Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Responsibilities of Leadership

Leadership carries with it a certain level of responsibility. Once you choose to accept that you are a leader you must then in turn accept the responsibilities that go along with that privilege.

One of the least understood of these responsibilities is that leaders must forfeit the right to have opinions. You see when the average person has an opinion he can share it, it can be discussed, debated, challenged and in most cases this is a very healthy thing. The challenge is that when a person in a position of leadership expresses an opinion, often it is acted upon as if it were fact. People tend to respond to just about whatever a leader says. So, you must be very careful in a leadership position to give careful consideration to the ramifications of any opinion before you share it with others.

This brings up the value of leaders having outside confidants or mentors with whom they can share thoughts outside their sphere of influence. But that’s a topic for another day.

How Will I Know If I Am A Leader

This week I am going to focus on leadership. What an interesting topic. Many books have been written on the subject and some speakers have built nice careers speaking on just leadership.

One of the most common questions on leadership is; how will I know if I am a leader? I attended a symposium on leadership about eight years ago. This was a full day session that was simulcast to an audience of over 250,000 in over a thousand locations around the world. There were six speakers with the key note being given by Tom Peters. Tom has always been one of my favorite speakers and authors. I just really like the way he thinks. During his presentation Tom told this story. He said that at the close of every presentation there is always a group of people waiting to talk to the speaker when you leave the stage (in my experience, this is always true). They didn’t use the public question or discussion time provided but they want their few private moments with the speaker. Tom said that when giving talks on leadership one of the questions that always comes up in these little private conversations is; how will I know if I’m a leader? Tom’s answer is simple; Turn around and look behind you. If there are people back there you are, and if there aren’t then your not.

Tom’s answer fits very well into my belief that people have an inherent need to be lead and will therefore seek out leaders they can follow.

I’m really interested in everyone else’s views on leadership so please share them in the comments section. Don’t be one of those waiting for your private conversation; let other benefit from your thoughts. I will carry on the leadership discussions through the week.

An Invitation

I am really enjoying writing these daily commentaries and the response has been tremendous. Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback on the site. There are now hundreds of people reading the blogs every day.

I hope you are finding the topics both interesting and helpful. Today’s invitation is all about getting even more benefit from this site. What is the burning issue in your business today? What decisions are you facing that you could use some help with? Is there a particular topic you would like to see my thoughts on? Just enter a quick comment about any of these in the comments section of today’s or any other blog and I will be happy to offer my thoughts on what ever topics are requested. We have even added a tab to walk you through how to leave comments for those unfamiliar with how this all works. You may also get feedback from other readers who have experienced your particular issue themselves.

So, come on, click that comment tab and let me know what’s on your mind today!

Happy Customers Pay Their Bills

I was taught a long time ago that happy customers pay their bills on time. This is of course not always true but in my experience it is usually the case.

It’s always interesting to me when a company whose receivables have always been in good shape starts to develop a problem and the first reaction is to tighten up on collections or often they will even hire addition collections staff or worse yet farm their receivables out to an outside collection company. The first thing you should do if your company’s receivables start to slip is to look at your customer service measures. What has changed in the quality of your service delivery? If you are going to invest money in this issue, the first place to invest it is in improving your performance.

Sure there will always be some customers who are hard to collect from, but remember the condition of your receivables is a good measure of the satisfaction level of your customers.

Make Someone’s Day

I was already having an amazing day yesterday when the most wonderful thing happened to me. I was given a compliment. I don’t think it was even intended that way but that’s what it was, a great compliment. The effect was terrific; I sailed through the whole day with this big smile on my face.

This experience reminded me of the FISH videos. If you haven’t seen the FISH videos, go get them and make sure you show them to your entire team. They are a fantastic story about attitude in the workplace. Anyway, one of the FISH messages is about “making someone’s day”. It really is such a simple thing. Make sure you improve the experience, day, life, of at least one person every day. I thought this was a great concept when I first saw the video years ago and then Gerri (my wife for those who don’t know) took it a step further. Why not improve the day of everyone you meet. It really isn’t hard and the paybacks are enormous. Just smile at people and say nice things. Now I realize this sounds a little “airy” and of course no one can do it all the time, but what have we got to lose. It’s one of those aim for the stars things.

So how about this for a start; go out there and make someone’s day, today!

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement sounds like some business flavor of the month process from the 1980′s. The kind of topic that causes most business people’s eyes to glaze over and their heads to begin to nod as they drift off. Well first I believe that continuous improvement is a necessary process for the development of any successful business and secondly I believe it is a process that we must apply to our lives.

I’ve heard it said that you will be exactly the same tomorrow as you are today except for the things you read, the people you meet and the video you watch. So as we develop as human beings, why not grow along a chosen path rather than taking whatever comes to us. We can accomplish this by doing a very simple thing. Make smart choices! What are you choosing to read? Who are the people you are associating with and when you have time to watch television or video, what are you watching?

One of my best friends favorite business saying is “you are either green and growing or ripe and rotting”. This is really just another and possibly more straight forward, way of saying the same thing I have been talking about in this discussion. So, choose to grow because the alternative smells really bad.

The Great Ones Very Seldom Come To You. You have To Go Get Them.

I often hear business people talking about not being able to find good people. When I look at most recruiting techniques, what they really mean is that great people aren’t responding to their help wanted ads.

My favorite recruiting technique is what I call “recruiting by wandering around”. I know you will think this is a spin off the great book “Management by Wandering Around” and you are right. The two methodologies are very similar. Like managing, recruiting is a task that never ends and that you need to be aware of at all times. Everyplace you go in life and in everything you do, you are meeting people. Always be asking yourself; would this person be the right fit for my team? You see, the best people are already working, good people already have jobs. With a few exceptions, great people aren’t sitting at home reading the help wanted ads.

Ok, so what does this mean? Where then do you find good people and how do you recruit them? I have a great example of recruiting by wandering around that a very good friend of mine shared with me just a couple months ago. He is in a market where the economy is booming and his biggest challenge is finding enough people. He was out for a business lunch one day with four associates. Their waiter came to the table and asked if they would like anything from the bar before lunch. A couple people ordered cocktails and the others order cokes and coffees. There were a couple of the usual order alterations with the drinks. Then someone at the table told the waiter they were probably ready to order their lunch. He said “great, no problem”, and looked at the first one saying “what can we get for you”. Now this was five people ordering lunch with all the usual requests; No onions on the burger, Can I have that well done, I’d like my dressing on the side please, Oh, I changed my mind, can I have the special sandwich instead but I’d rather have the clam chowder with it than the daily soup, etc. The waiter was incredibly pleasant through the whole process. When he left the table someone said, “Did anybody else notice that he didn’t write any of that down? What do you think the chances are of any of us getting what we ordered?” Well, the waiter came back with the drinks and they were perfect and each placed right in front of the person who ordered each one. The lunches were delivered exactly the same way, it was perfect. The whole table was very impressed. The point of my story is that the young waiter is now working for my friend, training for a sales career.

When you see people who impress you, grab them! I have never heard of a business struggling because they had too many great people and didn’t know what to do with them.

The Value of Mentoring

I was reminded this morning of the value of mentors. I have been fortunate enough to have some fantastic mentors in my life. Bob Plumb and Dan Nixon taught me what it is to lead people; Mark Victor Hansen was the first to show me how the world works and some amazing friends have taught me what it means to be human. There are many individuals who have made special contributions to making me who I am and I sincerely thank them all.

None of us know much about this world when we start out and learning from others is the best way I know to figure it out. Leaders all show us how things work. By definition, that is what leaders do. But we are truly blessed when one of these great souls takes a special interest in us and has the patience to invest the time to teach us what they know. Sometimes the really good ones don’t even realize they are doing it. Giving their knowledge to others is just an inherent part of their being. Whenever you find yourself in this fortunate situation, be quiet and listen. You may be amazed at what you learn.

If you have been well mentored in your life, this special gift carries with it a great responsibility. We must pass this gift on to others. So, whenever you find a keen mind willing to be taught, remember what was given to you and take the time to help someone else develop into the best person they are capable of becoming. Those who have done this uncover an amazing secret. You see the truly blessed person in any healthy mentoring relationship is the mentor not the student. Receiving knowledge is a wonderful thing but it is not nearly as rewarding as passing it on.

So to Susan who unconsciously reminded me of my mentoring responsibility this morning, thank you.