consequence of life had better be prepared to live a long time because their kids will always need protecting. 

Can we just apply some common sense and let kids be kids. Punish them when required (and I understand that it often is) but don’t punish them for learning to live life. Don’t punish kids by over-protecting them, their peers and “former” friends will do a fine job of showing them what they can say and what they can’t. 

Why, I’ll bet they will learn right from wrong just like us old folks did.

The Problem With Exit Interviews

In just the last few months I’ve had no less than half a dozen people who were leaving their jobs ask me what I thought they should say during their exit interviews. When the first few asked I just naively said “the truth.” They kind of stared at me like I was some sort of idiot. (okay, just keep your snide remarks to yourself here 😊)

I guess I hadn’t really thought that out.

With the last few who have asked me I answered with a question. I asked, “what are you thinking of saying?”

Their answer indicated that the truth, at least the whole truth was nearly out of the question. They saw nothing to gain by ratting out a crummy boss, complaining about a hostile work environment, or uncompetitive compensation and benefits. They didn’t want to go out as a negative complainer.

What they really wanted to know was how much information they should share, if any, or should they pretty much hold everything back and just go quietly into the night. I guess I had never really thought much about the various strategies involved in exit interviews but these people had raised my curiosity.

So I started asking around. I asked people from different industries, different levels within companies, and different amounts of experience at their current jobs what they would say at an exit interview and the answers I received surprised me. Most people saw an exit interview as a necessary evil that they needed to carefully manage. They said they would choose their words carefully so as to not offend. Not one saw a benefit to “burning any bridges.”

The ones who said they felt an obligation to be truthful said they couldn’t be fully truthful. They didn’t think anything would really change so even those who were willing to share something “bad” would not come clean as to how truly bad it was.

I’ve come to the conclusion that conducting exit interviews is a little bit like closing the gate after the horse has left the corral. 

So here’s a message for those organizations and leaders who are still robotically conducting exit interviews. You had better be certain that the reason you like exit interviews isn’t because you DON’T want to really know what’s going on. The most successful leaders ask the questions even if they think they won’t like the answer. 

To grow your organization you must listen intently to what you don’t want to hear. Too many exit interviews merely confirm that “it wasn’t anything the company did,” it wasn’t anything the boss did,” in fact, there is really no reason I’m leaving at all. Guess it was just time for a change or I think I have a better opportunity somewhere else. 

Clearly there was a serious, tangible reason that the person leaving your organization decided to leave. If you can’t find out what that reason is then why bother with an exit interview?

Most answers in an exit interview leave the organization and it’s leaders off the hook for losing people. In my opinion that’s why little change comes from the “information” learned in an exit interview.  

If you’re losing good people find out how to keep them BEFORE they leave. 

So maybe you ought to consider “stay interviews.” These are conducted on a very regular basis,  at a minimum once a year. Asking a few times a year during regular “bring-ups” is not too often. The two big questions to ask are, “what could the company do to keep you?” and “what would entice you to leave the company?”

Surprisingly most research indicates that the first question is commonly asked in one form or another during an exit interview. That’s way too late. 

Finding good employees is only going to become more challenging as the retirement of Baby Boomers speeds up, there just won’t be enough people to fill all the open positions. Rather then jumping into the rat race of finding new people maybe you ought to consider focusing on keeping the ones you already have.

Your Next Shot

I’ve been blessed many times with the opportunity to visit The Pinehurst Resort. It is truly the golf Mecca of the United States and home of the world famous Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.

If you’re even a little into the game of golf you need to add a visit to Pinehurst to your bucket list and get yourself there very soon. The golf is world class, the food is to die for and the people, well the people who serve you at Pinehurst are the kind of people you would be friends with back home. There are few places like Pinehurst anywhere in the world.

But without question the centerpiece of Pinehurst is the golf course known as No. 2. It was designed in 1907 by the legendary Donald Ross.

Donald Ross designed No. 2 to mirror life, if you hit it straight you had a chance to succeed. If you hit in the the rough well things could literally be rough. You could drive the ball 250 yards but it would count for very little if you couldn’t navigate a 6 inch putt on the delicate and challenging greens. As in life, Mr. Ross wanted little things to matter on No. 2. But no matter what you did with your previous shot always there would be a chance at a better one next time, a recovery shot. Redemption! 

Whether in golf or life we always hope for something better the next time, even the most successful people sometimes need another chance to succeed. 

I’ve hit a lot of bad shots on No. 2, but I’ve hit some good ones too. Either way it’s the chance for another shot, a better shot next time which keeps me coming back for more. It’s really the next shot that truly matters. If it’s a better shot your back in the game, if it’s a worse shot you’re in trouble but still, you have a chance for a better shot next time. 

Life is like that except shots are called choices. We can get away with a bad one now and then but too many bad choices in a row can send us somewhere we don’t want to be. But the only way to recover from one bad choice or even a series of bad choices is to make another, better choice. Continual success does not come from effort, it comes from continual effort. Even if you’ve made ten good choices in a row your success only continues if you continue to make good choices. 

It’s the old “what have you done for me lately” cliché. Our success is determined in large part by the choices we’ve made lately. The fact that we may have been a success in the past does not necessarily mean we are still a success today. For me anyway success in far more about the journey than it is about the destination. (Maybe that’s because I’ve yet to “arrive.” 😉)

Some people like to rest on their laurels but successful people would tell you that laurels quickly become a pretty uncomfortable place to rest. Laurels in fact are where success goes to die.

So go ahead, make a bad shot, make a bad choice and then make some more. Some will be better than others, the true secret to success is to never stop trying. Most successful people indeed failed along the way. They didn’t succeed because all their choices were good, they succeeded because when one choice was bad they took the chance at making another one.