Leadership

We Don’t Need Business Ethics

Have you ever heard someone apologize and say something like "Don't take it personally, it's only business." I've heard it. And, as my father would have said, "It's a bunch of hooey."

A friend of mine has three rules for life. They are:

  1. Do what's right.

  2. Do your best.

  3. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

You have a life. It includes everything including business. You have no
authorization to treat people any differently in business as you would
treat someone you love. To do so is self-demeaning and usually used as
an excuse for greed and the pursuit of materialism above doing what's
right.

Nowhere in these rules does it say that there is a set of guiding principles for your life and another set for your business life. The idea that a different set of rules governs business (and you as a business person) is how our economy got into the mess we are now experiencing. Companies don't need a set of business ethics. They need to operate by a set of human ethics.

It's up to all of us to stop making excuses for a different set of rules for business.

If you'd like to read some more of Lou's quotes – click here.

Creativity Just Is

Some people think they aren't creative. And, they are correct.
Some people who experience creativity believe they are creative. And, they are incorrect.
People are neither creative nor uncreative.

Creativity is. By that I mean it already exists. All ideas exist but just haven't been revealed. If you believe this to be true then everyone can engage in the process of creativity.

All of us know how to engage in the creative process from the time we
are babies. And, we grow in the process until our structured
school systems beat it out of most of us. When I was in second grade I
got an "F" in art because I didn't like the things they gave me to color
and so I created my own picture by enhancing and changing what I was given.
And, I've never been very good at staying between the lines.

I believed I was an art failure and had no creativity until I happily
experienced the process of developing photographs in the darkroom at the age of 13. I jumped into photography. I didn't care
about not being creative. I was caught up in something magical. I went
on to become a national award winning photographer and a professional
photojournalist for many years. I still do it to engage in another creative process. You can see some photos here but please wait until you read all this and then come back.

I tell you this story because I want you to believe, as I do, that the
creativity was always there. The art always existed. I
believed I could manifest them and they became real. All of us can do the same thing.

That means there is no reason to accept that you can't change things for the better. There is no reason not to engage in the process of manifesting creativity to make a positive change to your life, your job, your business, etc.

The process of creativity is enormously gratifying and uplifting for both body and soul. And, it becomes exponentially more so when you engage in the process with other like-minded people. Get together with some friends, co-workers, or employees. Do some creativity exercises to get your mind flowing. Perhaps you can use mind mapping. Let yourself focus on thinking of ideas. No idea is too far out. None is discarded because it may lead to the ONE that changes everything for you.

Start with one problem, one challenge for which you'd like to find a really creative solution. Perhaps it could be, "How Do We Take Advantage of a Down Economy?" That might be a good start for many of us.

Right now as I write this, I'm engaging in an all day exercise with about a dozen other people who are supporting each other in getting stuff done. We started the day by stating our goals. Then we stated an hourly goal and we check in and support each other every hour. It's working. People are getting more done than ever by using the collective power of the group.

Engage in the creative process. You'll find the journey very satisfying and I'll wager you'll end up in a place of contentment – a place where creativity is.

Check Your Expiration Date

What if we all were born with expiration dates? Actually, we are but very few ever learn their exact date. How would our lives change if we were given a stamped expiration date on our birthday?

Would you plan more or would you live your life more carefree? Would you live your life with more passion knowing? I know people who live their lives like they know this might be their last day – and they do it day-after-day. For example, they refuse to take part in a recession or pity parties that last longer than 3 minutes.

And, I know people who live as if they have forever and don't mind wasting today on being miserable and self-defeating. And, they also do it day-after-day. In business, you'll find them paralyzed by listening to the gloom and doomsday people. Their lives become one of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Which type of person do you prefer being around?

Which type are you?

Think about that as you check your expiration date.

The List

Things To Do Next Year

  • Write your manifesto. Blog it. Put it in your newsletter. Live it.
  • Create a presentation in order to support and carry out your manifesto. Make sure whoever sits and listens to the presentation comes away feeling like it was a good investment of their time. Create value for them and leave them with information they will use and pass on to others.
  • Make a list of everyone who will be willing to listen to your presentation. Send them a letter with compelling reasons for them to accept your presentation offer. Start booking dates.
  • Risk being vulnerable as you share your message.
  • Put together an EBook that you will make available for free on-line. It will tie in with your manifesto.
  • Write a book (you're ready – you've been ready) and self-publish it on Lulu or any number of companies. Decide if you will sell it or give it away. 
  • Collaborate with people like yourself and with people totally different than yourself and create something special that makes a difference in your world.
  • Learn something new – something you've always wanted to do. Then teach it to someone else.
  • Write a letter to someone who changed your life for the better. It could be a teacher, a friend, or anyone who made a difference. Give them the letter. Don't wait until it is too late. Eulogies are highly overrated.
  • Embrace failure because without it – you aren't really trying.
  • Try to start each day by remembering we are all connected. I have faith that if we do, it could make a world of difference.

It’s Personal

Leadership is personal.

Because leadership is personal, your followers must trust you. But, here's the real kicker – you have to trust others. That isn't as easy as it might sound.

Withholding trust is a form of self-protection.

I've been engaged in entrepreneurial pursuits since I was a kid and started my first neighborhood errand business. I've gotten burned more times than I like to remember by people I trusted. But, I've leaned that in the long run, the only way to lead is to trust. You risk being deceived and let down. But, you can't lead by always wondering about the motives of those you work with.

You can't lead when you are afraid of being open to others. 

People willingly follow you because of how you make them feel when they are around you.

That's personal.

And, that is trust.

Better Than Being Scratched By A Cat

When it comes to house pets, it seems like most people claim either to be cat people or dog people. Some, like me, are both. It wasn't always that way. I would have said I was a dog person. But, a few years ago I was adopted by a large, older, male cat that someone had "dumped" in the woods near a walking path I follow. I named him Walker and I've written about our relationship before.

When Walked unexpectedly died, my wife and I rescued three other cats to join our two dog family. However, I still wouldn't call myself a cat person. I liked them but I was a little afraid of them. They have all their claws and sharp teeth and they know how to use them. I'd give them some pats on the head and a few rubs but I was very careful to stay out of reach of those claws.

I'm telling you this today because that has all changed. As I sat down to write this blog, two of the cats climbed up on me and my keyboard. I rub them all over and they in turn roll over on their backs to have their stomachs rubbed and, frankly, we have this mutual love-in going here every morning at my desk.

What's changed? In a single word – TRUST.

I trust them and they trust me. I have earned their trust and they have earned mine.

Trust isn't something you can buy. It's not easy to earn and it is easy to lose. In a world where buyers have an abundance of choices of companies, products, and services – trust is scarce and valuable. Plus, trust increases in value as you nurture it and as others throw theirs away. (eg. Wall St., George Bush, US Dept of Treasury, etc.)

One way you build trust is by listening. You can't sell someone without listening first. People can't trust you if they feel like you don't listen to them. Your employees won't trust you if they see that you are more concerned with the bottom line than their trust in you. The level of trust a leader can expect to receive is directly in proportion to the follower's perception of the leader's respect, empathy, integrity, generosity, and listening/communication skills.

How important is trust? It is the difference between hearing the sound of contented purring or getting your hands scratched and bit.

Trust is what makes everyone feel more invested and committed to each other. It is the most important intangible you have with your customers and clients.

You might want to spend more time on earning and building trust these days. And, less on the things that anyone can copy.

Want to Follow a Path With a Heart?

To paraphrase Don Juan in his teaching Carlos Castaneda about careers – following a path that has a heart makes for a joyful journey.

For those people who have discovered that they are on a path with no heart, here is a chance to abandon that path and follow one with heart. Very few people get that opportunity and fewer yet are brave enough to follow it.

My friend and colleague, Seth Godin, is offering an apprenticeship/not-internship/graduate school/charm school track-changing opportunity to a few people this winter. He is convinced that there are people out there in the world who–given the right teaching, encouragement and opportunity–can change the world.

Check it out. It might not be for you but you might know someone it would be perfect for.

The world desperately needs the leaders that this opportunity will reveal. People who can and will change the world.

What The World Needs Now

We need more leaders. Real leaders – people who are willing to "be the change we wish to see in the world." Gandhi

We need leaders who have a dream and can communicate it to others who are willing to follow – to make the dream come true. We need leaders in our homes and schools who encourage and nurture the creativity of children so that we will continue to have leaders and not functional illiterates that too many of our schools now turn out.

We need leaders who don't look the other way when they see cheating,
lying, and stealing. We need leaders who don't believe it is okay
because "Everybody else does it." We need leaders of integrity who can stop the bleeding of the million tiny cuts to our collective soul.

In a country where a man can be crushed to death by people rushing to buy gifts to ostensibly celebrate a holiday of peace and love, we need leaders who can lead us away from greed.

We need business leaders who take responsibility for their actions. We need marketing leaders who use their talents to make life better by using the truth and by engendering trust with their clients and customers.

We need leaders who can and will change the world. They are out there. You may be one of them. We're waiting for you. And, the world needs you – now.

Lead Them

In 1983 I wrote this paragraph as part of an article.

"I believe that one of the most potentially damaging myths to which business management falls prey is that superior marketing, advertising, or service is the answer to making a company successful.  The truth is even the best of these things do only one thing for your company – they create prospects.  The final solution to building and maintaining a successful business lies in the quality and capability of the people who communicate with and serve your customers."

Twenty-five years later we're still learning the same lesson. Today's solution for many managers on how to weather the current economic crises is to terminate the people who communicate with and serve their customers. Big business is the worst offender of this. I believe it is because these companies are full of managers but extraordinarily lacking in leaders. Big business has too many hired guns who have no real stake in the company. It's not their money they risk. It's not their family who will suffer if they screw up. In fact, they won't even take the job without negotiating a severance package that will get them more money when they leave than they made while they were managing.

Small business owners can't afford this type of management. Small businesses must have good leaders in order to thrive in a down economy. Leadership is imperative now. You can't lead people through fear. How can people trust a company who tells them how important they are to the company's success when in reality they see one "reduction in personnel" after another?

Talented people are your most important asset. Identify them. Nurture them. Involve them. Inspire them.

Lead them.

In the last few weeks, I have been fortunate to be part of a tribe of people who worked on putting together a Q&A ebook that compliments Seth Godin's Book – Triiibes – a fantastic book about Leadership. You can get the ebook for free here – Download PDF. You should probably read Triibes first. By the way, the ebook was created by a self-organized team of 156 people in the space of a few weeks. It's all about leadership. Seth's Blog is here.

Lead

As a writer, sales and marketing consultant, and teacher, I like to think that once I’ve identified problems and offered solutions, my readers, clients, and students will rush out to implement the solutions and everyone will win.

I learned a long time ago that isn’t what happens. There are a number of reasons for this. Just a few of them are:

  • People don’t agree with assessment of the problem or the solution – or both.
  • Inertia keeps people moving in the same direction they’ve been going.
  • It is easier to keep doing the same thing (with a tweak here or there) and expect different results.
  • Not invented here.
  • It's easier to do nothing than to make a sharp turn and fail.
  • Some business executives are in love with their strategy and feel they would be displaying weakness by changing their mind.
  • And, my favorite, people get caught up with managing instead of leading.

Too many companies are well managed but poorly led. People spend all day putting out fires, organizing, and handling routine tasks and problems. Whether you are the CEO or a salesperson, other people in the organization will dump their problems and questions on you. And, often, you take care of it. After all, someone has to do it. You’re the smartest person in the room. The buck stops here. Who’s going to do it if you don’t?

But, while you’re managing who is leading?

I suggest you find someone else to deal with the routine and then let them do it. I bet you know the perfect person right now to take that over for you.

Now you can concentrate on leading.

  • Communicate your vision so people can understand it.
  • Build trust by being consistent in your actions.
  • Surround yourself with the best possible talent and make sure they support your weaknesses.
  • Listen to your heart and not just your head.
  • Remember that people want to be part of a community – a family – a tribe.
  • They want to feel that what they are doing makes a difference in the tribe.
  • They want to be led by someone who makes it exciting.   

You can’t do any of these things if you managing.

Lead.