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Yesterday I had lunch with a friend of mine who’s recovering from some health issues over the last couple of years. As we were talking and she was telling me some of her plans, I couldn’t help but remember, then pass on to her, things I’d advised her to do in the past that would have helped alleviate some of what she was going to be doing now.

Teaching is listening, learning is talking
Darren Kuropatwa via Compfight

It got me thinking about why, even if advice is good, so many people don’t take it, or listen to it, even if they asked you for that advice. Of course I came up with an answer; whether it’s valid or not, I leave up to you.

In my opinion, much like motivation, people take to it when they’re ready for it. I know people, including myself, who couldn’t be bothered earlier in their lives with taking time out of their day to read something motivational or listen to something motivational because there were too many other things going on, that now seem to find reasons everyday to consume it because they enjoy the boost it provides. I remember a book titled Illusions that my friend Kelvin gave me in the early 2000′s that meant absolutely nothing to me until 2004, when my mind was in a much different place.

When it comes to advice, I often don’t like giving it until asked. That’s because I’m one of those people who doesn’t like unsolicited advice. I know that sounds like a conundrum since I give people advice on this blog all the time but I see this blog as a place where people come to see what I might have to say willingly because they might be looking for a solution. When I’m ready to look for a solution to an issue I’ll reach out or research it on my own; I’m like that, so I assume others are like that also.

At the same time, I rarely ask for advice. Instead, I’ll ask questions about something specific, part of my researching something, to help me think about something in a better way. I believe that if I ask questions properly that people will give me the responses I need, not necessarily saying what I expect, and that’s a type of education that works for me.

When people ask me specifically for advice and I have enough background to give suggestions, rather than telling people what to do, I always expect that they’ll take it under advisement, and hopefully do something similar, if not that exact thing, because I always have a basis for what I’m telling someone. If I can’t help I tell people I can’t, so that I can reduce the probability that I’m giving someone bad advice that won’t benefit them.

The thing is that these are often people who I know. What about people I don’t know that well or, better yet, what if it’s people I work with in some fashion? Should the expectation be that they’ll listen better and use the advice more often than anyone else?

Farmers learn in Bangladesh
International Maize
and Wheat Improvement Center

via Compfight

Here’s a great leadership lesson for you: never take for granted that people are listening to you, or understand you. Have you ever watched a TV show where someone is giving instructions to others and those people remember everything they’re being told? Have you ever sat there trying to remember some of what you heard and realizing that even if you were riveted to the program that sometimes you still have no idea what’s going on?

I certainly have. And I’ve come to realize that if I think something is important enough that not only do I need to make sure I’m not talking too fast or using language that’s too vague or too hard to understand, but that once I’m done and I ask the person if they understand what I said to give me their impression of what I just told them and what I hope they’re going to do. I find that at least half the time those same folks who told me they got it have no real clue what I’ve just told them, which means I have to say it again.

This can be frustrating for a leader because they might not feel like they have the time to go over it all again. However, what everyone needs to realize is that there’s really only one group of employees that will get it right the first time, every time, and why they get it… military personnel.

Why do they get it? Because they first go through rigorous training where they do something, then do it again and again and again and… you get the picture. The early weeks of being in the military is all about training and precision. Once the basics are learned, all anyone has to do is a quick modification and soldiers get it the first time. They’re taught that’s the expectation, and if they can’t get it they won’t be in the military long.

With friends, the only expectation you should ever have is that they at least let you talk to them the first time. With employees, you need to learn that training is always important and that constantly verifying competencies is how you can determine if adding something new to the mix will go smoothly or not. If you as a leader isn’t willing to go that far often enough and people can’t retain what you’re telling them, it’s your fault.

Now that I’ve told you that, and I told you what I do, can you tell me you’ve understood what I’ve written here and what to do? Have you read these words and come up with your own plan? Or did you read them and discard them? Leave a comment below and let me know… only if you read this of course. :-)
 

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Over this past weekend, one of my wife’s friends, who used to be a co-worker, stopped by the house. I hadn’t seen her in a long while, but I knew that over the past 6 months her department had undergone a management change. I asked her how things were going with the new manager.

Her response was shocking to me; she said:

credit

“I don’t know if things are better or not. Whereas the previous manager was always coming upstairs barking at us to have better production times, even though she didn’t know what we did, after the new manager’s first week we almost never see or hear from her. What’s worse is that we had some bigwigs come visit the department. She asked one of the other techs to put a little presentation together, she never talked to him about it, the day came and she never showed up, he did a great job, enough that the CEO of the hospital sent a letter saying how impressed everyone was, and then she took all the credit for putting it together.”

I was appalled. I was thinking about the type of gall it takes to claim credit for the work someone else did without being any part of it. You can bet she’d have been quick to chew him out if it hadn’t gone so well.

It’s bad enough being an absentee leader; the workers have no idea if she even knows what they do, which is pretty much like the previous manager, only they knew she didn’t know. It’s worse when you minimize the work employees do, to the extent that you claim credit for their success as if they didn’t have anything to do with it.

Can you imagine how demoralized the employees are? If this particular department had a problem with employees before what makes anyone reading this think they’ll feel any better now? Whereas previous management was so bad that many good employees left, bad management started off well by removing some of the less competent elements of the department, then become one herself, and probably doesn’t realize that a couple of the good employees that are left are thinking about leaving. Where will this leave the department? Will anyone even know how to evaluate it if they leave?

People who work for you or do work for you are not your slave. They’re not there just to make you look good; this isn’t a ghostwriting opportunity, where you get to pay someone else to put together something so you can claim authority you don’t have. I always say that no business is as strong as the employees who are willing to come to work everyday and give their all.

Employees don’t really ask for all that much; they want to be paid fairly, have an opportunity to have some say in the work they do, and get a little bit of appreciation. Employers who don’t do any of these things almost always find themselves going through employees in big numbers and wondering why they can’t find anyone qualified.

Who’s not really qualified in this instance?
 

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Once again I’m packing up my hotel room so I can move everything to the main office and then go home once again for what always feels like a very short weekend. I absolutely hate the process of packing up my room, but last year I was paying for time that I wasn’t here and it got pretty expensive. I have better ways of throwing my money away where I actually enjoy myself.

Fair Dealing
Giulia Forsythe via Compfight

The strange thing is that I never feel the same stress when I’m leaving home to go out of town. You’d think that pressure would be greater and yet it never is. There are two reasons for that. One, I know I can always buy whatever I need when I’m out of town so there’s no big deal if I forget something. Two… I have a cheat sheet to help me pack.

I created it back in 2005 when I was doing my second long traveling stint. Because I drove, and of course times were different then, I could take everything with me in the car, which was better because things cost less at home than in Westchester County. Also, I was packing a suitcase every week as opposed to now, and I also did laundry every week as opposed to now.

Why don’t I have a sheet when I’m out of town and it’s time to pack? I don’t really know. I realize that it might help cut down some of the stress, but I also know that when push comes to shove, I’ll get it done, tossed into one of my two boxes, my laundry basket or my main travel bag, which I brought the first time I went out of town and have left ever since.

I tell this story because I know it’s the story of so many businesses in this country, including where I’m working right now. There are standards that have been passed down over time but few actually written policies. There are some written procedures, but that’s about it.

Why the need for written policies? Because things change and people change and interpretations change. Because most information gets passed down by someone who heard if from someone else who heard it from someone else… how many times can you say that? You also know it’s true.

A lot of what I do comes down to interpretation. Suffice is to say that not everyone agrees with my interpretation of things because I don’t agree with everything someone else says all the time. However, everything would go along much more smoothly if there were specific policies to address things as opposed to one overriding policy that, though it seems like it could be a good idea, is lacking because it really doesn’t address the issue and leaves so many gray areas unattended.

In any case I did a video on the subject as well to help hammer out the issue. What do you think about having written policies and procedures? Helpful, needed, or just a waste of time? Check out the video, then let me know.
 


http://youtu.be/MVZuz1uZzLw

 

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There was an ad for an anti-perspirant from a couple of decades ago with the slogan “never let them see you sweat”. It promised to keep you dry during those tense moments when you start sweating under your arms during stressful times, though it had a humorous bent to it.

sky dive
Creative Commons License Bilal Kamoon via Compfight

There’s nothing more powerful than being confident. When you’re confident you do your best work. When you’re confident people respond to you in the most positive ways. Confidence is infectious if it’s genuine.

Just to get this out of the way, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and sometimes people can’t define which one it is, including the person who’s confident. Telling someone how you accomplished something fantastic can be taken in different ways based on the audience you’re delivering it to and how you tell the tale. I think discriminating people will figure it out, but sometimes you can’t control how everyone will see you.

The strange thing about confidence is how many people lack it. Indeed, those who lack confidence might not always be ready to accept yours. If you’re confident that you’re going to be a success in business but other people have no background in what you’re trying to do, they’ll find it difficult to see things your way. Thus, either inadvertently or on purpose they’ll try to diffuse your confidence with “common sense”. If they don’t know what they’re talking about shame on them; just go on with your bad self.

Let’s talk about what brings about confidence. I’m going to give you 5 ways to identify confidence and one or two of them are going to throw you off. Yet these are my thoughts on the subject; give me yours later in the comments.

1. Confident people often have a pattern of successes. It may not always be coming in first place but if you’re sometimes the top dog and up near the top more often than not, that breeds a sense of confidence that’s hard to overcome. Whether others like it or not, that’s hard to ignore.

2. Confident people have a great sense of what they’re about. They haven’t waited around for someone else to tell them how good they are. They know when they’ve written something or done something that it’s good work because they either followed all the rules or broke all the rules and came up with something better. And they know it… even if it’s not true. :-)

3. Confident people don’t worry that someone else shares in their achievements, but is always on guard of being superseded. Truly confident people aren’t worried about being upstaged here and there and definitely don’t mind working alongside with others and sharing success with them. At the same time they don’t want to be metaphorically asked “what have you done for me lately”, so they’re always trying to improve and always working on staying informed.

4. Confident people are doers. Taking time to research something or experiment to try to get something as correct as possible makes logical sense but at some point it’s time to act. Even if it’s not perfect or close to perfect you’ll never know until you actually do something and put it out to the world whether it works or not.

5. Confident people aren’t afraid to challenge others who might think they’re better than they are… in the spirit of competition of course. Maybe you can beat all your friends at a game of tennis and you feel pretty good about that. Confident people enjoy that for a while and then need the next challenge, someone who might be better than them which they won’t know until they get a chance to take them on. And if they lose… so what, they keep coming back for more, getting better, even if they don’t ever win. It’s about the process of growth sometimes because you can’t get better staying in one place.

Where do you fit on this scale? What are you willing to do to become more confident? Maybe the video below will give a bit more insight; enjoy!
 


http://youtu.be/syMZDh-reC8

 

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This past Friday I was in my home area and decided to spend a few hours at the local casino, which is about 40 minutes away. I got a seat at a table immediately and had a pretty good time for the next few hours.

white dogs
zen Sutherland via Compfight

Unfortunately, I could only say pretty good. That’s because there was a guy to my left who had problems controlling his temper. To say he wasn’t having a good day would be an understatement. However, he was mainly losing to two guys who were, for the most part, dominating the table, having great days. When I got to the table he warned me about the luck of these two guys; seems like he couldn’t figure out that they weren’t lying to him with the bets they were making.

So I had to deal with temper tantrums and a lot of cursing, and not just when he lost but a continuous diatribe that, if I wasn’t sitting next to him I might have found funny eventually. Instead, I decided after about an hour to put on my earbuds and listen to my recorded book on my smartphone, as it has noise cancelling properties and basically blocked him out if he wasn’t directing his stream in my direction, which he wasn’t thank goodness.

Just to add this, as much as he was fussing and cursing and behaving badly, it was really all his fault. Poker can be a dicey game, one where if you’re cautious you’ll sit back and watch sometimes, passing hands that are dodgy, and that’s a big part of poker. If you watch tournaments on TV it looks like these guys are playing lots of hands but in reality there’s a lot of sitting and watching.

Not this guy. I can’t think of a single hand he didn’t play, and very few times he’d throw his hand in early. In essence, he was one of those guys who thought that if he kept betting he’d push people off a hand and pick up enough pots to keep him solid as far as his money went. That’s a risky strategy normally, but one of the guys who kept beating him kept doing the same thing, only his luck was good that day. On another day he’d probably lose $500 quick and be home pretty quickly.

This isn’t a post about poker but about behavior. More specifically, it’s about losing control and how others perceive that. It’s my belief that this wasn’t a one time thing for the guy who kept losing. This means that every time he leaves the house to go play poker, players beware. The best thing for everyone is that this wasn’t one of those big guys who might decide to confront someone physically. Still, you never know right?

(001/365) Who are you & what have you done with my MOM!?
Daniel Norwood via Compfight

If you think this kind of behavior is abhorrent you’re correct. If you think it’s a rare occurrence you’d be sadly mistaken. I have seen many managers act this same way, and it’s intolerable. Many employees are scared of managers like this because they worry about confronting them and losing their jobs. They worry about going to human resources because word will get back to management, which it always does, along with who made the complaint; many human resource departments haven’t quite figured out how to handle that type of thing.

Truth is, this isn’t the world to act that way. There are more people who are willing to do something about it and I don’t mean trying to talk it out. We hear all the time about confrontations that occur in the workplace and end up with someone being killed, and almost always it’s the manager who started it all.

No one has the right to yell at anyone at work; no exceptions. Even if you’re the owner, you need to check yourself. If it’s an employee consistently acting like that, they have to go. The only time I ever remember behavior like that not impacting work is the 1972 – ’73 Oakland Athletics, whose players were constantly getting in fights with each other. Yes, they still won 2 championships, but within a couple of years they were all on different teams because they couldn’t stand working with each other anymore.

No one wants to be around someone acting like this all the time. Goodness, the guy I was sitting next to had a few moments where he was a decent guy. But only a few; if I didn’t have my smartphone and earbuds with me I might have asked to move to a different table.

Do you exhibit behavior like this, even if it’s not on a constant basis? If so, it’s something you should think about before that option is taken away from you in one way or another.

At least he didn’t yell at me when I beat him out of some hands. :-)
 

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When LeBron James decided a couple of weeks ago that he was going to return back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I had a very strange reaction to it. I was confused; that’s it. I wasn’t confused because he was going to a bad team. I wasn’t even confused that he was going back to his hometown.

tell me, where is the love?
Creative Commons License Tony Fischer via Compfight

I was confused because he was going back to work for someone who openly castigated him in a letter when he made his initial decision 4 years ago to go to another team, a letter that, until a month before LeBron decided he was going back, still sat out there on the team’s website.

I thought that was one of the worst things I’d ever seen, a major overreaction to what was a business decision by a spoiled rich guy, and something I felt was unforgivable. I thought James did the right thing years ago, the letter proved to me that it was the right thing, and yet my mind couldn’t get around this fact that he’d gone back, even though the guy did apologize… after James said he was going back.

I don’t do forgiveness well. I own up to that, and not being religious, I feel no faith based breaking of morality in being that way. I wish I was better at it, but I’m not. I tend to give people a lot of chances, and for the most part I’m pretty easy going. But there are wrongs that I won’t forgive, and even if I find a way to get beyond it I’ll never forget; how come getting older and starting to forget things doesn’t impact older memories?

Three years ago I ended up having to sue someone because he hadn’t paid me for work I did. Part of it was my fault for not making sure he signed my contract before I did the work. Most of it was his fault for not treating me like a professional. I’m good at what I do, and I had completed all the work he’d asked for.

During the lawsuit, which went two days 3 months apart, he made a statement that he would never recommend me to any of his other clients. I found that an interesting statement because it presumed I would ever work with him again. He was upset I sued him; I was upset that he hadn’t paid me for my work.

In truth, the problem was that he didn’t have an understanding of the work I did. I had written him a report that he didn’t understand, and he spent his time trying to convince the judge that I had written something that was jibberish. I was able to come back with a copy of my book, a copy of a book by a famous person with my name in it as one of the proofreaders, my name in a national emergency room billing training manual as an editor, copies of numerous articles I’d written for national magazines, and other writings I’d had that are all over the internet. Yes, I was loaded for bear. When the judge asked me what I wanted I said “I want to be paid” and I was paid, though it took 2 installments over the course of two weeks; not what was agreed upon in front of the judge but I went with it.

Here’s the thing. What was still to come was presenting the information to his client, even though that wasn’t my client. It was a phone meeting, since I decided I didn’t want to drive 4 hours to deliver the report, not knowing how he’d described my behavior to any of the people there. Over the course of 90 minutes the director there and myself had a great conversation about all my findings and recommendations. My client listened in, posed a question here and there, but for the most part didn’t get involved. Why? Because I presented the same report I’d originally written, the one he didn’t understand and said was jibberish, to someone who fully understood everything I was saying, knowing it wasn’t jibberish.

Show-off :-)
Stewart Baird via Compfight

That was pleasant and confirmed my belief that this wasn’t a guy I’d ever work with again. Or would I? If his client ended up duly impressed and he had a change of heart, and came back to me with a proposal and, this time, went along with my contract terms, it might be possible that I’d have worked with him again.

What do these two tales teach us? It takes some time to evaluate what’s important enough to fight for and then to determine what steps to take. At the time I sued, the amount of money was significant, even though I make more money than that most of the time. I’d given him a discount based on the promise of doing 4 projects for him, then he lost my trust.

However, in both my case and LeBron’s case, in the end we both won. I got my money, LeBron won his championships, and neither of us had to regret anything we did. Life doesn’t always work out that way though. Many people worry about burning bridges and yes, that’s something to think about whenever you decide to disassociate yourself with someone.

However, sometimes you have to be ready to stand up for yourself, no matter the consequences, when you know you’re right. Not that right always wins, but right is always right. Knowing what to do with it and what you can live with can determine your success later in life, as well as your peace of mine.

I’m peaceful enough…
 

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Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think so. It seems like there are people who want big careers yet don’t want to work for it. I’m not talking about 18 to 20 hours a day kind of work; I’m talking about the kind of work where you put in some time researching and learning something before you just go at it. Let me explain with a little story.

Lazy tiger
Creative Commons License Tambako The Jaguar
via Compfight

As some of you know I have 5 blogs. I’ll accept advertising on a few of them, but over the years I’ve only ever had advertising on two of them. One of those is my finance blog, which used to make a nice little bit of change, enough to cover the cost of hosting all my blogs and websites at least.

I received a letter from someone who wanted to advertise on that site. It was a standard form letter, one that was missing a critical component of any communications to me. It didn’t have my name in the email. While that might not seem like a big deal I tend to believe that if you want to do business with someone that at the very least you should know their name before you contact them.

I ignored the email and moved on with life. Over the course of a week and a half this person wrote me 3 more emails, with the last 3 asking if I’d seen the first email and including the contents of the original one. At this point I figured the guy was persistent, which meant he had an opportunity to be saved with a little lesson.

I wrote him back and told him that I usually don’t respond to such letters but in this case, since he was persistent, I would. I said that in my opinion, persistent or not, I believed he was being lazy in trying to do his job. I told him I believed this because, based on his email, he had never visited the site to even see if it was a place where his advertising might work.

I told him I based this off the fact that on the site I have an About page that immediately tells anyone who contacts me that my name has to be in the email. I told him that I also have another page there that tells what my advertising policy is. I then said that had he just taken the time to actually visit my page and check out those two links, or even just the advertising link, that he’d have known what I’d accept and could have written me a more specific email than the one he did.

I concluded by saying that because his email left me with a feeling that neither he or his company would care anything about me because no one took the time to even try to learn anything about me or my business that I would be declining any participation with them.

Was that harsh? You tell me.

lazy
Tony Delgrosso via Compfight

Here’s my way of thinking. I’m an independent, incorporated business. I have to market myself in certain ways to specific types of businesses. Like almost any other marketer, you only get one chance to make a good impression, not a first impression, especially via marketing material.

Whenever there are organizations I want to work with in some fashion, I always check out their websites. I also always look for people’s names associated with the organization and, more specifically, the names of the people who I feel are the proper people to contact. That way, I can send a more personal email, showing that I took the time to learn something about the organization.

Does this work? There are hundreds of surveys and lots of written advice,including Monster.com, that not only recommends people learn something about the company they’re applying to for jobs but also give tips on how to do it. Employers are not only flattered but impressed when potential employees show initiative; stand out from the crowd if you will.

Is it possible that I threw away money because I felt I had a standard or principle I needed to stick with? Anything is possible. However, if you saw the volume of requests I get from people asking for things that are right on the front page of that site, showing that not only are they lying by saying they’re reading the content but that they know they can offer what I need (really; without asking me?), you’d see that, like job qualifications in a newspaper, I need to filter out some of these folks from the others, otherwise I’d never get anything finished.

Think about what you do. Are you giving it your best attention and really trying your best, or are you cutting corders? Are you having the success you believe you should be getting or just getting by and wondering why it’s not bigger success? Think about it; the answer might be right here.
 

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