How To Avoid Failing

Logo1After one of my recent leadership tips, someone asked me my opinion of the primary causes why businesses or business units fail.

Fair question.

To clarify, ‘fail’ can mean going out of business (closing the doors) … or ‘fail’ can also mean not reaching expectations.

Although I have no shortage of opinions, and there is no one answer to this question, let me share with you my experience and provide you with my top 3 – ways to avoid failing.

Business or business units can avoid failure if:

1. They have a realistic plan. Many businesses do not have a plan and if they do, the plans are often short sighted and / or incomplete. Realistic plans have to leverage your strengths, minimize your weaknesses, maximize your opportunities (current and emerging), thoughtfully addresses your threats (current and emerging). The plans have to be born with creative thought and deliberate, mindful strategies and actions.

2. They have competent leadership. Leadership that possess the skills to establish strong employee relationships and the ability to build a focused and engaged team. Caring, creativity, consistency, communication and attention to customers are key.

3. They are efficient with time. They have established priorities, they are highly productive, they avoid fire-fighting because they solve problems before they occur, they are focused and purposeful, they think things through in advance – they plan.

My leadership tip for you this week, is to have you perform a reality gut check on how well your business or business unit(s) are doing in these 3 – critical areas.

To do this, spend a minimum of half a day with key members of your team to review your performance in each of these areas. Give everyone an assignment of assessing one or more of the components of the three points made above. Be mindful of the ‘rose colored glasses’ your team may be wearing.

You may want to assign a positive viewpoint and a critical viewpoint, or get an independent 3rd party facilitator to calibrate your perspective.

Business can be good today (this quarter) … but the question is, are you doing the things today that will assure your business will be good tomorrow.

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Ten Success Rules

On occasion, I’ll pull out Herbert N. Casson’s Ten Success Rules and give myself a reality check. I thought I’d share them with you:

Put success before amusement.

Learn something every day.

Cut free from routine.

Concentrate on net profits.

Make your services known.

Never worry about trifles.

Shape your decisions quickly.

Acquire skill and technique.

Deserve loyalty and co-operation.

Value character above all.

One can always argue that there should be more (or fewer) success rules, but let’s work with these.

My leadership tip this week is to ask you to measure yourself against these ten rules and make any necessary adjustments in your leadership to comply fully.

Use the grading scale below. If your total score is below 50 points, you’ve got some work to do.

Strength of Mine – 5 points

I’m Above Average – 4 points

I’m Competent – 3 points

I’m Below Average – 2 points

I Need Some Work – 1 point

The one success rule that may give you a little trouble is ‘Make Your Services Known’.

For me, making your services known is about mentoring, coaching, advising, sharing experiences, being available, listening, supporting, encouraging, giving recognition, showing appreciation, directing and the list can go on.

As a leader, the only way to make these services known is by actively doing them … and doing them well.

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It’s All About The Results

Let’s think about your strategies for a few minutes.

Have they been designed to achieve top line growth … bottom line growth … increase / defend market share … customer satisfaction … or something else?

Are you satisfied with your results?

We know Blockbuster, Sears, Radio Shack and a many other retailers are not satisfied with their results.

Winston Churchill once said, ‘however beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results’.

All of the above mentioned companies at one time were implementing strategies that worked real well … and then it seems like all of a sudden their results were off and it was too late.

My leadership tip for you this week is to slow down and take a real close look at the results of your strategies.

This isn’t hard to do, but most of us don’t do it.

We get busy … we get distracted … we lose our focus … our priorities get out of alignment … and then the next thing you know, we wonder why we aren’t having the kind of success we thought we would.

By focusing on the results of your strategies you will be able to identify necessary adjustments in execution or modifications to the action plans designed to achieve the expected results.

You may also realize that you have the wrong strategy.

Don’t be stubborn – change it.

It’s good to be committed to a strategy … but it’s even better to be good at measuring the results and taking action.

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You Played That Well … Nice Job

If you do any amount of travel for business, you likely have been exposed to all kinds of different characters who drive cab or a shuttle bus.

On one trip you might experience someone who is extremely talkative, or very quiet, or an aggressive driver, or an overly cautious driver who doesn’t appear to know where they’re going … or something else.

I have to share with you a recent ride I took in a shuttle bus from the airport to a hotel I was staying at. I was the only passenger.

I had a nervous driver. He just seemed uncomfortable and jittery. No discussion, ‘how was your flight’ or ‘where you from’ … nothing … not a word.

Which was just fine with me, because I like to sit quietly and think.

While on the freeway to the hotel, we came across some road construction where two lanes became extra narrow with a concrete barricade on the left and no shoulder on the right.

Suddenly on the right, two vehicles were merging into the lane we were in and a couple of vehicles to our left were trying to pass. With nowhere to go, we were being squeezed out and the nervous driver was now extra nervous. He slowed down just enough to let the vehicles on the left pass us, quickly moved into their lane while avoiding collision with the merging vehicles.

Nervously, he looked into the rear view mirror to check my reaction.

Knowing he was nervous, sensing something was bothering him … I simply said, ‘you played that well … nice job.’

He beamed from ear to ear and his whole demeanor changed for the remaining 10 minutes of the trip.

I’m not positive what caused his initial discomfort, but I was glad I was able to make him smile.

My leadership tip for you this week is to never forget about the importance and power of positive reinforcement. A few well timed words, that take seconds to say, can earn you long lasting loyalty and engagement from anyone.

A few poorly expressed words, or an obvious none acknowledgement, can negatively impact your relationship and create disengagement.

So, think about this … how many positive reinforcement messages or acknowledgements have you delivered this week ?

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Learn From The Best Leaders In The World

untitledWhen you think about the world’s best leaders, who do you think of ?

What are the attributes, characteristics and qualities that make them the world’s best?

This article by ‘CNN Money’ does a nice job of answering these questions … ‘The Worlds 50 Greatest Leaders.

If you don’t have time to read the article now, do yourself a favor and save the link to read the article later.

A few highlights:

#3 – Alan Mulally, CEO Ford Motor Co.

A few highlights:

#3 – Alan Mulally, CEO Ford Motor Co.

He saved the company without resorting to bankruptcy or bailouts by doing what previous leaders had tried and failed to do: change Ford’s risk-averse, reality-denying, CYA-based culture.

# 11 – Derek Jeter, Captain New York Yankees

Never offer excuses or give less than maximum effort

#16 – Jack Ma Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group

He has exhorted employees to “think big” and “work for their dreams!” He did that himself and built Alibaba into the world’s largest online business, with some 100 million shoppers a day and higher revenues than Amazon and eBay combined.

#29 – Howard Shultz, CEO Starbucks

He understood that he was creating an experience, not selling a product.

#43 – Peter Diamandis, CEO X Prize Foundation

He makes each person understand that their role is critical to the success of their organization and in turn that the overall project is critical to transforming the world.

My leadership tip this week is to encourage you to read this article and extract the inspiration that will you help you take your leadership and your organization to the next level.

There are plenty of pearls of wisdom from these leaders; I challenge you to find and implement at least one.

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The Price of Not Holding Others Accountable

PriceAfter a leadership development seminar I presented in Wisconsin last week, I read an article in a local newspaper that we can all learn from.

Apparently, two Milwaukee police officers decided to sue the city after their complaints to their supervisor(s) of harassment and threats from a fellow officer were ignored.

Unfortunately, the complaints led to retaliation and continued bullying from the fellow officer in question.

Now, I’m not here to lay blame, pick sides or judge anybody involved – the courts can do that.

However, there is a lesson to be reinforced … and that is, leaders must act on behavior inconsistent with company values and policies.

My leadership tip for you this week is to remind you that as a leader you must hold others accountable for their actions, behaviors and performance.

Weak leaders look the other way when they should be holding others accountable.

Exceptional leaders embrace accountability and are effective at holding themselves and others accountable.

Here are 5 – challenges you could be faced with when you’re a leader who struggles with holding people accountable:

Diminishing credibility
Loss of trust and respect
Chaotic work environment
Disengaged employees
Law suits

“Sir Josiah Stamp once said “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

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People Must Be Led

untitledAt a recent leadership development seminar I was conducting, when describing the difference between managers and leaders, I used this quote from Ross Perot, “Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.”

Seems fairly obvious and straight forward to me … but unfortunately many managers miss the boat on this one. They spend too much of their time managing and not enough leading.

My leadership tip for you this week is to have you evaluate your leadership and your management to make certain you are leading more than managing.

Does your calendar reflect leadership activities or management activities ?

Leaders maintain a long-term perspective which is good for the future.

Leaders are constantly seeking change which is also good for the future.

Inventories don’t care about the future … but people do.

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