Posts Tagged ‘lesson’



This leadership tip has something in it for managers everywhere, but it’s particularly targeted at those of you with large company backgrounds who have made career moves to smaller businesses that you own and/or manage. 

My background is primarily in large scale management of IT organizations.  The companies where I’ve worked were places where changing a process or behavior took some time.  I always thought I was quicker than most, and action oriented.  As a small business owner, I found I had to be much quicker. 

I’ll offer this leadership tip in the form of a story.  It’s a story of how taking your eye of the ball can cost you money, and worse than that can cost you customers. 

My First Small Business 

I opened a small personal services business.  It was located about an hour from my home office, and with all my other commitments I knew how important hiring the right manager would be for this shop.  It took a few tries, but I found one with a good background and references, and she seemed to quickly develop loyalty to the business and to me. 

For the first six months we grew slowly but steadily.  We were behind plan in terms of customers and revenue, but the trend was up.  There were a few staff issues, but overall turnover was okay.  I decided to invest a little more in marketing to try and get more new faces in the door. 

Over the next three months, customer counts were mostly flat, and average sale was actually down a little.  Concerned, I visited the shop a few times more than usual.  The people were not as upbeat as they had been.  When asked about that, they attributed their moods to less business and less enjoyment of the job.  I wondered about seasonality, the economy, and whether I needed even more marketing investment. 

Want to know what was really going on?  My trusted manager had some personal problems that I had not been aware of before, and was exhibiting some totally unacceptable behaviors: 

  • Criticizing staff in front of customers
  • Intimidating staff, letting them know they were at risk of being fired, and telling them I was out to get them.
  • Stealing money by voiding transactions and other means  

The Damages 

I’m still figuring out how much money all this cost me, but the money is only today’s problem.  The customers I’ve lost are a more serious longer term issue, because many of them won’t be coming back. 

When I figured out what was going on, I moved quickly to fire the manager.  There were only two problems:

  • I was too late, and there had been several months of damage done;
  • There was collateral damage.  I had to fire two other employees who had adopted the attitude and behaviors of the manager. 

Today, I’m working on putting together data to see if I can assemble a case for prosecuting the employees and the manager.  An even higher priority, though, is the work I’m doing to recruit and orient new staff and develop a recovery plan for our customer service reputation.   

This leadership tip was a painful lesson that I hope never to repeat.

Just the other day i got on a conference call my community holds weekly with regard to leadership master minding and it was powerful

Just the other day I got on a conference call my community holds weekly with regard to leadership master minding and it was powerful.  It’s funny how sometimes the obvious or simple perspective that has the biggest impact potential is overlooked.  This was one of those discussions that shed in the light of a lightning bolt, flash!  There it was, simple, to the point, and delivered in a way I got…in a BIG way.  Think about this statement…A leader (you) allows others to see themselves in you.

This one statement brought together leadership and personal branding like sliding in the last puzzle piece to hours of work.  As a leader, looking to constantly improve, I now understood that the reason anyone follows another has nothing to do with a business, product, service, or opportunity…it’s the personal connection.  We have all heard it before, but it just never hit me like it did at that moment.  By just being me, what I do, how I do it, why I do it, where I do it, and with whom I do it…is what resonates with others that share these points in common.  They relate to me as I do to them.

So in the realm of leadership and building your personal brand your target should be YOU!  By stepping up and delivering the goods on what you’re about and what you are doing this group of like people will be attracted to you naturally.  These connections will lay the ground work for a team to build, a focused group effort deploys and remarkable results are brought to frusion.  Your leadership has now evolved into many leaders helping one another grow and spread the message.  Now that’s leadership on full tilt.

Today take a few minutes to look at your leadership perspective and see if your efforts can benefit from a simple leadership lesson to pass on…

There is no one style, personality profile, or interaction approach for an effective leader

There is no one style, personality profile, or interaction approach for an effective leader. Leaders do come in “all shapes and sizes.” Few can deny the leadership skills of Golda Meir, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Meg Whitman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Lee Iacocca, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs. And, few can deny that these leaders differ significantly.

One Size Does Not Fit All Leaders

The management guru, Peter Drucker, noted that some of the most effective chief executives he has worked with did not have “one ounce of charisma.” He cites the example of Harry Truman as an example of a non-charismatic individual who was still one of the most effective chief executives in US history. He also states that he worked with effective leaders who were very diverse in terms of their personalities, attitudes, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Some were introverted while others were extroverted. Some were easy going and others were controlling.

Abraham Lincoln’s Road to Leadership

History also supports Drucker’s view on the diversity of effective leaders. Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of our greatest Presidents. However, a look at his early life would not have predicted this greatness. He suffered various setbacks before becoming one of our greatest Presidents including:

• Failure of a business that left him deeply in debt;

• Limited attendance in school as a child due to his family being poor;

• An episode of severe depression;

• A refused marriage proposal.

Clearly, Lincoln’s tenacity and his ability to learn from his mistakes kept him on his road to greatness as a great leader. He did not let past failures dictate his future.

Common Leadership Practices

While leaders are diverse in their approach, we can identify common practices that they share. In his consulting work over the years, Drucker identified eight practices that the effective executives he worked with had in common. These eight practices are the following:

1. They asked, “What needs to be done?”

2. They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”

3. They developed action plans.

4. They took responsibility for decisions.

5. They took responsibility for communicating.

6. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.

7. They ran productive meetings.

8. They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

The Lesson for Today’s Business Leaders

Effective leaders make these eight practices a normal part of their operational practices. It becomes a part of their management DNA. It is ingrained in their communications, their decision making practices, and their interactions with others. They also look at organizational mistakes differently. While mistakes have consequences, effective leaders also know that mistakes are opportunities for learning and innovation. The ability of these leaders to apply these eight practices to organizational mistakes allows them to make “lemonade out of lemons.”

Now that we know the recipe, we too can become more effective leaders of our enterprises! Get more information about how to be an effective executive, by purchasing my book Why Smart People Fail at Management at

Helping others is what it’s all about and in today’s tough world; giving someone an advantage is extremely important

Helping others is what it’s all about and in today’s tough world; giving someone an advantage is extremely important. That advantage can come in many forms – things like verbal support, information that can be used in their personal or professional lives, or maybe an introduction.  It’s called many things but the meaning of mentorship has always been a word that brings up all kinds of positive impressions in my life. There have been so many people over the years that have offered their knowledge and support as I trudged through some very difficult periods in my life.  I’ve had many people that I would classify as my mentors but my uncle is the central person in helping to shape my personal and professional life. 

Now, mentorship does not mean doing it for someone but rather offering the support so that someone can do it for themselves. You’ve heard the old saying “give them a fish and they live for a day – teach them to fish and they live for a lifetime.”  That’s what mentoring someone is all about; giving them direction and practical knowledge so they can use your experience to expand on their own skills to discover personal solutions that work for them.  What you found to be a solution might not work exactly the same way for the next person.  We’re all different and our needs are very specific.  But the need to develop a positive attitude and the importance of showing respect and dignity to the next guy is pretty much the same for everyone. 

I’ve searched for mentors from all walks of life to ensure that I developed a well-rounded method of conducting all aspects of my life.  My time in the U.S. Marines was full of mentors, even though at the time I didn’t see them that way.  I learned so much in the Marines and these are lessons that I use every day of my life. 

If you are developing a small business, there are organizations like SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives).  This group offers businesses a free counselor/mentor from a group of retired business executives who are just itching to get back into the business world.  Even the Department of Defense has a mentor program.  Since 1991, the Department of Defense Mentor-Prot?g? Program (MPP) has offered extensive assistance to small disadvantaged businesses. Helping these businesses to expand the overall base of their specific marketplace has produced more jobs and increased national income.

If you are looking for a mentor, be certain that you choose the right individual or organization before moving forward. Ask questions and tell them what you want to achieve.  And if you are searching for that one special individual in your area to set you on the right path, same thing holds true. If you feel that a specific person can help you, just walk right up to them and ask them if they’d be interested in being your mentor.  Once you find the right group or individual you’ll know.  Never forget, mentorship is a team effort.

The attributes that make a great team in a mentoring environment include things like mutual respect, trust and a clear vision. A useful mentor holds the vision of what is possible, and leads the way to the vision. A mentor must believe in the vision as much as the learner does.  A mentor will offer wise advice, will show those he or she is guiding “the ropes” and will invest the time and energy necessary to successfully develop that individual. The more open the learner is to accessing this knowledge and insight, the more insightful these discoveries will be.  The mentor is an extraordinary person; a person we all aspire to be. A mentor is someone just like you. 

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