Being the Best Isn’t Good Enough

If you’re not getting better you’re getting worse! Even if you’re already the best improvement is still a possibility, not just a possibility but a requirement.

Tony Gwynn, the Hall of Fame baseball player said….”The minute you’re satisfied with where you are you’re not there anymore.”

As soon as you stop trying to improve the inevitable slide towards mediocrity begins. No matter how good you are at something the moment you lose the drive to improve is the moment you’re no longer the best.

Some people will say they are “satisfied with where they are at and have no need to be the best. They are good at what they do and “good” is good enough. What they don’t realize is that when they don’t try to improve they also begin the backwards slide to being less than good.

The most successful people never stop trying to be better. They never stop trying to learn more. They never stop looking for a better way. They have no idea what their potential is because they are always working to accomplish more. They know that where they are today is only a starting point.

Where you are tomorrow matters far more than where you were yesterday.

If you’re not doing something, learning something, or making something that will help you be better tomorrow than you are today then you’re short-changing yourself. You very well may be costing yourself the future that you deserve.

Stop making excuses about why you can’t______________, (the blank is for you to fill in) and just start doing it. Stop settling for less than you deserve and push yourself to earn what you want.

You’re not too old to learn and you’re not too young to accomplish great things. In almost any realistic goal you can think of accomplishing the greatest obstacle you face is your own self-doubt.

So the heck with the doubts, to heck with the people who have told you that you can’t. You absolutely can be better tomorrow than you are today. You absolutely can know more tomorrow than you know today. You totally can do more tomorrow than you did today. You only have to make the decision that you will.

Never settle for being the best, you can be much better than that!

An Apology Can Change the Future

The very best time to apologize is the moment you think an apology is due. Waiting can dilute the sincerity of the apology. It can also make it harder to give because it gets blocked by something called pride.

A “qualified” apology is almost as bad as no apology at all. In case you‘re wondering, a qualified apology sounds something like “I am sorry if anyone was offended by something I said or did.” You might as well have said “sorry you’re such a sensitive wuss, I’ll try to avoid you in the future as much as possible.”

If an apology is due then give an apology…an unqualified apology that makes it clear there is no “if” or “but” and no chance the apology is insincere.

Apologies can’t change the past. If you said or did something that offended someone an apology isn’t going to make that offense disappear. It will likely also take some time for the hurt of the offense to pass. But a sincere apology might change your future with the offended person or people.

IF…. if the apology is sincere and is backed up with changed behavior.

You can apologize for the first transgression. Maybe even the second but repeated offenses are not mistakes, they are a choice. If you make the choice to repeatedly offend someone, whether consciously or subconsciously then you likely do not deserve forgiveness.

An apology not followed up with changed behavior is no apology at all. If you mean what you say in your apology your behavior will reflect it.

Apologizing is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, a sincere apology is a sign of strength. It demonstrates that the apology giver is confident enough to admit their mistake and smart enough to know it was a mistake in the first place.

When an apology is due it is never a mistake to offer one. There is also no expiration date on an apology. Even if you’re way late in offering one for something that happened in the past, remember as with most things, better late than never.

Adjust Your Own Mask First

I spend a fair amount of time on airplanes. So much time in fact that I think I could do the pre-flight safety announcements from memory. In you’ve ever flown you may recall the part of the safety announcements where they say, “in the unlikely event of loss in cabin pressure oxygen masks will drop from a panel above you.” They also say to adjust your own mask before helping others with theirs.

Have you ever wondered why they say that? For instance, think it would be almost instinctive to put your child’s mask on before your own. Yet, the experts advise otherwise.

That’s because they know you won’t be able to help anyone if you’re not conscious to do so. You can’t go long without air so you must help yourself first. It somehow seems wrong to do that. It seems kinda selfish. But if you truly want to help others you must make sure you’re in a condition to help. Unconscious is not a very helpful condition to be in.

The same holds true in everyday life. You must take care of yourself first if you’re going to be in any condition to take care of others. That may seem just as selfish as putting your oxygen mask on first but the same principle applies.

The more caring and giving person you are the greater the danger that you’ll forget about caring for yourself. The problem is you wear yourself down to the point where you can’t help anyone, not even yourself.

So fight the instinct to put everybody else’s oxygen mask on first. Put yours on first. That means resting before you’re overwhelmed. That means carving time out in your busy schedule to do something just for you. That means understanding that you, and the world, deserves the best of you, not what’s left of you.

Just to be clear, I’m not recommending that you do less for others. I am recommending that you do more for yourself. Taking care of yourself is the surest way to be certain that your in a position to take care of others. Don’t forget that simple fact!

How to Give a Sincere Compliment

When talking about giving compliments I suppose I have to get this part out of the way right up front. “This part” is the part about when to give a compliment. I also suppose we have to talk about what to compliment…and maybe what NOT to compliment.

This has gotten much tougher over the years. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine works for a large medical device company. He has worked there for a number of years, he is a well regarded engineer and has a spotless employment record. Not too long ago he was suspended for complimenting a female co-worker on her appearance; specifically how she looked in a new sweater she was wearing.

The woman he complemented seemed to appreciate the compliment. His problem started when a person who was not even a part of the conversation overheard the compliment and was offended by it. They thought it was inappropriate and offensive that he was commenting on another employees appearance.

They thought it was so inappropriate that they complained to the HR department. After a short “investigation” my friend was suspended. That might cause a person to swear off giving compliments entirely.

Did I mention that the co-worker my friend complimented was also his sister? Did I mention that he had given her the sweater for her birthday a few days before?

Even though situations like that might cause some people to completely stop the practice of giving compliments I still recommend giving them.

But give real compliments.

A real compliment has two parts.

Part one is the compliment itself. “I appreciate the extra effort you put in to help that customer work through their technical issues.”

Part two is the evidence that supports the compliment. “The reason I say that is I watched your interaction with the customer. Many people would have become frustrated with and dismissive of the customer. You kept your cool and turned a negative customer experience into a positive one.”

Have you ever received a compliment that caused you to wonder about the motives of the person giving you the compliment? It’s likely that they didn’t provide evidence to support the compliment. That evidence leaves no doubt as to the sincerity of the compliment.

Don’t give half a compliment. Always attach supporting evidence so no one has to wonder about your motives. If you can’t think of any evidence to support the compliment then ask yourself if the compliment is really worth giving. I’d suggest that it’s not.

In the politically correct world in which we now live I’d also suggest keeping your compliments focused on performance and abilities. It’s not “safe” to comment on things like appearance anymore and the reality is that in many cases it probably always was inappropriate.

But real compliments can change a person’s day. Maybe even their life. So look for real reasons to compliment others. As Dale Carnegie said, be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”

Be Better Soon

If you’re a leader then hopefully you know that one of your prime responsibilities is the development of the people you lead. Unfortunately not everyone in a leadership agrees with that thinking.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with two such “non leading” leaders. One told me that their sales team didn’t need any sales training and the other told me that their leadership team was “set” when it came to developing their leadership skills.

I wish I could say those conversations were unusual but they are not. Over the years I’ve had those types of conversations hundreds of times. Way too many people in positions of leadership do not accept any responsibility for the development of their people.

What makes that worse is the fact that I’ve had even more conversations with the people those “non leading” leaders are supposed to be developing. In those conversations the “un led” people say that it is not their responsibility to develop themselves. If their boss or company want them to grow then it’s the company’s responsibility to develop them. They won’t do it on their own time and they certainly won’t invest in themselves if it’s for the benefit of their employer.

So there is a whole bunch of people who have no one accepting responsibility for their development. That’s a shame because it’s never been easier to find information, online training or presentations that are very effective in helping people improve themselves.

There will likely always be people in leadership positions who either refuse to lead or think they are leading when they really aren’t. Maybe some of them really think that their team is “set” but I’ve never seen a salesperson or a leader who couldn’t get better.

If you’re one of the people waiting for somebody else to make you better then here’s some advice….stop making excuses. Start accepting responsibility for your own growth and the increased success that will come with it.

Do a bit of research to find a blog or podcast that focuses on an area where you could improve. Commit to invest a few minutes every day to learn something new. Always have a book nearby on a topic of interest to you and set aside time on a regular basis to actually read it.

Develop yourself for yourself. There is a reason it’s called self-improvement….you do it for yourself. There are far worse things in life than your employer benefiting from something you’ve done for yourself. Never allow the fact that your boss or company won’t invest in you stop you from investing in yourself.

Make 2020 the year YOU make the world a better place by making a better you. Start now and you will be better soon!

Earning Trust – Part Two

It’s not only an advantage to have the trust of those you would lead, it is essential. But trust doesn’t happen by itself. Trust is built over time and that time frame can be shortened if you take specific, intentional actions to build it.

I’m about to write about actions you’re already aware of. But awareness is not enough. Most people simply do not invest the time to intentionally build trust. They hope it will happen over time. It might. But hope alone isn’t a good strategy for anything. So while you refresh your memory with these suggestions ask yourself if you’re DOING these things or if they sit comfortably in the back of your mind.

First up is this…honor your commitments. I believe that when people commit to do something they intend to do it. The problem for most people, myself included, is that they hate to say no. So they say yes to more than they can do. That causes you to either not honor the commitment or to honor it in such a way that it’s almost as bad as not doing it at all. If your goal is to build trust then promise less and do more.

It is not an overstatement to say miscommunication has started wars. World War I began in part with a failure to communicate. Effective communication is critical to building trust. Never assume, if you’re not certain what was said or what was meant then ask.

Some communication will de difficult. No one, well almost no one, likes dealing with conflicts. But the most trustworthy people won’t dodge a conflict and the challenging communication that often results. They have the conversation that needs to happen and they have it in a caring compassionate way. They choose their words carefully and when they have to choose between telling the truth and offending someone they choose the truth.

Another way to build trust is to be helpful. Extend kindness to everyone you meet. The concept of “helpful kindness” means that you’ll be helpful to others with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

Some people may question the motives for your kindness but in time they will come to see that you’re doing what you’re doing only because it’s the right thing to do.

Lastly, always do the right thing. If you’re not certain what the right thing to do is then ask someone who you trust. But I’m willing to bet you know the right thing to do. You almost certainly know what’s wrong to do so not doing that increases the odds of doing the right thing immeasurably.

Even if what you do turns out to be the wrong thing when people know that your actions were guided by your values you’ll trusted more than someone who only acts in their own self interests.

You knew about all these trust building actions before you read this post. Now that you’ve been reminded of them the next step is to use them. If you want to build trust you will. If you choose not to use them then one can only assume that you don’t place much value on being trustworthy.

So what’s it going to be?

Earning Trust – Part One

Trust is essential for leadership. Whether you’re attempting to lead people who work for you, or across from you or even above you in your organization you must have their trust in order to lead them.

You earn, or not, the level of trust other people place in you. There are some people who have a default mindset that says to trust everyone until they show themselves to be untrustworthy. But most people are more skeptical and don’t trust someone until they have proven themselves trustworthy.

The contradiction there is that the best way to know whether someone is trustworthy is to trust them.

The trust you need to lead, or even to build a strong relationship requires time to build, sometimes a very long time. But you can lose that trust very quickly and you can lose it in several ways. You can lose it by not following through on your commitments. You can lose it by lying. You can lose it by sharing information that was given to you in confidence.

I’m good with those first two…not always so good with that last one. I can’t honestly recall ever sharing something told to me when I was specifically asked not to. When I’ve been told that something was being shared with me in confidence I’ve closely held that information.

It’s when I wasn’t specifically told that something was being shared in confidence that I’ve gotten myself in trouble. I would love to say that’s okay because I wasn’t told not to tell anyone else but it’s not okay. Unless you’re a complete idiot you know, or you should know, what’s appropriate to share and what’s not. You shouldn’t have to be told. Neither should I.

Failing to protect information shared with you in confidence, whether implied or stated, is one of the fastest ways to lose trust. Even if you only tell one other person you’ve broken the trust of the person who originally shared that information with you. If the person you told tells other people then you’re responsible for all those people knowing too. It’s a pretty big screw up.

Benjamin Franklin said “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” You might want to keep that quote in mind if you’re ever tempted to share something that was told to you in confidence.

The good news is that trust can be rebuilt. It isn’t easy but if you’re interested it is possible. In my next post I’ll share several steps you can take to build trust and rebuild trust if you’ve lost it. There won’t be any secrets there, if fact I’ll bet you’ve heard them all before…the question is, are you doing them?