The Danger of Hype

It’s late January and the cycle of winter weather has begun. Here in Tennessee we have some ice and snow. It’s not normal down here so of course the populace of Middle Tennessee is gearing up for the worst – after all the weatherman is predicting a whopping three inches of snow.

But further East, a large winter storm has the Washington DC area in its crosshairs. We lived out there for nearly 14 years and saw the winter weather hype every year. It goes something like this:

You’re watching your favorite TV show and during the commercial break, the news preview comes on:

“Major winter storm on its way. Why this could be one for the record books. Details at 11.”

So the first thing that happens is the kids start in:

“Dad do you think schools will be closed tomorrow?”

Then the Federal employee spouse:

“They better shut the government down tomorrow. All those people riding Metro and the roads will be jammed. I think I’ll telework tomorrow” (code for I’m going to stay home and pretend I’m working by regularly checking email.)

Then a neighbor posts a photo on Facebook of the lines and empty shelves down at the grocery store. Caption reads:

“You better get down here to Wegmans – the aisles are packed and the lines to check out wrap around the store”

Your heart is racing. You feel so unprepared.

The ticker across the bottom of the screen starts. Your kids watch anxiously for school closures. They cheer when they see Montgomery County schools are closed. Then you see the Federal government says unscheduled leave/telework in effect. You race down the grocery store to find a crowded parking lot, empty shelves, and long checkout lines. You scavenge what you can find but of course there are no more eggs, milk, or toilet paper (those three items seem to be a triad that can’t be broken.) An hour later you return home with a dozen cans of cream of potato soup (everything other flavor was gone), a carton of almond milk, and a case of generic tissue paper (in lieu of toilet paper). You try to find extra space in the pantry for the soup, moving the cans of beans, Spaghetti-os, and green beans; to make room for your desperately-needed storm provisions.

At last you can sleep knowing you can at least survive a day or two when the catastrophe hits.

Next morning, there is nothing on the ground. By 10AM your kids are bored. You’ve lost a day of work since none of your clients are in the office. Your spouse opts for the telework to save a day of leave; and still does no work save for the strategically-timed emails to make it look like they’re working.

You’ve bought into the hype and it bit you right back.

Who wins?

  • The TV network has record ratings.
  • Kids have a day off school.
  • Teachers have a day off school.
  • Spouse has free day off.
  • Stores have record profits.

This comes at cost to all too. Lost business for a day. Lost hours in the classroom. Lost productivity in the government (well that’s a stretch).

Here’s the formula:

O + P x A = H

Objective data + Past Experience x Anxiety = Hype

The big question is what will the hype cost?

In the DC area, it’s probably never considered. It’s a way of life. But in a business or organization, hype can cause you to make rash decisions with sometimes-negative unintended consequences. This could be unneeded purchases, rash hiring/firing decisions, or worse, inactivity that leads to a negative outcome.

Your challenge is to manage information, leaving out the anxiety to avoid creating hype.


  1. Get well-rounded, balanced sources of information.
  2. Keep track of past behaviors and performances during previous challenges.
  3. Communicate calmly and objectively.
  4. Take action based on accurate forecasts and business case scenarios.
  5. Monitor everything so you can make any necessary adjustments either up or down.

Smart people make rational decisions using data. Dumb people listen to what sounds most sensational and fall in line with the mob.

If you’re ready to move beyond hype and make the most of a challenging time, follow the steps above and communicate to your staff what responses will look like from here on out.


The Top 10 Biggest Ways to Screw Up a Training Initiative

“I think we should start a training program here,” says the executive. “What do you think?”

These words signify the start of something incredible in an organization. It’s the realization of an executive’s vision, the compliance to a board’s recommendation, and the answer to an organization’s membership request. It’s an opportunity to add to an organization’s reputation as a best place to work, give resources to managers creating employee development plans, and a career path for those who want to challenge themselves as in-house trainers.

But these words can also break a training manager’s career. They can deplete budgets, frustrate participants, and subject the training manager to a steady stream of cold calls from large training vendors. It puts the training manager under pressure to demonstrate ROI for an initiative they didn’t even suggest, and the lack of ROI puts their job in jeopardy.

As a former training manager and now organizational development consultant, I’ve seen this play out countless times. I’ve seen the excitement of a new initiative fade into frustration. I’ve dealt with empty training rooms and threatened budgets. I’ve even done outplacement work with fired training managers that lost their jobs because of a ill-conceived, poorly-planned training initiative. Based on that, I’d like to present the Top 10 Ways to Screw Up Your Organization’s Training Initiative. Avoid these at all costs. Make sure you pass this along to your boss. It might help them make better decisions. All 10 are mistakes, and they go from smallest to largest. Number one is the biggest one. All should be avoided though!

Oh yes, and commit this phrase to memory:

The only reason we should have a training event would be to teach or improve a skill. Training fixes skill problems.

Here’s your list:

#10: Calling a Training Program a “Program”

I know this sounds dumb, but the quickest way to ruin anything is to call it a “program.” Programs start with great fanfare and usually die an agonizingly slow death or simply fade into obscurity. If you use the “P” word, then people will miss out on the real reason for having one in the first place, which is to build or improve a tangible skill.

#9: Building a Program Because People Say They Need a Training Program

I got caught in this trap when I was hired by a trade association in the Washington DC area back in 2000. The association members voted for a training program for project managers in the federal services contracting industry. It had great promise, support, and budget. What it didn’t have was actual participation. I fought hard to develop the curriculum, hire the subject matter experts, and promote the crap out of it and never did have more than 10 individuals show up for a class.

Wanting a training program and being willing to support and attend it are two very different issues. Make sure you can guarantee the latter before committing to it.

#8: Using Training as a Driver of Employee Retention

Being recognized as Best Place to Work is a great honor. It’s a great way to get the best talent, not to mention it gives your organization and CEO bragging rights. There are different criterion depending on the city and state but one area that’s typically measured is the organization’s training program. Programs that help win the award are usually around computer skills and a wide array of soft skills offerings. These are great, but if the sole purpose is to win an award, what happens when you don’t win? And if you win consistently, how to keep the training program alive and relevant. At some point employees will view the rehash of topics as a nuisance, rather than a benefit. Your program will look good on paper. And that will be as good as it gets.

#7: Developing a Program to Deal With a Small Group of Problem Employees

I often get calls from HR people who want me to facilitate a workshop on dealing with difficult people, managing change, or improving customer service. When I dig a little deeper, I find there are handful of culprits who need this, but the client doesn’t want to embarrass anyone or do something politically-incorrect. So their solution is to put everyone through this and hope the troublemakers get what they need to improve.

Now I’ll be happy to do the workshop and take your money, but wouldn’t it be far more efficient just to correct, write-up, motivate, or fire the culprits? Everyone would be happier. Employees wouldn’t be forced to sit in a workshop they don’t need. You wouldn’t have to justify the expense of the workshop. Your employees would applaud you for stepping up and getting rid of these folks. The only unhappy people would be the individuals in question…and my wife (when she sees my empty calendar). Fix the actual problem; don’t spend money to mask it.

#6: Measuring the Wrong Things

Any smart training manager knows they need to do some sort of evaluation. Some go simple and just use a paper “smile sheet” at the end of the program. Others do a nice online version using SurveyMonkey. On the other end, some pay for and use a complicated Kirkpatrick tool with four levels of something-or-other.

Nothing is wrong with any of this. The question really is: What should you be measuring? Butt in seats? Reactions? Food and room ambience?

Let me simplify this for you.

Since training is supposed to build or enhance a skill, you just need to know the person has learned. Here’s how you know:

Before I came to this class, I didn’t know how to tie my shoe (or whatever it is the course will teach) but after taking it, now I do!

What else would you possibly need to know?

Keep it simple (and don’t call it a program either!).

#5: Overcomplicating the Design

Shortly after leaving the position in DC with the failed training initiative still in my memory, I took a job running all of the management development at a large hospital in Maryland. The VP of HR had a robust plan in mind for me. She wanted managers to go through a wide array of classes with pre/post course work, an assigned mentor, a cohort, etc. Now if you know hospitals and health care and nurse managers, you know this is a recipe for disaster. Plans in a hospital are made to be broken. It was too complicated and therefor was destined to fail. Fortunately I was able to talk her down from that position. I made development a far simpler, more flexible process. It was successful.

Simple and basic is always better.

#4: Blindly Outsourcing Your Training Program to a Large Training Vendor

When you announce you’re developing a training program (which we already know is a bad word), you then have to get the curriculum and trainers. The easiest way to do this is to outsource it to a vendor.

That’s not a problem. I’m actually a small business vendor that offers some training programs that supplement process or system improvements I help you develop. But I’m not the one you should worry about.

Beware of the vendors that promise customized curriculum from their vast offerings that can be customized (for a price) and delivered onsite. It’s expensive and you’ll be charged for everything you get. Yes it’s convenient and takes the pressure off you. But please don’t blindly outsource your initiative. You cede control and yet bear full responsibility for the outcome. If the contract trainer uses off-color language, comes unprepared, can’t relate to your audience, or is in any way not effective, you still pay, and you’re the one who gets called on the carpet by your boss.

Outsource if you must, but do it with both eyes open.

#3: Misinterpreting Survey Data

Engagement surveys and training needs analyses are important. It’s a good idea to measure any efforts and initiatives. Measurement and data are the only numbers you can make good decisions with.

The challenge is of course interpreting data correctly. It requires you to look beyond the numbers. For example, you may have data showing that a manager in a particular division scores low in resolving conflict between employees. The surface solution is to send the manager to a training class on dealing with conflict. Before you do this, why not investigate the issues in the department that cause the conflict (you know, the conflict this manager can’t seem to deal with?)? It’s possible there’s a system or process problem that could be fixed that would make the conflict go away on its own. And who knows if the manager handles conflict well or not? A subjective survey filled out by an angry employee may not give the true picture.

Be careful to interpret survey data carefully and objectively.

#2: Confusing ROI With Results

ROI is the word bean counters love to apply to most anything in a corporate environment. I don’t have a problem with that. Where it becomes an issue is when the wrong problem is identified, leading to the wrong (and expensive) solution, which in fact creates no change in the situation. Then the training manager is scolded for not presenting the model for or results of, the ROI.

It’s really hard to prove ROI on a training problem unless you have a specific PEOPLE problem that happens as a result of a lack of skills. That should really narrow down your proof of ROI. Figure out what it costs to have skill-based mistakes made. Expand that cost over 12 months. That should give you the cost of the skill problem. If that cost is greater than the cost of training (and be sure to factor in all costs, including the opportunity cost of having attendees in training for a day), you have a positive ROI. If it’s the other way around, then you’ve made a mistake.

I’d recommend doing your ROI computation BEFORE designing that training initiative and promoting it. You don’t want to look like a dummy.

And finally, here’s the NUMBER ONE biggest mistake you should NEVER make:

#1: Mislabeling A Problem as a “Training Issue”

First of all, remember that TRAINING fixes a SKILL problem.

If you know that, then it should be easy to label the problem correctly.

The Navy was pretty bad about this. Years ago while stationed at a Naval communications base in Exmouth, Western Australia, the entire base was told that a particular Saturday was a safety stand-down. Apparently the week before there were several accidents involving aircraft landing on aircraft carries around the fleet. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) declared an emergency and ordered a fleet-wide safety stand-down. It was a day where we sat in the base theater and watched training videos and listened to lectures on hazardous materials (thankfully this was long before PowerPoint® was invented so we were spared people reading slides to us all day). Now mind you, we had no aircraft on this base and no appreciable accidents that year. But since it was the Navy and we are all one team, we spent Saturday sleeping through the safety stand-down.

The only reason to have any sort of training is if the problem deals with skills. The following are typical reasons people want training:

  • Low engagement scores
  • Unwillingness to accept organizational changes
  • Conflict
  • Difficult people
  • Anger management
  • Sensitivity issues
  • Leadership development
  • Team-building

Few if any of these are fixed through training, although training might be PART of the solution. If you can’t assign a “HOW TO” to identify the fix for the problem (i.e. How to Deliver Constructive Feedback to an Employee) then don’t consider it a training problem.


I know this article might burst your bubble, insult your position, and make you feel like less of a training manager, but I want you to be successful. Your job is a thankless one and success isn’t easy. If you get it by being seen as a valued resource in your organization and gain a “seat at the table” then taking this advice to heart will be worth it.

If you’d like me to sit down with you and help you think through your training initiative, just give me a call at (931) 221-2988 and let’s set up some time to chat!

Book Review: Power Relationships by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

This book is a great resource for consultants and coaching.  It takes the reader through important questions and questioning techniques to use to build relationships and demonstrate credibility

One of the great takeaways comes at the back of the book where Sobel lists out typical challenging scenarios consultants face and then lists out his relevant rules for handling those conversations.  This is also a great book to use if you want to improve your networking skills.

Grade:  A+

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a business that depends on clients.

The Top 10 Ways to Gain Credibility

CREDIBLE red stamp textAll of us, regardless of position in life, seek to make a difference. For some of us, we do this through our volunteer work. Others may devote time to family. But for many, the key area we want to make a difference but can’t seem to do it is at work.

Our job is the one area that has us pigeon-holed into a job or position that often is what defines us. If we have no influence over a person or situation that’s above our position or paygrade, we have no ability to make a difference.

Or do we?

The key to gaining influence, attaining power, and taking control of our situation is to gain credibility. Credibility is what helps us decide which products to buy. If a supermodel tells us to buy a certain brand of skin cleanser, we listen because she has beautiful skin. If an athlete recommends a sports drink, we buy it because they know best. Both have credibility.

You have credibility.

Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have the guts to suggest a new idea, process, or product at work. The key is to get others to buy into your credibility, or at least the perception of your credibility. This is done buy communicating your ideas in the language they speak. When you do this, relating to their pain, their way of thinking, and their way of communicating, you’ve now become the credible expert.

How do you do this? Here are the top 10 best ways I know based on my experience working with individuals and corporations. We’ll look at them in order of importance, from 10 (least important) to 1 (most important).

#10: Realize the Power of Power and Influence.

I liken power and influence to 1980s martial arts stars. Power is analogous to Chuck Norris. He fights using a hybrid style of Karate and Tae Kwon Do. If you fight with Chuck Norris, he’s not going to be hiding behind a tree. He’ll be in your face with his feet and fists first. He uses power to fight. His power will overwhelm your power. On the other hand, influence is a lot like Steven Seagal. His martial art, Aikido, uses the opponent’s power against himself. Influence draws people toward you, power drives your ideas toward others. Power is something you either take or are given. Influence is something you earn. We’ll look at both. 

#9: Power – Positional

Positional power is one that we all think is key. You may even have that power now. It’s what you get based on your title at work. The CEO will have much position power while the janitor may have little. If you’re the CEO, good for you. Just don’t lean too heavily on it. What happens when you get fired? Position power only works when you have the position. It works best when you never actually have to tell a person you have position power.

#8: Power – Expertise

This one is a big one. Everyone is an expert at something. You have a unique angle if you’re proposing an idea when you are the identified expert.   Your challenge is gaining expertise and promoting your expertise.

You gain expertise by working at something. There are plenty of ideas on that. One of course is the now-famous 10,000 Hour theory by Anders Ericsson. Work at a craft for 10,000 hours and you’ll be an expert. I also like the idea my friend Bruce Johnson had where if you read for an hour a day on a subject, you’ll be an expert on it in a year. So get busy. Then of course you have to be recognized for your expertise. You do this by speaking about it, writing about it, consulting about it, and being the fount of knowledge on the subject. This is where the janitor might actually trump the CEO, if the issue is around physical security in the plant.

#7: Power – Proxy

This is the power you gain by having relationships with others. You have power because of your connections to powerful people. This is different than name-dropping. You actually have to know and be known by these people, and trusted. If you are trying to gain credibility, you get it by being connected to credible people.

Of course this cuts both ways. If you had proxy power with Saddam Hussein in 2000, you had a life of splendor. In 2004 however you probably found yourself on the run along with him. Be careful who you hitch your wagon to.

#6: Power – Resource

Resource power comes from having access to resources that others value. If you want credibility, you need to have something you can trade in order to get credibility. Ellis “Red” Redding, the inmate portrayed by Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption was known as the guy who could “get things.” This gave him a sense of credibility, and power. He was respected.

All of us have some resources others value. Take a look at what you offer and get busy offering!

#5: Power – Information

In my experience, the most powerful individuals in an organization are the administrative professionals and receptionists. They are the gatekeepers, ambassadors, and trusted assistants to those with power. If you fall into one of these positions, just be ethical and careful with that information. It has consequences. Just ask Edward Snowden and Bradley (Chelsea) Manning.

Also, if you don’t have this power, this is a good place where you can start to leverage proxy power.

#4: Power – Personal

More than once I’ve been in line at an airline ticket counter trying to rebook a flight. I’ve been behind a disgruntled traveler who is bitching out the customer service rep. After he’s stormed off, I greet the rep with a friendly greeting and courteously ask the same request. More often than not, I get what I want. It’s not because I’m rich and famous (I am neither), it’s simply because I’m nice. Nice people get stuff. This is one power all of us have equal opportunity to gain.

#3: Influence – Logical Persuasion

Again, influence is something that is earned. If you want to gain credibility, you have to position your request in the language of the person you want to influence.

Logical persuasion is using facts, numbers, data, charts, or objective data in making your request. If you want to influence a “numbers” boss about having a company party, talk about the cost of low morale rather than telling her that people will feel good if we have a party. If you’re in France, speak French if want to get your message across. Same rule applies to asking requests in English. Know what brand of English your boss speaks and communicate in that language. This also applies to…

#2: Influence – Common Vision

If you want to gain credibility, learn to speak the language of common vision. This means you frame your request showing how it impacts the greater good of the person or the organization. Often, corporate decision-makers speak this as a primary language (with logical persuasion a close second). Frame your idea with the big picture in mind and you’ll be able to gain that credibility you seek. And finally…

#1: See the Issue Through the Eyes of Others First (and show them you feel their pain)

The previous nine strategies will only work if you’ve taken the time to see what others find important. If you want credibility, you have to see the issue through the eyes of those you want to influence. This is best done by referencing the “pain” a person is experiencing when promoting your idea. If I want to get an airline passenger to buy a seat in First Class, I am better off selling the idea that doing this will help them avoid the experience in Coach with crowds, screaming kids, diminished legroom, and no overhead bin to store their rollerboard. I could just try to twist their arm to spend the extra money, but that may not work.

Show a person you empathize with their pain and have the right solution to resolve it and you’ll get listened too. You‘ll have credibility.


So that’s it, just 10 areas to work on to gain credibility. If you want to be taken seriously, invited to “the table” at work, qualify for a promotion, or just have the sense of making a greater contribution to your job and your organization, take the time to study and put these principles to work!

Book Review: The Game of Numbers by Nick Murray

The Game of Numbers

The Game of Numbers

This book is written for financial advisors.  I read it because my wife (who is a financial advisor) was given it at one of her conferences.  The premise of the book is that prospecting (getting face-to-face with a prospective client) is simply a game of numbers:  the more you do it, the higher the probability that one will turn into a client.

I’m not a financial advisor but I have to prospect in my consulting business.  The skills and techniques are transferrable and I am planning to use them immediately.  The biggest takeaway for me was to not get caught in the trap of being busy and using that as an excuse to prospect.  Murray likens that to a person treading water in a shark-infested area.

Grade:  A+

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a business that depends on clients.

Why We Don’t Need More Leaders


boss-leader-newThe infographic above stirred some controversy when I posted it earlier this week on LinkedIn (ironically, most of the haters hail from the UK, not sure what that means). I created it because I was sick of seeing posts touting the greatness of leadership and contrasting it with the evil of management or “the boss.” Those posts and memes typically come from armchair consultants and fantasy business-owners.

In my mind, we don’t need more leaders. We need more good bosses.

Hear me out. First of all, I speak from academic (MA in Organizational Leadership) and practical (15 years of working in/with corporations around the USA and abroad, developing employees and managers) experience. I’ve written 12 books, taught on the college level, and consulted in most every industry there is.

We don’t need more leaders. We need more good bosses.

The manager or “boss” is the backbone of any organization. The boss makes sure the trains run on time. The boss makes sure the work is properly distributed and completed. The boss keeps an eye on the budget, supplies, and customers. The boss has the most important responsibility in the organization. In fact, I hope it’s not lost on you that the executives featured on the CBS show Undercover Boss  are not called undercover leaders. “Boss” is not the newest four-letter word in the urban dictionary.

There are only two kinds of bosses, good and bad. When people think about the boss, it’s usually a negative connotation. Bad bosses are written about, parodied on TV and in movies, and of course are the topic of conversation around the dinner table at night.

There are no excuses for a bad boss. Bad bosses should be fired. Rapidly.

Leaders are seen as the little angels on your right shoulder. They are touted as visionary, mindful, emotionally intelligent. They are reflective, big-picture thinkers and assume every employee is intrinsically motivated. All that’s needed are programs and career tracks that take into account an employee’s personal vision and motivations and everyone will live happily ever after.

Except that it rarely happens that way. And since it takes a boss to assume control of this Pollyanna culture and turn it around, we immediately think the boss needs leadership training. As if leadership was a skill that could be taught.

Smart people know that training won’t work, coaching will. Except that if a person doesn’t WANT to be more mindful, reflective, or visionary, it’s a waste of time. The only winner is the ICF certified coach. Bad bosses that don’t want to change and cannot be made into leaders. Leaders are not the immediate answer to falling profits, declining customers, unproductive employees, or changing markets. A good boss is.

Like the infographic, a good boss takes control and makes stuff happen. Rather than reflect and be mindful, they put hands on and get stuff done. Rather than agonize over the unproductive employees, trying to emulate a Google culture, or creatively incentivizing, they realize the best solution is to get rid of them. The good boss delegates to competent people. The good boss takes and shares the credit. The good boss also takes the blame. All of the blame. The good boss makes reading and improving skills a habit. The good boss reproduces others. The good boss has their hands on the controls and yet doesn’t have to have full control.

Contrast that with the archetypical leader, up on the mountain creating a vision, taking non-skill based courses through large profit-hungry training vendors. While they try to be mindful, chaos runs rampant. While they take time for reflection, the products are no longer selling. While they create and align their personal vision with the organizational vision, competition has already pinned their organization into a corner they’ll never get out of.

I had a really bad boss when I was in the Navy back in 1996. It was during the time I was enrolled in my Masters program in Organizational Leadership. He was the topic of one of my research papers. I took each of his bad behaviors and contrasted them with the favorable, leadership equivalent. I got a good grade. Except that my bad boss was just that, a bad boss, not a non-leader. Him learning leadership skills, being more mindful and reflective would not have made my life easier. He could have just learned a few skills to become a good boss.

You don’t replace an old toothbrush with a power washer, you get another toothbrush.

You don’t replace a worn-out car with a jet pack, you buy a new car.

You don’t replace a bad boss with a leader.   You replace them with a good boss.

It’s good to be a good boss. A good boss is not an enemy.

So how about working to develop good bosses? We have enough visionaries. We need some people to get stuff done!

Quit Following the Herd

people running marathonEvery now and then I notice cattle on my 32 acres here in Tennessee.   I don’t have cattle, but my neighbor does. All it takes is one cow to step over the wire fence that separates our property and the rest seem to follow. I don’t mind it, but it’s interesting to me how cattle are herd animals. One takes the lead and the rest fall in line.

I see this in other areas of my life as well. In my field of expertise, there are a whole lot of experts. One comes up with an idea such as mindfulness, and the rest of the herd lines up. People quote the expert, read what the expert writes, buys certifications the expert sells, and proudly tell other people about what the expert says. Then a new expert shows up and starts the idea that the newest generation in the workforce, Generation Z will do such and such and businesses have to start changing their work processes and benefits packages to accommodate them. And then of course the herd falls right in line!

You’ve probably experienced the herd mentality too. One of your neighbors takes a cruise. You get jealous and don’t want to be a loser so you book a cruise. Now all of your neighbors book cruises so they won’t feel left out. You don’t even want to take a cruise, but you certainly don’t want to be excluded from the herd.

Keeping up with any herd is a recipe for disappointment, frustration, and lack of creativity. A good friend of mine used to stress out when she’d see a colleague post on LinkedIn “Honored to be speaking to the Society of Transgendered Engineers today” or something similar. She felt as though she wasn’t keeping up with the herd and got frustrated.

I gave up on my professional herd long ago. Nothing personal, but I figured there was enough new knowledge out there to chase on my own. Sure there is safety in the herd, but I’d rather risk going it alone.  It’s how you get noticed.  It’s how you get quoted.

What about you? Would you rather lead a herd or just take your place in line? It’s higher risk, but much higher reward!

This week, look at your herd.  Are they worth following?  Should you be leading?

Book Review: The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

The ONE Thing:  The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller is the first book I read this year as part of my read-one-book-per-week goal this year.  It’s fitting as it’s all about prioritizing and making sure your focus is clear.

Keller stresses the idea that ONE thing should dictate our goals, how we prioritize, and how we plan.

Key Learning for Me

Quit focusing on being busy and devote a block of time each day to accomplish that ONE thing (the thing that if I do it, will make a huge difference in achieving my goal)

Grade:  A+

Recommended?  Absolutely – for everyone, not just business people!

The Importance of Finishing

nimbleMy wife and I were basking in the glow of our newly awarded Master of Arts degrees back in 1997, celebrating with nearly all of our cohorts in the Organizational Leadership program with Chapman University. It was a big occasion for both of us, having been the first in either family to get ANY college degree, much less a graduate degree.

The program was a rigorous one. We had a core of classes to attend, numerous papers and group projects, a big final paper of 60-80 pages, and finally, a 4-hour comprehensive exam.

But one of our cohorts, a guy named Rick wasn’t there to celebrate. He made it all the way to the exam part of the program and got cold feet. We wondered why he wasn’t at the testing center. The program allowed you two attempts and if you failed, you were only awarded a graduate certificate. The following year, Rick again failed to take the exam. We never heard from him again.

Anyone can start something. Many of you have started new resolutions this year which probably include the old stand-bys of quitting smoking or losing weight. Some of you have already given up. Some are going strong right now but will lose steam and quit in a few weeks or months. Finally, some of you will beat the odds and finish strong. You’ll attain your goal.

We are surrounded by quitters. I wouldn’t say it’s human nature, but it’s common human practice. We’re inspired by those who achieve greatness but fail to realize these people aren’t really great, they just stick with it. The good news is that all of us have it in ourselves to succeed. We just need to keep pushing forward.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying successful people. I find they have three things in common:

  1. They dream big.
  1. They break their progress in achieving these dreams into manageable steps.
  1. They keep moving forward, refusing to stop, even if it means moving slowly.

I read somewhere that whether you run a 6-minute mile or a 12-minute mile, you still have run a mile.

If you’ve already quit, don’t wait for next January to start back up. If you didn’t set any goals, again, it’s not too late.

Nobody said that a year HAS to start on January 1. Yours can start tomorrow.

Why not get busy?

It’s Time to Ditch Conventional Thinking

Music has been important to me as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to have a big stack of 45s (that’s a small vinyl record with one song on the front side and one on the back just in case you can’t remember) of my favorite songs. I would buy vinyl albums when I could afford it and play them on a record player in my room.

Right about the time I got my driver’s license, I discovered 8-Track tapes. I could pop one in on my small stereo and also in the tape deck in my 1967 Ford Pickup truck. Shortly before I left for boot camp in 1983, I purchased a 1982 Mercury Cougar with a cassette deck. I traded in all of my 8-Tracks for cassettes. Soon I discovered that if I bought a boom box with dual cassette players, I could make mix tapes with my favorite songs.

Then came CDs. I began purchasing all of my favorite albums on CD knowing that these would never get twisted or warped like my cassettes did. Even though I still used cassettes in my Walkman when working out or going out for a run, the CD was my prime way of enjoying music.

Then, in 2003 I discovered digital music. I bought a small MP3 player and would listen to my music electronically while commuting on the Metro to my last job I had before starting my business. That cheap MP3 player was replaced by the iPod. Now I had nearly 3,000 songs on a device the size of a pack of cigarettes. iPods got smaller and soon I could have music with me wherever I went. The iTunes catalog was massive and I could get my favorite songs for just $1.29.

Soon I noticed my kids ditching iTunes for this thing called Spotify. It came to my attention first as the Verizon data plans were exhausted two weeks into the billing cycle. I asked the kids why they chose to rent their music rather than own it. They said it was way better. I couldn’t imagine anything better than iTunes.

I’ve officially been a Spotify Premium customer for one month. It’s the best thing ever created for music! Playlists that can be created and collaborated on and nearly every song ever played available for download. I even broke down and bought some Bluetooth headphones so I could use my phone to play music at the gym.

It’s been a very long (and expensive) journey.

Each of my music transitions followed this same pattern:

Dismissal – Curiosity – Guarded Interest – Interest – Guarded Enthusiasm – Radical Embracement.

In my experience I’ve seen individuals and organizations follow that same pattern. Some consultants call this Change Management but since I think buzzwords are lame, maybe just think about this as the process people follow when they are confronted by something new.

In my case, my musical interests are satisfied by something so radically different than a stack of scratched 45s that I would not have been able to conceive it back in 1975. As a kid I might have embraced it but I’m sure if I were an adult back then I would not have even budged from my comfortable thinking.

Our challenge today is that conventional thinking and processes are safe and make sense. We’ve adjusted, adapted, and accepted enough for one day. Something new is not needed or welcomed.

As we enter a new year, maybe it’s time to stop thinking conventionally and start processing in leap-frogged increments. Not what is, but what will be. Not one step ahead, but five. I think about this while watching Shark Tank (and commenting under my breath like most people “now why didn’t I think of that?”)

Music is so much better now on Spotify. Will I be willing to ditch my Spotify for the next big trend?

Will you be able to ditch your conventional processes and thoughts for the next big development?

Let’s make this year the one where we actually do!