Are You the Smartest Person in the Room? Let’s Hope Not.

Smartest person in the room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best thing that can happen to you as a boss is hiring a person who is smarter, more creative, or in some way more talented than you are. It’s like winning the lottery. Suddenly you’ve got a team member whose talent will very likely improve everyone’s performance and reputation. Including yours.

Yes, it’s human nature to feel fearful that a “superior” employee could make you look, well, inferior, and perhaps slow down your career progress. But in reality, the exact opposite usually occurs.

The reason is that leaders are generally not judged on their personal output. What would be the point of evaluating them like individual contributors? Rather, most leaders are judged on how well they’ve hired, coached, and motivated their people, individually and collectively—all of which shows up in the results. That’s why when you sign up top performers and release their energy, you don’t look bad. You look like the goose that laid the golden egg.

So keep laying them. It is a rare company that doesn’t love a boss who finds great people and creates an environment where they flourish. And you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to do that. Indeed, when you consistently demonstrate that leadership skill and come to be known as the person in your company who can land and build the best, watch your career take off.

Now, we’re not saying managing “superior” employees on your team is necessarily easy. We received a question from an audience member at a speech in Chicago several years ago who said two of his seven direct reports were smarter than he was. He asked: “How can I possibly appraise them?”

“What the heck happened to the other five?” was our attempt at a lighthearted response. But we took his point.

How in the world do you evaluate people whom you feel are more talented than you?

You don’t. That is, you don’t evaluate them on their intelligence or particular skill set. Of course, you talk about what they are doing well, but just as important, you focus on areas in which they can improve. It is no secret that some very smart people have trouble, for instance, relating to colleagues or being open to other people’s ideas. Indeed, some struggle with becoming leaders themselves. And that is where your experience, self-confidence, and coaching come into play.

In that way, then, managing superior employees is just like managing regular types. You have everything to gain from celebrating their growth and nothing at all to fear. -Jack and Suzy Welch

Five Bosses You Don’t Want (Or Want to Be)

Boss

 

 

What is lousy leadership? Here are a few of the most common ways leaders can get it wrong and too often do.

The first and perhaps most frustrating way that some people blow leadership is by being know-it-alls. They can tell you how the world works, what corporate is thinking, how it will backfire if you try this or that, and why you can’t change the product one iota. They even know what kind of car you should be driving. Sometimes these blowhards get their swagger from a few positive experiences. But usually they’re just victims of their own bad personalities. And you and your company are victims, too. Because know-it-alls aren’t just insufferable, they’re dangerous. They don’t listen, and that “deafness” makes it very hard for new ideas to get heard, debated, expanded, or improved. No single person, no matter how smart, can take a business to its apex. For that, you need every voice heard. And know-it-all leadership creates a deadly silence.

If know-it-alls are too in-your-face, a second kind of lousy leader is too remote. These emotionally distant bosses are more comfortable behind closed doors than mucking it out with the team. Sure, they attend meetings and other requisite functions, but they’d rather be staring at their computers. If possible, all the messy, sweaty people stuff would be delegated to HR managers on another floor. Like know-it-alls, this breed of leader is dangerous, but for a different reason. They don’t engage, which means they can’t inspire. That’s a big problem. Leaders, after all, need followers to get anything done. And followers need passion for their fuel.

A third category of lousy leadership is comprised of bosses who are just plain jerks—nasty, bullying, insensitive, or all three. As one reader wrote us recently: “My boss is abusive, by which I mean disrespectful, finger-pointing, and sometimes even paranoid.” Such leaders are usually protected from above because they deliver the numbers. But with their destructive personalities, they rarely win their people’s trust. That’s no way to run a business, which is why these types of leaders typically self-destruct. It’s never as quickly as you’d hope, but unless they own the place, it does happen eventually.

The fourth type of lousy leadership is at the other end of the spectrum: It’s too nice. These bosses have no edge, no capacity to make hard decisions. They say yes to the last person in their office, then spend hours trying to clean up the confusion they’ve created. Such bosses usually defend themselves by saying they’re trying to build consensus. What they really are is scared. Their real agenda is self-preservation—good old CYA.

Which leads us to a final version of lousy leadership which is not unrelated: bosses who do not have the guts to differentiate. The facts are, not all investment opportunities are created equal. But some leaders can’t face that reality, and so they sprinkle their resources like cheese on a pizza, a little bit everywhere. As a result, promising growth opportunities too often don’t get the outsized infusions of cash and people they need. If they did, someone might get offended during the resource allocation process. Someone, as in the manager of a weak business or the sponsor of a dubious investment proposal.

But leaders who don’t differentiate usually do the most damage when it comes to people. Unwilling to deliver candid, rigorous performance reviews, they give every employee the same kind of bland, mushy, “nice job” sign-off. And when rewards are doled out, they give star performers not much more than the laggards. Now, you can call this “egalitarian” approach kind or fair—and these lousy leaders usually do—but it’s really just weakness. And when it comes to building a thriving enterprise where people have an opportunity to grow and succeed, weakness just doesn’t cut it.

Surely we could go on, but we’ll end here with a caveat. We hardly expect lousy leaders to read this column and see themselves. Part of being a lousy leader, no matter what the category, is lack of self-awareness. But if you see your boss here, take heart. When it’s finally your turn to lead, you’ll know what not to do. – Jack and Suzy Welch

11 Attributes of Leadership

Napoleon HillI have had the great privilege and good fortune to work with and for leaders  who inspire with their words and most importantly, their actions. But  unfortunately, far too many people in leadership roles are ill-equipped to lead  with effectiveness.

What follows is excerpted from Think and Grow Rich, written by  Napoleon Hill and published in 1938. Read the book if you haven’t already. It’s  essential and inspirational, and should be read by all who partake in  business.

11 Major Attributes of Leadership

  1. Willingness to Assume Full Responsibility. The successful  leader must be willing to assume responsibility for the mistakes and the  shortcomings of her followers. If she tries to shift the responsibility, she  will not remain the leader. If one of her followers makes a mistake, and shows  herself incompetent, the leader must consider that it is she who failed.
  2. Definiteness of Decision. The person who wavers in her  decisions shows that she is not sure of herself. She cannot lead others  successfully.
  3. 11 Attributes of Leadership image leadership Lincoln 267x300Definiteness  of Plans. The successful leader must plan her work, and work her plan.  A leader who moves by guesswork, without practical, definite plans, is  comparable to a ship without a rudder. Sooner or later she will land on the  rocks.
  4. Unwavering Courage based upon knowledge of self, and of  one’s occupation. No follower wishes to be led by a leader who lacks  self-confidence and courage.
  5. A Keen Sense of Justice. Without a sense of fairness and  justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of her followers. Leadership-Ghadi-235x300
  6. Cooperation. The successful leader must understand and  apply the principle of cooperative effort and be able to induce her followers to  do the same. Leadership calls for POWER, and power calls for COOPERATION.
  7. Self Control. The person who cannot control herself can  never control others. Self-control sets a mighty example for one’s  followers.
  8. The Habit of Doing More Than Paid For. One of the penalties  of leadership is the necessity of willingness upon the part of the leader to do  more than she requires of her followers.
  9. A Pleasing Personality. No slovenly, careless, or  unpleasant person can become a successful leader. Leadership calls for  respect.
  10. Sympathy and Understanding. The successful leader must be  in sympathy with her followers. Moreover, she must understand them and their  problems.
  11. Mastery of Detail. Successful leadership calls for mastery  of details of the leader’s position.

Hill writes the following in an afterword to this list. Remember, this was  written 75 years ago: “The relation of employer and employee, or of  leader and follower, in the future, will be one of mutual cooperation, based  upon an equitable division of the profits of business. In the future, the  relationship of employer and employee will be more like a partnership then it  has been in the past.”

Wishful thinking, perhaps? Collectively, it would appear that we still have a  lot of work to do. -Matt Laddin

3 Life-Changing Habits of High Performers

High performers

When it comes to being successful, high achievers have a number of habits in common. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be right up there with them.

Here are three qualities all successful people share and how you can make them your own:

1. Say ‘no’ to distraction. Every. Single. Time. Successful people make better use of their time because they are disciplined goal-setters. I’m referring to those high performers who experience no down-time. Sure, there are vacations and time spent with the family, but that comes after success has been achieved.

Successful people have that same list of tasks to accomplish as anyone else, but the difference is they make time to get them all done with no excuses. They may not enjoy it, but that is irrelevant. What matters is that it gets done. They are disciplined in planning their work and sticking to their plan.

Even when you’ve achieved that level of success, the work doesn’t stop. I am always on the lookout for a great, profitable investment. I might be out with my family, but my brain is always aware of business opportunities around me. I don’t just shut it off when I’m not at work.

2. Read something new everyday. Successful people read constantly, find mentors who can teach them and value new information that can help push them forward. Whatever field you are in, you have to learn before you earn. Learn your product, customers and competition. And then: keep learning.

3. Flaunt your failures like a champ. Fail as many times as you can. Everyone fails. It’s part of life. Too many people take failure as a sign it’s time for them to give up. Those people don’t get very far. What sets successful people apart is the ability to get up and give it another go with a better plan for how to be successful the next time around.

If you want to embrace the habits of successful people, you’ve got to make the change within yourself first.

BY 

Seven Ways to Make Your Strategic Planning Relevant

strategy, planning, leadership, budgeting

One of the most important shifts in many companies today is the move toward a capabilities-driven strategy. Companies that define a “way to play,” lined up with a handful of key differentiating capabilities that deliver on that value proposition, have a definite competitive advantage. Your own company may have redesigned your strategy accordingly. Now it’s time to execute.

Undoubtedly, you already have a planning and performance management system—otherwise known as a strategic plan and corporate budget. This is a group of deeply ingrained methods for allocating costs and tracking. Even as the top executive team embraces a capabilities-driven strategy, the planning and performance management system tends to remain unchanged. That’s because traditional budgeting planning practices were designed with other priorities in mind. They tend to foster silo-based thinking and to spread investments across all activities. That makes them irrelevant to your strategy—at best. At worst, they will undermine the development of key capabilities. Yet they tend to be so entrenched, combining so many of the formal and informal drivers of behavior in a company, that you may find it difficult to change them.

A truly relevant planning and performance management system will help you instill the discipline and accountability to make hard choices. It will make it easier, not harder, to assign the lion’s share of investment to your differentiating capabilities. And it will keep things on track with clearly articulated objectives and performance metrics. Here are seven guiding principles that will help you put such a system into place:

1. Emphasize key capabilities in your strategic plan. Look beyond short-term marketplace opportunities and challenges. Articulate what you need to do, different from what any other company can do, to deliver on the company’s unique value proposition. Tie strategic objectives to those capabilities. For example, one bank recognized a major opportunity to build its business by selling across product lines. Developing a robust client analytics capability was a requirement. By naming this capability in their strategic plan, the bank’s leaders forced themselves to lay out the steps needed to achieve their long-term goal.

2. Spell out capability-building initiatives in the plan. Design roadmaps for developing and steadily upgrading specific capabilities over time. Then, in each annual plan thereafter, spell out how you can further advance these capability-building initiatives. The leaders of a mining conglomerate, for instance, realized that they could increase production output by rolling out new standards across their portfolio of subsidiaries. That required a series of initiatives: one each for measurement, reporting, IT, best-practice methodologies, and training. Developing the initiative roadmap provided an actionable plan for the management team to build the capability over time.

3. Manage discretionary and non-discretionary spending separately. A successful strategy concentrates investment dollars where they are needed most: the company’s distinctive capabilities. Traditional budgeting can undermine this goal by allowing individual units to spend discretionary dollars as they see fit—often favoring pet projects, even if they have no strategic relevance. To prevent this, use zero-based budgeting to determine the amount of non-discretionary expenditures needed to “keep the lights on” throughout the company. The rest of your spending should go through a management process, connected directly to the strategic plan.

4. Use cross-functional governance to balance company priorities against the priorities of individual business areas. Governance forums should use a set of clearly defined decision rights on a regular basis to steer the business. A transportation company relied on a common information technology infrastructure across all of its business units. Every year, each business unit submitted IT investment requests to an investment committee panel composed of business unit and support function leaders. Its cross-functional organizational design enabled the panel to best decide how to allocate scarce resources for initiatives that would generate the best return for the enterprise. Some of the enterprise opportunities would not have been captured if business unit leaders were the only decision makers on IT.

5. Create guidelines for evaluating investment demands. Your company is subject to a range of investment demands with varying degrees of relevance to strategic priorities. Detailed investment guidelines will help assess these requests, especially when you’re balancing “apples and oranges” demands (such as regulatory compliance expenditures versus capital spending proposals). Each year, for example, the managers of a moderate-sized but much-used airport have to choose just a few of many investment requests—balancing safety, strategy, operations, and regulatory arguments. Establishing a clear set of communicated guidelines allows the airport leaders to focus on higher-return projects. Knowing the reasons for the choices encourages everyone, including those whose proposals didn’t get funded, to engage and execute with more focus on the winning initiatives.

6. Give leaders cross-functional authority to build capabilities and hold them accountable. Capability-building efforts fail when nobody has the authority to carry them out. Help individual leaders build capability systems across functional lines by making sure others can see that they have the requisite decision rights and position. For example, remember the bank building out its analytics capability. This required coordinating resources to develop a solution across product lines and IT. An empowered leader was authorized to manage resources, initiate investments, and manage delivery across the organization matrix to build the capability.

7. Measure and reward progress. Building a strategic capability can often take months or years. Explain clearly how each initiative bolsters a critical capability. Establish objectives and milestones for each initiative. Use these benchmarks to measure and reward progress toward the ultimate goal: a market-leading capability.

A more relevant planning and performance management system yields significant long-term benefits, because it continuously evaluates your company’s performance against strategic goals. The performance benchmarks tell you where and how external changes are affecting your progress. This provides a real-time snapshot of your capabilities at work in the marketplace. Strengths and weaknesses become clear, informing your investment decisions for the next strategic planning cycle. After a few years, this virtuous feedback loop can become second nature, paving the way for real collective mastery of the capabilities that distinguish your company.  – Matthew Siegel  s+b

5 Reasons Your Employees Probably Hate You

employees, boss, leadership, relationship, retention

 

Many years ago I worked for a company whose CEO was a stickler for how many hours employees worked. He made a point to note who came early and who stayed late. He considered anyone who didn’t a slacker.

As far as I know, nobody ever told him how shortsighted his approach was. Instead of rewarding results, he rewarded butt-in-chair time. Instead of focusing on output, he focused on input. Most hated the practice, but nobody told him.

How many of your behaviors drive your employees silently crazy that you don’t know about? Here are five leadership missteps to look out for:

1. You reward the wrong things. 
What gets rewarded gets done. It is such a familiar axiom of management that it is nearly cliché. It is, however, completely true. Where you focus your attention focuses your employees’ attention. What you notice, note and reward will get done more frequently.

Identify and focus on the results that matter. And don’t be like the executive above who confused activity with accomplishment.

2. You don’t listen. 
Even if your employees told you about a qualm of theirs, you might not really hear them. It is too easy to be distracted and pre-occupied.

Becoming a better listener is actually quite easy. When an employee is in your workspace to talk, turn off your email alerts, close your door and let your monitor go into sleep mode. Give your undivided attention to the person in front of you. They will feel you value them, and you’ll likely increase the quality and speed of the interaction.

3. You don’t notice what your employees are doing.
Brittney was a financial manager at a client firm. She was bubbly and outgoing. She also had the ability to draw attention to her “contributions,” though many weren’t that significant. Employees hated her self-aggrandizement. But they also disliked that management noted Brittney’s efforts because they were easily observed. Leaders didn’t pay attention to the good and often better work others were doing.

Great work is often done backstage, out of the spotlight. The glitter of self-promotion doesn’t blind great entrepreneurs. They seek out those people doing good work and make it a point to notice. Pay attention to people who do good work and let them know. And don’t get suckered by people who are better at promoting themselves than producing results.

4. Your attitude sucks. 

Bill is an entrepreneur who constantly complains about how terrible his employees are at delivering customer service. He berates and belittles even their best efforts. And yet he’s puzzled why those same employees treat customers poorly. The irony escapes him.

Attitudes are contagious. Mirror neurons pick up on and are affected by the moods of those around us. Leaders are especially powerful in influencing the mood of those on their team.

Don’t expect others to be more upbeat than you or treat customers better than you treat them. There are a few entrepreneurs who might have dodged this bullet, but not enough to be statistically significant. Your attitude is contagious, so pay attention to how you act at work each day.

5. You can’t keep your mouth shut. 
A young entrepreneur we will call Bob loved to share insider information about others. At one after-work beer session, he shared something HR told him confidentially about a coworker who was not at the gathering. It was less than flattering and was instantly off-putting to those in the group. The employee, a valued and productive member of the team, learned of the betrayal of confidence and was outraged. She left the company soon after.

Don’t think that trust can be effectively compartmentalized. If you’re known to be untrustworthy in your personal life, few will trust you in your professional dealings. If people don’t trust you, they will follow, but out of compliance instead of commitment.

No one is a mind-reader. If you want to find out why your team is dissatisfied to be a better leader, work on building trust and being equally open to both good and bad news. Ask them what they really think. And most importantly: listen.                 -Mark Sanborn

Finding Leaders Starts by Listening

 

 

 

 

This morning I commented on an article in a Group I’m in on LinkedIn. It was an article about the gender gap and why men are still paid more than their female counterparts. My comment on that article is that I believe a change will come, where women will become more recognized for their leadership style and therefore this will eventually cause the gap to narrow. Immediately after I made that comment I saw an article written by Lou Adler and wanted to share it with you…it supports my point!

leadership, vision, execution, CEO, leadership

If I had a bigger napkin I would have written this:

The Less Simple Formula for Assessing Leadership = Identify the Problem, Find a Solution, Develop a Workable Plan, Inspire Others, Deliver the Results

The story started many years ago, but was retold last week while having breakfast with a former client. The napkin was handy. When a client, he was the CEO of a mid-sized company, and my search firm had placed most of his senior management team. Now he’s on the board of a dozen or so different charitable organizations, university groups, and privately held companies. In his new role he’s still confronting the same hiring challenges as before: finding enough leaders. My company today is no longer a search firm. We now help companies set up programs to find and hire leaders of all types. Sometimes these leaders are engineers, accountants or sales reps. Sometimes they’re business executives or someone working on the shop floor. Regardless of the role, it’s not hard to identify leaders when you know what you’re looking for. This is where napkins come in handy, at least as a starting point.

Before I started working with this CEO, I had an assignment with a major LA-based entertainment company looking for a corporate director of accounting. The ideal candidate needed a CPA from a top accounting firm, and at least 5-10 additional years of experience working at the corporate office of a publicly-traded company. One of my candidates for the role was a young woman who was a senior manager with one of the major accounting firms. While her clients were publicly-traded companies, she didn’t have any hands-on industry experience. More challenging, she only had seven years of total experience, not the 10-15 listed on the job description. There was no question she was an exceptional person, and the VP Controller was more than willing to meet her. After the interview we both agreed she was a very strong person, but too light for the position. She never got this message.

Before I could break the bad news she wasn’t going to be considered for the job, she said something like, “I don’t want this job the way it’s currently structured. There is no way anyone could accomplish the overhaul of the department as defined given the resources and time frame currently specified. If you want me to consider this job there are five things that must happen.” She then spent another 10 minutes describing what she needed in terms of resources, staff and system support including a rough time-phased implementation plan. It was a remarkable plan. So remarkable, I never had a chance to tell her she was not getting the job. Instead, I called the VP Controller, and told him he had to hear directly what this woman proposed, even if he didn’t hire her. He enthusiastically invited her back and with a few other directors in the room asked her to describe her plan for rebuilding the accounting department. After about three hours he made her the offer. She accepted. Eighteen months later she was promoted into a bigger job after successfully completing the initial project.

What this woman did was simply amazing. As a result, I started rethinking how the best people I had placed up to that point answered questions. The best engineers could always visualize the technical problem, figure out a way to solve it and put a plan together. One plant manager candidate put a plan together on a flip chart on how to set up a global manufacturing and distribution center. The best sales reps could develop approaches to handle the most difficult clients. YMCA camp counselors could develop daily activities to ensure even their quietest kids would have a great experience every day. And it goes on and on. The best people in any job, regardless of their age or level, can visualize the problem they’re facing and figure out a way to solve it.

But this is just the first step in leadership ….

But this is just the first step in leadership – having a vision and being able to articulate it. It’s not enough, though. Not only do you need a detailed plan once the problem is solved, but you also must implement the solution successfully. This requires obtaining the resources, developing and motivating the team, and committing to achieving the objective despite the numerous challenges and obstacles that will always crop up.

The ability to articulate a vision combined with a track record of achieving comparable results was how the two-question Performance-based Interview described in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired was developed. One question involves asking candidates to describe how they’d go about figuring out how to accomplish a major objective or realistic job-related problem. The other question asks them to describe something they’ve done that’s most comparable. (Here’s a link to a summary of the Anchor and Visualize two-question process.) After asking these two questions a few times for your biggest job-related challenges, you can be confident about hiring someone who has the ability to both visualize a solution when combined with a track record of having accomplished something comparable. One without the other will be a problem.

Be careful. Too often we’re seduced by just the vision and the lofty ideas. Others become overly focused on technical brilliance, or a track record of years of experience. None of this is good enough. Competency without results is just mediocrity. Results without vision is just more of the same. Vision without the ability to deliver results is just a bunch of empty promises. With leadership, everything changes. It starts by listening.

The Power Of Thank You

Thank You, Appreciation, Employee Appreciation, Communication. Performance PraiseMost managers and supervisors know that the single greatest disappointment employees suffer in the workplace is the feeling that their hard work and effort goes unnoticed.  What most managers and supervisors don’t know is that the second greatest disappointment employees have is insincere or inappropriately applied recognition!  Does it seem to you that sometimes you can’t win?!  The fact is you can all win, and here is how you do it.

 First, you need to train yourself to constantly be on the look out for someone doing something right.  As managers, we typically spend way too much time dealing with hot spots or trouble issues.  Believe it or not, you have to develop the habit of seeking the good work that’s being done all around you.

 Second, take time to visit with your staff when there is not a crisis or a problem to deal with.  Sometimes a quick five minute meeting just to say Hi and let everyone know that they are OK is worth its weight in gold.  If the only time you get together is when something is wrong, how excited are your people when you call a meeting or when they interact with you?  The development of non-crisis interaction time is critical to team development and positive employee moral.

Third, learn the Power Thank You.  For a simple “thank you” to become a powerful, and motivational tool for managers and supervisor’s, simply apply these four basic rules:

  •  Be timely. After a few weeks the accomplishment is forgotten.
  • Be specific to something the employee accomplished, a task or goal completed.
  • Acknowledge the effort it took to complete the goal.
  • Address personally the benefits you and the company received as a direct result of this effort.

As a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst and Executive Coach, “One of the first things I look for in a President or CEO is how well they know, and then acknowledge, their employees efforts and tasks. A Chief Executive who can not only recognize an employee by name but also by task and accomplishment, well…, that’s a keeper.”

Here is a tip for those of us trying to build this idea into a positive habit … sometimes we’re busy and we forget about what’s really important.  To remind us to do the right thing, I ask my executives to start their day with three pennies in their right pocket. Every time they offer someone a power thank you, they move a penny to their left.  By the end of the day, all three pennies need to be in that left pocket.

 We spend more daylight hours at our workplace than with our families and friends so it is reasonable to assume that we should do all we can to make our work environment as pleasant as possible.  The Power Thank You is one way to support this philosophy.

Sharon Jenks, CPBA, is President of The Jenks Group, Inc. a CA based consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and executive team development.  Sharon can be reached at sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

http://www.thejenksgroup.com

Why Things Don’t Get Done At Your Business

Excuses, Time Management, Management, Procrastination, Performance

Why Things Don’t Get Done At Your Business

The company hired a new employee. He was young, inexperienced but willing to work hard. The first day on the job he was sitting at his desk reading through the policy manual when out of nowhere someone down the hall shouted out “56!” and everyone in the office roared with laughter. A few seconds later someone yelled out “22!” and once again the office roared!

The next day the same thing happened about the same time. This time it was different people and different numbers. But, the end result was the same, everyone laughing and clapping hands! This went on all week, and the second week on the job, the new comer decided he would get in on the action. That day, after the second number was shouted out and the laughter followed it, he took the bold step of shouting out “43!” only to hear a deafening silence. Once again he shouted out “98!” and heard nothing. He was crushed. That afternoon he was called in to his supervisor’s office and told that he was not to participate in the afternoon session. He was told that he hadn’t been on the job long enough to be guilty of an excuse for not getting things done.

A few weeks back I spoke to a group of business owners and asked them why things didn’t get done around their places of business. Here were their responses:

1. Unscheduled customer calls

2.  “Emergencies”

3. “I’m too busy”

4. Procrastination

5. Lack of time management

6. Don’t know where to start

7. Lack of money

8. Reluctance to delegate

9. The copy machine is broken

10. Lost the file

11. Fear of failure

12. Fear of success

13. Loss of revenue

14. Fatigue

15. Depression

16. Employee absences

17. Economy

18. Travel

19. Family

20. Dog is sick and ate the paperwork

21. Email and Internet are distracting

22. Personal “to do list” gets in the way

23. Playing hooky

24. Project is too big

25. Don’t like the assigned job

26. The task is beneath me

27. Hope that the task will disappear

28. Don’t get paid enough to do that job

29. That’s someone else’s job

30. Possible war

31. “I’m leaving early”

32. “I’m arriving late”

33. “I’ need help”

34. “I don’t know what to do”

35. Left my briefcase at home

Each of these 35 items (and I am sure that with a little thought you can come up with hundreds more) is nothing more than an excuse. That’s right, an excuse.

The reason that most people don’t want to tackle a new task is that it is out of their comfort zone. It is up to those in charge to explain not only why the job needs to get done, but how it helps either the organization. It goes without saying that it might help the individual, because it expands their horizons and capabilities.

In a free market society you cannot just order people to do things. People will balk even if a paycheck is at stake if they do not see the logic or merit of a task. Some selling might be involved. To do this function, patience is needed.

Another piece that needs to be laid out clearly is the ultimate goal of the assignment. People need to see how the things they do fit into the bigger picture. This aspect may also require selling and patience. Providing a road map may not be easy, but it is necessary when dealing with a dedicated and educated workforce.

I encourage you to sit down with all of those you work with and make your numbered list of excuses. Hopefully it will not turn into a daily joke, but instead, a learning experience so that more is done at your place of business, without the excuses.