Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Getting more than what you paid for

What is the profession that: (1) usually requires five years of university study to become licensed; (2) is claimed as one of the most important profession in the United States and world; (3) has an average starting salary of less than $35,000 a year in 2/3 of the states?

If you guessed education, you were correct. Of course, if you were a public school teacher, this was no news to you. And if all things were equal there might not be a concern. However, all things are not equal. The average beginning salaries: business graduate (BS degree) $52,500; financial manager $123,260, paralegal (associate degree) $48,000; beginning plumber (some training)  $41,116; sanitation worker - $35,283.

The sad truth is that our country’s direction is dangerously out of focus. For example, a glance at the federal budget shows a huge defense budget compared to an almost indiscernible funding of education. (Translate that: our military pilots flying aircraft and weapon systems  designed in other countries – not a pretty picture.) 

Critics like to point out what they see as deficiencies in education. My father used to say you get what you pay for. Of course, no one has ever had an expensive root canal have to be redone, or a doctor that made a wrong diagnosis, or a pipe job by a licensed plumber that had leaks, or money advice that proved costly instead of productive, and so on. There are no jobs or professions with perfect, or even near perfect records. And, of course, teachers get to work with individuals from all background and competency levels.

Raising the national teacher base salary to $50,000 would not guarantee that everything would be perfect.  However, it would certainly attract competent individuals and be instrumental in keeping the best.

Do we get what we pay for in education? Actually, my father was to a degree wrong. In education, we actually get more than what we pay for. Imagine what we might get if we upscaled funding.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Don’t Forget – they do work for you

“I’m the boss and you do what I want, the way I want it! You work for me!” I barked at an employee – I was in my early twenties and manager of a small operation. An employee was doing what needed to be done, but not the way I would have done it or the way I preferred it be done. He protested and noted how the task was being taken care of with the acceptable results. He grumbled about it, but gave in to my demand.

I have learned much since that incident. Three concepts impact the more productive way I operate with employees today.

First: these employees do literally work for me. That is, what they do – their work – benefits me. Without them I would be in a world of hurt and could not do all of their jobs myself.

Second: the better I treat my employees, the better they work, and the more productive they are.
When I learned to really care about my people, their attitudes towards their work improved significantly. The overall success of the enterprise did too. It even showed up in their loyalty to me.

Third: I do not know the best way to do everything. Wonder of wonders, there are people who actually know more about their jobs than I do! Additionally, they can sometimes see flaws in the way I operate. I began to listen more and talk less. I learned that one of the smartest and most effective way to be successful, is to surround myself with the brightest and best, then continually listen to their observations and ideas. Another benefit is that they also start listening to me and my ideas.

There are a lot of disgruntled workers today. In fact, lately, they have been picketing for a fair minimum wage. They see the upper division folks and the CEO’s making large salaries and benefits, and American businesses making record profits, yet their pay checks show low wages. In a very real way that fact sounds like: ”we are the bosses, and you do what we say for the money we pay!”

Remember those people who work for you, and treat them like they are important; they are.

References you may want to review: Don’t Overlook the Trees for the Forest

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Put Your Money Where Your Face Is

We were sitting in a showroom making some choices. The job of the representative meeting with us was to facilitate our decisions. Unfortunately, there were times when she switched hats, and acted as if she were the buyer. She expressed strong preferences and tried to push her opinion into our determinations. This happened enough during the meeting to become annoying. In fact, my companion became quite irritated, and stated that she would not meet again with this person.

As a business consultant, my habit is (1) to be a fly on the wall and observe what is positive and what could be perceived as negative (2) determine any underlying philosophies, practices, or procedures that contribute either positively or negatively to the organization, (3) determine what improvements might accelerate the greatest success, and (4) determine an actual process to make them work.

Dealing with the showroom person several things came to mind.

First, this individual represents the company – an organization of several hundred people. That is a critical fact to remember. You may have the most wonderful and competent group in the galaxy, but if the people on the front line meeting customers are poorly trained, negative, argumentative, or do not operate appropriately, your customers will never experience your proficiency.

Second, the underlying training and support philosophy is probably backwards. That is, it  puts very little expenditures with the people who work most directly with the customer and more with the top management.  That is kind of like buying a fast and expensive car and running on worn-out tires. No matter how fast the car can go, if the tires blow out not only does that put an end to the advantage of a fast car, it could be very dangerous to the point of destroying the car and driver. Ineffective up-front people can take down million dollar businesses.

Third, turning that situation around is inexpensive and uncomplicated. The key here is training and supervision. There is always a temptation to replace workers in an effort to find the right person. Even the “right” person needs attention. Additionally, replacing personnel is more expensive than is usually thought (see youtube  determining the actual cost of hiring).

Finally, don’t just do the traditional training program. Usually, this first training is more mechanical – how to do their job. The important part in this scenario is the follow up that is geared to the needs of the individual. In the case noted, the lady basically knows her job. However, she needs coaching on how to be more effective.

I always recommend investing your money with front line people.  They are how your organization is known. They are the inviters or the turner-awayers, they are the company representatives. They are your “face.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It’s the Little Things

“You’re good to go,” said Phil – of Phil’s Auto in Caldwell, Idaho.  I was about to take a long trip. Before I left, I wanted someone to check out my high milage car.“What’s the charge,” I asked. “Nothing,” said Phil. “I must owe you something,“ I responded.” “Nope,” was Phil’s comeback. Phil, who has fixed my cars for about twenty years, is not only an excellent mechanic, but a smart business man. He knows that the little things mean a lot.

“Little things” are not really little, but they don’t amount to much in money or time. They are the gestures, thoughtful comments, acts, and the many kinds of consideration that are positive and seemingly inconsequential.

A realtor, Charlene Bragg, came to our house, spent time trying to help, but was not selected to represent  us. She did nothing wrong. But because of a connection and a need better met by someone else, we did not use her. Her response was a nice note thanking us for allowing her to be of some service. She wished us well in our quest. Would we recommend her to someone who might be trying to buy or sell property? Absolutely, she would be at the top of the list. Her note was unnecessary but showed a maturity – she wasn’t upset because she had spent her time and was not selected  –  as well as a courteous consideration. Anyone could do what Charlene did; but many don’t; Charlene does.

We are blasted with loud ads and continual, unwanted, pop-ups. These overbearing intrusions are negative stimuli to me. They glare and push, and not only miss  the boat, to me, they are not even in the ocean!  It is the little things that make the big differences in success and life – the smiles, the thanks, the little courtesies expressed, and services provided.

So thanks to the waitress who’s enthusiasm was so genuine and positive, that I want to go back just to be part of the experience, and the car salesman who didn’t try to push me into a car, but merely made sure he was available and would help if I would like information or assistance.

Pay attention to the little things –  they are not really little. As Phil reminded me, as he declined my offer to pay him: “you’ll be back.” And I will.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Responding: courtesy and good business

I received a letter today from a man who writes music. His request of me was that we publish his music. We do publish and sell our own music world wide (,   However, with over a hundred selections of our own, and that being merely a part of what we do, we are not really interested in dealing with a whole new facet.

One of the things he wrote caught my attention and should be of interest to you.

This gentlemen wrote: “ Your response can be a simple e-mail or a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but you will have afforded me the professional courtesy of a response...”

There are few things as annoying to me as the lack of a response to an application, a concern, an inquiry or an offer to serve. Regardless of the other parties reasoning, what that treatment says to me is that I am really not important and/or they believe themselves as something extra special and at a level above. I don’t do business with those people.

I have found it very rewarding both personally and in business, to make every effort to communicate with legitimate interests regardless of the level or the source – friend or foe. We are not talking about spam, form advertising, or phishing expeditions. Our reference is to genuine inquiries. Let me continue my story.

I called the man in Louisiana who wrote the letter. While I could not accommodate his wishes, I could provide suggestions and support for his efforts. I do not consider myself an industry leader nor any great paragon of wisdom. However, by his response, just the fact that I bothered to call, made his day a little better. And on the business side, that call may have little affect; however, it certainly won’t hurt.

As the top leader in organizations, I have always had a practice of returning every call directed to me. I have volunteered to meet with individuals and groups – regardless of animosity, differences, or concerns. I have to honestly say that this has been the most productive practice in circumventing grievances, reducing law suits, increasing productivity, gaining support, and improving my effectiveness as a leader, and ultimately, the organization’s success.

I have many good and bad examples of this principle. Let me just close with the following question: we spend many dollars trying to get the attention of people, but do we take the opportunity and listen to those whose attention we already have?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheap tactics

Do you get tired of the constant advertising flood experienced when operating on the internet? Have you found this insidious disease even attached to words on your own web site or blog?
Additionally, does it bother you to download” free” software only to find it won’t work until you pay a fee – a fee that was never mentioned until after you downloaded..   

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with advertising or charging for software. They are both legitimate business components. Individuals and companies have been advertising forever. And the development of good software takes time and effort; the developer deserves to be paid.

The difference is in the attitude and the approach.

When I go to my blog or web sites and find word links  that I did not put there, and to products and services that have nothing to do with my sites, I get rather irritated. Additionally, no permission was either requested nor granted. It is like someone coming into your store, putting up a sign, setting up their wares, and starting a selling operation without so much as a comment! Or it is similar to someone adding their name to your business card and selling under your organization.

If you run one of these “beat the consumer to death” operations and it feels like I am being harsh, I am. In my opinion, these are totally unethical practices that cheapen everyone involved.

To respond, there are a couple of things I do.

First, if they are on my sites, as soon as they are discovered, I get rid of them. Yes, unfortunately, they will be back, and yes, I will get rid of them again.

Second, as a consumer, I don’t care if they have the greatest products or software, I will never purchase from them. And I mean never!

It is unfortunate to see inappropriate approaches to selling. Many organizations take pride in service and ethical behavior. Unfortunately, some do not; they have replaced it with sleaziness and divisiveness.

Along that same line, although a number of you have expressed the opinion that  my monthly blog is of value, if you, however, you see it as an imposition, just let me know and I will take you off the list.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

EFFECTIVENESS part two – Process

We can determine the most grand and appropriate focus for ourselves and for our organizations. But, like an airplane on the ground that just looks pretty, our focus is of minimal worth until we fire up and make it fly. How do we do that? What do we do to support the move toward focus?

First, we need to be convinced that the future is not something that just happens, but it is something we create. In the words of Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” In reality, we do create it; we become who we think we are, and our organizations are precisely where – because of our actions and responses to outside events – we determined they would be. Granted, there have been some pretty horrific events that made our ability to adapt extremely difficult. Regardless, there were some companies that failed, while similar companies, succeeded.

Second, we have to know where we are. In a certain organization, the supervisor of a significantly technical department, quit. Leadership moved a supervisor from a totally different area into leadership of that department. This individual did not understand what these people were doing, and never spent the time to learn. Understandably, he was completely ineffective.

To maximize your movement and efficiency toward your focus, you must know where you are. Those who are working in the current environment – employees, supervisors, children (in a family) can provide a meaningful and accurate picture. Of course, statistics, past record, and other data are also important.

Third, develop steps that precisely and efficiently move toward your focus. Continually ask yourself if the goals and functions are the best to get you where you wish to go. If they aren’t, delete or modify.

Throughout, involve your people. Particularly involve the front line folks – the people who have to operate using the processes and procedures required. I have seen business after business succeed marginally or fail completely because leadership thought they knew it all. “Thought they knew it” is key here. It was not because they purposely tried to destroy their organization. They just did not ask the right questions of the right people. Thus, their basis for decisions were flawed.

There are other areas of importance. However, remember: while focus is critical, so is the process to move towards it. The more effective the process of alignment and actual operation, the greater probability of success.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Effectiveness is a measure of how well we achieve a desired effect or objective. It applies to everything – business, leadership, parenting, relationships, sales, etc. Thus, understanding and applying the principles and the components can be critical in any endeavor.

There are many factors in effectiveness. I have put them under three main headings: focus, process, and people.


Focus is the basis for the total operation. It is the basis for all decisions, and it is present by design or default. That is, if you do not have a focus, you do. As confusing as that might sound, an examination of every operation in every phase of life reveals an all-encompassing movement.

Focus should not be confused with goals. Goals are steps along the way that move toward the focus.

Determining focus is really quite simple. Time allocation and intensity of that time is one measure. Financial commitment and expenditures are also measurements. Goal determination and alignment are another.

For example, researching information for the book The Wrong Bottom Line . . .  Still, I examined a past federal budget. Regardless of the rhetoric and championed projects, expenditures revealed that the military was the very strong leader in the discretionary appropriations. Education, science, and other purported focuses were almost too small to be seen. Examination of the United States federal budget reveals that we are the world’s cops instead of leaders in education. This, of course is just one measure, but it is valid.

Another good appraisal of focus can be obtained by asking employees on what they perceive the  direction of the organization.

Remember, the real focus your organization, operation, or, even the family will be somewhere; you are heading in a direction either by design or default. It is always best to make a thought- through determination so that energy and resources are aligned with where you really want to go.

The other two factors in effectiveness – process and people will be in  later newsletters. They are also available in The Wrong Bottom Line . . . Still.

[NOTE: Starting in the fall, I will be teaching a series of classes on effectiveness at the Stevens- Henager campus, Nampa, Idaho. For additional information on classes or the DVD email:]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Perception, Perception, Perception

Realtors often explain the value of property by the descriptor: location, location, location. In dealing with people – employees, customers, leadership, and even families – the success descriptor should be: perception, perception, perception. Why? Because perception affects every facet of our thinking and our actions – how we interpret what we hear, see, believe, think, feel, and more. And very importantly, perceptions can vary significantly from person to person. Additionally, because we often view our perception as “the” perception, or as fact, it can create problems, and as the story related below, even humor.

Dr. Foster Cline, of Love and Logic fame, sent this little story to me. We have used it before but it is worth reading again.  He calls it: Laughing In The Middle Of The Night   

   At 3:00 in the morning, I’m up to download some coffee in the middle of the night.    
   So, crawling back into bed, Hermie [Foster’s wife], asking about my coming to bed after she had turned 
   in: “Honey, what time did you finally turn in last night?” “About 12:00”
    With slight reproach, she notes, “You probably watched a movie.”
    “Yeah, I watched an old Star Trek movie.”
    “What was it?”
    Admitting it wasn’t necessarily worth two hours out of my life, I admit, “It was about a ‘B’”
    “About a bee?” she inquires.
    “Yeah, about a ‘B’, I respond.
    To me, she was showing surprising interest in a scifi flick and she asks, “Tell me about it!”
    “Well,” I answer, it was about a possible clone of Captain Picard, and the clone’s threat to the Federation.”
    “And it was about a bee?” My gosh, I think, she really is interested! “Yeah, about a B”.    

     Surprisingly, she wants to know still more about a Star Trek movie of all things: “Well, tell me about it!”
    I answer, surprised, “You want to know more!?”Well, okay, 

    “The clone was working with the Romulans, but  they turned on the clone, so it all worked out 
     and the Federation was saved.”
    “But where does the bee come in?”
    “Honey, it was an okay movie but it just wasn’t that great.”
    “Yeah, but I still want to know about the bee.”
    “Well, the special effects were okay, but the acting and story line….. I don’t know… It was just dated.”
    With a little frustration, out of no-where, it seems to me, she says, “Just tell me about the buzzy bee.”    

    And all of a sudden the light of mutual misunderstanding dawns on us both, and we laugh and laugh.

Although this is obviously about communication, the underlying problem was perception.

On a more serious note.

A school district had a program designed to bring the staff closer together. Individual staff members throughout the year gave gifts or treats to their most disliked. The superintendent participated. At the end of the year when everyone removed their masks, so to speak, the superintendent was very much surprised to discover that the individual who had selected him and who had negative feelings was a person he considered a friend. Why? The problem dated back to a single event and perception. This individual had made a suggestion to the superintendent. He had enthusiastically responded with: “great idea – where did you get it?” He thought he was very positive, but she felt insulted – after all, she was obviously not smart enough to come up with good ideas on her own – this must have come from someone else.

Being aware of differences in perception will help us understand others better and consider more carefully our words and actions. There are several ways to do this. Many are presented in “The Wrong Bottom Line . . . Still,” some in previous articles, and some will be covered  here later.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Basic principles – completely honest?

Recently, there was a question asked regarding a leadership practice: was it really necessary to always be and act completely honestly. That brought to my mind a number of incidences and many conversations – one just yesterday – and questions about some principles. Let us evaluate  a few.

Treating others as you would be treated – necessary or not. The individual talking with me yesterday shared that a company he had been with treated him like “dirt;” he found another position.

Size does not matter. After viewing the inconsiderate firing practice at a subsidiary of world-known HP, I refuse to support them in any way, and will not be making purchases from that company again.

Treating people as you want to be treated is an eternal principle that makes a difference. I have continually warned that organizations that pay poorly, show little respect for their workers, and  take advantage of the current employee glut, will eventually find it difficult to fill needed positions. Actually, that is already happening.

Total honesty – necessary or not.  An individual, second in command, spent considerable time undercutting his leader. Eventually, the governing board elevated him to the top spot. However, because of this and other dishonest action, those working with him and under him, did not trust. It wasn’t long before the under-cutter lost his position.

Always being right – necessary or not. Sometimes leaders do not accept responsibility for errors they make. Sometimes they even blame others. Although making mistakes is not a reputation you want, being human is. Accepting responsibility for reasonable errors can actually increase support.

Spending time with, and listening to others – necessary or not. There is nothing that gains as much support – whether at home or at work – than sincerely paying attention to others – including those with the lowest, menial jobs. People need that attention; their ideas need to be expressed and heard. It is amazing how much can be learned and how much support can be gained just by paying attention to people..

Providing service – necessary or not. Sometimes our focus becomes skewed – we may think sales, sales, sales or production, production, production. However, the most successful individuals view their positions, regardless of the industry, on the service they, or their product, provides. What service do you provide to your employees? What service do you facilitate by the product you deliver to customers?

There are many other basic principles. Before deviating it is wise to stand back and evaluate the decision.   (Other ideas: The Wrong Bottom Line . . .Still: Critical Components)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Never Before Experienced

    Viewing the new powder snow outside my window reminded me that in almost every phase of our organization and our lives, we automatically limit ourselves. What does that have to do with powder snow?

    The powder snow reminded me of my skiing days when it was such a pleasure to find new snow that had never been touched by ski, snow shoe, noisy snow machine, or even a deer or a furry animal. There was no worry about the past – how it had looked yesterday. There was just the glory of that beautiful site and the opportunity it provided within the next few moments.

    In life and in our operation, often we allow past experiences, past habits, past practices, and past failures to play a dominant, even stifling role in new beginnings – in progress. A very wise person noted that every day is a new, untouched opportunity and experience. It is a day that has never been lived – never been touched by anyone, a day that has no limits. That is so profound. Your new day – today – is like that virgin snow.

    Yes, we must reckon with those things that have passed. We have to deal with those situations today that were created yesterday. However, too often we limit our vision, a belief in possibilities, our relationships, our growth, and even our happiness and success by the past.

    Everything on this Earth that we do today has always been possible. Airplanes could always have flown. Spacecraft could always have reached the moon. Computers could always have done what they do. Yesterday’s impossibilities are today’s common practice. There is really nothing new except the visions of the future; living too much in the past limits our vision of the future.

    Were I to work with your group, I would start with two questions: (1) imagine the possibilities in your business/industry in the farthest future; (2) how would you change this organization today and in the future  – no limits – to move toward those possibilities?

    Your next hours, days, and weeks have never been experienced by any human regardless of their education, experience, position, country, or whatever. Each hour is new. We do not have to operate as we always have; we have the power to see and act in new and inspiring ways. Much like Scrooge, modifications can be made that will ultimately transform the future.