Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why do you have weak relationships? It could be that you talk too much and listen too little!

Relationships are important in business and in life. The sale of a product or service, support from stakeholders, the launching of a new program, productivity from employees, pricing from vendors, understanding from a spouse, good behavior from a child - all of these situations, and more, require strong working relationships. And, it seems like the harder you work at building those relationships the better the intended outcome will be.

So, how do you develop stronger relationships with those people that are important to you? Well, the first way, and probably the most important way, is through communication. You see, what you communicate and how you communicate can affect your ability to deal with life's situations. Poor communication may lead to misunderstandings, distrust, and poor outcomes.

Many experts believe that there is a direct correlation between the quality of communication and the quality of the relationship. Communication is quite complex. You communicate with every movement and action, often without even knowing it. Remember, even silence can be a form of communication. You also should be mindful of tone, remembering that a hostile tone could damage a relationship.

To avoid poor communication always discuss matters with those involved even if you think it is not important. Husbands are always making decisions that affect the entire family without discussing the matter with their wives' - Big mistake! The boss is always making decisions that affect the whole company without discussing the matter with their employees' - Big Mistake! Companies are always making changes to products without discussing it with their customers' - Big Mistake! So, discuss the small stuff.

Also avoid, at all costs, communicating in only one direction. In other words avoid communication where you are just telling people something. Sometimes you talk so much that you discourage the other side from listening - Big mistake! For communication to be effective it must be two-way. Listening is essential to communication.

And, avoid sending mixed messages. Quality communication should be consistent. Sometimes what you tell one person might be different from what you tell the next person - Big mistake! Sometimes what you tell one customer about price or delivery time may be different from what you tell another customer about price and delivery time for the same product. Big mistake! Be consistent.

In conclusion, if you desire a stronger relationship, begin with communication. This is done best when you accept the other person as part of your team or family; have quality talk with them often and frequently; talk WITH them and not ABOUT them; listen intently and consult them often on decisions that you are going to make. And, if you remember this advice, your relationships will strengthen and your probability for success will increase significantly. Please share with me your ideas for building stronger relationships?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And tell me... What do values have to do with business?

Visionary leaders and effective CEO's understand how important it is to establish and model good core values. These core values will ultimately help staff when they are faced with the challenge of making difficult decisions. For example, I have adopted the following 3 core values at the Oil Region Alliance of Business Industry & Tourism:

1. Integrity - "Say what you do." And, "do what you say!"

2. Honesty - Always tell the truth - Always!

3. Accountability - Be accountable for your actions - Admit when you're wrong!

So, for example, if you: "say what do" and then: "do what you say" you will maintain your integrity. If you always tell the truth, no matter how hard that may be, you will be known for your honesty. And, if you are accountable for your actions, and are willing to admit when you are wrong, then you will truly be accountable to the people you serve.

Therefore, organizations and their staff that adopt these core values can communicate without hesitation; can do what is right regardless of the circumstances, with no hidden agendas, no political games, and no regrets; never have to rationalize a situation as being an "isolated one-time event," because they know where their integrity boundaries exit; they never let results become more important than the means of obtaining those results and they know that how they win is just as important as the act of winning itself.

Adopting values is one of the most important choices that a CEO and an organization can make because these values, not only guide your actions, but they keep you on the path to long-term success. There is never, I repeat never, a good reason to sacrifice your values. In business, as well as life, people might forgive an error in judgment, but they will never trust an unscrupulous act. So, no matter what, choose to do the right thing, and guard your values as if they were precious gems. Please share with me your organizational or personal core values?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Want to gain true knowledge and achieve great success? Try failing for a change!

In our society the words fail, failing, or failure have become dirty nasty words that are only spoken in times of great ridicule and admonishment of ourselves or others. They are words that we try extremely hard to never use and rarely even to think about. As children we learn early on that failing is an unacceptable action or behavior. In business, the CEO may set new goals and objectives for the year and may state that "Failure is not an option!" In fact, we have become so conditioned to the fear of failure that we try to avoid new challenges at all costs just to avoid the possibility of failing.

So, why is it then, that success usually follows failure? Well, most successful people are the result of persisting beyond the limits of failure, and usually not one failure, but several. Thomas Edison failed at inventing the light bulb over 10,000 times before finally making it work. It is often through failures that we discover the route to success. So, the next time you fail, embrace that failure and rejoice about what you can learn and where it can take you! Hug your children and show them that through failure comes true knowledge. Tell me about your failures and where they have lead you?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do you want to succeed in business and in life? Learn to execute!

Question: Three kids are sitting up in a tree. One decides to jump down. How many kids remain in the tree?

Answer: If you said two, then you’re WRONG! The answer is three.

You see, the decision to jump down, and the actual act of jumping down, are two completely different things.

A decision without execution equals failure. And, just like the kids in the tree, we often make decisions but fail to execute or follow through. Great decisions are made every day but unless the decision is followed by an action the decision is useless.

There are many excuses for not taking action, but the main cause is often linked to procrastination. We have seen this so many times in our own lives. You decide that you are going to do something, and then for whatever reason, you never do it. Often it is because you feel that you don’t have the time or the skill to accomplish the task, but most times it is just plain fear, fear of failure that causes you to procrastinate (PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THE DECISION NOT TO ACT ON A DECISION, IS IN AND OF ITSELF, FAILURE!).

How many times, just this past week alone, have YOU decided to do something and then didn’t follow through with it? Losing weight…, creating a blog…, joining a gym…, these are all common activities that if not executed can cause great regret in your life.

But, what about when others rely on you as part of a team? People that procrastinate can also negatively impact an entire organization. I have seen many nonprofit organizations suffer from the failure to execute. The board of directors, community leaders, business leaders, stakeholders and staff spend hours and sometimes days conducting SWOT analysis and brainstorming sessions where tremendous ideas are generated. Sometimes consultants are hired to prepare expensive feasibility studies and business plans. During this process, decisions are made, but without execution the plans often end up on a shelf gathering dust.

Do you procrastinate or execute? Please share with me your ideas and experience with this issue? How do you keep people motivated and executing?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Secret to Success - READ to Find Out!

Have you ever wondered what separates middle management from the CEO position? Well, its simple, most people in business quit investing in learning. They think that their learning is complete once they have their diploma. But, the long-term successful CEO is the one that has the discipline to continue to learn and improve. You see, the more you learn, the more you earn! Career success demands that you increase your knowledge. Many top executives will read 5-10 books per month, while the average worker is lucky to have read 5-10 books in their lifetime.

Have you ever visited the home of a successful CEO? The bigger the home, the bigger the library. Why is that? Well, there is a direct correlation between the books you read and the success you achieve. I have an area in my home that I call "The Man Cave" which is essentially my den. It is my reading sanctuary and library where I house every book that I have ever read or am about to read. Who needs a corporate ladder when you can stand on every book you have ever read. Remember, a ladder has its limit, while your book stack is infinite!

Books will mold your philosophies and values and can teach you or inform you about any subject that you may be interested in. So, don't go another day without reading - it may change your life! Tell me what interesting books you have read lately to enhance your knowledge within your career?

Friday, September 4, 2009


I have a secret that I want to share. But, you MUST promise to share it with everyone. Will you do that? Good! Here it is...

There are always going to be enemies in your life! I had a mentor that taught me a very valuable lesson and I want to share it with all of you today. There are always going to be people in this world, in your life, that are not going to like you. It won't necessarily be because of something that you have done, but, for whatever reason, they just don't like you. It might be because of the way you walk or talk; it may be that other people don't like you; it may be you're popular and well liked. Some people just aren't going to like you, because your hair is too short or too long. It might be because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. This behavior is just human nature.

Jim Rohn once said, "There are only about 10 or so really miserable people in the whole wide world. The problem is- they move around a lot." The simple fact of the matter is that there are going to be enemies in your life, so you can't invest your self-worth in what other people think about you. If you did, you would never achieve success. You have to stay focused on your mission and work to achieve your goals and objectives. Focus on fighting with, or getting rid of the enemy, and you WILL get distracted and fail.

In the book, 12 Choices... That Lead to Your Success by David Cottrell he states that "Enemies are a by-product of success" (Cottrell, 2005, p. 34). You see, the more successful you are, the more enemies that you are going to have.

So, here is the secret: Welcome them! The Bible says "Love Thy Enemies." As we succeed, we want to be accepted, respected and loved. But, the truth of the matter is, As Abraham Lincoln stated "You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all the time."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CEOs Should Twitter

Do you want to become a more effective leader? Are you cut off from your most important constituencies; looking for a better way to communicate with employees, suppliers, and stakeholders or customers? Well, look no further. Savvy CEO's are embracing social media/networking and Web 2.0 platforms as an effective way to build customer-centric organizations that not only communicate, but also listen and learn from the interaction.

Today's modern CEO can clearly see how social networking can increase brand recognition and enhance their own credibility by communicating directly with key stakeholders. For example, I use this blog so that I can engage with you and have authentic, interactive conversations. Actively participating with informative blogs or listening to feedback from Twitter is a very cost effective way to find out what your customers or stakeholders think about your organization. A CEO can use Web 2.0 platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogs or any combination thereof to become a more effective leader by gathering information and instigating action based on real customer/stakeholder feedback.

Maxine Clark, Chief Executive Bear and Founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop is an active Twitter and Blog user and is a fine example of how to use social media to connect with your stakeholder/customer. In 2007, Maxine wrote her first book entitled "The Bear Necessities of Business: Building A Company with Heart." It is a fascinating book about how she built her company on the simple premise of making kids smile. I highly suggest that you go out and get it and read it!

Maxine's example of how a great CEO's use of social media to connect with customers is gaining loyalty and excitement. It certainly is with me! Maxine has 655 followers and Build-A-Bear Workshop has over 3,000 followers. Maxine makes it a point and tries real hard to respond to every follower post and every email. I sent a post about my daughters upcoming birthday this month at Build-A-Bear Workshop and Maxine immediately replied with a direct message offering any help she can provide to make my daughter's birthday a "PAWSOME" party. And, she thanked me "BEARY Much" for the post.

This is only one example but I am sure you can see the value. I will be a life-long fan of Build-A-Bear Workshop and I will tell this story to all that will listen. So, raise your effectiveness and adopt social media as part of your ongoing marketing plan. Learn from Maxine's shining example. Please share with me how you are using social networking/media to grow your business relationships?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social Entrepreneurship

As I evaluate our current budget and program of work and look to the future, especially in these tough economic times, the idea of social entrepreneurship keeps entering into the equation. According to the Nonprofit Board Answer Book II social entrepreneurship refers to a philosophy of self-sufficiency (BoardSource, 2002, p. 70). It is the idea that nonprofit agencies should find alternative sources of revenue to further it's mission. In other words, nonprofits should work towards becoming self-sufficient.

Our agency is no exception. The Oil Region Alliance, the lead economic development and tourist promotion agency for all of Venango County; part of northern Crawford County and located in northwest PA, for example, is an organization that relies heavily on membership dues and municipal contributions to further it's mission. And, these funds are highly correlated to the economy. In good economic times membership dues and municipal contributions go up and in bad economic times membership dues and municipal contributions go down. So, the idea of social entrepreneurship, or the evolution to self-sufficiency by creating an alternate revenue source makes sense for the longevity of our agency and the long-term success of it's mission.

There are obviously pros and cons. According to the Nonprofit Board Answer Book II (BoardSource, 2002, pp. 76 & 77) social entrepreneurship can help your nonprofit:
  • Generate new sources of revenue to help pay for administrative and overhead costs that traditional funds can't.
  • Diversify income sources and reduce reliance on signature fund drives.
  • Raise visibility in the community and create new ways for people to become connected to the agency.
  • Build upon the mission and create new jobs in the community.

On the other hand, there are these drawbacks:

  • Failure. Every entrepreneur understands there are risks to new ventures.
  • The organizational structure may be too bureaucratic to accommodate a profit-oriented venture.
  • Unfavorable publicity may come your way when you compete with for-profit competitors.
  • Stakeholders may become confused about the mission.

So, as you can see, there are many variables to consider when building social entrepreneurship into your nonprofit business model. It is the proverbial "catch 22" where the agency wants to further it's mission but resources are dwindling. The community needs and often expects the nonprofit to function, but is not willing to fund the effort. Therefore, the agency has to get creative in order to survive. Please let me know your thoughts on social entrepreneurship?