How Do You Define Success?

 

Randy Smith

The English dictionary defines success as a favorable or desired outcome with the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.  In the workplace, we often measure success by the bottom line.  The goal is to get rich as quickly as possible.  We seek to obtain wealth at any price.  Success can be addicting. Some people will do anything to attain success, even if it crosses the ethical or moral line.

Companies need to make money, but why do we define success solely in terms of money? I once worked for a company that is sales-driven.  Each and every moment was about producing more sales. When management push sales to maximize short-term profits—hanging bonuses over employees heads to achieve lofty sales goals—people did whatever it took to get the bonus. This atmosphere sets salesmen up for moral failure and the company for ethical collapse.

Remember the 2008  mortgage meltdown? Remember the Enron scandal? How do we avoid this trap?

Good to Great provides a template. Jim Collins emphasizes obtaining people who are disciplined—people on the right bus and in the right seat on the bus.  Leaders must instill the right set of ideas and generate a culture that people can ethically follow. If they do, the company moves one direction. If they do not, companies like the one mentioned above, move the other direction.

How you define success is important. How do you define success?

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Why Some People Are Almost Always Successful.

Last night I could not sleep, so I decided to watch the pilot episode of the original Star Trek series.

Star Trek

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I was surprised by what I witnessed:

  • Kirk was not the Captain. Captain Pike was in charge and the only recognizable character was Mr. Spock–no Bones, Scotty, or Sulu.
  • The special effects were awful (e.g. rocks on the planet surface looked like paper mache from the set of a middle school play).
  • It was fairly risqué for the time (this was 45 years ago).

The pilot was almost comically bad. Mercifully, it was not included in the original TV series. If it had been, I would not have been inclined to watch further. However, over the next four decades, they improved every dimension–plot, acting, and special effects.

If A Thing Is Worth Doing…

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badlyIt has been said that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. There is wisdom in this. You should put forth your best effort. But another perspective is just as important.

In, What’s Wrong with the World, G. K. Chesterton said, that “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That’s right–badly.

You don’t have to be an expert or the best in your field in order attempt to do a thing. In fact, you have to do it badly before you are good enough to do it well (e.g. love letters, parenting, your calling).

MBA CHARLESTON SOUTHERN UNIVERSITYWhen I was in high school, I asked my track coach how to run faster. Coach Soranno looked me in the eye and said, “run faster.” He was right. The more you do it, the more capacity you develop. It is like lifting weights and the same principle operates in other areas of life.

talent is overrated

As the research shows in books like Geoff Colvin’s  Talent is Overrated and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, world-class performers in any field practice more than others. We would like to believe that greatness is due to a particular innate genius, but practice is really the key to success.

What Do You Want To Do?

Do you want to write books? Start blogging. Do you want to teach? How about volunteering to teach a Sunday school class. Want to beat the markets? Practice trading with a free virtual stock fund. Whatever it is, start.

Don’t worry about doing it badly. Over time, you will improve. Remember, it is not where you start, it is where you finish. Take the first step now.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 30, 2012

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Star TrekNote: If you are interested, you can watch the Star Trek pilot on Amazon for $1.99 (Free with a 1 month trial of Amazon Prime) or you can watch it on Netflix (Free month trial).

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The Secret of Getting Your People to Perform for You.

Have you prepared your people for success? If not, why not? If the purpose of management is to equip your people with that which they need in order to succeed, you need to provide them the tools that will help them relate to you.

Soldier

In Soldier: The life of Colin Powell, Karen DeYoung provided Powell’s “How to Survive as My Aide–Or, What Not to Do” list. The list was originally provided to William Smullan after he became Chairman Powell’s communications aide and press spokesman.

This type of tool is invaluable because it creates standards and expectations. Here are Powell’s rules:

—Don’t ever hesitate to ask me what to do if uncertain.

—Don’t ever sign my name.

—Never use your money on my behalf.

—Avoid “The General Wants” syndrome—unless I really do.

—Provide feedback but be tactful to those who ask—talks between you and me are private and confidential. Alma (my wife) has nothing to do with the office.

—Never keep anybody waiting on the phone. Call back.

—I like meetings generally uninterrupted. I ask a lot of questions. I like questions and challenges.

—I like to remain enormously accessible. I like to do things with people.

—I will develop ways of getting to know what’s happening.

—Don’t accept speaking engagements without my knowledge.

—Keep track of whom I have seen.

—I tend to get moody, preoccupied. I will snap but that clears the air.

—Be punctual, don’t waste my time.

—I prefer written information rather than oral.Writing tends to discipline.

—I like to do paperwork—and I do a lot.

—NEVER, NEVER permit illegal or stupid actions.

—No surprises.Bad news doesn’t get any better with time.

—If there is a problem brewing, I want to know of it early—heads up as soon as possible—I don’t like to be blindsided.

—Speak precisely—I often fudge for a purpose. Don’t over-interpret what I say.

—Don’t rush into decisions—make them timely and correct.

—I like excellent correspondence—no split infinitives. (pp. 187-188)

Know Yourself and Help Your People Know You Too.

Powell’s rules are not absolute. There is no one size fits all system, but the idea of providing this kind of guidance is brilliant.

What is the secret of getting your people to perform for you?  The secret is simple. Set expectations for your people to follow. Be clear and help them help you.

Were I to write a list, it would look something like this:

-I believe that you know more about your job than I do and I expect YOU to come up with solutions.

-You are a professional. I trust YOUR judgment. Use it.

-You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.

-I want to talk, but put it in writing first. I make decisions when we talk. The writing clarifies thinking and creates a record.

-I hate paperwork but I want you to leave a paper trail for documentation.

-If there is a conflict between two rules, we do no harm to our students (as in baseball, the tie goes to the runner).

-I only measure productivity. I do not measure time in your seat. Just be accessible by phone or email.

-Anticipate what needs to be done. Do not wait to be told.

-Free me from day-to-day administration so I can focus on moving forward.

-Everyone is entitled to an off day once in a while.

I had not previously created a written list, but I am working on one now. I believe that the administrators with whom I work would recognize and even say similar things about how I operate if they were asked.

MBA CHARLESTON SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY

On my first day on the job, I distinctly remember saying “You will never get in trouble for speaking your mind. Do not keep your opinions from me.”   Over time, they have learned how much I hate paperwork and that I only measure productivity. To their credit, they have adjusted to the way that I operate.

While some ways of operating are better than others, there is no one best way to lead. My list is not the right list. It is customized to me. It may not work for you.

What Is On Your List?

Do you have a list? If you manage anyone, you probably should. Maybe it is time you developed a list.

[If you read this far, you probably do care about leading your people well. See my Top 10 Leadership Books.]

So what is on your list? What is on your Boss’s list. I would like to hear your thoughts.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 26, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

I am writing on Christmas day. Why? I love what I do and I am a nerd. I am really interested in the question of how YOU celebrate Christmas.

Christmas_tree

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The majority of Americans celebrate Christmas but the reality is that Christmas means different things to different people.  I am not writing to tell you how to celebrate Christmas, but to ask you how you celebrate it.

Let’s use a simple formula:

Christmas is about ________________________.

I celebrate Christmas by ____________________.

For example:

  • Christmas is about family. I celebrate Christmas by going to Grandma’s house where the entire family gets together for Christmas dinner.
  • Christmas is about forgiveness. I celebrate Christmas by making a list of all the people with whom I need to reconcile.
  • Christmas is about toys. I celebrate Christmas by shopping.
  • Christmas is about Jesus. I celebrate Christmas by remembering the birth of our savior and singing hymns at the Christmas eve service.
  • Christmas is about celebrating the holiday season. I celebrate Christmas by having a good time (especially under the mistletoe).

So How do You Celebrate Christmas?

The purpose of this article was to ask YOU what YOU believe Christmas is all about and how YOU celebrate Christmas. I sincerely want to know.

Quirky Traditions?

I would also like to know about any quirky Christmas traditions you might have. For example, I have a friend who orders pizza every year on Christmas because when he and his wife were young and broke, that was all that they could afford. I have a relative who breaks out green polyester “Christmas pants” from the 1970s.   I am not judging. I have my share of Christmas ties.

Our quirky tradition is to  ___________________.

So what is Christmas all about? How do you celebrate Christmas? What are  your traditions? I would love to hear what you have to say.

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 25, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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How To Deal With Difficult People.

Recently I have been reading about leaders in various organizations and I have been struck by the fact that in every organization–business, government, military, education, ministry–the vast majority of problems are interpersonal. People cause a lot of trouble.

How to manage Difficult people

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason that books like Don’t Let Jerks Get the Best of You and Dealing with People You Can’t Stand exist. 

How to Deal With Difficult People.

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In the 8th Habit, Stephen Covey wrote: “The soft stuff is the hard stuff and everyone is coming to know it. That is why leadership is the highest of all arts; it is the enabling art.”

If people problems are the primary issues in organizations, then leaders need to learn to deal with people effectively. Two books I have used for years in my leadership and organizational behavior classes are The Truth about Managing People and Principle-Centered Leadership

Truth about managing people - How to deal with difficult people

The Truth about Managing People is a short little read. It  is like a textbook stripped of all of the unnecessary words. I believe that this is how it was developed. After all, Robbins is known for his best-selling textbooks.

The book is excellent. In it, Robbins explains simple concepts like why “telling your employees to ‘do your best’ isn’t likely to achieve their best,” (p. 47) and  why “the essence of leadership is trust” (p. 87). If you are just starting out in management, read this book. It will help you detect the landmines that you cannot see.

Principle centered leadershipPrinciple-Centered Leadership is one of best books on leadership that I have ever read. [For more, see my Top 10 Leadership Books] The book winds and meanders, but it contains so many gems.

Covey focused on how leadership only exists in the context of a relationship. He explained that: “there are times to teach and train and times not to teach. When relationships are strained and charged with emotion, attempts to teach or train are often perceived as a form of judgment and rejection” (p. 82). As a professor, that passage spoke to me.

In another place he wrote, “there is nothing on earth that can buy voluntary commitment. You can buy a man’s hands and back, but not his heart and mind” (p. 179). How many millions of dollars have been wasted because management did not understand this concept?

A major theme of the book was the simple idea that, “you can be efficient with things, but you must be effective with people” (p. 189).Effectiveness is not the same as efficiency, and confusing the two can lead to disaster. When dealing with people, the shortest path to an agreeable outcome may take more time, but shortcuts seldom work.

If you see the wisdom in these few passages, read the book. You can get it on Amazon for less than $5 on Kindle (immediately) or for a penny (+ 3.99 shipping)  if you can wait a few days.

Want to know how to deal with difficult people? These are the best resources I can suggest. What are your suggestions?
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References:

Covey, S. R. (1991).  Principled-centered leadership. New York: Free Press.

Robbins, S. (2013). The truth about managing people, 3rd Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 22, 2012

Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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The One Thing You Must Understand In Any Negotiation.

Negotiation is so hard because we make it hard. When we attack the other side, we limit our chances for a mutually satisfying solution. We create our own prisons and then we wonder why we are trapped.

Jail

As I write, our politicians are locking horns in a contentious debate that will affect us all.  Debate is nothing new, but the level of acrimony seems to be on the rise. The acrimony is accelerated by the moral superiority that each side feels it has over the other. This leads to more hyper-partisan attacks, but it also reduces the chances that we will arrive at creative 3rd alternative solutions.

Identity.

The core of the problem is that each side sees their position as their identity. We have forgotten that when you attack the position, you attack the person.  Stephen Covey wrote:

3rd_AlternativeAlmost everyone identifies with one alternative or the other. That’s why we have liberals against conservatives, Republicans against Democrats, workers against management…spouse against spouse, socialist against capitalist, and believers against nonbelievers. It’s why we have racism and prejudice and war.

Each of the two alternatives is deeply rooted in a certain mind-set. For example, the mind-set of the environmentalist is formed by appreciation for the delicate beauty of balance of nature. The mind-set of the developer is formed by a desire to see communities grow and economic opportunities increase. Each side usually sees itself as virtuous and rational and the other side as lacking virtue or common sense.

The deep roots of my mind-set entwine with my very identity. If I say I’m an environmentalist or a conservative or a teacher, I’m describing more than what I believe and value–I’m describing who I am. So when you attack my side, you attack me and my self image. (pp. 9-11)

The One Thing You Need To Understand.

 Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

I am a Christian. For me, this is a primary identity. So when secularists attack Christmas  (e.g. renaming a Christmas tree a “Holiday tree” in order to embrace people of all faiths), I understand how many Christians experience this as an attack on them and their values.

I am a Conservative. So when the far-left seized the opportunity to advance their gun-control agenda in the wake of the tragedy at Newtown, I quickly penned three articles in defense of 2nd Amendment rights:

[Note: I believe that most ordinary Americans–even those who are now rethinking gun-control–simply want to ensure that a similar tragedy is not repeated. These people are different than those with a prepackaged agenda.]

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Notice that I said “I am” a Christian and “I am” a Conservative. I did not say that I think that Christianity or the Founding Fathers provided  rationally superior systems of thought. It is simply not that abstract. This is what I mean by identity. 

The point is this: If you are a Conservative, do not demonize Liberals if you wish to make any progress.  Remember:

Strongly held positions = Personal identity.

It Is The Same Way At The Office.

At work, if you have just disparaged Todd about the XYZ account at the last staff meeting, you are not likely to get Todd’s support on most basic items on your agenda.

If you say 2+2 =4, he will not attack your math, but you had better be prepared for him to ridicule your elementary thinking or your inability to think outside the box.  Why? He worked hard on the XYZ account and when you attacked it, you attacked him.  You violated his identity.

Whether you are in Congress or at the office, the one thing you must understand in any negotiation is that in order to gain cooperation you must not attack the other’s identity.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever experienced an attack on your identity that prevented your cooperation?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 20, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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Why Gun Control Won’t Work: The Economics of Human Behavior.

In recent days, the chattering class has spent a lot of time speculating about what kind of gun control regulations they might achieve in the wake of the national tragedy in Newton, Connecticut.

No_gun

I appreciate what liberals are trying to do. They sincerely believe that by banning firearms, they will make us safer and rid the country of a great evil. I agree with the objective of safety, but I reject their means because controlling the weapon will not work if the real issue is the heart of man.

Jeremiah 17_9

Get your MBA at Charleston Southern UniversityHere I will address the economics of the issue, and I will go beyond the abstract discussion of supply and demand, incentives, and deterrence to provide seven historical examples of how real people have reacted to weapons controls.

All Guns Are Banned!

Let’s start with a thought experiment. Let’s assume that liberals get everything they  want:

  • All guns are banned.
  • We have massive “Gun Disposal Days.”
  • We melt our guns into iPhones.

Everyone is blissful and the world will live as one.  But are we safer?

Any serious student of history should question how much better off we would be. If, as I have suggested, the problem is not with the gun but the heart of man (and, to a lesser degree, culture), we might be in a more precarious position. In fact, historically speaking, populations who have been disarmed have generally been oppressed by those with arms. Examples range from Carthage to the Third Reich.

Behavioral Economics & Arms Control: 7 Examples

1. CrossBows. Throughout the Middle Ages, Crossbows were loathed and feared because they were very accurate and they could penetrate armor, eliminating a knight’s battlefield advantage. The Magna Carta specifically mentioned crossbowmen among mercenary soldiers who should be banished from the kingdom as soon as peace was restored.

CrossbowThey were banned by the Pope in 1139, but they were so effective that even the threat of eternal damnation  did little to reduce the proliferation of crossbows in Europe.

2. Have you ever wondered why Martial Artists use such funny weapons?

Martial Arts Weapons from Karatemart

You can trace the use of these weapons to arms bans in feudalistic Asian societies. When farmers were occupied and disarmed, they used whatever they had at their disposal (e.g. farming tools) to defend themselves. Looking at the images above, you can see how these would be helpful in threshing grain or bailing hay.

Cane Defense3. The Cane.  Combat Hapkido, which was only developed in 1990, has adopted the cane as its weapon of choice. Yes, the cane–just like your grandfather uses.

Why? Because the practitioners of this modern martial art understand that the cane is 100% street legal. This is a selling point in Combat Hapkido classes, books, manuals, and training videos.

Gangland Season 14. Hammers. If I learned anything from the time I spent watching an entire season of Gangland,  it was that the Hell’s Angles motorcycle club members sometimes carry ball peen hammers. Why? Completely legal.

I would imagine a group of Hell’s Angels could do a lot of damage swinging ball peen hammers, but if they were stopped by the authorities, who could say that they were not just on their way to a habitat for humanity build?

5. Knives. Let’s go back to Modern day China. Recently there has been a wave of violent knife attacks. According to CNN:

Guns are strictly controlled in China, but until recently possession of large knives were not. Chinese authorities have recently issued a regulation requiring people to register with their national ID cards when they buy knives longer that 15 centimeters.

Note: 15 centimeters is roughly 6 inches. Is this where we want to go as a society–registering with the government when you buy a kitchen knife at Wal-Mart?

Box-cutter6. But what about the assault weapons used on 9/11? The AR-15s and M-16s used to subdue the passengers…oh wait, they used box cutters and claimed to have explosives.

At this point, the gun-control advocate might cry foul and ask, “But isn’t it better to just have a society armed only with knives. After all, if a would-be killer did not have access to a gun he could hurt a far fewer people.”

This argument assumes that criminals will not still obtain guns, leaving the law-abiding population at their mercy.  After all, criminals have a nasty habit of ignoring and violating the law. Moreover, it also assumes that those who can’t obtain guns will not turn to some other, more deadly means. Here, I am not talking about knives, but explosives.

7. Explosives. A 2011 U. S. Army medical study found that of 7877 combat casualties, “almost 75% resulted from explosive mechanisms; just 20% were gunshot wounds.”  More to the point, additional studies found that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were directly responsible for roughly twice the number of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq than in Vietnam.

The Heart of the Matter

From everything you have learned about how people react to these controls, does it stand to reason that bad men will recognize that Congress has passed sweeping legislation and change their evil gun-loving ways? A few might, but in an era where bomb building instructions can be found on the internet, do we really think we will be safer with more gun control legislation? Or, are we missing the point?

If the problem that we are trying to address is internal (the heart), an external solution (removing all guns) misses the point.

The heart can change voluntarily, but human nature is not easily subdued by legislation. Worse, an unintended consequence of robust gun control might be headlines about mall bombings and school bombings that take the lives of many more innocents.

Do you think Gun Control Legislation Will Be Effective?

-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.

December 19, 2012

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Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University

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