Archive for August, 2010


Un-Transformational Leadership

People crave great leadership. It’s essential to get this country back on its feet in so many ways. There is so much great information out there about how to become a really transformative leader. The question is: why are there so few great leaders? In the past, I’ve left several companies for greater opportunities, but the real reason I departed was because of who my current employer had in command positions. I wondered how I would ever fit in with a company that allowed senior level employees to behave in ways that were unethical, belittling, and uncontrolled. I decided that I could not be a part of these groups and left.

My Vistage chair, John Dame, handed me a great article titled The Power Trip. It asserts that CEOs who are rude, unethical and in some cases criminal, have not always behaved in such a manner. In fact, they could not have been in order to get to the top. Something happened to them called “The Paradox of Power”. In summary, it said, “the very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power.”

On one hand, this theory gives me a little bit of comfort. Perhaps the VPs and CEOs that I saw act worse than spoiled children haven’t always been that way. Maybe they were once well behaved, compassionate, ethical, and open minded. Maybe this explains why I had a CEO chastise me for hiring the spouse of a current employee, even though they where the most qualified and in a separate chain, when they, themselves, had their own child working for them at the corporate office.

On the other hand, this article gives me cause for concern. Can a transformational leader become un-transformed? Can they lose their transformational super powers? The goal with becoming transformed by something, is that you go through an internalized change so powerful it becomes a second nature or a part of you. Is that not the case with transformational leadership, too?

The article recommended that in order to combat this, there be a series of accountability gate keepers’ at all key points. In other words, let the leader know that the risk of getting caught is high should they decide to make an inappropriate comment or commit an `illegal act. But is that really what keeps a transformational leader in check? I’ve always been told that character is how you act when nobody is looking, not how you act because you know you might get caught.

Rules are important, as are gate keepers, and all forms of independent auditors. People are flawed, self-serving creatures. I understand that. In the military academies, we operated under the honor code. It states that we will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do. Violations could lead to expulsion. It was a key ingredient to solidifying the importance of ethical behavior in an officer-to-be.

But am I really transformed if I act accordingly because I know I might get caught? Can I inspire transformative behavior in others or am I merely mentoring them to operate on a higher level of rule abiding? As leaders, it’s time to really examine at our hearts and understand where our weaknesses are. What would we really do if no one was looking and we knew we could get away with it? Then we need to surround ourselves with great mentors and books that make us want to operate on the straight and narrow not to keep ourselves out of trouble but because it’s the right thing to do.

Just as a personal or spiritual relationship relies on our spending time weeding out the tempting thoughts, people, and circumstances, so does your professional one. People can fall in and out of love and leaders can fall in and out of transformative behavior. We all make mistakes, some of them very costly. But a real leader will work relentlessly to ensure they steer clear of the temptations, entitlement mentality, and selfishness that have brought so many other leaders down before them.


Does Your Rut Runneth Over?

It’s tough to get the momentum to get things done. It’s difficult to develop the day in and day out habits that will enable us to meet high goals. I get asked a lot about what our mission is, what our goals are and what will enable us to reach them. I’ve filled out strategic plans and mission statements ad nauseum. Do any of these actually help? I know it’s important to know where you’re going because otherwise you don’t know where you’ll end up, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that most folks know exactly what they’d like to change in their lives and where they’d like to be in five minutes, five months or five years.

My father used to say to me, “You know why most men fail in life? Most men fail not because they failed; most men fail simply because they never got started.” When I look at what drags me down, the root source is always my inactivity in that particular area. Are new customers lagging? How many new leads have I contacted this past week? Am I still carrying around twenty extra pounds? How many times have I been to the gym in the last month? Am I feeling lost and sad? How many hours have I spent reading inspiring words and teachings from those who succeeded magnificently at what I’m trying to do? Why does everyone in my mastermind group, including me, keep bringing up the same issues over and over again? Shouldn’t we be moving on to bigger and better challenges? Why does the pastor have to keep pushing us on the importance of tithing? Don’t I really know that none of it’s mine to keep and the more I can give now the more I’ll receive?

There’s a marketing and sales book I heard about several years ago by Rick Page that had a great title. It’s Hope Is Not A Strategy. That title says it all and sticks with me. I remember the sales force of a previous employer never being allowed to use the word hope when they brief their sales forecasts.  Yoda also carried this powerful point home with his memorable quote, “Do or do not….there is no try.” Don’t hope, don’t try…just do!

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines. He said, “We have a ‘strategicplan. It’s called doing things.” I have had the amazing blessing of getting to listen to and personally interact with some of the most successful men and women of the past fifty years. I doubt any of them had on their strategic plan to hope and try to be successful. They were tenacious and fearless in everything they did. They did the things that others, because they were tired, or scared, or just not willing to be creative, would not. My father would get downright mad when folks would ask him how he got so successful. He’d quip back that when he did achieve success, he’d let them know. His whole life, spiritually, professionally and personally, was focused on doing things: activity with a purpose.

So at the start of each day I’ll look myself in the mirror and tell myself what action I am going to do today that will put me further towards the path of fulfilling my strategic goals in all areas of my life. I will do this every day until one day I will look myself in the mirror and congratulate myself on achieving a particular goal. Life is all about the execution of every second to its fullest potential. May I learn this so deeply I don’t have another wasted, remorseful, or fearful moment.


Jesus is my GPS

I was driving to Upstate NY recently and listening to an excellent program about the importance of developing a life-long monetary strategy that keeps directing you to the end goal and rerouting you when and if needed. They referred to this as a financial GPS which would ensure you stayed true to your goals and were able to adeptly navigate the uncertainty of the market and take the best route forward.

Most would agree, other than nihilists, that life is best lived when there is a particular purpose or goal in mind driven towards by the One in charge. My father used to call this one of the three big questions in life that must be answered: what are you going to live your life for. Is it for you or is it for God? Only you can answer it and then you live and die by it.

As I was driving through the mountains, my signal would drop off, leaving me “blind”. Fortunately, I had done the old school method of printing out a hard copy of MapQuest directions just in case.

When I’m in the driver’s seat of my life, I sometimes continue on the wrong path despite knowing that with each mile it’ll be harder to turn around, and maybe even impossible! When your GPS is omniscient and omnipresent, it doesn’t need time to recalculate, even if it appears that you’re going in circles.

While I am subject to moods, setbacks, criticisms, and all the other weaknesses of the flesh, using Jesus as my GPS ensures my motives and direction stay on the best purpose for my life course. Seeing as He is the final judgment maker in the end, I also don’t have to worry about keeping score or harboring anger. He is just, I know the results will be fair.

Life is full of challenges, uncertainty and doubt. When the future is not so bright, I tend to lose my line of sight and wander off into the fog. With Jesus as your GPS, overcast skies do not hamper His reception or His ability to pinpoint your location.

You can travel off the beaten path, i.e. exerting free will, but the moment you turn your antennae back towards Him, He’s moving you towards the right path. There’s never any need to recalculate because He has been on your journey as a passenger the entire time just waiting for you to pull over at the next rest stop and ask Him to drive.

We’ve also been left with the living Word of God in the form of the Bible as our official MapQuest. When I can’t quiet my brain or emotions, I can put the physical word in my hand and read it over and over again, until I find the answer I am seeking.

As one who’s tried to be my own GPS many times, there is a much better way to make the journey available. But just like everything else, you never know until you plug in, set purposeful coordinates, and enjoy the ride!


Don’t be Ridicule-ous

New ideas are always met with ridicule because they go against our previously held notions and beliefs. Ridicule is not about expressing disagreement. In many cases, it involves exhibiting outright hostility and persecution towards the bearer of the new idea. I met with author Bernie Petrina who pointed out that sometimes we choose to ridicule differences in opinions by making them the brunt of jokes, making personal attacks, and self boasting about how smart our “side” is. This useless reaction seems to have taken a deep root in our society and becomes more acceptable every day.

Oscar Wilde said that, “Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.” Ridicule is an activity that is as old as mankind. Visionaries or geniuses implicitly know this but understand their vision trumps ridicule. Now don’t get me wrong. I definitely think disagreeing with someone whose ideas you are at odds with based on beliefs, facts, or principles is every individual’s right. What I’m talking about is how I choose to express that disagreement, or how I choose to react to those who ridicule me.

Self control is an admired trait. Displaying a lack thereof is the stuff media sound bites, YouTube videos, and “foot in mouth” disease is made of. Be aware that as a leader ridicule is often the very first response to your new ideas. The sooner you realize this, the better prepared you will be. You won’t be surprised at the responses from people, even the responses from your second in command or spouse! We can watch how we express ourselves when a new idea is presented and we can also stay positive when ridicule is hurled our way; and we can take hope in Lord Chesterfield’s words, “Ridicule is the best test of truth.”


Give your client time to marinate, not stew!

I recently moved into a lovely historic home that had everything I wanted except energy efficient windows. Being a good project manager, I went out for multiple bids and began doing my research on the Internet. Many of my past jobs involved me finding qualified contractors to complete a job on schedule, on budget, and to a quality standard.

After getting eight separate bids, I came to the overwhelming conclusion that there are still industries out there that have no idea how to effectively sell in the 21st century. I encountered archaic pitches, tactics, and pricing that I had no idea still operated in today’s sales and marketing environment. I felt like I was back in the stone age of buying a used car on a lot in the prehistoric town of Bedrock. Here’s a list of the things I saw guaranteed to make a potential client stew and not marinate:

Don’t diss the other company’s product: This got old after one time. Each company points out how bad the other company’s products are. Problem is, after each one left and I researched them on the Internet and the Better Business Bureau website, I found that they had more than their share of complaints. You will always have some customer complaint issues, the real issue is how well do you deal with resolving them for your client.

Don’t claim you’ve got some kind of patent unless you are in a scientific industry: This also got old and after a while I felt everyone just said that because if they had a brand, it meant they had a patent. Everyone said they were the only ones that had this special type of material for the frame, type of glass, or coating. It’s a window. And while I understand there are different coatings and efficiencies, we’re not building a rocket ship. I’m a consumer, not a scientist. I am not interested in your patents.

Don’t tell me that this offer is only good for right now: I am not going to sign anything within 24 hours of it being put in front of me. Period. I know that means you have to follow up, but seeing as windows run in the thousands to the tens of thousands in replacement costs, expect it.

Don’t start with a high cost and then bring it down by 50 percent; I learned this “strategy” years ago. It’s called “anchoring”. I throw out a high price and then ratchet it down “just for you” so you can see what a great deal you’re getting. I had no idea this archaic practice was still in use other than for selling jewelry.

Don’t call your sales manager to see how good a deal I can get; this is by far the goofiest and most disturbing thing yet. Seriously, you work for an idiotic company if you have to call for permission to get me a really great deal. I fell for this once about a year ago. Never again.

Don’t tell me that I am wasting your time because I won’t sign a contract at your initial meeting. Yes, someone actually said this to me. And yes, I told them I wouldn’t want to waste any more of their time and to leave my home now.

Give your client time to marinate, not stew. Let them take the time to do the research and verify that you are all the things that you say you are. How is your sales force doing? Do they display any of the behaviors listed above?

I have a couple of books I would highly recommend your sales force take the time to read. Did you know that the average salesman reads less than one book a year? That’s why they are average. No business can afford to be average.

How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling, by Frank Bettger

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino

How to Master the Art of Selling, by Tom Hopkins

Good Reads, Great Results, A Tremendous Life!!!


I Keep on Truckin’ Because I’m Just Passin’ Through

I recently had a conversation with a friend about a timeshare they owned in Outer Banks, NC. They said they did not get to spend as much time there as they’d like. When I asked them if they had considered moving there permanently when they retired they gave me an interesting response. The neighbors who lived there full time told them it was a whole different experience when you live someplace permanently versus just visiting. You become a part of the daily life along with all the recurring experiences and requirements. Life becomes routine and you no longer marvel at your surroundings.

I was at an event last week where Dr. Tony Evans told everyone that they had an “S” on their chest, like Superman. We weren’t from this planet and we were just passing through. I witnessed the same thing with my father when he passed away. During his last three months in hospice care, you could see how anxious he was to transfer out of his temporary living quarters and to his real home. To summarize, if you’re born twice, you’ll die once. But if you’re born once, you’ll die twice. Hence, the key to eternal life is to be born more times than you die.

For those of us who know that our time in this physical realm, this mortal coil, is just temporary, we have a real longing for our permanent home. We know that however dire our earthly circumstances, the eventual outcome is determined and we know we’ll be victorious. It’s kind of like waiting out a really bad vacation, only the results have eternal ramifications. Sure you’ll work hard to make some good come out of it, but you’re really just itching to get home!

But we have been given a task during our earthly walk and that’s to do as much with our God-given talents as possible; to accept God’s gift of love, to be filled with His spirit, and to share it with as many others as possible. And while doing all of the above may not earn us riches, fame or wealth, as far as the world is concerned, the riches we’re investing in are everlasting and most definitely not subject to fluctuations in the marketplace. And it’s this goal that allows us to marvel at every event, interaction, sorrow and joy.

So the real reason I smile so much is that I know I truly am just passing through. And I’ve only got a certain amount of seconds to give back the tremendous amount of gifts bestowed on me. And I, like everyone else on this planet, wants praise for a job well done at the end of my last earthly day. So I best keep on truckin’ because I’m just passin’ through!

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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August 2010

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