An Organization’s Greatest Asset

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked the leader of a business or organization what their greatest asset was I probably wouldn’t care about a paycheck or the stock market anymore. 

 

If I had a half a dollar for every time they answered “my people” I’d be pretty well off too. 

 

A leader saying their people are their greatest asset is the easiest answer they can give. Showing that their people are their greatest asset is a completely different thing. 

 

If you were to watch a typical leader’s actions you would think their greatest asset was their computers or copiers. They typically spend more, way more, on their IT Department for example than they do in their training and employee development departments. In the vast majority of companies it’s 30-100% more. 

 

In most companies the investment allocated to grow their people is near the bottom on the list of budget allocations. 

 

So are your people your greatest asset? Does your budget reflect that? Are you consistently investing in your people or is that an investment that is too easy to cut when budgets get tight? 

 

When you stop and think about it you know investing in your people is the best investment you can make. The challenge for most leaders is that they don’t stop and think about it. They instinctively respond to the urgency of needing “things.” They forget the incredible importance of developing their people. 

 

I understand that other things seem important but they only help your people grow your business. “Things” alone don’t do much for you. Never forget that it’s your people who will grow your business not things.

 

Investing in anything without investing in your people is a lot like buying an excellent cut of meat without buying anything to cook it on. You could eat it raw but you would likely consider the meat a terrible purchase. 


Don’t only say your people are your greatest asset. Invest in their development and demonstrate that you mean it. 

Don’t Let Waiting be a Waste

People around the world are waiting. We wait for meetings, we wait for appointments, we wait at airports, we wait for people who are late, we wait and we wait some more. 

 

Many people think “wait time” is wasted time. Well it’s only wasted if you allow it to be. There are a ton of productive things you can do when you’re waiting. That’s true no matter what you’re waiting for or how long you’re waiting. 

 

Most people waste waiting time because it’s “only” a few minutes. Well, a few minutes here and a few minutes there and pretty soon you’ve wasted more time than successful people can afford to waste. Let’s look at the numbers, these are accurate for those of us in the United States but they are representative for anyone. 

 

According to a Timex survey, Americans wait:

  • on average of 20 minutes a day for the bus or train
  • 32 minutes whenever they visit a doctor
  • 28 minutes in security lines whenever they travel
  • 21 minutes for a significant other to get ready to go out
  • 13 hours annually waiting on hold for a customer service
  • 38 hours each year waiting in traffic
  • those living in big cities wait in traffic more than 50 hours annually

People spend approximately 6 months of their lives waiting in line for things, it means like 3 days a year of lining up. The average person spends about 43 days on hold with automated customer service in a lifetime. Those who take the bus or train will wait about 27 days of their lives waiting around on the platform or at the bus stop.

 

And what about our Phones?

  • We spend 23 days a year on our phones
  • 90 minutes a day
  • 9 years of the average person’s life

By the way “Phone” means to call somebody but that is now the sixth most used feature on a smartphone.

 

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to waste hours and hours of every year waiting. So let’s see if we can make waiting time a little more useful. Here’s a few ideas on how we might do that. 

 

Do Nothing. Doing nothing is one of the things I’m best at. I’ll put my “doing nothing” skills up against anyone. Doing nothing is also one of my most productive activities. While doing nothing I’m thinking about all kinds of generally worthless stuff but mostly I’m in my own world, recharging my batteries so I’m more productive when my wait is over. It’s okay, better than okay actually, to do nothing from time to time. We need to shut down once in a while in order to have peak performance time during the day. If you never shut down it’s likely you also never have truly peak performance either. 

 

Call Someone. A whole bunch of the time we spend on our smartphones is unproductive time. You can change that by increasing the time you’re using your phone to call someone. Perhaps it’s someone you’ve been meaning to call for a long time. Maybe it’s a customer you’ve been putting off calling because your relationship is a bit strained. Maybe, just maybe it’s a call to someone you care about to tell them you’re thinking of them. (you might make their day and to me, that’s a very productive thing)

 

Read. The most successful people I know always have a good book with them for those unexpected waiting times. It might be a paper book or it might be on a Kindle but they have something to read to help them learn. If you’re a road warrior then this could make a world a difference for you. Check out audio books you can listen to in the car on on your phone when you find yourself “stuck” someplace you didn’t intend to be. 

 

Meet someone new. By definition if you’re in line there is someone either in front of you or behind you, likely both. That person may have an idea that could change your life, or better yet, you may have an idea that could change theirs. Get out of that success limiting comfort zone of yours and be that strange person who will talk to anyone. It’s uncommon to find people with enough confidence to talk to anyone anywhere but you will never have uncommon results by doing common things. 

 

Adjust your plan. You had a 10:00am doctors appointment and upon arriving a few minutes early you’re told the doctor is running a few minutes late. In “doctor speak” that likely means 30 minutes or even more. Use that precious time to adjust your plan for the day. Reprioritize what you’re going to accomplish with the rest of your day. Instead of stressing over what won’t get done decide what doesn’t NEED to be done and take a bit of stress out of your waiting time. The one problem that most people have with adjusting their plan during waiting time is that they didn’t have a plan to begin with. If you’re most people then do yourself a favor and make a plan before you leave home every day. Even if your day doesn’t go according to plan that planning time will be the most productive time of your day. 


“Waste not want not” is a very common saying. I prefer “wait not want not.” It’s far less common and far more productive.  

 

 

It’s Not About You

Before you were a leader you were primarily responsible for your own success. Once you accepted the mantle of leadership you became responsible for the success of the people you lead as well. 

 

Sadly, too many people in leadership positions never make that transition. That’s one reason they never become Authentic Leaders. They remain in competition with their people for recognition and credit for a job well done. The burden of responsibility for the success of others is too much for them to bear. 

 

That burden however is willingly and sacrificially accepted by Authentic Leaders. They accept the responsibility of investing a part of themselves in another person’s success. They celebrate the success of their people even more than their own. 

 

They demonstrate that willingness by showing their people that they care about them. They see time helping their people as an investment and not an expense. They are available to their people to assist them and offer advice whenever and wherever it is needed. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that their success as a leader will be judged on the accomplishments of the people they lead. They know that their leadership is not about them, it is all about their people. 

 

An Authentic Leader’s focus must be on the people they lead. 70% to 80% of their time should be invested in people development. That development can take on many forms. But there should be very little human interaction where people development isn’t at least a secondary goal. 

 

The glory for an Authentic Leader comes not from their own success but from helping others achieve more than they dared dream was possible. True leaders build others leaders. They encourage, inspire and instigate success in their people. 


If you’re a leader who is measuring your success based only on your personal accomplishments then you are basing it on all the wrong things. Unless of course your accomplishments include a solid history of helping other people achieve their own level of greatness. 

 

 

 

Are You Hot Stuff?

If you’ve recently been promoted to a leadership position then congratulations. It likely came with an important sounding title and you might be tempted to think you’re pretty hot stuff as a result. 

 

You’re not. You’re not because no one is. Your skills in some areas may be better than someone else’s and you may as a result been able to acquire more “stuff.” But you have to know that doesn’t make you a more valuable human being. No title, no position, and no amount of money can do that. Every person you’ve ever met or ever will meet is worthy of the same level of respect as you, regardless of your or their level of accomplishments. 

 

The danger in thinking you’re hot stuff is that it artificially inflates your ego. Egos need to be fed and when a person’s ego gets too big they invariably steal another person’s ego food. A healthy well balanced ego is the mark of an Authentic Leader. They need no more than their own share of ego food so they have plenty left over to provide recognition and support to their people. 

 

One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to help their people know, without a doubt, that they matter. That they matter to the organization as both an employee and as a person. 

 

The effort required to do that must be intentional and consistent. Helping others understand their worth is not a chore for an Authentic Leader, it is a privilege. 

 

When you forget that, even for a short time, you put all other aspects of your leadership at risk. Large egos tend to make leaders pretty forgetful when it comes recognizing other people.

 

I can’t close this post without at least a short discussion on ego. Many people reading this will be perplexed by my comments about “feeding” egos. They are perplexed because like many people they have always been told that having an ego is a bad thing. Well that’s like saying sleeping is a bad thing. You have to sleep in order to recharge your batteries for the next day. 

 

You must also have an ego to motivate yourself. Having an ego is a normal as having a nose. Having an ego is not a problem unless it gets so big that you lose sight of the fact that everyone else has one too.


Think of it like this, self-respect comes from having an ego; lack of respect for others comes from having an ego that has grown too large. If your ego has gotten a little too large then put it on a diet by giving your ego food to someone who needs it more than you. 


The Unashamed Misfit

Most people want to fit in. I suppose it’s even more accurate to say most people need to fit in. All things being equal I would prefer to “fit in.” But all things are seldom equal and I don’t need to fit in so badly that I’ll sacrifice my core values and principles to do it. 

 

Years ago the State of Minnesota had a US Senator by the name of Paul Wellstone. Senator Wellstone died tragically in a plane crash years ago while campaigning for re-election. The Senator and I held different views on most topics but there was one thing we had in common…he had no need to fit in either. 

 

Several times in his Senate career he found himself on the losing side of 99-1 votes. He was the lone Senator who didn’t go along to get along. While I might not have agreed with his principles there was never any doubt that he had principles and that he was ready to fight for them. I admired that about him. 

 

Paul Wellstone was an unashamed misfit. The fact that he was a principled unashamed misfit made him downright toxic to a lot of people. That was their loss.

 

One principle that Senator Wellstone held dear was that you could disagree with someone without disrespecting them. He made his case respectfully based on facts and listened to other people’s opinion too, even when their facts disagreed with his. He kept an open mind and was willing to admit when he was wrong. But his principles were rock solid and when he believed he was right he wouldn’t give an inch. 

 

I never voted for the guy but based on what passes for leadership these days I would say we need more Paul Wellstone types. 

 

We need them in sports, we need them in business, we need them in politics and we most certainly need them in government. 

 

Here’s the thing…I would much rather follow a highly principled leader who I disagreed with than follow an unprincipled scallawag of a leader who held the same beliefs as me. I’d have a whole lot a “leading up” to do with the principled leader but even when a decision didn’t go my way I’d know the decision was honorable. 

 

People the world over need to give people who look different, who think different and who act different a chance. A chance to make their case without being called radically left or radically right. 

 

People around the world must remember a time when someone being wrong didn’t make them a bad person. People need to recall the days when hating someone because their views or beliefs were different than yours was unacceptable. 

 

Hate is unacceptable. Well, maybe not for green vegetables but certainly hate for another human being. No matter how “bad” you think that man or that woman may be, hate is wrong. Hate is not the answer. Hate fixes nothing. Hate only destroys the chance for understanding.

 

Do not wait for “somebody” to do something about the hate and vitriol being spread by supposed journalists and regular people on social media. Each of us can doing something to stop the acceptance of hate by not hating. 

 

You don’t have to cave on your principles, you don’t have to agree with people whose views are far from yours. You just have to accept the fact that different people were shaped differently by their life experiences and understand how foolish it is to hate them for it. 

 

Can you imagine a world with no hate? I hope so because anyone who can imagine it can help make it happen…just by not hating. 


And before you say you’ll stop hating when they stop hating remember what my mom used to say to me… “if all the other kids were jumping off a bridge would you jump off the bridge too?”

Are You Prepared to Succeed?

In any endeavor preparation is a key to success. That’s not exactly a profound statement because everybody knows that. But knowing that isn’t the challenge. Doing it is.

 

Preparation is the difference between being proactive and reactive. It is the difference between a stress inducing task and an anxiety free accomplishment. Preparation saves time and energy. Preparing for your day allows you to anticipate potential problems and have at least a limited plan for dealing with them. 

 

Preparation is possibly the greatest confidence booster ever. When you invest some time in preparing, for a meeting, an interview, a sales call or a difficult conversation you speak more authoritatively. It appears as if you actually know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about. Imagine that. 

 

Most people who don’t prepare claim that they don’t have the time. Well if time is a concern for you then that’s the very reason you should be investing a bit of it in preparation. An hour of preparation will often shave two off the project or task.

 

Here’s one idea for you, it’s something I do every morning. 

 

If you were to look at my calendar you would see the same appointment every day, every single day. It’s from 5:00am to 5:30am. The appointment says “Planning and Solitude.” Every day!

 

It’s often the most important 30 minutes of my day. I invest those 30 minutes preparing to have a successful day. There are no interruptions and no distractions. It makes no difference what part of the world I’m in or what else may be happening. I and I alone control those 30 minutes. If that seems selfish then you should know that it is those 30 minutes that help me help others. 

 

Those 30 minutes chart my course for the day. Yes, unanticipated events may throw me off course temporarily but after I’ve dealt with those I have a course to get back on. Without preparation I wouldn’t. 


If all it takes is one disruption to send your day out of control then I highly recommend you steal 30 minutes for yourself early in the day. Use them to prepare yourself for success.

Excuses Steal Your Potential

I can’t think of even a single benefit of excuse making. People who make excuses make very little of anything else. Excuses, as much as anything, limit a person’s opportunity to reach their full potential.

 

Excuses are rationalizations we make to ourselves about people, events, and circumstances. They are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior, to postpone taking action or simply as a means of avoiding responsibility.

 

Excuses are a temporarily effective method of placing the blame for an internal problem on an external condition. I say temporarily because sooner or later the excuse maker realizes whatever excuse they made was really a lie they told themselves….and likely lots of other people. 

 

Fear is the biggest driver of habitual excuse making. Fear of failure, fear of change, fear of responsibility, fear of making mistakes, fear of looking foolish, and for some people, fear of success. 

 

Excuse making leads directly to a lack of growth. It leads to living in a very small comfort zone and it is a leading cause of a negative attitude in the excuse maker. People who hesitate to make decisions seldom delay in making an excuse. 

 

Nothing good comes from making excuses. 

 

If you want to stop making excuses then focus on what can go right rather than what may go wrong. Don’t compare your current situation with a past situation that had a negative outcome. 

 

Don’t focus on problems. Focus on solutions and opportunities to learn and improve. 

 

If you want to put a stop to your excuse making then surround yourself with as many positive people as possible. Share with them your goal of making fewer excuses and ask them for help. Ask them to remind you of your goal whenever they hear what sounds like an excuse coming from you. 

 

Finally, make the decision to control your attitude. Every day you have the opportunity to choose either a positive attitude or a negative one. It’s likely your most important choice of the day. 

 

Successful people don’t make excuses. They take responsibility for their decisions and actions and they learn from their mistakes. 


Always remember, if you’re making excuses you almost certainly are not making much of anything else.