Archive for January, 2014


“Victory is Mine!” Sayeth the Leader

Reaching for StarSuccess is defined as a triumphant struggle against difficulty. If that doesn’t describe leadership I don’t know what does. People don’t like to change, develop, or do the right thing. They’ll fight it tooth and nail. It’s not part of our inherent nature and it takes great resolve and discipline because the more we settle into organizations and bureaucratic tendencies, the harder the struggle.

For the leader this just sweetens the challenge. To deny the struggle is to deny the victory. And leadership in any capacity is a battle and the true reason why the extra mile is rarely crowded. Joshua J. Marine said it best: “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

Stake Out Your Domain! One size does not fit all when it comes to being a leader. Everyone is born with a specific temperament and inherent skill set. You may have never thought of yourself in these terms so here’s a good rule of thumb: what comes easily and naturally to you is your special gift. Next, the leader forms the basis of their principles which allows them to differentiate between a mountain and a mole hill.

Defend Your Realm! We all have an obligation to lead. If you are breathing, you should be leading. If you do not, you will have left the planet with fewer resources than before you arrived. That is a terrible, negative karmic imbalance and you will go down in the annals of history as a lazy, self-indulgent sloth. A lack of involvement in decision making is the height of disrespect.

Savor the Victory! Leadership is so rewarding because it’s so hard. You can’t fake it and you can’t dabble in it and truly savor the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. It’s a bittersweet symphony that’s life. General Patton said, “You can never grow until you push yourself past the point of exhaustion.” So once you’ve done that, be sure and look yourself squarely in the mirror and give yourself an “atta boy”. Victory is yours. Savor it.


can i get a *false* witness?

false allegationsExodus 20:16 states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” as one of The Ten Commandments. But it happens all the time and chances are it’s happened to you. Here are a few tips to help you deter and deal with this heinous act.

Get rid of the anonymous tip line. This is an open invitation for anyone to say anything about anyone without any proof. The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Shouldn’t this critical right extend to our civil environment? While you may not spend time in jail, you can lose your livelihood and your reputation with the slip of a tongue.

Leaders need to recognize the potential for utter destruction to individuals and whole organizations based upon anonymous tips. The bottom line is that if you have to rely on anonymous sources to find out that something bad is going on in your organization you need to fire all your supervisors, and then fire yourself for having them there in the first place.

I once disciplined two individuals with two-day suspensions for looking at pornography on their government computers. As you can tell from the minimal punishment, this was years ago before this offense was grounds for immediate termination. An anonymous complaint was subsequently lodged against me for fraternization. The case was investigated and no evidence was found. It was well known who was behind the complaint and that it was an act of retribution. Time lost, money wasted, and character assassinated based on a vendetta.

Ensure all allegations have been validated through the chain of command and dealt with at the appropriate level. I have had many issues brought to my attention that skipped levels of the chain. When this occurred, I would tell the accuser that I was going to call the accused into my office so that they could be made aware of the allegations. In each of these instances the accuser recanted immediately.

Where there’s no smoke, there’s no fire. If an accuser wishes to pursue I tell them I will investigate and that I Salemneed their documentation or any other proof of the allegation. If they had none and they wished to pursue investigation, I would tell them that if the allegations came back unfounded, they would be punished accordingly for lying, slander, or libel. This action is actually rooted in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, chapter 19:18-19: “And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.”

As a young officer, I had an enlistee come to me with allegations against one of my senior NCOs. It was well known that the accuser was not willing to comply with their duties in the unit. I acknowledged that it was my duty to investigate these various serious allegations but that, based on the fact that no proof was brought forward with the allegation, if I found no wrong doing on the Senior NCO’s part, I would pursue action against the airman for false allegations. The accuser recanted everything.

Retribution is a dead-end street. The best thing to do when faced with a false witness is to do nothing. Since the allegation is false, it is motivated by insecurity, rage, jealousy, or narcissism. Your reputation and actions are the best prevention and vindication in these situations. This will also be the critical time to watch what your chain of command does. If they investigate to see if there is proof to back up the allegations versus proof to warrant an investigation in the first place, you need to leave this organization. If they take unfounded allegations without any proof and ring the investigation bell, the damage is already done. Your character has been shot, and it will never be the same, even if you are completely exonerated. This is why I follow the investigation advice in Deuteronomy.

Justice is the Lord’s, not yours, and He can do it far better than you can. So don’t even worry about it. The only court you should ever plead your case to is the higher courts. There are numerous times where I could have sued organizations and probably never had to work again. But for what? It does nothing to fix the organization that allowed it to happen in the first place and is a devastating drain on you emotionally, financially, and professionally.

Keep your conscience clean and don’t return in kind. When I was in these situations I took it as a call from God to move on to the next challenge. This horrible event (and believe me, I know how horrible this situation can be) is happening for me, not to me. Call it karma, call it guardian angels, call it the wrath of God, I have personally witnessed what happens to false witnesses in my life and it is far worse than any action I could have taken against them.

Twice I have had false witnesses come against me in an attempt to force me out of an organization and twice I left of my own free will for better opportunities. Both of these organizations were closed within five years of my departures. I’m not saying it has anything to do with me specifically, but rather that evil begets evil, and it does eventually catch up.

If people received life sentences for character assassination the world would be a much more respectful and truthful place. In this age of global gossip and uncivil discourse it is critical that we maintain the highest degree of integrity and accountability and ensure that it is a committed part of our organization’s culture. 


Put Success in Succession Planning

ImageFive years ago today, I left my previous life and came home to run the publishing business my father started 49 years ago. I still remember the anxiety as I pulled onto the Carlisle Pike and drove by my high school. It was surreal, as if everything I went through during the 27 years since I left home had been a dream. I felt the twinge of a panic attack coming on.

Walter Lippmann said, “The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Perpetuity is the tie that binds across time. I heard a tremendous acronym last year that was right on the money: A.L.I.V.E.—Always Live In View of Eternity. But how exactly does a mere mortal do that?

Taking over a second-generation family publishing business was uncharted territory for me in all respects. But here I am five years later happier and more settled than in any other career I’ve worked. People stress a lot over succession planning. Here’s a few of the things that got me through my succession process that will hopefully put some success in yours.

Take it easy. Don’t spoil the time you have left with your predecessor by stressing about the future. This is especially true if you are dealing with someone who is suffering from a terminal illness. As long as they are alive and in charge, the whole shootin’ match is theirs. Don’t be obsessed with fixing everything before you’re even at the helm. In my case, there was very little planning involved. I spent the last three months flying from Missouri to Pennsylvania to be by my father’s side while he was in home hospice. We did not talk about the future direction of the company or its financials. We shared precious time together, I recorded his memoires for a book, and we watched TV.

You’ve got to truly want it. My father never once, during that time, asked me to come home and run the business. He knew it had to be my own decision and so, one week before he passed, I told him I was leaving my current world and coming home to take the reins. He squeezed my hand and told me that I would take it places he never could. That one moment, that one sentence, was all I needed to propel me forward to carry on the legacy. Just because you’re the son/daughter/heir apparent doesn’t mean you’re automatically the one to carry the torch. You have to want it more than anything. If you don’t, be honest with the founder so they can make other plans.

Keep the DNA, but put your individual stamp on it. I left home at 18 to literally earn my own stripes. Growing up with a powerful parent you have two choices: you can stay in their shadow or you can forge your own path. The more powerful the personality, the more impossible it will be for anyone to recreate it. So I spent decades filling my own experience bag knowing that sometime in the future I might get the opportunity to carry on a legacy. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Kramer sells his life stories to J. Peterman and then can no longer use them. The stories are most meaningful if you’ve lived them yourself; otherwise you’re just a storyteller or an actor. The second bit of advice I read about when I returned home was the importance of rebranding at the one year point. Although this will sound heretical to many who know you under the original name, it is essential that you let the world know that someone new is at the helm and that the company is on a sure course. By changing our name from Executive Books to Tremendous Life Books, but keeping my father’s “kicking man” silhouette as our symbol, we kept our DNA yet opened it up to any type of material that promoted not just an executive life but a tremendous life.

In government, in churches, in businesses, in life, smaller is always better. Hitler had millions of followers, Jesus had only twelve. Be careful of surrounding yourself with too many advisors, board members, trustees, or family members. Too many cooks spoil the broth. I was blessed in that I could make the decisions affecting the company quickly and blessed with a board that loved my father, but most importantly, trusted me. Therefore we were not constantly bogged down in minutia and personalities.  Big is nice, profitable is better. I can remember how I was constantly comparing my father’s numbers to mine when a dear friend and VERY successful speaker pointed out to me that because we were lean we actually were more profitable than his business was. The light bulb lit up! My expertise is in operations, so although I didn’t yet have my father’s reach, I did have the means to create profit. Bring your particular business acumen to the forefront. It will undoubtedly be different from your predecessors so you’ll be able to deal with issues they couldn’t.

My father left me with a company that had a sterling reputation, no debt, unlimited content, and a host of contacts with the conviction to help me carry on what he had started. That is perhaps the most important portion of succession planning:  Although I was optimistic about the opportunity to carry on what my father started, I had no idea it would still be in existence and continuing to evolve five years later. No one can do it on their own so don’t sweat finding that one special person who will take it to infinity and beyond! Focus on sowing seeds across a myriad of years and locations so that when the next crop begins to grow there’s plenty of it.

Tremendous Tracey

CEO Tremendous Life Books. Book Evangelist

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January 2014

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