Raising the level of your leadership




Boss Is A Four-Letter Word


Boss Sign“Dick, they hate you.”

“Who hates me?”

“The people who work for you hate you.”

That was a tough day. Someone decided to tell me the truth about how I was doing in my first position as a boss. It was the day I learned that boss is a four-letter word. It was the day that I learned that controlling is not leading. It was the day I learned that leadership is a job, not a position. It was the day I began to transition from “me” to “we.” It was one of the hardest days of my life, but one of the most important.

Have you had a day like that? Do you know if you are a boss or a leader?

If “authority” is a word you use a lot—you’re a boss.

If you believe people work for you, not the organization—you’re a boss.

If you control and approve every action and decision—you’re a boss.

If you believe you have all the answers—you’re a boss.

If you love policies and rules rather than principles and values—you’re a boss.

If those same policies and rules don’t apply to you—you’re a boss.

If the best and brightest don’t stay long—you’re a boss.

If everything comes to a standstill when you’re gone—you’re a boss.

If you use budgets as a hammer—you’re a boss.

Don’t trust yourself to answer these questions objectively. Ask someone. If you are as fortunate as I was, they will tell you the truth about yourself. It may hurt, but you need to know because, “Boss is a four-letter word.”

If this post was interesting and useful, please forward it to a friend.

© Copyright 2017 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Act Like It’s Already 2017


Dec2016There are 16 days left in 2016; about 10-12 are workdays for most people. The truth is, what you do these last days of 2016 will have a huge impact on how you start 2017. So start 2017 with a clean slate, not bogged down with 2016 carryovers.

#1 Do Five Things You Have Been Putting Off For Weeks There’s a “call back” note on your desk…a garage to clean…a report to write…a visit to the doctor…you know what it is. Don’t let it continue to nag you in 2017.

#2 Spend Time With The Water Boys In Your Organization The water boy goes about his job in anonymity. She cleans the office at night or he opens up the church early on Sunday mornings. Take 15 minutes to sit down and talk. Learn about his hobby and her kids. Listen for that hidden message from the heart. Say “thank you.” It will be a great finish to the water boy’s year…and yours.

#3 Forgive Someone There’s a co-worker, family member, neighbor, or ___?___ you need to forgive—for your sake not theirs.

From the mega-best seller, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand:

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird’s death to free himself, Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant. During the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird.”

When we don’t forgive, we become a victim twice. First, when we are hurt, and second, when we chain ourselves to the pain. Bitterness and a desire for revenge are heavier weights than the original hurt; carrying them will wear you out emotionally. It’s not easy, but 2017 will be a much better year if you let go.

#4 Clean Out Your Inbox My inbox has 17 items this morning; my goal is zero on 12/31. Zero may seem an impossibility to you, so how about 10? Or 20? Don’t come in on January 2nd with a long list of 2016 carryover emails—get rid of them!

#5 Plan Your First Day Of 2017 How you start 2017 will have a big impact on how you finish 2017. So hit the ground running on Day One. Before you turn out the lights on your last 2016 workday, make a list of five things to do first on the morning of January 2 (or whatever your first workday is). Limit your “holiday small talk” to an hour or so, then pull out your list and get to it. Go home Day One with five ✓ marks instead of “I’m already behind.”

You’ll be glad you did.

If this post was interesting and useful to you, please forward it to a friend. Thanks.

© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Coach ’em Up


grunge-football-diagramWith only three returning starters, and sophomores playing leading roles, they started 1-5…and some of those losses were really bad. Most teams would have given up and started thinking about next year. They didn’t.

The season was more than half over when they went on 6-1 run which put them in the final four for the state championship. During the 6-1 streak, they beat two teams they had lost to earlier. They lost in the final minutes to an 11-2 team on its home field. What a turn-around!

This story is more about the coach—the leader—than the players. Turnarounds are always about the leader. Teams, churches, businesses, schools, or nations don’t just turnaround on their own—someone leads them. If you are a leader in your organization, it’s your job. And it’s your job today! Don’t fall into the trap of “if I just had better players….” Yes, get better players, but don’t wait for that, make the players you have now better—coach ‘em up.

Some thoughts about coach ‘em up:

  • If you give up, so will your team.
  • Telling them to try harder—work harder—is not coaching ‘em up.
  • Hope is fueled by progress. Look for and celebrate progress, no matter how small.
  • Fun and foxholes are what pull teams together. Find a way to have fun when you are in a 1-5 foxhole.
  • If you don’t change the way you coach, don’t expect them to change the way they play…or work.

Is your organization in a 1-5 slump? Maybe you do need some better players, but in the meantime, coach up the ones you have. That’s what leaders do!

And if you can’t do it, the only solution is to coach yourself up or get a better leader.

If this post was interesting and useful, please forward it to friend.

© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Be A Coffee Bean


coffeeIf leadership was easy, anyone could do it. The climate leaders operate in is always changing: sunny one day, stormy the next. All leaders inevitably face hot water—even boiling water. A major customer cancels THE order you need to make this year’s numbers. Three months before you are going to introduce a new and exciting, market-making widget, Apple hits the market with its iWidget. Batteries in cell phones catch on fire or an earthquake shuts off your supply line for six months. A popular staff member leaves and church attendance drops 20% or a popular chef leaves and reservations drop by 20%. (You get the idea.)

In these “boiling hot” times, you get to choose whether you are a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean.

Boiling water changes the carrots. They wilt, turn soft, and end up at the bottom of the stew pot.

Boiling water changes the eggs. The shell looks the same, but inside they are entirely different—hard, even tough, and they get chopped up so they don’t even look like eggs anymore.

Boiling water changes the…opps, I started to say coffee beans. But actually, coffee beans change the boiling water—it becomes coffee—aromatic, strong, flavorful, better. You can’t drink boiling water, but coffee is great.

Whatever climate you are operating in, be a coffee bean, change the climate instead of letting the climate change you. If you don’t know—get help. If you don’t, you’ll end up at the bottom of the stew pot. And you know what happens to stew when there is nothing left but over-cooked carrots.

This post was inspired by a story in Gullible’s Travel by Topper Long. Thanks, Topper.

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© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company.

Whales and People


whalehand2In 2005, a female humpback whale became entangled in the 240-foot-long lines of twelve crab pots, each weighing about 90 pounds. Eventually, the whale was going to lose its struggle to survive and drown. After a fisherman called for help, a four-man rescue team of divers arrived within an hour and began the dangerous hours-long task of cutting her free. According to the rescuers, after she was free, “she swam in what seemed like joyous circles…then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around, she was thanking them.”

People can be entangled and weighed down by a lot of things that can tire them out and drown them. Jesus once said that the Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders”—speaking of religious rules that were man-made, not God given (Matthew 23:4).

It is not just in religion, it also happens in businesses, colleges, or governments—any organization that is composed of people.

Common crab-traps hung on people are:

Criticism (instead of encouragement)
A non-responsive bureaucracy
Outdated policies
Unclear expectations
Bosses (instead of leaders)
I know best; do it my way
_____?_____ (you fill in the blank)

What do crab-traps do? They make people crabby, sink morale, and lower productivity.

If you want to know what makes people feel entangled and weighed down, ask them.

If they won’t tell you, then you are the problem. You have created a culture that buries the truth.

Maybe—if you are lucky—one of your people will tell you the truth. It may hurt (it did me), but in the long run, it will be the best thing that ever happened to you.

By the way, like the whales, if you cut them free, they’ll thank you.

Thanks to my friend, Topper Long, who shared this story with me.

If this post was interesting and useful, please forward it to a friend.

© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company.

Excel Your Way To…


Man Sweeping Seattle Street

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Our pastor, Darren Whitehead, used this MLK Jr. quote to emphasize the importance of Christians being the best employees—no matter what they do. If we want to have influence in our culture/society, the marketplace where we work is our best opportunity. After all, we are there every day and we are watched every day.

According to Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus….” What is at stake when we work in Christ’s name? Two things: #1 our honor and #2 His honor. That’s two great reasons to be an excellent street sweeper, or hamburger flipper, or accountant, or __________________ (fill in the blank with what you do).

Excellence in the job you have is the path to the job you want. And it is the path to influence in any job you have. How can a street sweeper have influence? By being excellent. How can you have influence? By being excellent.

Excel your way to…influence.

Excel your way to…personal honor and dignity.

Excel your way to…honoring God in everything you do.

Excel your way to…the job you want.

No excuses. Quit complaining. Start today.

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© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Pumpin’ Gas


GasPumpWhile taking Aaron (my oldest grandson) home from cross-country practice, the conversation went something like this:

“Good.”

“How are you doing otherwise?”

“I’m good. School is my biggest challenge right now.”

Sensing a teaching moment, I responded:

“School may be your biggest challenge now, but without it, the rest of your life will be a big challenge. You’ll end up pumpin’ gas for a living.” (Wise and brilliant—don’t you think?)

A puzzled look was followed by 30 seconds of silence, then:

“Papa, what does pumpin’ gas mean?”

Duh. Aaron has grown up in the self-service world. He has never seen a gas station attendant fill your gas tank, clean your windshield, and check your tires and oil, all for 25-50¢ per gallon. He had no idea what I was talking about. Of course, I explained that today all they do is stand behind the counter—hidden by lottery tickets—and take your money. But at $8/hour, it’s a tough life so keep at it in school. He understood that.

Another communication failure added to the list. The purpose of communication is to be understood, not to be brilliant or eloquent. It helps if you speak the same language and use relevant illustrations. The responsibility for this is on the communicator, not the listener. Attention Dick: Aaron did not grow up in the fifties—speak his language, not yours.

If you’ve had a similar experience, share it in the comments block below.

If this post was interesting and useful, please forward it to friend.

© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company.

Keeping It Simple Is Not Simple


simplify
KISS stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” But it’s not that simple to keep it simple. Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership has great advice in Simplification Made Simple. Click and read. You’ll be glad you did.

If you have any simplification failures you are willing to share, use the Comment section.

Thanks, Dick.

When You’ve Finally Had Enough…


Fired“…taking care of your people does not mean protecting them from the consequences of their own behavior. That’s the path to irresponsibility.” (L. David Marquet, Turn The Ship Around)

When he is late to work two or three times a week…

When she complains about the new software instead of learning how to use it…

When he spends his first two hours on Monday morning talking about football or his golf game…

When she loves to gossip…

When he answers text messages in the middle of meetings…

When she starts packing up to leave 30 minutes before closing…

I wouldn’t use a sticky note, but I know what I would do. What about you?

Jack Welch says, “If you like to fire people, you don’t belong in leadership. But if you are unwilling to fire people, you also don’t belong in leadership.”

Share a story in the comments block—I’d like to hear from you.

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© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Hardy Boys vs Harry Potter


HardyBoysHarryPotterMy youngest grandson, Seth, was at our place last night doing his homework: reading a book, The City Of Ember. According to Amazon: “The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race.” But, woe is me, the lights in Ember are flickering so an “ancient message” must be found that will the save the city and the entire human race.

When I was Seth’s age (a long time ago), my favorite reading was the Hardy Boys: two brothers who “sleuthed around” catching the town burglar. Not exactly “save the human race” kind of stuff. A few years back, I was sure that my oldest grandson, Aaron, would love the Hardy Boys so I bought him one book which a couple of weeks later I found discarded—unread—under his bed. However, put a Harry Potter book in front of him, he won’t put it down until finished. So, Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort and Draco Malfoy win out (450M copies in 20 years) over Frank and Joe, the teenage-amateur detectives from Bayport. Imagine that. What is this world coming to?

One of the major challenges—especially if you are my age—of 21st century life and leadership is letting go of the 20th century. Everything has changed: culture, technology, values, preferences, demographics, social media and so on. Even if you don’t like some of these changes, you better understand them and know how they will affect your life, business, church, community and family. Otherwise, like the Hardy Boys, you may wind up discarded under the bed.

What are you having a hard time letting go of? Let me know in the comments section.

If this post was interesting and useful, please forward it to a friend.

Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Story

15 August 2016


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  • On Leading Well…

    "Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom."

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