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Killing Me Softly…

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 
The discussion over local business growth and opportunity is a coffee break staple in America. In times of economic pressure the conversational pitch naturally rises. Notwithstanding the cyclical nature of business, the “flattening” of the so-called “world economy,” and the effect of creative (destructive) innovation, small business becomes the focal point of discussion when we break for America’s brew. But is it conversation or real commitment that motivates our spoken support for local business? Do we really care about the local bike shop or farm store selling American-made goods and home-grown produce, or does a quick check of the price determine where we shop?

 
The giddiness in the market of late—usually the first roar of recovery—has market watchers gushing over the numbers: the Dow (industrials), the NASDAQ (technology), the auto industry, housing starts, employment, big oil, big banks, and big retail. Main Street businesses, long the bell weather of sustained growth, are typically left out of the discussion. Why?

 
They are less endowed of resources, the integration sophistication of larger companies, the technology of the day, and the predatory marketing ethic that so often drives large companies, from big banks to multi-unit tire stores. What they do have is the desire to make a difference in their community, and they put their money where their heart is. Not so for big banks and big box stores. But a closer look reveals the oddity in the fabric of the American psyche that belies the best intentions of local townspeople.

 
Americans speak about their communities with pride in their schools, town traditions, culture, and the spirit of town enthusiasts, the vocal few who give them personality. However, under the guise of “community making” we are too often in the process of “community breaking,” and in the process we feed our compulsions more easily than our compassion.

 
The Browning of America
The Wal-Mart’s, Costco’s, and Best Buy’s on the edge of towns across America may be fitful for local businesses (in place) when they arrive, but the long-term affect on local business may have proven to be a net naught. This, largely because of the energy and enthusiasm in Americans’ desire to make better lives for themselves and a better community in which to live through local enterprise—service and commercial. It is the will to create opportunity in each that not only mirrors the American DNA but also acts out the extraordinary drive that makes America an arcade of shop owners across the land. Americans have a greater impact on the health of the U.S. economy than could any stimulus package. Local spending recycles American dollars and keeps town economies strong while securing a vital national economy.

 
In “so-called” efforts to preserve the natural beauty of local landscapes, towns across America enforce predatory regulations on local business, often to the point of open hostility between the business community and local government. Local planning and building boards are legendary for “opinion judgments” instead of invoking the ordinance that applies; often heard telling store owner applicants, “The town doesn’t need another deli,” or pinning beautification costs on new business or buildings while holding CO’s hostage.

 
Local chambers, despite charters that commonly read: “… to promote a business environment that sustains economic vitality, promotes economic development and enhances the appeal to locate, conduct, and grow businesses in the area,” routinely accept money and promote “distant local” companies in favor of locals that have similar products and have made a local commitment often spanning generations. Their view is often that everyone’s money is painted green; while failing to recognize that local business is colored of the sweat, blood, and tears of the hope in community building by local citizens. This is the “browning of America.”

 
Local banks that rely on local citizens and businesses for their financial health seldom advertise locally or fund local initiatives. Their employees may live in town and spend their wages locally, but the bank would sooner send direct mail to homes and commit fortunes to national advertising than sponsor a community event or advertise in a community paper. I have been banking with a small community bank for 31 years, which has never had to offer $150 to open a new account, and has grown consistently over the years, even through the “great recession.” I can accomplish any banking transaction via telephone, email, or its online banking system, from anyplace on earth. Can you say that about your bank?

 
A recent study by the Online Publishers Association found that consumers trust online advertising on local newspaper, magazine, and electronic media websites, and are more likely to take action after viewing ads on them.

 
Newspaper websites have a slight lead with 46 percent of consumers responding to local ads by either purchasing the product, visiting a store, or conducting more research. Electronic media websites came in second with 44 percent and magazine sites followed closely with 42 percent. Media sites are also outperforming portals (single function websites) and all other online media.

 
Restaurants topped the list with 38 percent consumer response, followed by 28 percent for grocery stores, 25 percent for banks and financial services and 19 percent for doctors and health facilities.

 
Why are Americans turning to local produce and American made goods and services? Because they realize that growth—personal and community—comes from individual initiative for a cause. “Cause marketing” is America’s new battle cry, and it’s likely to make a deafening sound in the years to come. The cause is the re-greening of America, but will local governments, chambers, and national chains hear it? Trade imbalances will eventually drive us to a “no tariff economic model” or bankruptcy. Despite the popular rhetoric, no nation will win a trade war with the US, even though many will suffer some, the result will be fewer tariffs and richer economies.

 
In the song by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, Killing Me Softly, the lyrics decry the pain of despair for a lost love. The haunting strain of words and music seems to find what aches in us as we listen to it, a fringe relationship with a similar experience. Perhaps, it is also the song of small business in America, struggling against the good news of financial markets, big banks, and even bigger government as though the talk of it would gather Main Street in its draft. The plight of local business may be understood as much by its smallness and limited resources as the contradiction that local government, chambers, and citizens alike have adopted a bicameral nature in saying one thing and doing another.

June 3, 2019 |

The Three Rs of Enterprise

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

Fewer than 40 percent of graduating high school seniors have mastered reading and math, making the majority of graduating classes poorly equipped for college and real-world life.  This group of students (generally) passes to the next grade—regardless of performance—and is at a serious disadvantage with a higher chance of falling behind and dropping out of college. (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] 2015).

Programs such as STEM that encourage girls—who usually do better than boys in most subjects—in the study of science, math, and technology helps, but the majority of U.S. graduates are disadvantaged in the workplace in comparison to many other industrialized nations.

The fallout is evident to most business and NFP (Not For Profit) organizations that must routinely choose among candidates that show promise, if not the skills already in place that are necessary to job performance. While poor language skills are among the most obvious deficiencies in job candidates, most lack the discipline of an everyday job, the resourcefulness that fuels growth and opportunity, and the basic nature in risk taking.

Perhaps, as it relates to our educational system, we are asking the wrong questions. A focus on literacy and basic academic skills fails to identify key elements of success in the marketplace, which also encourage the personal growth and development that lead to ultimate fulfillment—the highest level of personal achievement.

1. Resourcefulness
2. Respect
3. Risk

The three Rs of Enterprise may be a reasonable place to start. Simply, Resourcefulness, Respect, and Risk may offer the opportunity to address the educational deficit noted above and present a more achievable goal for lazy students, encouraging academic participation. Clearly, 60 percent of high school graduates may be unable to outline the elements of international balance of power today in light of the Monroe Doctrine that defined an era of isolationism in America for 100 years. They would more easily be able to describe the ways they repaired a separated doorknob for mom while dad was at work, or the discovery of ingredients for a first omelet when the fridge offered limited options, or the mental calculation used to judge a skateboard stunt, or the deference paid to a disabled person in helping them. On these foundations—common to all—most any could find their way to greater understanding through an informed approach to learning. I think we call this education.

What’s taught in school? Coursework is the answer, for its focus on academics. Missing is the method common to all learning that resourcefulness, respect for the subject matter (in practical terms) and the risk that raises hands with questions, subordinating natural fears, engenders.

Also missing are the business calisthenics so vital to self-achievement. R1 is first among skills. In the end, some part of all things must be done alone—critical thinking, ideation, planning, “what if” analyses, funding, market analysis, pricing models, competitive analysis, facilities plan, staffing, training and personnel development (leadership), and growth modeling. All come into play for household management; something we all need to learn so as not to model the error in governments that practice deficit spending. If we are successful in raising a nation of people better able to find self-fulfillment, we do well to teach and practice resourcefulness. There is no substitute for this ability to find solutions when none are seemingly available.

Respect calms the process, answers the “why” in what we do and in choosing our life’s path. Significantly, R2 models the organizational attitude in whatever place we find ourselves. Respect for the work, the staff, the process, the customer, the community, the industry, end goals, and individual choice, put all peoples, created equal under God, on an even plane to compete cooperatively. If we are better able to see another through the eyes of hope in us, we reveal the path to the most spoken urging of politics and people—coming together.

Risk Management must become an internal model, wholly respected and resource specific for the incomplete logic in all initiatives that finds optimal outcomes. It’s everyone’s job.

1. Assessing coverage risks—cross-functional flow and cross training. What a 3rd baseman does when the shortstop attempts to field a hard grounder; or a friend does in comforting another after tragedy; or a parent does when their fledgling child rents her first apartment with the fear she won’t be able to manage the financial burden of it.

2. Raising the quality of customers to serve efficiency and best outcomes, driving prices down, and quality product and service up, which delivers greater profits.

3. Staff attrition risk management—A measure of organizational reward (liking where we work and what we do), and opportunity assessments.

May 17, 2019 |

Same story, different time …

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

In a world of instant information and growing automation, are we likely to see personal customer service disappear? Retail has moved online, without a doubt, though meteoric growth of its share of the $5 trillion dollar pie benefits significantly from the arithmetic magic of small numbers. Online purchases are roughly 10-12 percent; though most asked the question guess the number to be between 50-90 percent. Clearly, Amazon has taken the lead, making retail the facile mechanism that serves a needy consumer with the convenience that the information age encourages, but they have succeeded at something fundamentally more important than the listing of “everything under the sun.” Even when selecting the “fav” of the American craze for quick burgers, one company revealed the essential philter in the success model by telling customers they can “ … have it your way.” No less cleverly, Amazon did the same; making the answer to every customer’s question—“Yes!”

A WSJ report that Apple Stores have lost their luster, suggests a refocus from customer services to retail tricks, that lure customers now spurned by the absence of creative and effective “help” with Apple products, to “niceness” in the form of less capable technical problem solvers and hard-to-access solutions. Lighter traffic and sales are the result. When Best Buy announced some years ago that it would focus its attention on the top 10 percent of its customer base, and leave the rest to fend for themselves, it was no surprise to see customers find alternatives while sales fell.

The essential truth in competition is that its purest form is the “alternative use of the same resources.” Challenge the customer to reconsider your products, and they inevitably will do just that. The wisdom that informs sales is customer service; not sweet temperaments and seeming helpfulness, but real help. While Amazon may be testing its stellar “returns policy” by accepting more product from sketchy suppliers, it continues the march to “having it your way” by its move to “next day delivery” for Prime members. Whatever your brand of it, losing sight of the value in customer service is to forgo the golden goose. The magic for retailers begins when they get the attention of buyers. It is this moment they have the opportunity to capture their loyalty on the way to a successful “retention revenue model.” It’s what secures the future more than anything else.

Before Apple found gold in its music and mobile products, it relied on its loyal base to tout the uniqueness that distinguished it from others—“the computer for the rest of us.” The loyalty of its customers ( a cultural pennant) sustained the company through decades of so-so sales until the genius in bold product moves was revealed, along with a customer service juggernaut; the Apple Store, that even surprised success models, where others had failed. Though it is at risk at the moment, the solution remains the same—simple, better than good customer service.

After a recent fender bender, I called my insurance company (on the spot) to provide all the information needed to begin the repair of the damage, including a pre-selected local body shop. Days later, despite email confirmation of the exchange and promises to move quickly to restore the car’s use to me, nothing had been done. A funneled connection to a single claims agent revealed confusion on her part about the insurance coverage on the vehicle. She claimed first that it did not include collision, and next that no policy for that vehicle had been purchased in the renewal that occurred two months earlier. In telephone conversation with the claims agent I insisted that she review the five policies we had with the company and get back to me with a solution to the problem, in lieu of my proving to her that we actually had insurance policies in place. Begrudgingly, she accepted, certain that her records correctly positioned me as she described. I immediately went to their site and retrieved the details on all policies, confirming the renewals and coverages in each, including full collision for the damaged vehicle; then waited for her promised call following the weekend. It didn’t come, so I called her at 3:56PM and left a message. She works to 4:15PM of each weekday. The message explained that if I didn’t hear from her by the next day I’d only be talking to our local agent and headquarters people of her company, but not with her again. The next day she called to apologize and confirm that all was well, policies in place, and a promise to move things along immediately. And one more thing: she blamed the confusion on another—the clerk that took the information; strangely, whose confirming email to me contained every bit of information I gave her, including the body shop that would do the repair. If customer service meant anything to this employee, it was not evident in her pronouncement that I had no coverage for the damaged vehicle; neither in the lack of compensation for the 12-day delay in beginning the process of repair. You can guess what this might mean for Progressive, whom I have been using since 1993. if it happened to me, it is happening to others.

We are a creative people, whose desire for “the better” in things drives new models of enterprise. A good thing! In the end, some things remain the same. People are the object of all things, which recommends that we see them first, before revenue, profit, and so called opportunities to charge what the market will bear. Once gained, the trust of people is the most powerful asset an organization can claim. We do well to give this player, in the model of organizational achievement, our undivided attention.

May 17, 2019 |

Attitude…the real opportunity

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

Few things wear commitment as a tree. John Muir, environmentalist, naturalist, adventurer, and thinker excited the notion in his famous words, “It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!” Were these well-limned words to qualify the yaw of fellow travelers—men—the workplace and the world would produce a different math than the cacophony of avarice, misrepresentation, and malingering that refreshes pixel-like as we look around. Indeed: taking measure of us John Muir chose defense of the tree.

 
At a time when employers, private and government, and the employment engine, struggled as typical “America first and foremost” fealty vanished, a dissuaded populace moaned of joblessness and the economic uncertainty that sours the palette. If we pause to give promise a history lesson, visions of the “Greatest Generation” come into focus, even though most seeking employment (during The Great Recession), our youth, then 72 percent un-contracted in the marketplace, and little charged of its principles, and near absent knowledge of Tom Brokaw, chronicler of the now famous label on America’s most productive, ethically rooted, and committed by principle, were feeling vexed and uncommitted to the navigational star in a stormy sea of fainting hopes. If a bleak and forlorn sentence, consider that employees, not employers, were more lost in the turbulence of the cultural sea change that painted their present and their future.

 
Born of nothing but promise, Americans from every land found harmony in ethic that joined all in the belief that just about anybody “could,” in a society aching and achieving by its diversity of imagination, approach, and vision. Brokaw’s “generation,” if indeed the greatest generation society ever produced, fought the Great War not for “fame and recognition” but because “it was the right thing to do.” Extraordinary! Drawn together in common cause and hardened to a softness that respected the right to be and to contribute by one’s labor’s, they found unity and strength in the resolve to build a better life, and fashioned America as the greatest economic engine ever known to man and a worldwide superpower. They landed on our shores with nothing but a great work ethic and a great attitude. As Martin Klinzing put it, “Essentially (the) discussion boils down to the fact that you can teach someone anything except to care.”

 
So where is the harmonic connection to what is “right and true,” to the “Greatest Generation,” its chords ringing with the opportunity in work, the promise of a brighter future, lost after the making, or so Brokaw and those before who lamenting its decline decried, switching psyches as though horses to position leverage, entitlement, greed, and the pursuit of individual rights as idols? The disequilibrium in this math, confounding the symmetry atavistic of good beginnings, is the confusion in the workplace that delivers poor attitudes, habits, the god in spurious resumes, and ultimately uncommitted human assets. Few workers take to their daily bread winning as “settlers,” in the words of E. B. White of The New Yorker Magazine, with the unbridled passion that mirrors the productivity of an earlier age and a magnetism that collects those around them as they sail into the wind and by a star. Sadly, those that don’t fit onto this boat are the disenfranchised “commuters” of an economic engine now wagged by its tail.

 
As the economy returns to growth, on all planes, the demand for labor will change positions with the supply of it as workers take the bully pulpit. Employers will feel the pressure to increase their profiles—better wages, benefits, and perks. It’s the way of free market models, ultimately directed by supply and demand. Don’t give in to it!

 
There is little disagreement with the premise that attitude trumps skills in the selection of new employees. And though foundation stones in the model of quality employees, attitude and work ethic have complements, not least, “segment knowledge, soft skills like leadership and managerial quality, creativity, and the ability to learn and adapt to the changing environment,” as Professor Emeritus of Harvard Business School James Heskett has noted by the measure of thirty years of study. Driven to discover the route to excellence in organizations, he went beyond the conventional wisdom: “hire for attitude and train for skills. “Attitude” took on new meaning, in summary, “ … the ability to identify with and “live” core values of the organization such as respect for others, being customer-driven, etc. Management has concluded that it is too difficult and costly to try to change the attitudes of adults. As a result, they release those unable to work and manage according to the organization’s values and replace them with those who can.”

 
Not coincidentally, the work revealed that capital flows follow quality labor, a conclusion of considerable study by Gregory Clark, summarized in his 2006 book, A Farewell to Alms, minimizing the long-term threat of outsourcing to developed economies. The image of this favored son of the Greatest Generation is not only worth the effort necessary to good employee selections, but also worth waiting for, if Clark is right. As C. J. Cullinane, commented: “Attitude is all … if employees are the (corporate) brain cells, then long-term employees are the long-term memory of the corporate brain.”

March 29, 2019 |

Blood Lines

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

In the midst of an economic cold spell, no less the “hot n’ cold” market temperatures whipping it up, the expectations of spring inching its way toward us, the days getting longer, and the hope for an economic thaw growing energy, we take stock of what has drained so painfully through our fingers and from our purses these last years. The exercise in assessment may be more John Naisbitt than Jay Leno, but necessary if not fun. What has happened in the “dreary years”—too many refuse to call the recent “worldwide depression” what it was—since 2007 sifted man, mechanism, and malodorous management and come up wanting. Assessment, though a staple of OD, is the “sine qua non” of vital organizations.

 
When we lift a handful of dirt from the garden as spring approaches, the assay is felt in the friable content of the dirt. To do well, plants must be in fertile soil, containing no less than nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, and a balanced pH–so too organizations. Endowed of the “right stuff” they will prosper and grow … to everyone’s benefit—employees, vendors, community, and nation. Absent the minimum constituents they will falter and die.

 
In his arch sentience, E B White, of New Yorker fame, said of New Yorkers: “Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidarity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. Indeed, gifted organizations are no less well endowed by the diversity in this math.

 
Commuters are the workers who come in the morning and leave at night; never fully invested and quite willing to leave work behind after leaving the office. They are typically in search of a better opportunity though seemingly glad to have a job. Though their coming and going is the disequilibrium that managers hate most—hiring, training, and testing new people are upsetting to process and productivity—attrition is as common as those arriving late to work. In the end, functions must be performed and positions filled.

 
Natives are the bedrock of organizations. They may not be the best performers but they are always there, willing, and waiting to join the next initiative. They are the people who “chop wood carry water”, as the old Zen saying goes. They inhabit the workplace as no others, warm the organizational ethic, show up on snow days especially if they come the farthest distance, and set the standard for hard work. They can always be counted on to do something, even if not the most creative, clever, or productive something. They are the loyal supporters, the janissary. No claque, the natives are the kedge stone that whittles efficiency from a wooded mass.

 
Settlers come to stake claim to something uniquely theirs. They are the passionate few, who dare to be different, consider the fun in risk taking, and find security in their qualified oddity. They hatch ideas and are confused when others don’t cotton to them. Undaunted, they charge ahead expecting others to join if only to taste the excitement. They are pure heat.

 
This is what gives organizations their identity, their blood type. Too much of one cell spells trouble; balance in diversity delivers the promise of achievement—purpose. Ever sentient, E. B. White saw this too.

 
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

March 19, 2019 |

The Power of a Positive Self-Image (PPSI)

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World in 1492. Some months later he came to land that is variously ascribed to his discovery of it. Though it was not until his third voyage that he actually landed on the Americas that we know today, the achievement was significant in terms of the accomplishments of the day. Indeed, his voyages were ill conceived of purpose — a short route to India — narrowly funded, and miscalculated for the distance between Spain and the Americas.

 
The earth may have been perceived as flat by common folk of the day, though no sailor held that view. Its circumference, indeed its cubism, is credited to the math of Eratosthenes some 1700 years earlier. Columbus’ estimate of 2400 miles was close enough, based erroneously on a misunderstanding of the Arabic miles used in his calculations, but land was what he sought. Given the right direction, whenever he found it, the voyage ended. It was that simple.

 
Born of meager beginnings, the explorer had it in mind to accomplish something he believed in. It was first his ability to navigate the world, and next to commercialize his skill for the benefit of nations seeking an edge in the warring struggles of the day. Beginning in 1485, Columbus traveled throughout Europe in search of funding for his passions. First to Portugal, then to Genoa and Venice, to Portugal again, and on to Spain, he went. He was summarily dismissed in all places, but just as he was preparing to leave Spain, Isabella summoned him (by the influence of the king, her husband Ferdinand) to return. Fresh from the successful battle for Granada, Isabella granted Columbus an annuity of $840 (and other perks) in 1489. Had the invitation to appear before Henry VII of England come sooner, Columbus might have set sail from Jolly Ole’ instead. With such a preponderance of negative weight on his shoulders, how ever did Columbus succeed?

 
Daily, today’s workers struggle with the very same question. Despite an education, knowledge of right principles and practices, and the “apparent” modeling of successful others, the visceral rumbling in most workers is the question: “Why can’t I succeed?” Often appearing in different words, the question is the same.

 
• I can’t control my inner urges. What’s wrong with me?
• Why do I become so anxious about things that I feel sick to my stomach, almost to the point of vomiting?
• I know I have to pick up the phone to make money, but why can’t I get myself to do it?
• I have an entire list of things to do. Why won’t I do it, and what should I do first?
• I’ve read countless books on positive thinking, motivation, building confidence, and others specific to the success I crave. Why can’t I follow their advice?
• I’ve been in therapy, counseling, coaching, and talked with friends, but I’m still lost. Why?
• I’m a capable person with a stable, long-term experience in my field. Why can’t I find another job?
• I’m about to lose my marriage. Why can’t I change enough to save it?

 
Frustration naturally accompanies the conflict between what we want and what we’re getting, or the discomfort in not getting through certain kinds of situations. All the study in the world is hard to recapture when we are in the crucible, where our battles take place. On those occasions, and as soon as we leave the “Performance Improvement” seminar, we go on “autopilot,” acting the way we are accustomed, not having to “think” about it. We “forget” to do what we were told to do, one of the deficiencies in motivational speaking as a learning tool.

 
Without the habit-forming ardor of daily practice, most of what we hear and learn is lost in a single day. In fact, without it (practice), 93 percent of what we learn today will be lost in our unconscious minds in six months.

 
Reversal: A Success Model
We must run as fast as the world around us to bring it into view, as though spinning a quarter on a table to narrow our focus on the desired outcome. It is only then that we can slow it down enough (E=MC2) to consider things carefully. In this way, we find the root of our limitations in this slowing process, release the old and install the new, reversing the self-destructive nature of perceived limitations. In doing so, we learn the patience that informs self-help.

 
The things we do that chase success are too numerous to mention here, but to consider a few that may underlie all others is helpful. Check those that apply to you and vow to release, replace, and reverse them.

 
Some things that chase success, cause failure:
• Failures, mistakes, setbacks, delays, criticism negatively affect your self-image, have negative meanings, and create images of failure.
• Taking no responsibility for negative outcomes/setbacks. It’s someone else’s fault — poor performance that caused it.
• Self-doubt, lack of faith. Feeling/believing “I can’t.” Remember, those who say “I can” and those who say “I can’t” are both right.
• Love for/attraction to people, places, and things. These are behaviors that get in the way of positive goals/outcomes.
• Dislike/repulsion to tasks, people and places that help you achieve positive goals/outcomes.
• Worry. A preoccupation with “what’s not perfect” and “what could go wrong.”
• Exaggerating the size and difficulty of goal-oriented tasks or decisions.
• Exaggerating the effect of mistakes, setbacks and delays, criticisms (real or imagined).
• Disaster thinking. Imagining the worst outcomes/effects.
• Stress. It destroys the ability to accomplish desired outcomes (Think right now).

 
When we believe that we are not good at something, we risk the feelings above in an effort to confirm a negative self-esteem, to feel more comfortable with ourselves. We get to this place quite automatically — the reason self-help books and motivational speakers have a short-lived effect on us.

 
The good news is that these behaviors are learned. They can be unlearned. Often, there is more power in unlearning than in learning. We can create the emotional and behavioral changes that inform success — achieving hoped-for, planned results. It is the magic of the subconscious mind that allows it, a mind that knows no difference between a real or imagined experience. Use it, as Christopher Columbus obviously must have, and achieve through the “power of a positive self-image.”

March 7, 2019 |

Counting Losses

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

Most of what you hear from me is about winning in the market space. I trust it is on solid moral grounds that I recommend any action you might take to grow your organizations. By and large, however, this column is about growing something—people, attitudes, initiatives, product and market strength, and the underpinning ethic that informs good citizenship. It is about gain.

 
The model of a successful organization is one that is tilted forward in the marketplace, embracing risk as though it were another flight of stairs to climb. It is one whose people and institutions are aligned with its goals, whose same people are in pursuit of personal and professional growth, and who also know that to achieve the greatness they desire requires a mighty dose of unselfish giving of themselves … to others, for their successes first.

 
We have studied the ways to assess the market, its internal workings. As well, we have looked at how to measure it’s performance, its potential, and the opportunity in it and us to realize the promise it holds for self fulfillment and a better life and legacy.

 
In over seven hundred columns we’ve considered tools, models of efficiency, execution cultures, focus, leadership, management techniques, problem solving and decision-making, managing risk, change, conflict, talent, conquering doubt, engagement, benchmarking, trust, passion, commitment, and failure.

 
In the process we call development, we face challenges that test our mettle, that reveal the person inside, that measure our stomach for the war game we call business. At times, the struggle is a little greater than we’d choose to endure, if the choice were ours in the first place. It usually isn’t, save the planned failure that gives light to a natural model in the behavioral tracking of people at work.

 
We’ve also learned that there is no productive value in blame or excuses, no less than from Dick Lyles book, Winning Habits, in which he describes as the second winning habit the urging to never trade results for excuses. It’s a winsome idea, since we know that they (excuses) are born of fear, and that fear robs us of our courage, our will to press on.

 
At times, in the struggle, we must be willing to allow failed initiatives to die, shut down even long-running operations in favor of building an entirely new lineup of products, be willing to embrace loss, endure pain, temporarily lose freedoms, build relationships with competitors, accept compromise, and imagine a market space, even life as we know it, markedly different than the one in which we have become so comfortable.

 
These are often counted as losses, and rightfully so. Our usual “take no prisoners” verve whines wistfully when what we counted highly on the way to achievement measures differently in the end. It is when we are less in control of things than we’d like to be. It is when our perspective floats around us like the vast sea as we struggle to keep afloat without aid of fins or floatation devices. It is when we count loss, not give up, but just count loss because it is real.

 
Someday I hope to hear grandchildren call me grandpa, to ride ten miles on my Trek 1200 at 75, as I do now, to count wisdom greater than wealth, and to see the living things around us as more than just resources. Someday I hope to gain perspective on all the things I do and find others in the midst of my joy. And someday I hope to get over the loss of Argento, who at just under two years old left this world a cancer victim. I miss him waking me in the morning as he leaves my side in bed, and his warm and peaceful carpeted skin on my lap as I sit and read, and his deep throaty purring calling to an ancient wisdom. Despite all that I know about gain, today I count loss.

March 7, 2019 |
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