Attitude and Effort

Many years ago I received some exceptional advice from a mentor that has stayed with me to this day. He told me to stop trying to control things I couldn’t control. His recommendation was that I focus 100% of my attention on the things within my control. He also said to “block out” the uncontrollable things from my field of view because they were nothing more than distractions. 

 

Through the years as I’ve considered his advice I’ve discovered there are far fewer controllable parts of my life than there are uncontrollable. I can influence what other people think of me but I can’t control their thoughts. I can try to influence their actions but people will eventually do whatever they think is best for them. The list of stuff I can’t control could go on forever. 

 

But that’s okay because through the years I’ve also discovered that I can control, completely, two areas of my life which have the greatest impact on my success and happiness. 

 

Those areas are attitude and effort. 

 

In his timeless book “Man’s Search for Meaning” Viktor Frankl describes the “last of the human freedoms.” He says that last freedom, a freedom that can be taken from no one, is the choice of one’s own attitude. Every human on earth is free, regardless of their circumstances, to choose their own attitude. No one and nothing can take that freedom away from you. 

 

Before you say “well Viktor Frankl never worked where I work. He never experienced how tough my life is. He just doesn’t know,” before you say any of that you should know that Viktor Frankl is a surviver of Nazi Concentration Camps. He knows.

 

He would tell you that his choice of a positive attitude was literally life saving. 

 

I can only imagine, actually I can’t even imagine, how tough a fight it must have been each day for him to choose a positive attitude. But he fought the fight and won. 

 

The choice of a positive attitude is a big fight for me even in my relatively cushy world. I lose that fight too often but this much I’m certain of: every single part of my life is better on the days I win that fight. 

 

The question for you is will you consciously engage in that fight or will you allow other people and things to make the choice of your attitude for you? 

 

When it comes to making an effort I realized early on that there was a direct correlation between the level of effort I put into something and the results I received from that effort. When I really want something I remember the words of the immortal Yoda who said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” 

 

You alone control the level of effort you’re willing to put into any endeavor. You can allow obstacles to stop you or you can learn from them and use them as launching pads to your next level of success. You can make excuses or you can make progress. It’s hard to do both. 

 

As Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” If you allow yourself to be beaten you can be assured there is someone close by willing to put in the effort to do just that…beat you. 


If you adopt Yoda’s thinking then you won’t try to succeed you’ll do it. 

Care for Your Customer

I always enjoy watching marketing people, well good marketing people, talk about their products. They have a passion for them and if they are truly good at what they do it’s safe to say they actually love their products. It’s like their baby!

 

I’m especially interested in how they talk about their products to salespeople. They want the people selling their product to love it as much as they do. That’s where I’m pretty different from most marketers. 

 

I don’t want salespeople to love their products; I want them to love their customers. Don’t get me wrong, I want salespeople to believe in their products enough to represent them with integrity. I want them to understand the value those products bring to their customers. I need them to understand how their products solve a customer’s issue. I literally want salespeople to feel it’s an honor to sell their products to people who will benefit from them. 

 

But for long-term very successful salespeople it’s not the product they are most passionate about; it is their customers. More specifically, they are passionate about helping their customers. They care enough for their customers to help them identify their greatest areas of need. Then they work to figure out if they have a product or service that can address that need. 

 

Notice that I didn’t say that they care “about” their customer. Every business and salesperson cares about their customers. What I said was that long-term successful salespeople, and businesses for that matter, care “for” their customers. There is a big difference between caring about and caring for. 

 

Today Customer “Care”  has become something of a buzzword. Many Customer Service Departments are now called Customer “Care” departments. For many of those service departments the name was the only thing that changed. 

 

“Care” is much better as a verb. Some people use it as a noun but successful people, successful salespeople, successful leaders, and successful organizations use it as a verb. 

 

A verb, for those of you struggling to recall your days in English class, refers to an action. It will always be better to show people and customers that you care than it will be to tell them. I’m betting some of you are telling yourself right now that you care. I’ll bet some of you are reasonably sure other people know you care. I’ll also bet that many of you are hoping people, and your customers know you care. 


Don’t bet, don’t hope and don’t assume. Turn “Care” into a verb today and show someone, a loved one, a special co-worker or even a customer how much you truly care. It’s good business sense and it’s great people skills. So do it today!


How Humble are You?

I am likely the most humble person you will ever meet. That’s saying a lot because I’m also better at most everything I do than anyone else you’ve ever met. 

 

In the interest of time let me say I’m great at everything, especially being humble. 

 

Now that may not sound humble to some people but when you’re as awesome as I am even my humbleness looks like bragging. 

 

Well…maybe not. I have to admit that was kinda fun to write but the truth is that my greatest real strength is that I’m incredibly average. That’s not me trying to be humble, it’s a measurable fact. From my height and weight, numbers of wives, (one) number of kids, (two) number of dogs, (two) I’m about as average as an average person can be. 

 

I might be better at some stuff than others but others are better at some stuff than me. It all works out to about average. I’ve learned through the years that being average is a big advantage. I understand average people, I share their concerns, challenges, and in many cases their hopes for the future. 

 

My “averageness” has been a huge advantage when writing training programs or presenting in front of groups. Since I’ve long ago accepted the fact I’m just like 99% of other people I don’t have to pretend I’m something I’m not. I get that some people won’t like me and some people will. It’s always been that way and it always will. I don’t think I could change anything about me to make more people like me and even if I could I have no interest in changing for someone else’s sake. 

 

Being average makes it easy to be humble. I’m really not more or less humble than anyone else, I’d say I’m about average at that too. 

 

Being humble has it’s advantages. Humble leaders are not only better liked they are also more effective. That effectiveness comes from the fact that they are better able to connect with their people. Nobody likes a snobby leader and almost nobody follows one either. 

 

Humble people have better relationships overall. If you’re wondering why see the paragraph above. Humble people are more helpful. “Serving” others is not beneath them. They make a difference wherever, whenever and for whomever they can. 

 

On average humble people perform better at work. They are not afraid to ask for help, they willingly accept feedback and use it to better themselves. They make better teammates and cause far fewer issues for their leaders than less humble people. 

 

I have never taken or taught a class on how to be humble. I would think that anyone who thought themselves qualified to teach that class would immediately be deemed unqualified. I think you “learn” humility by seeing it modeled by other people. 

 

You learn humility from mistakes but mistakes can teach you humility only if you’re humble enough to own up to them. Is that a catch 22?


It feels like I should close this post by recommending that you try being more humble. I’m not sure you can actually try to work on that. I think you either are or you aren’t. So here’s a different recommendation instead….try being more honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. That ought to make anyone more humble. 

The Challenge of Low Accountability

I don’t like to place blame. I’m not a big fan of finding fault. I am however a huge fan of assigning responsibility and holding people accountable for their actions and decisions.

 

For those of you who believe there is no difference between placing blame and assigning responsibility let me share with you what the difference actually is. 

 

Assigning responsibility and accountability has to do with being answerable. It means your actions and their results will be measured objectively. Most people are willing to accept responsibility when they realize it comes with the opportunity to improve.  

 

To place blame is not only to be held responsible but to find fault. Blame assumes there will be a penalty, whether implicit or tacit. When someone in a leadership role assigns blame their actions usually stop there. The “blamed” individual awaits the punishment they are certain is coming their way. 

 

Authentic Leaders will hold their people accountable for outcomes without automatically placing blame. Accountability helps people grow. Whether they like it or not accountability motivates people to improve. Accountability actually leads to empowerment. Once an Authentic Leader holds someone accountable they follow up with coaching and offers of help. I can think of no downside to accountability. 

 

Placing blame on the other hand is one of the most demotivating actions a leader can take. Blame leads to disempowerment. It causes shame and a feeling of defeat. It is demoralizing. Blaming someone slows their development. There is no upside to blaming someone.

 

When something goes wrong in your organization do you think of terms of holding people accountable or do you look for someone to blame? It’s an important question because accountability will help your people grow while blame will stymie their development. 

 

This is somewhat a generalization but when the level of blame within an organization is high the level of accountability is usually low. 

 

Low accountability in an organization leads to a high level of chaos. Low accountability leads to low profitability and higher turnover. Low accountability leads to disengaged employees uninterested in improvement. Low accountability eventually leads to no need for accountability because there is nothing left to be accountable for. There is not an organization in existence today that can afford low accountability.


If you’re dealing with the same problems and mistakes again and again maybe the blame isn’t with your people. Maybe it’s with how you’re leading them…or not leading them. Is it time to hold yourself accountable?


Are You Efficient or Effective?

Almost everyone can be efficient under normal circumstances. That’s good since in order to survive in today’s competitive business environment you must be efficient. 

 

The thing is I don’t think merely surviving is a worthy goal. I do think however that succeeding is. 

 

If you’re going to succeed in business or any other endeavor efficiency alone will not do. You must also be effective. 

 

The difference between effectiveness and efficiency can be summed up like this: Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right.

 

One of the biggest wastes of time and money any person or organization can undertake is to be efficient at doing something that doesn’t need to be done. 

 

I would much rather have people working for me who are only partially effective at doing things that need to be done than to be 100% efficient at doing things that add little or no value to the organization. 

 

Spreadsheets are an example of being efficient without being effective. Some of the least effective people I know are highly efficient at creating beautiful spreadsheets with what appears to be a wealth of information. 

 

But upon closer review you see there is no real useable information contained in the spreadsheet. No data, no statistics, and no percentages. They could have just as easily created a word document but people seem to fall for information contained in little cells with lots of color. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of spreadsheets when properly used. A colleague of mine is currently creating a spreadsheet loaded with actionable information laid out in an understandable format. That is a highly effective use of the tools available when using a spreadsheet. 

 

I use spreadsheets as an example because too many ineffective people are using them to hide their ineffectiveness. Efficient leaders may fall for that but effective leaders will not. 

 

So, are you efficient or effective? Ask yourself that question frequently. Ask yourself if what you’re doing at any given moment needs to be done. What might the consequences be if it weren’t done? Would anyone notice? 

 

Then ask yourself what you could be doing if you weren’t doing that. Would what you could be doing be more valuable to you or your organization. And by the way, you MUST be honest with yourself or don’t bother asking the questions at all. Lying to yourself is neither effective or efficient. 

 

I think if you’re honest with yourself you’ll discover that many of the things you do efficiently are things you like to do. It’s likely you’ll also discover that many of the things you don’t like to do, or are unsure of how to do, are things that would make you far more effective. 

 

That’s why it’s relatively easy to be efficient and a serious challenge to be effective.


The most successful people opt for effectiveness over efficiency. Which one do you prefer?


The Myth of Influence

When asked to provide a definition of leadership I most often describe it as influence. I add that if you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. 

Ken Blanchard, the renowned American Leadership expert and author of “The One Minute Manager” says that “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

Experienced leaders know that to be true. They also know that whatever influence they have comes from who they are not what they are. They know that their title or position provides no lasting influence. People with little or no leadership experience tend to greatly overestimate the importance of an important sounding title when it comes to influence. 

People with little or no leadership experience assume that if they had a title or a position of leadership then they would have influence too. That’s a myth!

Influence must be earned and a position merely gives you a chance to do that. A position or title gives you the opportunity to earn the respect required to have lasting influence. It gives you a bit of time to demonstrate you deserve to be trusted but in that time you will earn your level of influence whatever level it turns out to be. 

Good leaders earn influence beyond their stated position. They quickly learn that a position doesn’t make a leader but a leader can make a position. 

In order to grow your influence you must first build trust. People who do not trust you will not be open to your influence. To build trust you must do what you say you will do…every time. Consistently following through on your commitments is the fastest way to build your reputation. Being inconsistent when following through with commitments is the fastest way to destroy it. 

Doing something grows influence far faster than saying something. You can be an awesome speaker but words alone will never grow your influence. You need to speak through your actions and when your words and actions are in alignment your level of influence is limitless. 

One often overlooked skill that will quickly grow your level of influence is the skill of listening. You can’t influence people you have zero relationships with. One of the fastest ways to develop a meaningful relationship with someone is to listen to them. REALLY listen. 

Listen as if they are the only person who matters in that moment. Listen to every opinion and acknowledge it as important and valuable. You’ll quickly discover that the fastest way to get people to listen to you is to listen to them. Two-way communication is vital to building influence because if no one is listening to you then you have absolutely no influence.

 

Influence is an exceptional asset in the workplace and in life. It is mandatory if you’re going to lead others. If your goal is to be an Authentic Leader then don’t seek a position of influence, try instead to be a person of influence. 

Is Micro-Managing Killing Your Business?

So let‘s get this part out of the way early. If you’re a leader who micro-manages your people then you may be in a leadership position but you’re likely not doing much leading.   

 

Leaders who insist on micro-managing have some problems. The first problem is that they are trying to manage people. That doesn’t work. “Stuff” gets managed, people need to be led. I’ve written frequently about the difference between leading and managing so feel free to look back a few posts to see what I mean. 

 

The second problem micro-mangers have is that they believe they must check on every detail. That’s most likely the result of being an insecure leader. Micro-managers tend to base their leadership on a lack of faith and trust in other people. 

 

That’s a huge morale killer. 

 

It leads to little or no growth. It discourages the development of their people. It focuses on problems of detail, many of which are inconsequential. It discourages teamwork. If they micro-manage often enough or long enough and they will kill their business. It might be a long slow death but it’s death all the same.

 

Micro-managers take positive attributes – an attention to detail and a hands-on attitude – to the extreme. Either because they are control-obsessed, or because they feel driven to push everyone around them to success. But they risk disempowering their people. They ruin their confidence. They degrade their performance, and frustrate them to the point where they may quit…or worse, they stay and just disengage.

 

Micro-managers limit each individual’s ability to develop and grow. They also limit what their entire team can achieve, because everything has to go through them.

 

They don’t trust their people or their judgment. They are unwilling to allow them to assume any responsibility. What micro-managers fail to realize is that they are cheating their organizations out of the talent they are paying for.

 

Micro-managing may work for a while but in time it acts like an anchor on all progress. Innovation, new products, and new markets are discouraged because the talent to create and move forward has been derailed by the micro-manager.

 

The inability of micro-managers to “let go” and allow other people make some decisions, even risk failure, ensures that the growth of the organization will be severely limited. It may take years for those limitations to show up but they will eventually show up. When enough people disengage the business dies, slowly perhaps, but it does eventually die.

 

Micro-managing is not about the weakness of the team, it’s about the weakness of the leader.


If you’re a leader that suffers this weakness then you must exercise your leadership skills through effective delegation. Delegation is the single greatest tool for building future leaders. It’s also a great tool to help micro-managers break free from the limitations that come from attempting to do it all themselves.