Our “Word” is Earned – Good or Bad

“I’ll take care of that.”

At the moment you utter those words, those to whom you have made your promise will think one of two things:

  1. No he won’t.  He never gets anything done on time, and I need to plan accordingly.
  2. That’s a huge relief.  He will get it done, and he will get it done right.

Our “word” is known to our colleagues and clients, perhaps better than it is known to us.

So, is your word your bond, or is your word empty?

Your word is your reputation – guard it… jealously.

 

Leading In The Real World

Leading, when things are going well can be a great joy.  Those times when you have great stories of success to share with your colleagues and when in general, the plan comes together;  it is a very satisfying and rewarding time.   You,  your team, and your plans are validated!

When things aren’t going so well, when the stories are a bit tougher to tell, when your plans didn’t work, the feeling is anything but joyful – it can be gut wrenching.  The truth is, it’s just no fun to be the leader at those moments.

But being a leader isn’t just about celebrating the good times.   Who wouldn’t want to be in a leadership position if all you did was celebrate the good news and delegate the bad news.

In his exceptional book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins writes, “Leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is heard and the brutal facts confronted.”  Facing the brutal facts is often times extremely painful because they may lead to painful decisions.  Making painful decisions requires fortitude (to put it nicely).   And it requires that you demonstrate that your leadership is more than words, it is decisive action.

Facts, brutal or otherwise, are just that – facts.  It’s not about blame and it’s certainly not about excuses.

When you hit that rough patch, don’t linger on the bad news; confront the reality, make course corrections and move forward…confidently.

Be an idiot – it’s the only way to succeed

I had the great pleasure to hear Carla Bailo, Senior Vice President of Research and Development, Nissan Americas, speak recently.

Listening to her reminded me that great leaders, regardless of whom they may be leading, have some common attributes.   In particular, I’ve noticed that great leaders make a point of learning from everyone they encounter.  They ask a lot of questions…and really listen…learn…and…apply.

In discussing her five year stint in Japan, Ms. Bailo said when you are in such a new environment; it’s your opportunity to “be an idiot.”  You aren’t expected to know anything, so you can safely ask a lot of questions.  In essence a license to be an idiot.

Ms. Bailo is anything but… In fact, as she provided some of the rules by which she lives, in the recent presentation, her wisdom was evident.   Here is my best attempt to recreate a few of them based on my chicken scratch notes.

Optimism finds a solution, negative is useless

Debate leads to the best decision

Promise and deliver – without fail

Fear and resistance are to be overcome

Failure breads success

Challenge the accepted way

Never forget to have fun

Don’t take everything personally, avoid getting a chip on your shoulder

Don’t regret mistakes, fix them

Treat others as you would want to be treated

Be open to criticism and be willing to change and improve

Listen. Listen. Listen.

It’s easy to see why Ms. Bailo is in the position she is – she is a humble, lifelong learner.   I hope to learn and apply some of her wisdom in my life.  Indeed, we should all feel empowered to be an idiot; it’s the only way to avoid really being one.

Character

Who would have thought this kind of exceptional character from an attorney, a physician, a business owner, a salesman…

Long before we assumed our various titles…

The respectful attorney, was a respectful spouse.

The caring physician, was a caring daughter.

The honest business owner, was an honest employee.

The ethical salesman, was an ethical student.

Our titles don’t create our character, they just amplify it.

From Learning to Earning

Graduating from college is a wonderful accomplishment…but it is only a starting point.  With easily 30% to 40% of the US population holding a bachelors degree, don’t expect the world to stand up and take notice – you are unfortunately, just a college graduate.

I sometimes wonder if starting your career with a degree is a handicap – perhaps there is an naive and unrealistic expectation.  Without a degree, you are forced into something we all eventually learn; that is, you must prove yourself!

Your diploma won’t bring in new business, make a company more profitable, or create a new product or service…this requires work; real hard, dirty, painstaking, not always “dignified,” burning the late night oil work!

If you have earned your degree, congratulations, earning your keep is a lifelong endeavor.

Fair or Not

It isn’t fair – they were born into wealth.

It isn’t fair – they had all the right contacts.

It isn’t fair – they had better “genetics” on their side.

It isn’t fair – they are taller, smarter, faster, and richer; went to better schools, knew the right people, and they were given so much…they are without excuse…

…but there are those with nothing but excuse…The truth is some are given a head start in life, how much of your life will you waste lamenting the unfairness of life? Look around, success and failure can be found across all socio-economic classes.

And keep a proper perspective; success (not just wealth) is not measured by your bank account.

Get better at making a way, rather than making excuses.

Deal With It

The only thing worse than dealing with those thorny, difficult, sometimes personal, emotional, complicated issues that require difficult decisions is…not dealing with those thorny, difficult, sometimes personal, emotional, complicated issues and leaving them to feaster with no decision.

Deal with it; don’t ignore it.

Now

If only we would have heeded the warning signs, this all could have been avoided.  It’s not as if no one ever told us, in fact we were told several times.  And really, no one had to tell us, we knew…not even deep down, it was on the surface – unfortunately, it was that obvious.

We ignored wise counsel, we ignored the obvious, and we ignored common sense.

Honestly…

…is there something in your business life you are ignoring right now?

…is there something in your personal life you are ignoring right now?

Be a man enough or woman enough to address it. Now.

Doggedness

Sometimes you reach a point where the best thing to do is to say, I gave this my best effort, but it didn’t work. It happens.

But, sometimes even though it defies logic at all indicators say, cut your losses and move on, you decide to persist and do “it” anyway.

 This is the time for real growth.

The Battle to Achieve Progress

The goals are well thought out, check.

The goals are clearly in the best interest of the organization, check.

If we achieve these goals, we will be a stronger organization as a result, check.

These are ethically-sound decisions, in line with the values of the organization and my own ethics, check.

And yet…I will guarantee that if you have developed your plan, and consistently and precisely execute your plan, you are going to have someone or many ones that will not be happy with your decisions along the way.

But honestly, that’s okay.

The goal is not to please everyone; that’s just a fool’s game.  Trying to please everyone will lead to no progress and failure as a leader.

That’s because some goals are going to require that people move outside of their comfort zone; this will likely be met with resistance and excuses.

Some goals are going to require that you invest time and money and you will face battles to spend either.

Some goals, well let’s face it – that’s just not how we do business here…

Being a leader isn’t about making easy decisions or popular decisions. When your decisions are well reasoned, well counseled, ethical & fair – designed to help your organization move toward the goal that you must meet – then go forward with confidence.