On Being Extraordinary

Maverick Moxie: An Important Leadership Quality #4028 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

Maverick Moxie: An Important Leadership Quality #4028

Maverick Moxie: An Important Leadership Quality #4028 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

Full Definition of moxie

1:  energy, pep

2:  courage, determination

3:  know-how

I’m using the word by incorporating all three definitions of the word moxie. I’m also choosing to focus on the order used by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definitions, but first — a back story for today’s show.

There have been times in your life when you were excited and thrilled at the prospect of doing something. Maybe it was something brand new, something you’d never done before. Maybe it was a job, or a new responsibility at work. You weren’t completely sure of yourself, but the thought of it gave you energy.

That energy gave you courage to dive in. At first you didn’t know exactly all the nuances of the activity. Maybe you weren’t even sure of how to go about fulfilling the role, but it didn’t matter because you were so thrilled at the opportunity you didn’t care about those details. They seemed minor to you. Besides, you likely told yourself, “I’ll figure it out as I go.”

Think back to your childhood and Saturday’s spent playing. Whether it was a backyard, a ball field or anywhere else you gathered with friends — the act of playing accomplished the first definition. It gave you energy. Well, to be more exact, it gave you energy if it was something you really wanted to do.

Sometimes my friends and I would sit around and toss out ideas of what to do next. Somebody might suggest something that wouldn’t fuel my energy. Like baseball. I was never fond of it, even as a little kid. I’d go along if it appeared everybody else was into it, but if I could negotiate to do something else, I would. Football. Basketball. A game of HORSE. Building a fort. Going into the woods to play hide and seek. All of those were far more energizing to me. You had things that energized you. Think about what they were.

Something magical happened when we played. Our imaginations soared. We thought about being bigger than we were. This week the Cleveland Cavaliers held their NBA Championship parade. It’s been decades since the city of Cleveland had a championship. Ask any of those players about this moment in their lives and they’ll all tell you about memories they had as kids playing basketball. They imagined making the game winning basket. They imagined being winners. Champions even. Those dreams first emerged when they were little boys. It was our first experience with moxie.

Our moxie wasn’t identical to the moxie of our buddies. I had a buddy who enjoyed boxing. So did I. We boxed a lot. Other buddies didn’t like it. They weren’t energized at the thought of boxing. I was. My buddy was.

At first, he was the only one with any experience. And he owned the boxing gloves. He was a bit of a fighter at school, sometimes. I had never fought. I’ve never been in a fistfight. Ever. Still.

But the idea of boxing – whenever it first came up as an option of something to do – sounded good. My energy level went up thinking about it. Just considering it gave me some oomph. I don’t know why. Maybe because I had never fought. I don’t know. But instantly I thought (and probably said), “Yeah, let’s do it.”

My buddy whipped me pretty good at first because I didn’t have that 3rd trait of moxie – know-how. I didn’t care. The activity was cool. And fun. I was engaged. Doing it was exciting and energizing. As a result I didn’t have to work up any courage or determination to do it. I wanted to do it. I don’t imagine anything could have stopped me from wanting to do it. If getting hit in the face repeatedly doesn’t deter you then I guess you know you’re onto something that fuels your moxie.

I’d frequently ask my buddy, “Let’s box.” I’m sure he even got sick of it, but I wanted to do it more and more. And over time I learned. I figured out how to avoid getting hit in the face. I embraced in myself all the things necessary to be effective. I wasn’t afraid of being hit in the face. I wasn’t afraid of hitting my buddy in the face either. We were friends and it never got out of hand. It was sport and thankfully we both – even as grade school and junior high school kids – kept that perspective. If one of us was getting the best of the other, we’d stop. And find something else to do.

Sometimes know-how happens quickly. Sometimes it never happens. You never know until you try.

A maverick is a person who refuses to follow the customs or rules of a group, but I don’t think of them as a rebel. Others may. Rather, they’re people with higher self-awareness. And they’re people who are mostly unwilling to try to be somebody they’re not.

Mavericks aren’t people who refuse to become the best version of themselves. No, that’s exactly what they are trying to do. Others look at them and think they’re non-conformists, but that’s not right. The maverick is trying to conform to his own ideal. Mavericks believe in soaring with their strengths. They’re not overly concerned with what they can’t do, or what they don’t want to do. Others are concerned about that, and constantly try to impose on them their own ideals. Mavericks push back. Sometimes they have to push back with substantial force or people won’t back off.

Like my left jab against my boxing buddy – I had to use it to keep him at bay. If I didn’t, he’d keep moving forward with aggression. I couldn’t let him do that, unless of course I wanted to eventually get hit in the nose.

You’ve incorporated maverick moxie in your life before. Like me, you likely started doing it when you were a kid playing with your friends. There were times you held your ground because you simply didn’t want to give in. It wasn’t all the time. I didn’t want to box all the time. I never would have chosen baseball as the thing to do, but I’ve played in plenty of sandlot baseball games because I cared enough about my friends who did want to play it. My maverick moxie couldn’t rule the world. That’s not moxie at all. That’s just pure selfishness.

But when it comes to leadership – when it comes to us doing what we want to do, what we need to do – it is up to us. Leadership starts with our lives. First, we’re the leaders of our own lives.

“If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

I have no idea which positive thinking guru first came up with that, but there are parts of it I love. Self-accountability mostly. It certainly starts with us, but there’s quite a lot more to it. I knew if I wanted to box, then I had to take charge and suggest it. Well, not always, but often. I couldn’t box alone. I needed my buddy’s willingness. So it wasn’t entirely up to me even though maybe I initiated it more often.

Your life is your life. It’s a mistake to let somebody else try to direct or drive your moxie. Mostly because it’s not their role or ability. How would my life be if I let a buddy with baseball moxie determine my own moxie? Miserable! That’s how it would have been. I didn’t like baseball. Could I have learned to love it? Maybe, but not likely. Would I play it sometimes and enjoy it? Yes, sure. But faced with other options, I could easily list at least 10 other things I’d rather do. Baseball just didn’t hit the first mark of moxie – energy.

Your energy is personal to you. Let somebody direct your energy and you’ve already lost. You know that because it’s happened to you before. It happened when you were a kid. It’s happened to you as an adult. People have attempted to hammer you into a space that just isn’t shaped like you are. Square pegs into round holes and all that.

Like Popeye, “I am what I am.” Again, you can and should work to become a better version of yourself. And yes, you should improve things that need improvement. As you look at your strengths and your inner leanings where your capacity is high (and your natural aptitude is also high), you should ignore what others think and say.

Think back over your career – no matter how short or long it may be. People (probably quite a few people) have tried to get you to do things you knew weren’t right for you. Things that hit that first moxie trait – they gave you energy – but people ruined it for you. Your courage and determination got tested and you decided it simply was no longer worth it. I had that experience in high school football.

I started playing football in 5th grade. That was when kids could first play football (I’m old and that’s how things rolled back then). It was full pads, tackle football. By the time I got to high school I had played football for a few years. I enjoyed football. It was physical. I enjoyed hitting, mostly tackling. It enjoyed being with my buddies. I liked everything about it.

Weeks before school started, in high school, we gathered on the football field in the summer heat to participate in try outs. No gear. Just workout clothes and sneakers.

It was a brand new high school. The defensive coach was fond of me. I worked hard. I hustled. I was quick to the ball and had good vision. The head coach was a jerk (why is that often the case?). Here we are a bunch of guys who have played ball together since 5th grade and this guy is talking to us about a 3-point stance (how guys get down prior to the snap of the ball). It started going south for me rather quickly when the coach said, “Whichever way you take a guy’s head, that’s the way he’ll go.” DUH. The snarkiness in my brain couldn’t be contained. I chuckled.

“You think that’s funny, Cantrell,” said the coach.

“Yes sir, kinda,” I said.

He then directed me to get down into a 3-point stance. I did. He stood over me, holding down the top of my head. “Now, try to raise up,” he commanded. Of course, I wasn’t able to. Proudly, he said, “See, I told you.”

Unable to leave well enough alone I pointed out how we weren’t allowed to hold. The next thing I remember is doing duck walks for 400 yards. It wasn’t a fun punishment. Then again, I don’t suppose punishment is supposed to be fun. I loved football, but this guy was now going to be in charge of my football life so I quit. I walked away, happily. It had nothing to do with energy for the game, or know how. I no longer had the courage or determination to endure his idiocy. Has that ever happened to you?

Was it moxie to quit? I think so. I had to take control of my own life and my own choices. Giving up football mattered more than submitting to a moron head coach. I never regretted it. I’m sure he didn’t either, even though the defensive coach tried to get me to reconsider. Saying yes would have meant surrendering energy and so the moxie would have died anyway. It had nothing to do with football. It had everything to do with people involved.

People Make The Difference

If you’ve listened to me at all you knew it might come around to this. It almost always does. Mostly because few of us can operate in a vacuum all by ourself. I needed my buddy to box with me. I needed a coach I was willing to play football for. My love of boxing and football only carried me so far. And if I hadn’t had any skill for either, well all bets would have been off. I wouldn’t have likely enjoyed either of them. Did love fuel skill or vice versa. I don’t know. It probably works both ways. I think it did for me.

It’s about doing your best. It’s about being the best YOU.

Your energy, courage and determination coupled with your know-how comprise your moxie. Remove maverick from the equation and where are you? Nowhere. You need maverick moxie. No other kind will do. Not if you’re going to be a real leader. A leader of your own life and a leader of others.

You’ve got to have the courage to decide for yourself. And pay the price for it.

The thing that pumps you up…the thing that excites you can be ruined by other people who enter your life (or are already there) and want to urge you to do something else. They have expectations and objectives in their own lives or careers. Everybody has a vested interest in things going a certain way. Rarely will you encounter people who want to serve you to help you with whatever YOU want. It can happen, but it’s not common. Far more common are people who will act as though they have your best interests at heart, but there’s something else going on. I know all that sounds terribly selfish. And it is. It’s also mostly true. Not always, but mostly.

“You should…”

“You need to…”

These are two of the most common phrases we hear from people who don’t agree with our choices. Maverick moxie means you ignore the voices except those who have proven they’re ready and willing to help you reach your potential. They’re out there. Hopefully you’ve already got a few people in your life like that. If not, start looking. Find them. They’ll help accelerate your growth and they’ll help you become more of who you want to be. That little kid version of you that dreamed big and imagined being wildly successful…it may be possible. How will you ever know if you don’t try? But surround yourself with people who are able to see what you see. We all need people who see that big dream in us, and are willing to help us achieve it.

But before you can find those people you’ve got to get rid of the people who drag you down. They pose as helpers, mentors and trusted advisors. They’re not always as they appear though. Many are charlatans, pompous people who privately want to feel better about themselves by feeling superior to you. It’s just too easy for any of us to feel better about ourselves by pretending to help others, when all we’re really doing is making ourselves feel superior. Hence, those two common phrases: “you should…” and “you need to…”

Yes, listen to the sound counsel of people you know who have your best interest at heart. Yes, kick to the curb quickly everybody else.

Does this look the same for all of us? No. It’s individual to you. And me. And everybody else. Each of us has to decide what this will be in our life.

In Nashville there are plenty of people who want to be music artists and stars. Some want to play country music. Others want to play rock, or alternative. Some want to write songs. Others want to perform. Nashville is like many other places filled with creative people chasing dreams. Why do these people pursue such dreams in such a competitive place and such a competitive industry? Because it hits that first definition of moxie. It gives them energy. That energy may not look the same for each of them, but they’re all energized by the pursuit. Like my love of boxing with my buddy, these people are highly engaged when they’re doing it – whatever IT is. Writing songs. Playing guitar. Performing. They love it.

That love – the energy they get – drives their courage and determination to do what they need to do. They hold down full-time day jobs to make a living, then at night they go play some club for tips. They do it night after night while other people are enjoying friends, watching TV or relaxing. These people are sacrificing those things, but it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to them. They’re doing what they want to do. They love doing it and that love elevates their energy every time they do it. What may cause dread or anxiety in us drives them to take the stage.

Just like my first boxing bout, they’re not all great at it when they begin. They don’t care. Courage and determination propel them forward knowing they’re going to improve. They’ve got a big dream. They can see what the rest of us can’t. Success. It doesn’t matter that they won’t all get it. Not now. Right now, the only thing that matters is their willingness to try. It’s the only way they can find out. They simply have to make the attempt to see if their big dream has legs. So they embrace courage and determination to get up on stage night after night and get up in the morning to go to their day job. They pay prices most of us wouldn’t pay because this is their dream. Not ours.

Over time they gain know-how. Even people with limited talent can gain a degree of know-how. A person can be a competent musician in Nashville and still not achieve success. Nashville, like any other big city, is filled with talented musicians we’ve never heard of. It’s got nothing to do with moxie. It’s got everything to do with serendipity, timing, uniqueness, popularity and a host of other things…many that are beyond our control. I know, I know. We want to think we’re in command of our lives. We are, to a point. It’s up to us to assume responsibility for what we can control and to not get too wrapped up about the things beyond our control. In short, we have to do our best to give ourselves the best opportunity. Maybe we’ll hit. Maybe we won’t. Still we try.

Read interviews with music stars and you quickly see people who were determined to do things the way they most wanted to do them. It didn’t mean they refused to listen to wise counsel. They just leaned heavily toward being who they most wanted to be, doing things that felt most congruent and authentic to them. That’s the maverick part of the deal. Doing what works for YOU.

That’s important because we’re all different. There’s absolutely something to finding our own way. Sure, it can help to see how others may have done it, but they way they did it may not feel right for us. And it may not work either. I don’t know about you, but I’d had to tell quite a few folks to step back along the way. My biggest successes have often come when I got my gut full of listening to other people trying impose on me, and rob me of my  strengths. I’ve been told that my empathy is a problem, when deep down I know how remarkable it is – and what a gift it is. I’ve been told my ability to be present and to see people’s vulnerability is a weakness that I should manage. When I know how rare it is for any of us to experience others who are genuinely interested in us and able to see our pain. Again, I’m arrogant enough – self-aware enough – to know that empathy and being present (some call it emotional intelligence) are two of my super powers. I don’t have many so I have to be protective of the few I do have.

You do, too!

Be a leader. Own it. Be who you are when you’re most alive. When the fire burns the hottest. When you can’t wait to get to it. The people in your life need to see it. Those you serve do, too.

You need moxie. You may as well make it maverick moxie!


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When People Behave Badly #4027

When People Behave Badly #4027 - GROW GREAT Podcast with Randy Cantrell

He ambles to the front of the room, clicker in hand. Up on the projector is some nondescript slide with too many words. It’s evident that he’s not had a Red Bull this morning. I suspect he may have taken a fist full of tranquilizers within the last hour, but I can’t be sure. Surely not, it’s 7:30am. Maybe he’s just not had his morning coffee.

He’s going to take the team through some new initiatives. Weeks of preparation with his team members are about to finally come together in this conference room with about ten of the company’s top leaders. This meeting has been scheduled for over 2 weeks. The team knows he’s been pumped preparing the plan, and excited to share the whole thing.

Looking closely at him you can tell it’s not a lack of energy we’re seeing. He’s angry. I mean REALLY angry.

As everybody takes their seat folks begin to wonder who is going to be on the hot seat. Turns out the culprit isn’t in the room. One seat is vacant, a VP who has been with the company for 4 years.

Just before 7am the CEO’s cell phone rang. It’s the absent VP. He was arrested last night for driving while under the influence. Profuse apologies abound. The VP says all the appropriate things. He was out late entertaining some clients. The clients called a car to take them back to their hotel. He really thought he would make it home just fine. He was wrong.

Blowing through a red light he admits he never saw resulted in being pulled over. Thankfully, that was the only result. It was late and no cars were coming from the other direction, but a police cruiser was parked nearby to witness the event.

Now the CEO is pre-occupied with too many thoughts having nothing to do with his new proposed initiatives. What should he do with this VP? Fire him? What’s the press going to be like? Who will assume the VP’s responsibilities? It’s just a flood of thoughts and concerns.

Here sit nine people who have blocked the entire morning for this meeting. The CEO opens up a bottle of water, takes a sip and puts the clicker onto the table. His chest heaves as he takes in as much air as he can. He removes his glasses and announces that he’s got to inform them of their missing colleague.

He doesn’t elaborate too much. “If this were you, I don’t think you’d want me to dive into it too deeply. Suffice to say, it’s a serious matter and the outcome is yet to be determined.”

Some of the people around the table admit later that they were thinking, “Man, alive. That could have been me.”

The CEO went straight to the VP of HR/Talent Acquisition after getting that phone call. They discussed some immediate actions to take, then the CEO asked him to speak briefly with the rest of the team about their behavior, especially when behind the wheel — and when they’re with clients, or officially representing the company.

The CEO says, “I know you’ve cleared your morning so we could have this meeting, but given this news I just don’t have it in me to do this today. Instead, I’ve asked Mike (the HR VP) to speak with us – all of us – about making sure we learn from this. I told Mike I wanted this to be about 50% telling us things we likely already know, but need to hear again — and 50% questions. I’m going to ask that we dismiss this meeting promptly at 8am. I know you guys can all adjust your schedule and I’ll make sure I give you ample time to reschedule today’s topic.”

Mike proceeds to candidly, but professionally remind them of what they’ve all heard many times before. But Mike is a pretty decent storyteller. He proceeds to tell them of an event that happened early in his career. A co-worker drove under the influence, had a crash and severely injured the driver of another car. It had a major impression on Mike before he ever got a shot at a leadership role.

Mike then urged the team to discuss real scenarios that may have challenged them in the past. That proved very profitable. Nearly everybody in the room had a great question — one they had encountered before. The meeting ended with the CEO giving each of them permission — well, it was more of a commandment — to use their company credit card to call Uber, a cab, “I don’t care if you call a limo,” he said. We will happily pay that to keep you and everybody safe. Mostly, they were encouraged to behave wisely and soberly when with clients, but the CEO was understandably angry. He didn’t spare the room of his anger, feeling it was necessary to demonstrate how serious he was about this.

It was just a few minutes before 8am when the meeting ended. Nobody was smiling. Everybody was properly sober-minded by the ordeal.

“I’m so mad I can’t see straight,” the CEO confessed afterward. He had displayed an appropriate amount of anger. No ranting or railing. Hurt, disgust and serious disappointment.

The team needed to see it. He’s right. Yes, the circumstances were serious, but his reaction was appropriate — and it wasn’t just for affect. It was genuine. Real. Authentic. Warranted.

What You Tolerate…You Get

Every leader learns it’s true. It doesn’t matter how educated or mature your team may be. Smart people do stupid things.

Some argue that highly successful people, who operate in some of the most stress-filled arenas of work are more prone to party hard – and blow off steam – because that pressure has to go somewhere. Maybe they’re right. But that doesn’t mean the pressure has to go into poor behavior. Or risky actions.

In recent years we’ve seen high ranking United States military officers – including Generals – charged with sexual harassment and a variety of other poor behaviors. These are supposed to be some of the most disciplined people in our society. U.S. Presidents often make seemingly idiotic choices (see Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky). So it’s got nothing to do with brain power, or training, or pedigree, or position, or authority. None of us are immune from making a poor choice – or a series of poor choices. To be sure, the former is far less problematic than the later.

Some organizations are filled with habitual bad behavior. If the CEO tolerates, or even fosters it, it becomes engrained in the culture. Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s I was exposed to some company cultures where alcohol consumption was an art form. Open bars at company functions were the norm. And these weren’t simply open bars…they were open bars without restraints. It was also an era of heavy drug use among some particular cultures. Was it promoted? No, of course not. Was it tolerated? Absolutely. In some cases, it was even expected in the sense that people viewed it as the norm.

Sexual promiscuity, overt flirtations and other poor behaviors have been a part of some cultures, too. These behaviors aren’t limited to Wall Street stories of greed and lust. Main Street businesses throughout the world experience these things. I wasn’t yet out of high school, working at a hi-fi stereo store owned by a man who constantly flirted with the young girls who worked behind the counter, running the cash registers. One young lady was particularly busty and he was always making inappropriate comments and suggestions to her. She seemed perfectly okay with it, even leveraging it to her advantage…but I still remember how uncomfortable it made many of us who had to witness it.

You Must Have Standards

Some have joked, “We’ve got standards. If you’re still conscious, then you’ve not had too much to drink.” Maybe it sounds funny, but not only is it improper…it’s stupid. Foolish. Irresponsible.

I’m not sure when I first began to encounter HR departments that would focus on ethics. Ethical behavior wasn’t talked about very much when I began my career. Thankfully, I mostly found myself in environments where my comfort level wasn’t taxed. Of course, that was probably because I chose to work in situations that wouldn’t make me uncomfortable. You likely did the same thing if you’re my age. That is, if you were like me – a T totaler and non-party guy. While I could make some religious and moral judgments, that’s not the point. Today’s point is pure business. And from a purely business point of view, tolerating bad and unethical behavior is as risky as being fiscally irresponsible. It’s DANGEROUS.

Female workers with dresses too short, clothing too tight, necklines too low.

Male workers habitually making suggestive comments, inappropriate innuendos and improper physical contact.

Drugs, alcohol, pornography, lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, violence, sex…I wish there weren’t much I hadn’t seen affect a workplace, but there’s not been much. Honestly, it would take quite a lot to shock me anymore. One of the many wonders of growing older and being experienced I suppose.

It’s the leader’s job to set the standards. If you own the joint or you run it, it’s up to YOU. Don’t expect your team to behave better than you do. Or better than you demand.

And you can’t have different standards based on the roles people serve. My roots are in sales. The whole business development sector is focused on the old wine and dine mode of operation. That doesn’t mean it can operate without standards. Nor does it mean a CEO should chuckle it off as just being part of that division. If you’d tolerate in one division, why not tolerate it in every division? Just because your R&D guys and gals have a different role than the Biz Dev crowd doesn’t mean you should give them completely different ethical play books.

Don’t confuse imposing personal convictions or religious beliefs and establishing standards of conduct as being synonymous. Standards are necessary so performance can be expected and predictable. They’re also necessary so chaos doesn’t rule the day, and so the company isn’t put at risk. Having standards – and enforcing them – is the job of every owner, CEO or top leader. If there’s no accountability, then you have no standards. No, it doesn’t matter that you have them written down somewhere and you’re able to show them to me. Let me ask your people if anything happens when they’re not met and I’ll quickly find out how meaningful they are.

Response Specifics Aren’t Universal

Binary reactions can’t be employed. If a person does this, then you (as the leader) will always do that. It just can’t work that way because circumstances and situations are different. However, generally, leaders should have a pre-thought out response. Too often I find leaders haven’t thought about it ahead of time. Then, when it hits the fan, they’re angry, frustrated, or overcome with any number of other feelings that fuel decisions. Sometimes those decisions aren’t always the best, or most appropriate.

What’s right is right. What’s wrong is wrong. Severity differs. Consequences do, too.

Should our VP arrested for DUI lose this job? I don’t know. It wasn’t my call. It was his first ever arrest of any kind. He had no history of inappropriate behavior. No discipline had ever been taken by the company. None. Of any kind. He had taken one of the top 10 clients to dinner. A few bottles of wine had been consumed by all six people at dinner, including the host – the VP. He lived 4 miles away. None of the six people, including him, felt they were intoxicated. They were likely all wrong, but one of them didn’t drink alcohol. She reported they all seemed fully in control when they left. She was shocked the VP had been arrested. News traveled quickly, especially with this client who felt terrible since they had been the recipient of the entertainment.

No business was lost. In fact, the client was at a celebration dinner with the VP because they had just signed a new contract for additional services that resulted in a significant increase in their investment. They assured the CEO that as a client, they had seen no bad behavior on the part of the VP. He had been the perfect host that evening. They felt badly that they hired a car and would have happily given him a ride home had they suspected he wasn’t able to drive.

The blood alcohol level of the offending VP was right at the minimum required to be arrested for DUI. The blown red light was the tipping point. That’s what got the officer’s attention. And the dominos started falling.

It’s a misdemeanor. Company attorneys don’t get involved, except to advice the CEO. They’re confident the VP will suffer minimum penalties given his clean background and other details. As for liabilities and any other exposure for the company — it doesn’t currently seem worrisome. The PR issue is something entirely different though.

So there’s quite a lot to consider. Time will tell how it all plays out.

There’s a precedent in the company for helping employees with substance abuse issues. And the company is diligent in leaning on the HR department to make sure employees have a clear understanding of what is required for them to remain employed. This VP has never been subjected to any of those. His record is spotless and I’m confident that’ll factor into whatever the CEO does. So far, there doesn’t appear to be any PR issue, but that shoe could fall at any moment.

Timing is everything and it so happens the VP has a scheduled vacation beginning Wednesday. Two full weeks. The CEO urges him – at the recommendation of the HR staff – to keep that vacation schedule. It’s been on the books for almost 60 days.

All these details. All these moving parts. You can easily see why one-size won’t fit all.

One thing is universal in this company. The CEO and the company do not tolerate this behavior. The company has no history of encouraging or tolerating it during company work, or even privately. Had the VP been at dinner with his own family, it would have only changed things slightly for this company. A DUI arrest for any reason is unacceptable to them. And as a member of the executive team, the VP is certainly held to a higher standard, not a more slack one.

The response is always universal in that there is one. A blind eye isn’t turned. It’s not swept under the carpet. It’s always dealt with. How? Well, that’s where those universal specifics can’t really exist.

What Should You Do?

First, you should pre-think and establish the standards. 

What behaviors do you want to encourage? What behaviors do you simply not want, ever? Figure out your non-negotiable standards. That doesn’t mean the things you’re willing to list. It means the behaviors you’re willing to enforce. It means the behaviors you’re going to hold people accountable for. If you’re unwilling to hold people accountable for them, then don’t list them.

Second, you must teach and preach them.

No secrets. Everybody must know what the standards are and what’s expected of them. People can best avoid trouble by knowing what may get them into trouble. Don’t blindside people with some secret rule they know nothing about. Make the rules known loudly and often. And provide people with training to help them avoid trouble. It’s your job as the leader to help people succeed. That includes keeping them out of trouble.

Third, you must have high accountability.

This includes consistency, too. That is, you can’t look the other way with some and hammer others. Do the rules apply equally to everybody? Perhaps not, but they must apply fairly. An employee with multiple DUI arrests who is already on a PIP (performance improvement plan) isn’t going to be handled identically to this VP. It doesn’t mean people aren’t held accountable though. If it’s a standard, then it’s worthy of enforcement.

Fourth, you must protect the company.

Sexual harassment issues have put many organizations including virtually every branch of the U.S. military at risk. Some rogue employee who behave inappropriately will put your company at risk, too. This last step or response is an intolerance of poor behavior that violates company standards and puts the company (as well as the employee) at risk. The bottom line is — it’s unacceptable. So don’t accept it.


Maybe it’s been some time since you addressed any of these things. Get it on your calendar. Do it sooner than later. Don’t wait until some crisis hits. Prepare. Plan. Think about it. Form a strategy and get it going.

It’s just like any other form of protection. You have insurance. You have contingency plans. You need a plan to combat bad or unethical (and immoral) behavior. Get on it. Today.


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Managing The Energy Of The Workplace #4018 - GROW GREAT Podcast

Managing The Energy Of The Workplace #4018

Managing The Energy Of The Workplace #4018 - GROW GREAT Podcast

If this is your first foray into BulaNetwork.com or the Grow Great podcast – it’s important that you know my world-view and philosophy of leadership. People matter! I don’t mean in some lip-service way. I mean people really do matter. They make all the difference. For good. Or bad.

Let me bullet-point it for you so it’ll be easier and faster:

  • People mostly want to get up in the morning energized to do good work.
  • If given the opportunity, most people would prefer to make a positive difference.
  • People crave a positive sense of accomplishment.
  • We manage the work. We lead people.
  • People deserve great leadership.
  • Great leadership serves the people by always doing the right thing.
  • Always be honest, be competent, give more and make it right.

Those are the basics of who and what I am. Everything I do reflects these important things. So that’s my bias – if you care to call it that. It’s my perspective and it may help you better understand today’s show, and all the content you can find at GrowGreat.com (which by the way was once branded HigherHumanPerformance.com – I still like that and you can enter that into your browser and arrive at the same place; growing great is very much still focused on helping people in the quest for higher human performance).

The-Energy-Bus-BookSome months ago I began to really focus on my own energy. At first I didn’t use the word, energy. I wasn’t sure how to quantify what I was feeling, but one day that word arrived by way of a book my daughter loaned me, The Energy Bus. I still haven’t read it, but when she handed it to me I instantly had THE word to attach to what I was feeling and thinking. Energy.

Our Work Hinges On How Well We Manage Our Energy

By “work” I mean our performance. I don’t mean just movement, or action. I mean getting things done that move our enterprises forward.

Let’s back up to that first bullet-point – People mostly want to get up in the morning energized to do good work. That’s important because this is where so many companies get it wrong.

If people – this includes US – want to get up in the morning energized to do good work, then they have to fully understand how their work fits. They have to know and understand that their work matters. They have to see their work in the context of the bigger picture. In short, they must see the value of their work.

Motivation is the energy we each bring with us to do the work. Inspiration is what leaders (or others) can supply to encourage us. Both can flag and waver if we’re not careful. Of the two, motivation is the longer-term value. You know this every time to attend a seminar or conference that you find valuable. You get jacked up and excited sitting in that hotel ballroom listening to this keynote speaker. Then Tuesday morning happens and that inspiration is gone. Poof. Vanished. And it was just 2 days ago you felt like you could conquer the world. Such is the nature of inspiration, even world-class inspiration.

Motivation on the other hand is driven by many things. Among them the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re supporting your family. You’ve got other things that matter to you – things that drive you work hard, and well. Mostly, those don’t vanish. Poor health or some calamity in life can create a hiccup, making your motivation (energy) waver, but hopefully you battle back. Everybody faces challenges. How well we navigate those challenges determines how successful we are – and how valued we are at work.

It’s all about energy management. I used the pronoun “we” – our work hinges on how well WE manage our energy – because too many people want to surrender ownership. Some are even deluded to think other people do indeed possess control of their energy. Nobody holds the key to your energy except YOU. You’re driving your own energy bus. If you refuse to drive, then that’s on you.

Leaders Impact Energy

For starters, leaders have the task of incorporating people into the enterprise. That means onboarding new people. Onboarding is that official HR term. I don’t like it, but it helps you know what I mean. I hate it because it’s too impersonal. And maybe it sounds too close to waterboarding. 😉

Simply put, it’s the task of making people feel at home in a new company or a new role. It’s supplying people with the information and resources they need in order to soar. Leadership must make sure people clearly see and understand how their work impacts the overall success of the enterprise. Equally important, they must understand what success looks like. How will their performance be judged? How will they know if they’re succeeding or not? That’s the job of leadership to make sure all those answers are promptly provided BEFORE the person begins the actual work.

I know, lots of us fail right there. Well, today’s the day to stop failing at this critical beginning. If you’ve got people on your roster who were never properly integrated into their role, then go back and get that done today. Sit down with them and apologizing for failing them. You can’t neglect doing this work. Assume that time will fix it, and you’ll be making an enormous mistake. The only thing time will bring you is entropy and slippage. Things will surely grow worse, not better. It’s the leader’s job to intervene and stop entropy. You do that by being proactive and making sure people have all they need so they can achieve success.

If leaders don’t do that, then I don’t know why leaders are even needed? Serving the people is THE reason for leaders to even exist. It’s not about being large and in charge. It’s about being in a position to do things necessary to get the crap out of the way so people can do the best work possible. Authority of leadership enables those roadblocks and speed bumps to be removed. Get busy removing the first one – a lack of understanding about why the person is even in the company and why their work (their performance) matters. Make sure every single person in your organization – from the highest on the food chain to the lowest – sees how their work impacts the whole. Don’t end your meeting with the employee until it’s clear they see how they matter, and how they fit. And remember to make sure they know how to tell if they’re succeeding or not.

Sometimes people are succeeding, but they feel like they’re failing. That’s leadership’s responsibility (and fault). It’s a morale killer. Few things will disrupt your workforce more than people who don’t see the importance of their role, their contribution — and people who just never seem to know if they’re doing well, or poorly. Give them clear vision.


It’s one of my all-time favorite leadership words. Some people mistake it for embracing conflict. That’s narrow-minded. Candor is honesty. It’s not unkind, or brutal. It’s not conflict oriented. Mostly, it’s prompt, candid conversation designed to help clarify, inform, instruct, correct — and perform other positive communication outcomes. Let me illustrate.

True story. A worker with a disgruntled, toxic attitude and communication is already on a PIP (performance improvement plan). She’s been reprimanded and her poor behavior has been clearly outlined along with recommendations on the actions she can take to turn things around. It’s about 20 days into the plan she leaves the office at quitting time. Earlier in the day the staff was informed of a scheduled inventory, planned in 3 weeks. Plenty of time for people to make adjustments to their personal schedules. It’s going to require team members to work an additional 2 to 4 hours, depending on their department and role. These are ordinary, regular affairs that everybody understands are just part of the company’s operations. Our PIP employee lobs a verbal grenade on her way out the door, “It’s ridiculous to drop that on us today.” As she’s existing the door, the boss hears it. She’s still in the doorway when he firmly, but politely says, “Gayle (no, that’s not her name), can I have a quick moment, please?”

Gayle joins the boss as they walk together back to his office. You’re seeing candor in action. It’s prompt. He’s not going to let her leave the building without addressing this action.

Keep in mind, Gayle is already on a PIP. Her job is at risk. Her behavior have impacted others in her office. Negatively. The PIP was designed to help her turn things around because her work – technically speaking – it good. She knows her job and does it well. However, she’s an ongoing distraction to the rest of the team and her constant complaining creates a tension that negatively impacts the whole group. She’s been told that and part of the PIP involves ongoing help, support and feedback. Sadly, for the boss, he’s discouraged now because for the past 20 days or so she’s done better. He’s told her so and he’s encouraged her to keep it up. Now, he’s feeling like she’s taking a major step backwards.

He asks her to sit down at the conference table in his office, where he joins her. “I don’t want to keep you long, Gayle, but I heard your remark and I can’t ignore it,” he begins. “Gayle, do you fully understand – I mean, really understand – how your work impacts our organization?”

“Yes, sir, I think so,” she says. “And I’m sorry for spouting off about the inventory schedule.”

“Gayle, I want to make sure I’m serving you well by helping you every way I can,” he continues. “Part of that is making sure you see the big picture and where you fit in it.”

“I think I do, sir. We’ve talked about that in the past, ” says Gayle.

“Then help me understand why you felt compelled to make that remark as you exited the building?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I just don’t like doing inventory,” she replied.

On and on it goes for another 5 minutes or so. The boss tells her that he’s not going to tolerate her poor behavior because it’s not profitable for her, or anybody else on the team. He encourages her by telling her that she’s capable of doing high performing work. And because others look to her, she’s got a responsibility to lead, too. He’s firm, fair and kind. She’s appropriately ashamed and apologizes. She also assures him she’s going to work harder on curbing her bad habits. He makes sure she knows her future is in her own hands. From start to finish, it took about 8 minutes.

Did it involves a bit of conflict? Sure. Was it prompt? Absolutely. Real time feedback is the trademark of true candor. Was it appropriate and respectful? Yes. There’s no other way it should roll. Did it have the impact? It seemed to, but time will tell. The leader isn’t fully in charge of the response. Gayle is. It’s now up to her to do better work.

Leaders often ignore and avoid candor. Or they behave badly themselves. The boss could have yelled and screamed. He could have belittled Gayle. He could have ripped her up one side, down the other and felt better about himself. But none of those things would have served Gayle, or the company. They would have all been selfish acts. And they would have all robbed Gayle of energy while maybe giving the boss more. But that’s poor energy management. And bad leadership.

So What Can Leaders Do To Positively Impact Energy?

  1. Begin at the beginning. When employees join the company, or assume a new role, spend time “onboarding” them. Scrutinize your onboarding process. Make it spectacular. Do not skip this step. Don’t get it wrong. It’s the foundation of everything else. Make sure the employee understands how valuable their work is, and how important it is to the overall organization. The object is to: a) make the employee feel and know they’re valued, b) make sure they understand they’ve got all the resources and help to be high performers, c) insure they understand what success looks like and d) make sure they know how they and their work fit the rest of the big puzzle that is the company. If you fail at any one of those, then go back and re-engineer your onboarding process.
  2. All acts of management and leadership must be congruent with the beginning. You’re going to have to commit to remaining true to all those onboarding messages. Remember, we manage the work. We lead the people. While the example with Gayle demonstrates the negative impact of a poor attitude, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to serve a person with a poor attitude. And it’s made worse when the person is like Gayle – they’re doing good work themselves. The boss put her on a PIP not because of the quality of her work, but because of the negative impact she was having on others within her team. Two exit interviews with previous employees had revealed Gayle was a major factor in their leaving. She constantly complained and griped about perceived injustices done to her. The leadership had specific, distinct issues that needed to be addressed with her. It wasn’t an opinion-based PIP. That wouldn’t have worked. The only way for management and leadership to be congruent with the beginning is to make sure feedback is objective, quantifiable and susceptible to specific recommendations for correction, or improvement.
  3. Work is done by people. Always treat people with respect. Firm doesn’t mean unkind. Or heavy-handed. Great leaders calculate the most appropriate response to good and poor performance. The goal is to always improve. Growth is the objective. Keep the objectives in mind. It’s never about YOU. It’s not about you showing off your authority. You must make it about serving the employee to do better work.
  4. Listen. Pay attention. Don’t jump to conclusions. Few things will more quickly improve your leadership than shutting your mouth and opening your eyes and ears. Watch any episode of Undercover Boss and you’ll quickly see it in action. I’m always fascinated at a CEO or other C-level officer who goes undercover. They’re not doing any high tech surveillance or hardcore data crunching. They’re out among the troops. Working side by side, watching, listening and paying attention. No spreadsheets. No analysis, other than the human kind that involves listening, watching and talking. Human connections result in learning where the warts are. Sometimes those warts are years and years old. They were visible the whole time. The CEO was just too distracted, too focused on things that didn’t matter to notice. Now, she sees them. Back to the C-suite to make the changes that should have been made long ago — if only she had known. Gather information. Get it from the lowest level possible. Keep your eyes open. And listen. Refrain from making judgments until you’ve got sufficient evidence upon which to base a good (wise) decision.
  5. Be reactive. Everybody tells you how urgent it is for you to be proactive. Forget that. It’s way more important for you to be reactive. Faster! Don’t waste your time trying to be proactive. Instead, get faster – way faster – about reacting to the market and the performance of your people. Adjust quicker than you ever have before. Make speed your competitive edge. And I don’t mean knee-jerk. I mean thoughtful, but intentional. You can get fast and still be thoughtful and intentional. You do it at home all the time. Your husband or wife gets upset and you react. You work through it. Or, you stew about it. Stewing doesn’t work at home, or work. Act. Today. Now. Base it on the best evidence you can gather. Start taking more shots than you’ve ever taken before. It doesn’t mean you don’t take aim. Do that, too.

I’m sure there are other things you can add to create your own list. Do it. Figure it out. Embrace the people who make you look good. Serve them. Well.

Maybe you’ll find some inspiration in my personal business philosophy. You can apply it to management and leadership.


Now, go to work. Today. Right now. Put some high energy into your workplace! And into your own life, too.


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Will You Make A Better Decision Today? (Refuse To Stay Stuck) - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4015

4015 Will You Make A Better Decision Today? (Refuse To Stay Stuck)

Will You Make A Better Decision Today? (Refuse To Stay Stuck) - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4015

CEOs and business owners, and every other kind of top leader, suffer losses. Businesses win and businesses lose. Some idea work. Others don’t.

It’s easy to gloat over the wins. Maybe it’s easier to get depressed about the losses. It can sure be easy to dwell on the losses and grow angrier at the world.

Cynicism runs rampant. Fiction does, too. Last week I talked quite a bit about beliefs and how we can get it wrong. Our wrongness, our losses and all the other garbage that fuels our complaining — it’s time for us (all of us) to own it.

Maybe we mostly see what we want to see. The path to Complaintville is smooth, easy and straight. “If only,” are two powerful words most of us use every now and again. They’re stables in the vocabulary of excuse-makers.

“But sometimes there is a valid reason for the loss,” says a CEO. And he’s right. Expert economists and finance folks will tell you that our businesses go one of four ways:

  1. Our business mirrors the economy.
  2. Our business mirrors the industry.
  3. There is a Black Swan event.
  4. We screwed up.

It’s that last one that we don’t like to admit. During my years of running luxury retailing companies I would often hear other people in my space lament everything from the weather, or big events happening in their market, to whether the local team won or lost a game. When you need a reason (a’hem, an excuse), they’re quite handy.

As leaders of the enterprise we certainly can impact the outcome. If our company mirrors the economy or our industry, we can directly affect an outcome for the better — or the worse.

Your brilliance isn’t always the culprit. I know you’d like the think you’re special in the brains department, and you may be. But not likely. Businesses are full of really smart people who still can’t seem to get it right.

Your experience isn’t always the culprit. In the early 70’s I started selling stereo gear. The turntable was the source in every system I sold because customers bought vinyl records. It was our only music source. If you wanted to convert the music to tape you had to purchase a reel-to-reel recorder. That was before 8 tracks and cassettes arrived. My experience in selling turntables stopped serving me when vinyl bit the dust. I could have done what I see some business owners and CEOs do — they fell in love with earlier experiences and now they’re too romantic about it. You see it (well, I mostly hear it) whenever they begin to talk about the good old days when things were different. Sometimes nostalgia can morph quickly into complaining.

Those of us involved in business or organizational pursuits – leaders of companies and other enterprises – recognize that we’re not all created equally. Our skills differ. Our personalities do, too. And our opportunities vary just like our connections, how our parents raised us and how we see the world. Heredity, environment and natural aptitude – they all matter in business careers just like they do anything else.

Entrepreneurship Means Being Responsible

It’s wildly popular. Well, the notion of it is highly popular. The true meaning is taking financial responsibility for the outcome. It’s what we do running our businesses. That whole “taking responsibility” can be tough though. And painful when things aren’t going well. We enjoy getting the credit for a win. We also enjoy finding an excuse when we don’t.

That’s why some people inside businesses are Blamers. Whenever there’s a problem, or things didn’t do according to plan — they’re the ones who want to make it a priority to find out who’s at fault. They’re also the excuse makers and they can poison us, and the whole culture we’re trying to create. I’ve sat in far too many meetings where a Blamer tried to hijack the meeting to accomplish just one thing: find out who’s at fault.

Wasting time that would be better spent solving the problem, or coming up with an improvement of a process, or anything else that would be more positive. Besides, we usually know the team members who didn’t perform well. Maybe they’re not to blame entirely, but they’re not helpful in moving us forward. During a crisis, or a time when we’re solving a problem – or trying to make an improvement – it’s probably not the ideal time to be distracted in finding people to blame. There’s always time for that later. I’m not fond of accessing people problems during such times because I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing, in the right way. Unless somebody has done something illegal, or violated a non-negotiable standard I’ve set (honesty issues, drug/alcohol issues, violence in the workplace, etc.), I’m going to make personnel decisions at a more appropriate time.

But all this score keeping thing is mostly about our own performance, not somebody else’s (including our team members). This score keeping is more personal, less an enterprise kind of thing. You need to keep score in your business. Whatever KPI’s you’ve established are the ones that likely serve you well. Maybe there are better ones, but the ones in place are serving you well or you wouldn’t have them in place. A subsets of those KPI’s are the ones that are personal to you – the ones you can affect. As the CEO you can affect all of them. If not directly, indirectly.

Everything You Want

Fear In The C-Suite

We mostly buy into the belief, “Never let ’em see you sweat.” Vulnerability isn’t popularized in mass media. Certainly not when you’re the top leader of an enterprise. Instead, the jerk who operates like a maniac, driving people to mythical levels of achievement is made to be a hero. We like to make a correlation between the personality and the performance, but I just don’t buy it. There are too many good people leading good enterprises and creating value at every turn.

CEOs can be driven by their fear to be jerks. The highest value is found in being human. People connect with real people. When the real person is at the top of the food chain, it’s even more powerful. If you don’t think so then let me introduce you to a man I’ve long admired, Jim Goodnight, CEO and founder of SAS.

“Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.” That’s a Goodnight quote you can find on their company website. Goodnight isn’t that maniac on a mission who will step on anybody and everybody to get his way. He’s a real guy who understands that his employees have real passions, drives and desires – professionally and personally. He takes care of his people and they take great care of the business. The man has a solid grip on how powerful people are in helping build a great business.

Goodnight keeps working. He’s been doing it successfully since he started the company in 1976. He’s had up’s and down’s just like you. And me. He’s won a bunch, and lost a few (maybe more than a few). But he’s an ideal example of a CEO and founder who just keeps on working.

I don’t know him personally, but I can promise you he’s afraid of many things just like us. Running a multi-BILLION dollar business may elevate his fear to levels we don’t understand. He’s in touch with his own humanity – and vulnerability. That’s why he’s a great leader devoted to his employees.

If you want to learn more just type his name in the search bar at YouTube and you’ll see some terrific interviews.

Past Wins Are The Problem

Here’s the point of it all — CEOs may be among the most vulnerable people on planet to fall in love with a past win. Mostly, I think we’re an optimistic bunch. We focus on the possible. Our work involves solving problems that vex others. We thrive on the stress of knowing there’s a lot on the line. It’s what we do. It’s why we have the role.

Don’t misunderstand the point of today’s show. It’s not an indictment of keeping score. It’s certainly not a show against celebrating victories. Frankly, too many of us don’t do that enough. We lean on our people to produce better results today after we refused to let them enjoy the win they produced yesterday. Big mistake!

No, the point is that we need to live in the present and operate our business today. I hope you had great success yesterday. And I hope you led the parade for your people to celebrate it. But if you didn’t win yesterday I hope you don’t get distracted by that today. And I really hope you’re not cracking a whip today berating your people over it. Instead, I hope you’re using today to get the work done – better!

It’s about doing the work. Well.


Without fail. Without excuse. Without letting fear stop us. Or romance.

Romance? Yep, you read it right. That’s where keeping score can really mess us up. We fall in love with our ideas and our successes. Sometimes our players.

The opportunities today don’t much care about any of that though. Today’s challenges, issues and opportunities need our focus in this present moment. If we’re so locked into the scores we’ve accomplished in the past, then we’ll fail to maximize today. Ditto on our past failures. Whatever misses make up our past have no bearing on today, unless we let them.

It’s not merely head noise. It’s focus and a way of thinking. We get stuck in a paradigm. We don’t stretch the possibilities. Sometimes because we don’t know how. We fool ourselves into thinking that what once worked will still work. And what didn’t work the first time, will never work. That’s not necessarily true. But if we believe it, then it may as well be true. A major hurdle of doing the work – well – is to be willing to change our beliefs. That requires an openness, vulnerability, honesty and willingness that only the rarest CEOs have.

CEO Coaching

This is why I do the work I do. It’s the driving force behind my service to CEOs, business owners and other top executives.

I know it’s not for everybody. Not everybody understands it. Or believes in it. That’s fine. Extraordinary means not ordinary. If it was for everybody, then it wouldn’t likely have the value or remarkability that it does.


Your leadership hinges on making the best decisions possible today. That’s the name of the game for every CEO. You can fly alone and gut it out, or you can get unstuck and find heights you never thought possible. Lately I’ve been seeing some geese fly over my house. Small groups of them flying in a formation. Because they know today’s distance is determined by going together. CEOs can be stuck working by themselves, or they can embrace a novel – but powerful – practice of joining forces with other CEOs in small, intimate groups and having a coach lead the way.

So I’ll end with challenging you to consider breaking free. Maybe it’s a good fit for you. Maybe not. Just give yourself a chance to find what suits and bests serves you…because the work continues. It depends on you and your leadership.


Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

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Tenacious & Snarly (The Art Of Being Tough To Compete Against) - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4009

4009 Tenacious & Snarly (The Art Of Being Tough To Compete Against)

Tenacious & Snarly (The Art Of Being Tough To Compete Against) - GROW GREAT Podcast Episode 4009

Years of being a hockey fan (and coaching a bit of it) provoked me more and more toward tenacity. It also incorporated the word “snarly” into my vocabulary.

Back in the 1980’s while running a retailing company I first sat down and wrote this fragmented sentence as a mission statement to create the culture I most wanted:

To become a sleek, highly maneuverable, viciously competitive retail company delivering customer service that is 2nd to none

A decade later I took those same words to another retailing company. The words were important. They expressed and evoked emotions that I thought were urgent and important. My mind hasn’t changed.

All that verbiage points to some of the most necessary ingredients for business success – or higher business success. Name the problem and I’ll make application.

HR? Sales? Profits? Operational inefficiencies? Cultural issues? Employee engagement? Leadership transition? Whatever?

The higher the tenacity, the higher the performance. It’s not the same as resilience. Tenacity is an offensive weapon. Resilience is defensive.

As for snarly-ness, it’s driven by the passion and need to succeed. The strong desire to win and kick the teeth down the throat of anybody or anything that would hinder victory.

All that language reeks of action. It’s a lot of doing. Doing that starts in your head because the main battle ground for all this is in between our ears.

I intentionally phrased that mission statement with that beginning…”to become…” It’s something we could start today. It’s something we’d never be able to walk away from, saying we had completed it.

Relentless Pursuit

That’s the deal. That sums it up best for me.

So let’s wrestle this down and make some applications. I want to go from the outside in because of all the noise out there. I know it’s noisy in your head, but that little 4″ screen in your hand, and all the other screens in your life produce an avalanche of noise unlike anything we’ve seen before. The net floods us with data, information and opinion that is often indiscernible from reality and truth. Do this. Do that. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Follow these 4 steps. No, follow just these 2 steps. Go left. Go right. It’s black. No, it’s white.

Your relentless pursuit of tenacity and snarly-ness starts with shutting up and shutting down all the crap entering your world. Now before you think I’m suggesting you not listen to people, let me clarify.

I’m on the phone with a friend and we’re talking about a variety of things, both business and personal. I reiterate something I’ve believed and tried to practice for a very long time. It has to do with selling. And building meaningful relationships. It’s a sequence that begins with us getting acquainted with somebody. We migrate from being strangers or unknowns to each other to where we know something of each other. You know my name and a bit about me. I know your name and a bit about you.

Next, we have to move toward safety. That is, you have to feel safe around me. I have to feel safe around you. If we can’t get to that spot, the relationship or connection won’t happen. There are plenty of people in your life who are known to you, but you don’t feel safe around them. You know their name. They know your name. No matter, you feel ill at ease for some reason. Maybe it’s because you feel they’ve got some hidden (or not so hidden) agenda. Maybe it’s because their personality bristles you and makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s because your communication styles are so opposite you just can’t relate. For some reason, we have all these known people in our lives who bring us no value because we just can’t get to a safe place with them.

Keep in mind — and think of all the people in your life who aren’t known by you — but you feel safe with them. Authors, speakers, experts…they all fall into that category. You know them, but they may not know you. Because they crank out content that you enjoy, or that helps you, you’ve become acquainted with them. You feel safe with having them “speak” to you in whatever way they do that (books, speeches, blog posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc.). Okay, so far so good. Or is it.

Experts are nice, but who is really an expert. And who do you listen to? Who should you listen to? Why should you listen to them? Those are GINORMOUS questions that have big and varied answers. No, I’m not going to try to answer them here, except to give you some things to consider and think about. YOU have to decide for yourself. You’ll hear that theme throughout today’s show because it’s at the heart of tenacity and snarly-ness. This is YOUR tenacity and snarly-ness we’re talking about so you have to own it. It’s got nothing to do with me or anybody else. It’s all you!

The distraction of the Internet ruins tenacity and snarly-ness because for every expert who says go right, others say go left. For every guru who wears French cuffs and $3000 custom made suits there are other gurus who wear jeans and a hoodie. There are gurus and experts who use Uber exclusively and others who drive Bentleys. How can you listen to them all? You can’t. Well, you can listen, but your mind will be trashed trying to figure out a path with all these incongruent messages coming at you.

“I’m my own man,” says the guy in the corner office. I’ve heard that before. Quickly I’ve come to learn the corner office guy or gal has demons in their head just like everybody else. Sometimes more so. The stakes are higher. So is the pressure. Beware the man or woman who declares, “I decide for myself.” They’re listening to something or somebody. Sometimes they’re as confused as anybody about all the voices of advice entering their brain.

This is where it turns inward. This is where your world view and your view of yourself matters.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase, like most teens, where I got really tired of being worried about what people thought. My teen angst wasn’t rebellious toward behavior though. Mine was a drive against vanity and status. I was sick of seeing people think somebody was better because they had cool clothes or cool cars, or lived in the cool neighborhood. I just didn’t care. It wasn’t a judgmental thing for me. It was purely a substance over style thing for me. I had nice, even cool clothes. I had a cool car, too. But I was blessed.

One word summed it up for me during my teen years: pretense.

I hated pretense. Still do.

I’m also a zig zag guy. When everybody is zigging or people want me to zig…I gravitate toward zagging. Just because. Freud would likely have a field day with me (and you, too, huh?).

It’s why during most of my adult career I was the guy in the corner office. Compliance isn’t my strong suit. 😉

Compliance Is Driven By Listening To Others, Not Yourself

Lose weight. Get cosmetic surgery to fix that nose. You introverts, become extroverts. Blah, blah, blah.

Here’s what the world is telling us – be something you aren’t. Fix yourself.

Sure, lose weight if you must to improve your health. Growing great is all about improving so we can be the best version of ourselves. Emphasis is on being ourselves though.

Embrace who you really are and go all in on it. It’s crazy hard because we see people who are nothing like us and admire them so. The introvert looks longingly at the gregarious fellow holding forth in the group and wishes he could be more like that. STOP IT.

You’re not him. He’s not you. Get comfortable with who and what you are — and become the best version of yourself.

Why is that important? Because if you’re not true to yourself you can’t be tenacious or snarly. You can’t win in the market – whether that market is your home or your office or the world at large. You just can’t win without being tough to play against.

Be tenacious. Be snarly. Be tough to compete against. If the world is going to beat you down, make it tough on the world to win. Develop that habit and you’ll win a lot more than you’ll lose. It’s not about winning all the time (nobody does that), but it is about winning much of the time. People determined to grow great do that more often than not. Join us.


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Be In The Moment

During my years of running luxury retailing companies I was constantly urging employees to “be present” and “be in the moment” with shoppers and customers. How can you deliver remarkable customer experiences if you’re not paying close attention to the customer? You can’t. But neither can you deliver a remarkable experience to employees, friends or family without it.


Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

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