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.


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!


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.

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 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. 

 

 

Actually, Winners Do Quit

I saw one of those motivational posters the other day that said “Winners Never Quit.” I’ve heard that for years. I‘ve seen similar posters forever. The premise of the posters seems to be that if you quit you’re a loser. 

 

Funny thing is, it’s not true. Winners actually quit all the time. 

 

In fact, I’d submit that the fastest way to lose is to never quit. Not quitting is one of the biggest mistakes that less successful consistently make. They may try news things but they never completely quit the old things that hold them back.

 

The most successful people know that much of their success in the coming year will come from what they quit doing. They know that in many cases they will need to quit something old in order to try something new.

 

If you don’t believe that then invest one day, just one day, to exam your actions.  After every time you do something stop for a few seconds and ask yourself if that “thing” you just did got you closer to a goal or not. Ask yourself if that “thing” you just did was productive or whether it was just something you have always done. Ask yourself exactly why you did it. 

 

If you’re like me, and most other people, you won’t be able to say with any level of specificity why you do many of the things you do. You’ll be able to explain the big things you do but likely not many of the little things that chew up most of the minutes in your day. 

 

Not being able to explain why you do what you do is what kills your productivity. Doing things simply because you have always done them destroys the discipline you need to reach your potential. 

 

I guarantee, no matter how successful you are, that there is something you frequently do that if you quit you would be more successful. There is likely something in your life that needs to change in order for you to be more successful. If that’s the case then you should know that nothing will change in your life until you quit doing something that you do everyday. 

 

Here’s an idea…quit reading motivational posters that say winners never quit. Start looking hard at all the things you do that pay zero dividends to you. Then win by quitting those things. When you quit unproductive activities you have to opportunity to start new more productive ones. 


You see, winners do quit but only so they can begin anew!