Raising the level of your leadership

Herding Cats

Annabelle (picture) showed up on my daughter’s (Cathy) doorstep about 15 years ago. Minnie showed up on my other daughter’s (Elizabeth) doorstep last summer. Nuisance “turned up one day at our window, a little black cat with bowlegs and signs of the stress that spending too long outside alone can bring” (“our window” referring to the home of Gwyn Teatro).

If you have a cat, you know that the expression “herding cats” is an overstatement. You can’t herd even one cat. And the truth is, you can’t herd people either.

For the rest of Nuisance’s story and its parallels to relationships at home or in the workplace, read Gwen Teatro’s post at http://gwynteatro.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/four-leadership-reminders-from-nuisance-the-cat

Gwyn Teatro is always worth reading, and Nuisance’s story is both amusing (especially if you have ever been adopted by a cat) and thought provoking.

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

© Copyright 2013 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Hitting The Mark In 2013

2013 is only four days away. Are you ready? Here are a few suggestions that will help you.

#1  Have no more than three personal goals for the year. Choose three things that are doable that will really make a difference in your life.

#2  Choose one goal that is primary—an “if-I-only-get one-thing-done” goal, this is it.

#3  Plan (something that can be measured) in detail for January through March. It is important to get off to a good start. In late March, plan for April through June, and so on.

#4  Make sure you have an accountability mechanism. Post your plan on the refrigerator (my way) or give it to a friend who won’t say “don’t worry about it” if you begin to slip.

Remember these principles:

Erwin McManus—“Living in the past is an enemy of the future.”
Don’t let past failures keep you from trying again.

Chinese Proverb—“If you don’t change direction, you’ll end up where you are headed.”
Nothing will change without change.

John Maxwell—“You don’t have to be great to start; but you have to start to be great.”
2013 is as good a time as any to start. Why wait?

Tom Landry—“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”
It won’t just happen. You need a plan.

 Best wishes for a great 2013. I’m pulling for you to hit the mark—dead center!

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

 © Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Wind Down Or Wind Up?

Tomorrow is November 1. There are only two months left in 2012 and they are crammed full of diversions: a presidential election; football season; Thanksgiving; Christmas; New Year’s Eve. But looming only 61 days away are the challenges and opportunities of 2013. The question is: Are you going to “wind it down” or “wind it up” between now and year end? Will it make any difference? Oh, yes.

How you finish 2012 will have a big influence on what kind of year 2013 will be. You can wind down and enter 2013 with little momentum, or you can wind it up and enter 2013 with momentum. It’s your choice.

Here are a few suggestions:

At work:
     ◊  Stay focused and wound up on Monday through Friday, but shut it down on weekends.
     ◊  Make a list of 8 things that if done, would really jump start 2013. Get them all done (that’s one per week).
     ◊  Repair or refresh some working relationships. Spend 15 minutes per week with people you have been avoiding because of tension.

At home:
     ◊  On those shut-down weekends, spend time with your spouse and kids doing what they want to do. It’s okay to miss a football game.
     ◊  Free up weekend time by doing one errand every day on the way home from work.
     ◊  Do less. You do not have to win the neighborhood award for the best decorated house and you do not have to have 15 courses at holiday meals.
     ◊  Spend less. Don’t torture yourself the first three months of 2013 paying off 2012 bills.

     ◊  To free up time, cut back the length of your workouts, but not the frequency. That way you will “maintain” but not slip back.
     ◊  Eat all you want on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but cut back on the days leading up to the turkey.
     ◊  Worship more. Thanksgiving is about gratitude and Christmas is about Jesus.
     ◊  Give more. You already have enough stuff.

If none of these suggestions are right for you, make your own list. It’s simple. Ask yourself: What will really make a difference in 2013 if I do it in November-December of 2012—or don’t do it? So wind it up, but not so tight it breaks. Then when January comes, you won’t dread it.

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

© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

Why Bother Unless…

It’s that time of year again…time for New Year Resolutions (NYRs). More than half of us make NYRs, but so what? One out of three give up before the end of January; one out of four don’t succeed on even one of their resolutions. Only one out twelve are successful on all their NYRs.

I make NYRs almost every year. I have never been fully successful and some years have been in the give up before the end of January group. I don’t say “I give up”—they just fade away. So for me and for most of us, “Why bother?” is a valid question. Actually, “Why bother unless I do something different?” is the question.

I am determined that 2012 will be different (sound familiar?). There are four things I intend to do differently.

#1  I will set reasonable and achievable goals. I don’t have any BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) in mind for 2012, just progress and completion. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t have a BHAG, but if you do, consider making it your only NYR because BHAGs require more than their share of time, energy, etc.

#2  I will have no more than five resolutions. The guy in the cartoon has already lost. There is no way for him to even remember, much less keep, such a long list of NYRs. I will set one goal in five areas: body, mind, soul, spirit and vocation (Hard Lessons). If I make progress in all five by December 31, then 2012 will be a great year.

#3  I will measure things that drive results, not just the results. For example, none of us ever lose weight by tracking how much we weigh. The daily weigh-in is a waste of time unless something is happening to actually drive weight loss. So, I intend to track what I am eating and how often I exercise, knowing these will drive the weight loss I desire.

#4  I will go public with my NYRs and ask someone to hold me accountable. Accountability is the key. Let’s be honest. It’s much easier to slack off on a secret NYR than a public one. Dottie (my wife) will be my accountability partner on some; some men I meet with regularly on others.

One final thing to remember: a good start is really important. Making progress is a great motivation to continue. If you are on track at the end of January, you will likely continue. Start slow and steady, then gain momentum as the year goes on.

By the way, I will let you know how I am doing on a regular basis. Hopefully, this will not be another “why bother?” year.

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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

More Things To Do? Oh, No!

Only three weeks until 2012—21 days. It’s a busy time of year. There are parties and Christmas programs to attend; shopping, cooking and decorating to finish up; guest bedrooms to clean; maybe changing the oil and vacuuming the car before that frantic Christmas Eve trip to Grandma’s. Plus, there are still customers to please (especially in retail), sermons to prepare, etc., etc., etc.

No one needs a list of more things to do between now and January 1st. I’m going to give you one anyway. Why? Because you need to finish well in 2011 and these five things will help.

#1  Do That Thing You Have Been Putting Off For Months  It’s that “call back” note on your desk…the garage to clean (me!)…a report to write…a visit to the doctor…you know what it is. Don’t let it continue to nag you in 2012.

#2  Spend Time With The Water Boy  Every organization has a water boy. 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  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 2012 will be a much better year if you let go.

#4  Escape For A Day  For just one day, turn off your iPhone…don’t check email…turn off the tv. Let your mind and emotions fully escape and rest. The world will still be there the next day.

#5  Be Thankful  Starting today and every day through December 31, be thankful for one specific thing. Did you have a warm place to sleep? Did you see a Salvation Army bell ringer? Were the police on duty on Christmas day? A list of 21 things will be easy if you focus on what you have instead of what you don’t have. A good starting place is to thank God for the grace and mercy he offers to all of us in Jesus.

No matter how busy you are, you have time to do these five things. Start 2012 by finishing well in 2011. You’ll be glad you did.

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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

Don't Fix Your Leaks With Horse Manure

Lesson #1 From The Johnstown Flood.

On May 31, 1889, at 3:10pm, the South Fork Dam collapsed, releasing nearly 5 billion gallons of water in 35-40 minutes into the Little Conemaugh River (about the same amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls). One hour later, a wall of water—60 feet high in some places—hit the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, devastating the town and sweeping more than 2200 people to their deaths. The courts ruled the disaster was an Act Of God, and the heavy rainfall certainly was. But the collapse of the dam was caused by the acts of men. There is a lot for us to learn from the story of the Johnstown Flood, lessons that can help us avoid disaster in our personal lives and in our businesses or ministries.

The first break in the South Fork Dam occurred in 1862. However, since the lake was only half full and the watchman reduced the pressure on the dam by opening the relief valves, there was little flooding and the event was soon forgotten. The dam was not repaired and the lake was nearly empty and unused for almost 20 years until the South Fork Fishing And Hunting Club purchased the property and undertook repairs. Well, repairs may be an exaggeration because what they really did—to save money—was:

“…set about repairing the dam by boarding up the stone culvert
and dumping in every manner of local rock, mud, brush, hemlock boughs, hay,
just about everything at hand. Even horse manure was used in some quantity.”
David McCullough
The Johnstown Flood

I do not claim to be an expert in the construction or repair of earthen dams. But I am pretty sure that brush, hemlock boughs, hay and horse manure are not particularly effective materials for repairing a 60 foot high dam holding back 5 billion gallons of water. Relief and repair are not the same thing. It is often easier, less costly, and faster to fix problems with horse manure, but sooner or later….

Problems do not go away, but they do go underground or are covered with horse manure. It will always be more costly in the long run to ignore, patch, or cover problems rather than fix them. The South Fork Dam was certain to collapse when the pressure got high enough, and whatever you have in your life…your business…your ministry that is patched with horse manure is certain to collapse too.

Start today. Don’t wait until it is too late. Use concrete and rebar to fix the leaks in your life and organization. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

[For the full story of the flood, read The Johnstown Flood  by David McCullough, my favorite author in the genre of American history.]

Get Started Today!

How long is your list?

Are there three things you really need or want to get done this year? Seven? Eleven?

How long have you been putting them off? How many times have you started, failed, and given up? How many times have you said, “I’ll start tomorrow” and didn’t?

If you don’t get started, what is at stake? Is your health at risk? Your finances? Your family? Your business? Your church? Your self-esteem?

Wouldn’t you love to get rid of the guilt and disappointment from past failures?

Maybe today is the day you should “forget what lies behind…and press on toward the goal….”
(Philippians 3:13-14; thanks for the reminder, Ken.)

Whatever it is you need to do—or want to do—whatever goals and dreams you have, remember:


  • On Leading Well…

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