Are You a Boss?

First a disclaimer: this is NOT a political post. One of the Democrats running for President in 2020 gave an interview the other day. During the interview she provided a great example of the difference between being a boss and being a leader. This is a person I first met many years ago and occasionally come across at an event if we both happen to be attending. This is a person I mostly admire. This is someone who seems to me to be a nice enough person who is intelligent and hard working. 

 

This is also a person who projected a very poor image of herself in the interview. And I don’t think she knows it. 

 

Much of the early publicity surrounding this candidate has been focused on her reportedly poor treatment of her staff. Her office has one of the highest turnover rates of any member of Congress. She is apparently more than a little challenging to work for. 

 

She was attempting to defend herself in the interview and in doing so she demonstrated not only why she was a difficult boss but a poor leader as well. 

 

She said she was a boss and as a boss she had to be hard on her people. She said she had high expectations for her staff and when they let her down she let them know about it. She said she expects her people to produce a good “product” and that oftentimes the product was her image.

 

I wondered, I was amazed actually, how someone who has accomplished so much could possess such backwards thinking when it came to leading her staff. 

 

The mindset of a boss says it’s the workers job to make the boss look good. The mindset of a leader says it’s the leader’s job to help their people succeed. If you think there is a fine line between the two then you may be a boss, you may be an excellent manager but you are most definitely not a leader. 

 

A typical boss will drive and push their people to achieve results. A leader will push, pull, motivate and sometimes even carry their people to success. They frequently do it from the middle and sometimes from behind. They most often do it while being along side their people.

 

A leader knows that they are responsible for the success of their people. They know that they can’t succeed unless their people succeed. They don’t try to “make” their people succeed they “help” them succeed. 

 

Too many bosses try to force their people to drink from the well of success. Authentic Leaders walk with their people to the well while helping them develop a thirst for success along the way. 

 

If you are someone who believes that you must be hard on your people because you are “the boss” then you will always have problems with your people. They will underperform as long as you’re their boss and you’ll be even harder on them as a result. 

 

When they eventually leave and go to work with an actual leader they will begin to reach their potential. You’ll be left to wonder why they wouldn’t work that hard for you. You’ll become a resentful boss and push the people left around you even harder. And the cycle will continue as long as you think being a boss means being hard on people. 


I’m going to bet that this particular candidate is like the vast majority of people in leadership positions. The vast majority of people in leadership positions have zero leadership training. It doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t make them poor managers, it doesn’t even make them poor politicians. It just makes them exceptionally poor leaders.


It’s Not My Fault

“It’s not my fault” are some of the most dangerous words a person can string together. They cause a ton of damage to your relationships, to your ability to lead and to your personal ability to learn and grow.

 

When you’re in sales and something goes wrong you can’t say it’s not my fault. You have to accept responsibility or you damage the credibility of others in your organization. To me accepting responsibility for the mistakes or failings of someone else is one of the greatest challenges a professional salesperson must face. It’s not easy to stand in front of an angry customer and be chewed out for something someone else did. 

 

It is easier however when you stop trying to assign blame for a problem and start looking for solutions to the problem. The fact is, no matter who’s “fault” it is you as a salesperson are responsible. You sold the product and whatever outcome, good or bad, comes with it. Trying to offload responsibility for it makes you look less like a professional and more like a mere product peddler. 

 

When you’re a leader and something goes wrong you definitely can’t say it’s not my fault. Blaming your people for mistakes or problems will damage your credibility with everyone, not only the person you’re blaming.

 

The truth is that if you have a person that is mistake prone, or someone who is underperforming in their role it IS your responsibility as a leader. Either you’re not providing the person with the training and tools they need to succeed or you’ve put them in a role where they can’t excel. Both those circumstances are your responsibility. 

 

If you have the audacity to call yourself a leader then you must accept the awesome responsibility that comes with it. One of the major responsibilities of leadership is ensuring the success of the people you lead. 

 

The most successful people, in any walk of life, care less about assigning blame for a fault. They care more about finding solutions to any problems caused by the fault. 

 

“It’s, not, my, and fault” are incredibly destructive words when strung together. They limit the potential of the person speaking them. Those words together cause the person speaking them to accept their circumstances and walk away from potential growth opportunities. Those words, when strung together have never been known to solve anything.


When anyone says “it’s not my fault” someone loses. All too often the person who says it loses the most. Remove that combination of words from your vocabulary and your entire outlook will improve for the better. 


Which Table are You Sitting At?

Playing it safe is comfortable. Playing it safe is easy. Doing what you’ve always done is both comfortable and easy. 

 

Being comfortable and doing what’s easy are also the fastest way to have less of everything in your life than you deserve.

 

Almost every person on earth wants to be “better” tomorrow than they are today. Everyone defines “better” a little differently but for everyone tomorrow’s “better” means different than today. So for anything to be better tomorrow something must change today. 

 

Change often comes with risk and most people don’t particularly like either one. So they hope for something different while lamenting the sameness of their every day life. 

 

I’m okay with hoping but change doesn’t come from hope. “Better” doesn’t come from hope. Change for the better only comes from action. If you’re not willing to act then hope all you want but don’t expect to have anything better tomorrow than you have today. 

 

You must be willing to accept the risk that comes with trying something new if you’re going to do more than just hope for something better. You must be willing to accept some risk in your life if you want something or someone new in your life. 

 

Don’t stop hoping but add action to your hope. Having better requires doing better. Having more requires doing more. Your dreams won’t come true unless YOU make them come true. 

 

Hope by itself is not the answer to any shortcomings you may have in your life or business. If you’re not eating your meals at the table of risk then you’re dreams are almost certainly on the menu. 

 

Someone else’s menu.

 

Either accept some risks and take action to achieve your goals or you will find yourself being hired by someone else to help them take risks to achieve theirs. It will be one or the other…it is always one or the other. 

 

Which one do you think is more rewarding? 

 

Don’t sit in the comfortable chair at the table of safe. Move to the table of risk and give yourself a real chance at “better.” Pick the small table at first if that helps you make progress just make sure it is not too small to lead to success. 


Remember, it’s by risking nothing that you actually risk everything!


You Only Might be Wrong

I love the story about the guy who gets a phone call from his wife while he’s driving himself home from work. His wife tells him to be extra careful because there are reports of someone driving on the wrong side of the road on his route home. 

 

He thanks her for the call but then says it’s not just one person driving the wrong way, it’s everyone but him.

 

I guess you could say he was a little over confident in his driving abilities. 

 

If you’re in a room with 100 people and 99 of them believe something different than you then you must come to grips with the reality that you could possibly be wrong. 

 

Possibly.

 

Okay, so it is very likely but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt depending on how you came to the conclusion that everyone else was wrong. 

 

If your conclusion is based on something you’ve “heard” or heaven forbid, something you’ve read on the internet or seen on TV then you need better facts to base your conclusions on. 

 

But if, if your conclusion is based upon your core values then I’m with you 100%. 

 

If your core values are based on doing what’s right, for yourself and all other people, then stand firm. If your core values are based on honesty, equality and doing what’s right then don’t be moved one inch. Not even by 99 other people. 

 

Authentic Leaders know that doing what’s right and doing what’s fair are often two different things. They do what’s right!

 

Authentic Leaders don’t assume they are right because of some title or position they hold. They don’t say wrong is right to be popular or to get someone’s vote.

 

Authentic Leaders know that wrong is wrong no matter how many people believe it or do it.


Whether you’re a leader or someone who wants to lead one day never succumb to pressure from others to sacrifice your core values. In fact if you do, I’d say they weren’t truly core values in the first place. 

Success Can Only be Defined by You

Many years ago I was helping with a Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. Those classes are often made up of a very diverse group of people at varying stages of their lives and careers. They come from all walks of life and all income levels.

 

Even though I have not been in a Dale Carnegie class in many years I can vividly recall many of the participants. But one participant stands out above all others. He stands out because he caused me to redefine the meaning of success in my life. 

 

He was a senior level executive at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. He was a rarity. Some people were “sent” to a Dale Carnegie class by their organizations as a last ditch effort to “fix” them. But I’d never seen someone as his level required by their company to attend. 

 

This guy was one of the older people in the class and in every way I measured success at the time he was a huge success. Multiple houses, fast and fancy cars, a big title and a lofty position. He made tons of money. The guy pretty much looked and acted like the epitome of success.

 

As someone “required” to attend he didn’t have much to say in the first couple of weeks. He obviously didn’t want to be there but as is common in a Dale Carnegie course he was drawn out of his defensive posture in short order. 

 

As he began to open up during his presentations the tone and topics of his 2 minute talks (every Dale Carnegie Graduate is VERY familiar with 2 minute talks) changed dramatically. His focus moved from being all about himself to being about his family, especially one of his daughters. 

 

In his rush to succeed he had left his family behind and among his resentful family his adult daughter was most resentful of all. They rarely spoke. 

 

In week eight of that twelve week course he made a commitment to repair his relationship with his family and especially his daughter. At the final session the “graduates” are allowed to bring a guest along. This guy was so very proud to be accompanied by his daughter. 

 

As he delivered his final two-minute talk about what he got out of the course he said he learned a lot about himself and people in general. He said his relationships at work were much better and far more productive. 

 

But through his tears what he said he “got” from the class was his daughter back in his life. He said that for the first time in his life he felt like a success. He had a completely different outlook on what it meant to be a success. He said that for him success was no longer about what he had in his life but about who he had in his life. 

 

Dale Carnegie Instructors are supposed to help people change their lives, not the other way around. But lots of things changed for me that night, my definition of success was changed almost entirely. 

 

That was the last night I worked for any company. Since that night I’ve worked at a company but I’ve only worked for my family. By the way, I believe that makes me a much more effective asset for my employer, my customers and my colleagues. I get to go to work everyday and do something for the people who matter most in my life. There’s no better motivation than that.

 

That change in mindset has changed almost everything else too. I certainly could have had “more” but I couldn’t have had “better.” Some people would say I could have achieved more or made more or been more but those people are trying to apply their definition of success to me. 

 

My participant in that Dale Carnegie Course was 30 years into his career before he considered himself a success. Thanks to him I learned I could never succeed by chasing someone else’s definition of success. 

 

Neither can you!

 

Don’t allow anyone to tell you what success is “supposed” to look like in your life. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile back, if you are comfortable with your decisions and your actions, if you have even a handful of people in your life that matter to you and you matter to them, well then you are one of the most successful people ever to live. 


At least according to me.

Are You Talking to Yourself?

Even if you don’t realize it you’re likely talking to yourself, all the time. The experts call that self-talk. Self-talk is your inner voice, the one in your head that says stuff you wouldn’t necessarily say out loud. 

 

Most people don’t even realize this running conversation with themselves is happening all day long. But it is a powerful conversation. It can shape your day and even your life. It has as much impact on how you feel about yourself as anything someone else says about you. 

 

The challenge is that there are two kinds of self-talk. Positive self-talk and negative self-talk. Positive self-talk is saying stuff like “I can do this.” “I am prepared to succeed.” “I can make the best of any situation I find myself in.” 

 

Negative self-talk talk is saying things like, “I’ll never be able to do this.” “I am an idiot.” “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” 

 

You get the idea. 

 

Here’s the thing, and this is big… negative self-talk just happens. For most people the cause of negative self-talk is self-doubt. Everyone has self-doubt but if you’re not consciously aware of it the result is negative self-talk. 

 

Positive self-talk only happens as a result of conscious effort. While negative self-talk can pop into your head with no prompting you must intentionally choose positive self-talk. And that’s not easy.

 

To consistently talk to yourself in a positive way you will need to be aware that you’re always having a conversation with yourself. You must also practice to be good at positive self-talk. Stopping a couple of times a day to reflect on what you’ve been saying to yourself is a good start. 

 

If it is not something that is making you feel better about yourself or your situation then look for evidence to determine if it’s true. If you find no proof then it’s likely self-doubt creeping into that conversation in your head. 

 

Shut that negative self-talk down. There is nothing good about it. It doesn’t help in any way. 

 

You may not be able to simply self-talk your way into success but lots of people have self-talked their way to failure. Don’t be one of those!

Are You a Salesperson Who is Easy to Beat?

Salespeople who sell on price are easy to beat because another salesperson can just lower their price a little more. 

 

If you allow competitive salespeople to make your product only about price then that will be the determining factor for your customer. 

 

Let me say this as clearly as I can… Professional Salespeople DO NOT sell on price. 

 

They know that price is merely one factor in a buyer’s decision making process. It makes no difference if it is an individual buyer, a corporate buyer, a municipal or governmental buyer, price is very very seldom the only consideration. 

 

People pay a certain price for a product or service in the hope that they receive value in return. 

 

Value is an interesting word because it has about as many definitions as there are people on earth. “Value” means something different to people based on their expectations, their past experiences, their lifestyle and their needs. 

 

Professional salespeople ask questions, often many questions, to determine exactly what value means to each of their customers. Then they work tirelessly to be sure their customers receive that value. 

 

Every person reading this, including unprofessional salespeople who believe that most people really do buy on price, have paid more for a particular product because they saw or expected additional value unavailable in a cheaper product. 

 

They considered the price but decided to spend more because they saw the potential to receive more in return. That “more” that they saw the potential to receive is value. 

 

The only way to discover what value means to your customers is to ask. Ask each one. Ask again and again because the definition of “value” changes over time. 

 

If you’re not asking value based questions then it’s a safe bet you’re selling, or attempting to sell, on price. That makes you easy to beat. 


Stop selling your product, sell the value it provides to your customer instead.