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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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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Prepare To Say No

untitledBusiness and corruption happens.

Bernie Madoff and others have made headlines over the past few years for their illegal activities and are now in prison … as they should be.

It’s now many years later and we see that Madoff’s staff is on the ‘hot seat’ for allegedly participating in his devious plan. If you like you can read this recent article from USA Today.

So it brings to question, what should you do when your boss wants you to agree to (or say) something that you know is wrong?

It’s best to answer this question now – before it becomes an issue.

Some people feel trapped because the boss signs the pay checks and can help or ruin careers. Don’t feel trapped.

My leadership tip for you this week is to never participate in the lies and morally wrong action(s) of your boss. You must demonstrate and preserve your unwavering character. Your integrity is part of your value system and you must protect it.

Take a few minutes and think about the different scenarios you could be involved in at work. Is it quality product sacrifices, or financial reporting, or a personnel issue, or something else?

Knowing how you will handle a situation in advance is ‘the practice of mindful preparedness’ – Thinkership.

You can either stand your ground with your boss … or you can simply run away. It’s your decision; because the alternative of participation is not a very good one … just ask the Madoff team now on trial.

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Procactive Wins Over Reactive

untitledWe’ve all been in a situation that has aggravated us … a boring meeting … conflict with a co-worker or the boss … a noisy neighbor … or similar, and we’ve reacted or responded in a way that we regret.

We need to be careful and think things through more thoroughly.

Take as an example, the recent story of a man who was shot in a movie theatre after an argument with a fellow movie-goer. The argument was over texting during the movie.

Or the man who is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty for shooting his gun at teenagers who were playing loud music at a gas station. He is facing up to 60 years !!

I’m not even going to mention the road rage incidents that happen all too frequently … often resulting in property damage and / or death.

These, among many others are very serious situations that we could all be faced with in the blink of an eye.

My leadership tip for you this week is to avoid bad situations by thinking things through in advance. I call this Thinkership – the practice of mindful preparedness.

I want you to avoid the mishaps at work and away from work utilizing the principles of Thinkership.

There are many factors involved, but here are a couple of Thinkership practices you can begin to take:

1. Slow down and start thinking – by slowing down and thinking more, you will be positioned to make better decisions faster.

2. Anticipate and plan – by anticipating situations and planning the solution before it becomes a problem for you.

We all make mistakes in our lives and there are some decisions we make in the heat of the moment that we absolutely need to avoid.

It’s best to be a leader who is more proactive than reactive.

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Resentment Is Poison

resentmentWith the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, we have been exposed to the man and his life works in every media source possible … there has been no shortage of information.

In addition to learning about the past successes and contributions of high profile people, I always enjoy reading their quotes.

Of all of the Nelson Mandela quotes I came across this is the one that captured my attention: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

When you think about it … it’s so true. Mr. Mandela is telling us, the poison contained within resentment causes a great deal of unhappiness … and it’s usually our own.

For leaders, among many other concerns, resentment causes you a great deal of unhappiness. Unhappiness causes you to; lose focus, make poor decisions, become unproductive, negatively impact those around you, miss opportunities, lose objectivity and lose creativity. Don’t forget the added level of stress and anxiety that resentment can create.

These ingredients cannot be used in any leader’s recipe for success.

My leadership tip for you this week is to never allow resentment to enter your world.

If you come across a situation that is starting to steer you in the direction of resentment, consider one or more of these seven suggestions to help you shut the door:

1. Frequently remind yourself – life is too short to be unhappy.

2. Plan to do the activities that make you happy.

3. Explore the past for forgotten happiness.

4. Talk to people who make you happy.

5. Write a long list of positive aspects of your life – look at the list often.

6. Set some new positive goals – get busy planning to achieve them.

7. Go somewhere that makes you happy, content or comfortable.

I believe you can keep resentment out of your life and become a more effective leader if you remember these words of actress Mary Pickford; ‘you may have a fresh start at any moment you choose.”

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Leaders Initiate Action

pointingThink about this JF Kennedy quote …

“There are costs and risks to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

What does this mean in your world ?

Are you holding off hiring purchasing additional resources because you are waiting for your business to get better ?

Are you delaying the training of your team or yourself because you are waiting for a better time to do it ?

Are you delaying the change of (blank) to (blank) until (excuse) ? …. you fill in the blanks.

My leadership tip this week is for you to think about all of the ‘comfortable inactions’ that are holding you back. Then select just one and commit to ‘a program of action’

By initiating action you will be demonstrating leadership – leaders initiate action.

If the action is executed properly, you will generate excitement and enthusiasm throughout the organization. Morale will increase, turn over will be reduced, and productivity will improve … all kinds of great things happen when the leader demonstrates the courage to act.

Take action, but be mindful of the ‘costs and risks’ … and don’t forget to compare those with the ‘costs and risks’ of inaction.

Also, be careful not to let your decisions for ‘comfortable inaction’ be fueled by a myriad of excuses. A good way to guard against this, is to keep this JF Kennedy quote near by as a reminder;

“Just because we cannot see clearly the end of the road, that is no reason for not setting out on the essential journey.”

You can do it !

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