Posts tagged ‘responsibility’

Social In-security

In his book “Pacific Coast Trail Hiker’s Handbook” author and adventurer Ray Jardine writes:

“Typically, the Pacific Coast Trail will approach a daunting creek, only to disappear into it and emerge from its far side.  And you might stand there looking at a potential drowning: yours.  Or perhaps you will stand there fuming at the government’s failure in providing hikers with a suitable bridge.  Consider though, that every time the wilds are “improved”, civilization thereby thrusts its maws a little deeper into the erstwhile pristine wilderness.  Should we construct stalwart bridges across every creek?  How about benches every few miles?  How about a five foot wide trail, well groomed and leading to huts at 10 mile intervals?  And how about power lines and roads to the huts, so hut-keepers could provide nutritious meals?

Instead, we might benefit the most by leaving the wilderness to its own devices, and laboring to improve ourselves.  When confronted with a swollen creek, rather than seeing an absent bridge, we need to see the challenge of finding a safe way across, somewhere upstream perhaps.  A bridge might allow us to cross safely, and it might save us considerable time hiking upstream to circumvent the torrent, but it does not strengthen us.  It does not better prepare us for the next bridgeless ford ahead.  I suggest that complaining about a lack of bridges only weakens us.  Why?  Because it reinforces our insecurities.

Security is confidence, not in the condition of the paths we travel, but in ourselves.  And no bridge can carry us over the river of our impatience and insecurities.”

Oh the lessons we learn in the wild!  Lessons for health, lessons for economics and governance, lessons for parenting and leading…lessons for life!  The greatest security, confidence, and peace comes from taking personal responsibility – by doing all we can for ourselves – and then trusting in our maker.  Self reliance is freedom; it is security; it is peace.  The more we depend on society to “build our bridges”, the more insecure we become.   Less really is more when it comes to the role of government in our lives. 

So the next time your trail disappears into “the creek”, smile and embrace the opportunity to take control, get stronger, and secure your own way.

Lead on,



May 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment

What’s Your Motivation?

Why do you do the things you do?  Why do you perform at the level you do?  What about your employees; What’s their motivation for what they do and how they perform?  

In a speech by author and lecturer Hyrum Smith, he said that there are three basic emotions behind everything we do.  These emotions cause us to act upon, or react to, the various events and opportunities that make up our lives. These emotions are…Fear, Responsibility, and Love.   

Everything we do, every choice we make…is the result of one of these emotions – fear, responsibility, or love.  When you jump out of bed in the morning, it’s because you’re afraid if you don’t you’ll lose your job, or because you’re driven by a strong sense of responsibility to those who count on you, or…because you love what you do and you love those you serve…and you can’t wait to get to it!  One way or another, everything you (and your employees) do links back to one (or more) of these emotions. 

Why does it matter?  Consider the following: 

  1. The emotion of fear relates to “I have to thinking…  “I have to go to work or I’ll starve”.  I have to help that person or I may lose my job.”  “I have to stretch the truth or I’ll lose the sale.” 
  2. The emotion of responsibility relates to I ought to thinking…  “I ought to be on time because that’s right thing to do.”  “I ought to sweep the floors because the place should look presentable.”  “I ought to call the customer back because that’s she’d expect.”
  3. The emotion of love relates to I want to thinking…  “I want to get up and get to work because I love what I do.”  I want to serve my customers well because I genuinely like and care about them.”  “I want to do exactly what the boss asked – even when he’s not looking – because he’s a good guy and I like working for him.”  I want to spend the extra time training this employee because I love his enthusiasm and potential.”

Clearly, there’s a difference…a BIG difference between the depth of motivation…from fear…to responsibility…to love!  Which would you rather have working for you?  I’ll take ”I want to” every time!  It stems from the love of a job, love of an organization, a customer, an idea, a vision…  Imagine the difference over the life of a career between an employee that is motivated by love (“I want to”) versus one motivated by fear (“I have to”). 

The example you set and work environment you create can make all the difference in how your employees are motivated.  Model the actions, emotions, and care that you desire from your employees and you’re far more likely to see them respond in a similar fashion.  If they know you “want to” carry out the mission, and love doing what you do, your influence will spread and your team’s results will skyrocket!   

Lead on…


October 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Great Expectations

You’ve heard the advice… “Over promise, then under deliver…and you’re sure to disappoint”.  Few things can break trust or weaken relationships more.  Making a habit of it can be “fatal”…especially in trust-based relationships.  Conversely, sound customer service is built upon “under promising and over delivering”, thereby creating situations and results that thrill and excite customers.  The interesting thing is, that while the actual quantity, quality, or degree of what is being “delivered” COULD be exactly the same in every case, it’s the relative expectations that determine the level of satisfaction…and trust.  If you expect a half glass of juice and receive a half glass, you’re satisfied.  If you expect a full glass and receive the same half glass, you’re unsatisfied.  If, on the other hand you expect only a sip of a juice and you receive a half glass, you’re elated!  Again, it all depends on expectations.  The following illustrates well this relationship between expectations, “delivery”, and trust!

I once heard a man talk about his life growing up on a ranch where he worked with his father and brothers raising cattle and horses in southern Utah and northern Arizona.  He was taught as a boy that when he wanted to catch one of the horses to ride, all he had to do was to put a handful of grain into a bucket and shake it for several seconds.  It didn’t matter if the horses were in a corral or a large field; they would come running to get the grain.  As a horse would eat, the young rancher would gently slip a bridle over its head, and prepare the horse for riding.  He was always amazed at how well this simple process worked.  Occasionally though, when he was a little lazy, and didn’t want to take the time to get the grain from the barn, he put dirt in the bucket and shook it, attempting to trick the horses into thinking that he had grain for them to eat.  When the horses discovered they had been deceived, some of them would stay, but most would run away and be nearly impossible to catch.  He said it would then take several days to regain the horses’ trust.

And so it is with service…no matter where it is given…whether it’s at a sales counter, or to your employee, co-worker, boss, or family….anyone that relies on your service, your promise, your “delivery” to them.  Do you over promise…then under deliver? Do you say what you think they “want” to hear, knowing full well you won’t be able to “deliver”?  Do you falsely build expectations by not telling the whole story?  Do you stretch the truth, exaggerate the benefit, or say whatever it takes in order to get what you want…now?  If you’re a manager, a professional, or a parent, your “customers”, those you serve and whom depend on you, expect a higher standard; Anything less is a disappointment!  Think about your “customers” and ask yourself, “what do they expect from me?” Then with that as a minimum, decide what you’ll do today, next week, or next year to exceed their “expectations”… Keep it interesting…keep ‘em guessing…and keep delighting them… They won’t just be “customers”…..they’ll be raving fans!

Lead on…


June 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap…”

Sound familiar? You might remember this verse from Sunday school or from more recent study.  It is a profound principle with powerful implications. It is an enduring principle with a promise that underlies everything we accomplish, or fail to accomplish during our lives. It is the key to joy and abundance or to failure and frustration. It is a sure promise – as sure as the sunrise or sunset.  If we do something, something happens. Everything in nature and in life is based on this principle. We control what we sow, and in that way only we exercise SOME control over what we reap.

Yes, sometimes there are outside (uncontrollable) factors at work. My Mom and Dad for instance led great lives. They worked hard, planned carefully, spent frugally, exercised consistently, ate impeccably, and served tirelessly. Theirs were happy, healthy, full lives… life they truly reaped what they sowed. You’d have thought they’d live forever! However, Dad, at a very young 69 years of age was consumed by a rare cancer in less than six weeks…..and Mom passed away just a few months laterfrom the same foe (cancer).

“So, why bother?” some would ask. “Why even try to plan, to work, and to improve?” It is true that any one of us could be removed from this life at any moment by causes beyond our control. BUT, while we live, while we are able to choose what it is we will sow in our lives, we can rest assured that while we live we will reap and receive in life what we put into it. Effort produces results, honesty builds trust, respect leads to cooperation, and healthy living improves the quality of life. As Montaigne so aptly wrote, “the value in life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them”.

Lead on……….. Cliff

April 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm 4 comments

DON’T Go With the Flow!

Some of my fondest childhood memories were of hunting and fishing with my father in the great Nevada outdoors. Dad and I frequently fished the Truckee River, which stretches 140 miles from mountainous Lake Tahoe, northward through Reno and on to Pyramid Lake in the high desert. I remember when I was very young climbing up on dad’s back as he carefully traversed the roaring Truckee River, fighting its sometimes overpowering current. Dad was a master at river crossing; He taught me to pick a spot on the opposite bank and to use it as a guide. The idea was to do everything possible to stick to that goal…fighting each step to hit the mark on the far side. If the river got the best of you and knocked you a step or two downstream a new target was selected, and you’d fight your way across ‘til you made the goal. As I grew older and I was ready to learn to make my own way across, I’d often slip from a misplaced foothold or be overcome by the current…and down the river I’d go…until I could swim to the other side or get a foothold in a calmer spot. On a hot day, or when I was feeling playful and wanted a break, I’d sometimes allow the river to carry me way downstream, just floating along with it’s flow… But whenever this happened it often meant a long hike back to the original target. Not a good thing in the long run, and certainly not an effective way to catch my limit of fish! In life we often find ourselves in a fight to meet our daily, weekly, and monthly objectives. We set our sites to accomplish a thing, and along come the “currents” of life that test us, at least, and occasionally bump us off course. When this happens we have two choices…1) just sit down and go with the flow, riding the waves wherever they’ll take us, or 2) get a [new] grip, adapt to the challenge, pick the next best outcome, and fight to get there.

Many of us have been knocked “off course” by a  challenging economy!  The question that lies before us is “how will we react?”  Will we sit down and let economic and business currents carry us along, however the will? Or will we get a grip, stand up to the challenge, reset our sites, and press forward to the next best outcome? …Hopefully the latter! Some will just wring their hands and say “it’s the economy, and there’s really nothing we can do about it”. But if WE decide NOT to “go with the flow”, if WE decide to meet, or come very close to, OUR objectives it simply requires we use our individual and collective creativity and resourcefulness. It means trying new things, talking to new people, and breaking new ground. It does mean NOT accepting the status quo! Instead, gather your team together, present the challenge, and let the ideas flow… Then put one foot in front of the other and cross the river. Through it all, reflect optimism and energy, making your customers AND employees feed off of your enthusiasm and believe in you! And then, once you reach the opposite bank, don’t forget to celebrate your successes! When the going gets tough, the tough don’t give in and “go with the flow”, they rise above the challenge… They get going…even against the currents that carry the rest away. So stand tough, set your sites, take charge in your market, and……. Lead on… Cliff

February 18, 2010 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

“You Can’t Fool the Chickens”

As I lay sleepless in bed one night (I know – more information than you needed), I remembered a [true] story I had heard as a youth and which left a lasting impression on me.  As I reflected on it, I was reminded of its powerful example and multiple applications to life.  I thought “I’ve got to share this with the managers and leaders in my company”.  So I hopped out of bed, and in just a few minutes was able to find it on the internet.  For the sake of brevity, I’ll paraphrase…

The story is told by Cordell Vail, an apparently good and loving father who was determined to create a culture of personal responsibility and hard work in his family.  He did so in part by making certain that each of his children,  from the time they could walk, were given “jobs” and responsibilities that would stretch them just a bit, and which would require shoulder-to-shoulder training and coaching.  He knew that equipped with this experience and culture they would go on to accomplish anything they would choose in life, thus helping them to live happier, more fulfilled lives. 

One of the older children, a son, about 10 years old, was give the assignment to take care of a few chickens they’d purchased just for the purpose of providing another family work opportunity.  The father had grown up on a farm and so he knew a little bit about chickens and how to raise them. He knew three things are required to produce eggs:  First, you have to give them the right amount of food every day. Second, you have to make sure they always have water. Third, you have to keep the eggs gathered every day. If you leave eggs in the nest then they will stop laying eggs. They built a nice chicken coop, and then the son was assigned to: 1) feed the chickens the correct amount of food EVERY day, make sure all the water trays were full EVERY day, and gather the eggs from the nests…EVERY day.

The boy was the hardest worker of all the kids, and even seemed to like to work, but there was one small problem.  He was a great starter, but not a great finisher…It was hard for him to stay with the job until it was done.  Every day when the father checked up on his work, he’d find that his boy had either watered the chickens and feed them but forgot to gather the eggs, or he would gather the eggs and water them but forget to feed them. He just could not seem to remember to do all three every day.

Now, chickens usually don’t lay an egg every day, but one every day and a half or so. This family had twenty one chickens, and they were laying about fifteen to seventeen eggs a day, so they were really cranking ‘em out!  Which is why the father checked on his son’s work every day. If he missed one of the three things, he would have to do it for him or the chickens would  stop laying.  He just couldn’t teach his son to do all three every day. 

Then he had an idea…  He decided to “give” his son the chickens!  From now on, they would be his…and he told him that they would buy the eggs from him every day.  He told his son that he’d have to take the money he made from selling them the eggs and buy the chicken feed for the chickens to eat each week. Then, whatever money was left over, he could keep. The boy’s eyes lit up; he was extremely excited!

From that day on, the boy’s performance was perfect; he never missed a day!  In time, they put a chart up on the refrigerator to track the number of eggs each day.  The parents were so pleased they even paid him better-than-grocery-store-prices, and the boy was making a great little fortune…for a  10 year old.  Each week they’d go to the feed store and buy one sack of feed for the chickens – enough to last until the next week. He was the richest kid on the block, and his father was delighted.

Several weeks later, the father began to notice a strange occurrence on the refrigerator door. The chart began to look something like this: 18, 18, 17, 17,17, 16,16,16, 16, 15,15, 14,14,13,13,12,12……production was going down…slowly.  The father didn’t say anything, but knew what was happening. The boy was not out of feed at the end of each week like he had been and should be. But they were his chickens and he wanted his son to learn the lesson well by having them be his own chickens, so he just watched for a while.

As the weeks progressed, the numbers on the refrigerator door continued to go down. One weekend when it was time to buy feed again the father went over to the chicken yard to find his son and take him to the feed store.  With a sheepish frown on his face the boy told him he couldn’t go…that he didn’t have enough money  because there had been so few eggs that week.  When asked if he knew why, the boy said the chickens just hadn’t laid enough eggs, so he didn’t have the money. When further queried, he said he had feed them every day and never missed. He said he had watered them every day and never missed. He said he had gathered the eggs just like he’d been told – every day and never missed. But for some reason they had stopped laying eggs.

Then the father asked him if he had cut down the amount of feed he had given the chickens every day. Shocked that his father would have thought of that, he just looked down and nervously kicked little rocks with his foot. Finally, after a long silence, he admitted he had cut down the amount of feed he’d given the chickens each day.  He said he thought if he gave them less food, he’d make more money.  The father then looked his son in the eyes and asked him if he thought he had been fooling him. Tearfully he admitted he thought he had fooled him.  Finally, he asked the boy (and here’s the real lesson)… ………………“did you fool the chickens?”

“Did you fool the chickens?”…      What a powerful question and concept! 

In life, you can fool everyone else (even yourself), but you can not fool the “chickens”.  So, what are the “chickens” in your world?              Some examples come to mind:

Your employees –  Do you push, push, push, without praise and feedback?  Do you motivate with fear, empty promises, or false hopes?  Or do you keep these “chickens” well-fed, secure, and well informed?

Your work –            Do you procrastinate important work, only to give it cursory attention at the last minute?  Do you show up late…leave early?  Or do you give every minute of your work-day all the passion, attention, and focus it deserves?

Your customers –    Do you do just what you can “get away with”?  Or do you follow the “Golden Rule”  in your business dealings?

Your family –                Do they see your worst?  Or your best?  Are you faithful to your promises and to their expectations?

Your body –            Do you sacrifice long-term wellness for temporary pleasure?  Or is this “chicken” getting the rest, nutrition, and activity it needs to produce great eggs?

Your mind –           Linus Pauling once said “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”  Ideas come from reading, listening, and studying great sources of information.

Your heart –            Have you “felt” today?  Do others know you have?  Have you listened empathically, or expressed appreciation, love, or wonder?  These are the greatest investment we can make in this chicken.

Your integrity –       Do you pass the test my 7 year-old  passed when I asked her, “what’s more important…being honest or being rich?” …”honest, or beautiful”…   “honest, or smart”…   “honest, or free”…   “honest, or loved”…   then  “honest, or alive”…  She passed with flying colors….”Honest!”

Your self esteem – Whenever our chickens – any of those listed above – are under cared for or malnourished, we fail.  And when we fail, our self esteem suffers.

The old adage is true…”What goes around, comes around”…   Or, “We reap what we sow”.   Every day we see examples of people trying to cheat this principle, but it can’t be cheated.  We may think (for a moment) that we can be unkind, deceitful, dishonest, arrogant, selfish, greedy, gluttonous, callous, or just plain lazy…without consequence.  But the harsh truth is that we can’t…we really do “reap what we sow”…in one way or another…….because…..

…..”You can’t fool the chickens”!

Lead on…


December 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Don’t Forget the Free Throws

I once listened to two sports commentators on the radio debating the soon-to-be-over NBA season.  The conversation turned to free throw shooting.  They observed that throughout the season, and as the tournament was in its early games, a number of key games had been won or lost at the bonus line.  Both agreed that it seemed that this year, more than most, there were far more examples of teams and individuals whose free throw shooting percentages were just plain…bad!  One of them commented that “…in professional basketball no player should have an average free throw shooting percentage less than 80%.”

I would agree.  A professional is “a highly skilled individual who performs his or her work for payment”.  Can you imagine even keeping a job where it was acceptable to make mistakes 20% of the time?  Unlike shooting from the field, free throw shooting is a “solo sport”.  When you’re at the line, it’s you, the ball, and the net.  There’s no guarding, no checking, no blocking…no excuses!  Sure, there’s noise, but that’s life.

So why is it that free throw shooting has become a skill in decline in the NBA, and what is the result? 

First, the reasons:  Basketball is faster, more dynamic, and more entertaining than ever.  Athletes are bigger, stronger, flashier, and maybe even more athletic than in the “old days”.  The key word is “flash”.  Today’s players look really good!  They are good…at the fun stuff. But free throws don’t win endorsements, they don’t make the highlight films, and they don’t get “gate” (attendance).  They do however win games…but who’s counting.  Great free throw shooters practice…free throws.  They are more patient, they understand the concept of a “complete” player, and they actually do what their (lower paid) coaches tells them to do…practice free throws.

The result (of poor free throw shooting):  Otherwise “good” teams lose when it really counts!  So, how do they get away with it?  Teams and individuals who struggle the most with free throws are often those “bigger than life”.  They answer to no one.  Fans are amazed when they lose because they play so “big”.  When they lose, even by a free throw, they’re not held accountable because they dazzled ‘em with dunks, pleased ‘em with passing, and shocked ‘em with speed. One of my favorite quotes (by James Thurber), you’ve hear me use before, and you’ll hear me use again, is:

“There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.”

This applies to both people and things.  Much is or can be obscured (temporarily) by the glare of “flash”.  But when it comes to that critical moment, standing at the line, man, ball, and net, the only thing that matters is that the ball goes through the net.  It doesn’t matter how good it looks…just that it drops through.  And there’s only one way that happens consistently…through practice.  Regular, repetitive, laborious, unexciting practice; Practicing “the basics”…i.e., relax, set, bounce, bend, breathe, focus, 90°, release, and follow through …  Over and over again.  Great free throw shooters spend hours and hours practicing…and never stop.  A great shooter knows that yesterday’s practice was for yesterday, and today demands its own; It is a never-ending cycle.

And so it is in business.  In today’s economy there is much “flash”.  Marketing noise and dazzle are everywhere.  Sales people are more aggressive than ever.  “Customer loyalty programs and incentives abound…and obscure.  But, some things never change.  Flash-in- the-pan companies and programs come and go, but when push comes to shove, when you absolutely positively have to have rock solid service, the only thing that matters is consistent, reliable, dependable, performance – the kind that comes from practice.  Practicing the basics…relax, set, bounce, bend, breathe, focus, release, and follow through… Over and over again.  Great business people spend hours and hours practicing…and never stop.  Great business people know that yesterday’s practice was for yesterday, and today demands its own; It’s a never-ending cycle.

The “free throws” of  business are the mundane, even sometimes boring, but crucial details that make or break success.  It’s receiving today’s shipments…today!  It’s going out of our way to say “thank you” at the end of every sale.  It’s sweeping the floor…every day.  It’s really counting – not estimating, at inventory.  It’s studying and reading about new products.  Not exciting stuff, but if not done, if not practiced could eventually spell the difference between keeping or losing customers.

There are lots of great talents in business.  Some dazzle; Some entertain; Some can sell anything…once.  But when it comes to “the details”… to follow-up, to keeping promises…to actually delivering value…even the best “showman” falls short.  There’s nothing in their bag of tricks of things that glare, obscure, and distract that will win the game…in the long run.

Instead, it’s under-promising and over-delivering; it’s always doing what we say we’ll do; it’s being perfectly predictable and unwaveringly consistent…these define dependability…they are the qualities -the glow- that “illuminate” the way for customers to find their way “home”…to us!

Don’t forget the free throws…

Lead on………..    Cliff

November 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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