Randy Cantrell

Changing The World One Small Business Owner At A Time

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

*adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

Small business owners are no longer necessarily limited by geography. Many of them serve customers all over the world. Others know their customers by name because they live in the same town or neighborhood. To pigeon-hole small business owners is about as sensible as doing it with any multi-billion dollar company. One size never fits all.

The Holy Grail of starting and operating a business for many may be Google, Facebook or Amazon, but for others of us…it’s more modest. And we’re good with it. Gary Vaynerchuk wants to build the highest building – his metaphor for building his empire. All the best to him. He’s interesting to watch. But there are millions of us – small business owners – out here trying to make a difference in the world in a much smaller way.

I don’t think we should make any apologies for that, or feel like we’re losing because of it. Success for some isn’t measured by completing another round of funding. It may not be calculated based on an opening IPO share value. It might be more visceral as a business owner unlocks the doors this morning, flips on the lights and commits himself to another day of operating in a way that brings value to his employees, suppliers and customers.

99.9% of all small business owners will never make the cover of Entrepreneur magazine or Fast Company or Inc. Most are known only in very small circles. VERY small circles.

Small doesn’t mean insignificant. I’d argue it means just the opposite. In a world steeped in scope and scale, intimate and personal don’t. Scale or scope. They can’t. Robin Dunbar may have been right. Maybe 150 is the maximum number of people with whom we can maintain a stable relationship. That’s not to say that celebrity business people like Gary Vee don’t impact us, but Gary doesn’t know me. I don’t know him. We can see him online and feel like we know him, but we don’t. Not really. He’s not on my speed dial. I’m not going to call him if I need some feedback.

Some of my most powerful moments of service are when I contact a small business owner for the first time. I’ve always viewed my work just like the story of the boy rescuing star fish one at a time. I never feel like a “rescuer,” but I feel more like a friend who wants to help. Sometimes I’m able to help. Sometimes I can’t. Just like any friend. But the conversations are almost always personal and deep filled with vulnerability. That’s a connection you can’t make with strangers. Or one you can make as a fan.

The starfish story holds up when it comes to the impact we have as small business owners. For me, my clients – YOU, small business owner – aren’t starfish incapable of helping yourself. I’m simply empathic to the struggle and glory of operating a small business (and for the umpteenth time, small isn’t based on revenue but in how the business operates). I know how lonely and isolating it can feel. And I know small business owners don’t often have access to the high-end resources available to the CEO of the billion dollar corporation.

That’s why I do what I do. It’s why I do it the way I do it. Because I know that I can help make a positive impact on one small business owner at a time. It’s the magic of The Peer Advantage – small groups of small business owners who develop deep connections with one another while serving to help each other build more successful businesses. And at the same time, grow themselves as human beings. For me, that’s among the best work on the planet!

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!

Randy

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!

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Episode 253

253 Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4)

Business Books That Helped Define Me As A Business Guy (Part 4) - HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE Episode 253

I wrestled with this episode because I knew I wanted to focus on a book or books about General Electric’s spectacular leader Jack Welch. I didn’t struggle about my opinions of Mr. Welch, but rather the vast number of books I’ve read about him and about how GE operated during his regime.

I could have focused on a number of books:

• Jack Welch & The G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO by Robert Slater

• The GE Way Fieldbook : Jack Welch’s Battle Plan for Corporate Revolution by Robert Slater

• Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch and John A. Byrne

• The GE Work-Out by David Ulrich

• At Any Cost: Jack Welch, General Electric, and the Pursuit of Profit by Thomas F. O’Boyle

• What Made jack welch JACK WELCH: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders by Stephen H. Baum

• Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company  by Bill Lane

• Get Better Or Get Beaten by Robert Slater

• Control Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman

• The Six Sigma Way: How GE, Motorola, and Other Top Companies are Honing Their Performance by Peter Pande, Robert Neuman and Roland Cavanagh

There are others, too. I think I’ve purchased and read every book written about Jack Welch, including the ones he’s written – those with or without his wife, Suzy.

I decided to focus on this book written by the Welch couple because it’s a good distillation of Jack Welch’s ideas, philosophies and beliefs. Yes, it’s clearly from his perspective and so it naturally has his biases built in. Like most extraordinary people he’s got his detractors. Many of them are quite zealous in their criticism of his work at General Electric. He ruffled feathers because he took action. Sometimes people thought the actions he took were extreme and unfair. Nobody can argue with his ability to return value to shareholders though. Under Welch’s leadership, GE increased market value from $12 billion in 1981 to $280 billion in 1998, making 600 acquisitions along the way. Earnings grew 10 fold to over $14 billion. GE stock prices rose from just over $1.25 per share in 1981 to a peak of $60 in 2000. Wall Street loved Jack.

One of the biggest criticisms of Jack Welch was that he lacked compassion for the ordinary, middle-class worker. I think much of that perception stemmed from his open support for strong executive pay. Welch was opposed to restraints on executive pay. He wasn’t concerned with the gap between the pay of an average worker and the executive. He continues to be a strong advocate of the free market and believes that whatever the market will bear is fair game.

Whether you agree with his tactics or his philosophies, you must recognize his dedication to follow what he believed was right. Personally, I found Jack Welch refreshing and in keeping with my fondness for Harold Geneen and others, I found Welch had that one quality I most admired – and still do – candor!

Winning by Jack and Suzy Welch may not have been THE book about or by Welch to help define me, but there’s no doubt that watching, reading and learning about Jack Welch during his GE years helped shape my own beliefs about running business. I was in the early days of my management career when Jack Welch was hitting his prime at GE.

By the time I was well entrenched in my management career I had made some connections with General Electric because they were a supplier. I was running a luxury retailing company in Dallas selling high-end major home appliances and consumer electronics. A new regional manager for GE Appliances arrived in Dallas, Len Kosar. We spent hours and days together as part of a “smart bombing” initiative of GE to study and research the appliance business. Through that process, the GE manager learned that I was a big fan of Jack Welch’s work. Today, Len is President and CEO at Evive Station in Pittsburg.

Back then Len was part of Jack Welch’s GE so when Jack was making a visit to Dallas, Len graciously invited me to attend a small gathering of local business people to go “meet and greet” Jack at the Galleria Hotel. I was more than thrilled. We were all seated in a room where Jack got up to make a brief presentation followed by a few questions. After that we all went to another room where we mixed and mingled as Jack made his way around the room to personally greet every guest. I was ready…I had given this moment lots of thought. There he was, Len introducing me to THE MAN. We shook hands and I told him how much I had admired his work. I told him I had one question I wanted to ask. He was kind and gracious as I asked, “How did you survive the GE culture so you even had the chance to get the top job?”

He quickly cited a champion, who not only suffered him, but promoted and protected him. Welch went on to do that for people he felt were the “top people” at GE. By the time I shook hands with Welch he was well into the famous 20/70/10 routine where he was dedicated to firing the bottom 10% of GE’s team. That first number, 20, represented the stars. Welch believed in taking care of the stars. As for the middle number, the 70 – he knew they were vital, but he also knew some could slip to the bottom 10 while others could be nurtured to the top 20. He wanted to exert pressure on that middle 70 to join the ranks of the top 20%.

Welch himself had been a top 20 and people had fostered his growth inside General Electric. They were instrumental in shaping his views and in giving him the opportunity to fulfill his goal to one day become CEO of the company.

Very early on in my career, when I began following Jack Welch through the press and books, the thing I most admired about him was the thing others found repulsive. He was blunt. He was candid. Shameless in telling people where they stood.

It’s safer to say that all my reading and studying of Jack Welch helped define me as a business guy, more than simply blaming it on just a book. But since this series is about books that helped define me I’m singling out this book by Jack and Suzy Welch, Winning.

The book was published in 2005. Jack: Straight from the Gut by Welch was published in 2001. It was more of an autobiography. You should buy it ’cause like the other books I’ve talked about up to this point – you can grab a copy for a penny! Welch was clearly hitting his stride in a new career as an author and speaker by the time Winning was released.

“I have been asked literally thousands of questions. But most of them come down to this: What does it take to win? I think winning is great. Not good – great. Because when companies win, people thrive and grow. There are more jobs and more opportunities.”

The book is divided into five sections and twenty chapters.

Underneath It All

– Mission and Values: So much hot air about something so real
– Candor: The biggest dirty little secret in business
– Differentiation: Cruel and Darwinism? Try fair and effective
– Voice and Dignity: Every brain in the game

Your Company

– Leadership: It’s not just about you
– Hiring: What winners are made of
– People Management: You’ve got the right players. Now what?
– Parting Ways: Letting go is hard to do
– Change: Mountains do move
– Crisis Management: From oh-God-no to yes-we’re-fine

Your Competition

– Strategy: It’s all in the sauce
– Budgeting: Reinventing the ritual
– Organic Growth: So you want to start something new
– Mergers And Acquisitions: Deal heat and other deadly sins
– Six Sigma: Better than a trip to the dentist

Your Career

– The Right Job: Find it and you’ll never really work again
– Getting Promoted: Sorry, no shortcuts
– Hard Spots: That damn boss
– Work Life Balance: Everything you always wanted to know about having it all (but were afraid to hear)

Tying Up Loose Ends

– Here, There and Everywhere: The questions that almost got away

I admit that two of my favorite chapters are likely ones that cause other people some discomfort: candor and differentiation. Welch writes…

“Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.”

If I have a single favorite chapter of a business book, Welch’s chapter about candor ranks right at the top. For good reason.

“We are socialized from childhood to soften bad news or make nice about awkward subjects.”

“Eventually, you come to realize that people don’t speak their minds because it’s simply easier not to.”

“To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in exuberant and even exaggerated ways.”

“It is true that candid comments definitely freak people out at first.”

“My bosses cautioned me about my candor. Now my GE career is over, and I’m telling you that it was my candor that helped make it work.”

Welch took as much static for his concept of differentiation as maybe anything, based on what I read through the years. He always admitted that the numbers may not be precise, but he staunchly believed there were three basic people: top performers, the people who are vital and the bottom performers. The math he used was 20% at the top, 70% in the middle and 10% at the bottom.

“I didn’t invent differentiation! I learned it on the playground when I was a kid.”

Welch mentions the criticisms in the book. Simply put, Welch felt it was unfair to protect the bottom performers. It wasn’t just unfair to the company and other, higher performing workers, but he felt it was unfair to the bottom performing people, too.

“Once we made the case for differentiation and we linked it to a candid performance appraisal system, it worked as well in Japan as it did in Ohio.”

“While being in the middle 70 percent can be demotivating to some people, it actually revs the engines of many others.” 

He ends the chapter on differentiation like this:

“If you want the best people on your team, you need to face up to differentiation. I don’t know of any people management system that does it better — with more transparency, fairness and speed. It isn’t perfect. But differentiation, like candor, clarifies business and makes it run better in every way.”

Practical, powerful and wise. Yes, it helps that I respect the work of the author. I’m aware that some see Jack Welch as a villain, Neutron Jack.

His mantra, “Control your destiny or somebody else will” was among the most powerful phrases on my business philosophy. But I’m a guy personally adverse to the whole notion of entitlement, pay raises for everybody and “we’re all equal.” It’s not true. It’s unrealistic.

The book is filled with practical, workable advice by a man who exercised everything he writes about. He’s not some professor pontificating about what might work. Welch did it. Well. And no matter how people feel about him, there’s no doubt he knew how to win. He knew processes mattered because he embraced Motorola’s Six Sigma and then improved on it. But he focused heavily on getting, developing and retaining talent.

I’m going to end this series with this book because you’d be hard pressed to argue with what Warren Buffet said about it (printed right there on the front cover), “No other management book will ever be needed.”

Randy

Introducing Higher Human Performance Monthly Short Courses

243 I May Not Be The Best Fork In The Drawer, But I’m Your Favorite Fork

I’ve been helping small business owners with content marketing for over 5 years now. I’ve written “thousands, consequently millions” (thanks Deion Sanders) of words on behalf of clients. Video, podcasting, using Google Hangouts On Air, blogging, email marketing, social media marketing – it’s all that and more. I’ve yet to meet a small business owner that doesn’t want “everything” and “right now.” The conversations are pretty funny actually.

I need everything.”

Yes, they say that. Repeatedly. Regularly.

It’s like a buddy of mine who once asked me to send him everything I had on leadership. He texted me, “Send me everything you’ve got on leadership.” I replied, “Just everything. Could you be more vague?” Then he called me laughing and repeated his request, jokingly. But that’s how it is for almost all of us. When we want something, not quite knowing what we want, we make these declarations that we want everything!

These Short Courses Won’t Be Everything, But They’ll Be Something (Else)

The world is full of paradoxes. We have short attention spans the experts tell us. To be fair, non-experts tell us that, too. Yet some bloggers will tell you their most popular posts are ones where they dive deeply into a subject using thousands (consequently millions) of words and illustrations. Three minute inane videos on YouTube give way to 20 minute killer TED talks. Five minute podcasts may not fair nearly as well as the hour-long episode. Who’da thunk it?

There’s a place for long-form content. And there’s a place for the quick tip.

I enjoy all of it if it resonates with me enough to be interesting.

People want easy, not short. Some things are easy. Others things…not so much.

I think most of us operating in an advice-giving capacity hate it when people aren’t willing to put in the effort or work. They want to ride on our back of knowledge and experience…asking us to hand them everything in a neat little package that’s easily consumed. And executed.

They’re the same people who rushed to buy Cliff Notes the night before the reading assignment is due. Refusing to read the book, spending more time looking for short-cuts instead of doing the work. It’s not about fast-tracking. It’s about being lazy. At least for quite a few.

Others? They honestly don’t know where to being or what to ask. So they ask for everything. They don’t really mean that. It simply means they’re clueless. Some even say so. I’ve got a lot of tolerance for them than I do the person unwilling to do the work.

Are you an advice giver? Do you show people how to do something?

Then you’ve likely done what I’ve done and told people that they have two terrific online friends, Google and YouTube. Yes, even that takes some work. And time.

I’d love to tell you that I alone can be your end-all, be-all. I’d even be satisfied to tell you that there is somebody out there who could be your end-all, be-all. But I can’t. Because it depends on what you’re wanting to do. It depends on where you are. It depends on your present constraints and challenges. It also depends on your current level of knowledge and expertise.

Maybe one of the toughest challenges any of us have is finding somebody in the area of expertise we need most…somebody who is really good. But the world is full of self-proclaimed gurus and it can be tough to find the right one for us. This is especially true in crowded spaces filled with many so-called experts. Search engine optimization (SEO) is such a space. I confess I’ve invested too much money in a variety of SEO experts and mostly found little or no reward in it. For starters, I’m about as interested in Major League Baseball as I am SEO. That’s my problem, not the fault the experts. The other issue for me is it seems a bit like gaming the system and years ago I figured Google’s entire future hinged on making sure people couldn’t game the system. That sort of takes the motivation out of it, don’t you think? Now, I’m smart enough to know that SEO is worthwhile. I’m also smart enough to know there are a few people in the space who I actually do pay attention to. But mostly, I’m smart enough to know that I really don’t much care (which many will tell me is stupid).

But there are other spaces where there seems to be a clearer leader in the field. My friend who asked me for “everything you’ve got on leadership” is a big fan of John Maxwell. He’s in good company, including me. John Maxwell is a clear leader in the field of leadership (ironic, huh?). There are tons of others, but for many, John Maxwell is THE man.

The other day I was consulting with a solopreneur who was in the professional services space. Increasingly that’s a space I find myself serving more and more. These are people who have tremendous skills and “know-how.” They often struggle with incorporating the building blocks necessary to create consistently good workflows and processes that result in predictable success. Additionally, too many of them aren’t fond of marketing…understandable because they’ve got so much time and money invested in learning their craft. They mostly want to do what they do rather than sell what they do.

As I’m visiting with this solopreneur I find myself for the umpteenth time encouraging him to loosen up a bit and let himself relax, especially in his online persona. We talk about why that’s difficult for him and like so many other service professionals he says, “People want professional and qualified.” He rambles on about credentials and association memberships and other things that I’m sure have value. But he’s missing the point.

Personality. Attractiveness.

I take our conversation beyond the mere qualifications of people because in his space people make some strong (and mostly correct) assumptions about being qualified. So I ask, “So you’re telling me that people do business with you solely and only based on the fact that you’re the most qualified ____________ they can find?”

“No, but it’s important,” he says.

“Okay, how important?” I ask. If that’s not the sole or only reason why people select you, then what else factors into their decision?”

“I don’t know. Recommendations I guess.” He’s clearly shadow boxing with no idea who the opponent may be.

“And what’s the basis of the recommendation?” I ask.

“I did a good job for whoever recommended me,” he responds…thinking he’s finally got an answer correct. It’s not a test. But it sorta is.

“Do any of us recommend people who do poor work?”

“Of course not.”

“So good work, or competent work is a bare minimum for what we require as customers and clients, right?”

“Right.”

“Do you have some place change the oil in your car?” I ask.

“Of course,” he says.

“Have you ever recommended them to your friends?” I wonder.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Well, they’re right by my office and I just don’t think about it.”

“Bingo. You don’t think about it. You don’t think about them. You take their competence for granted. You assume they know what they’re doing because they’re in that business. What would they have to do for you to recommend them?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

“What if you got to know the manager or the owner? What if the manager or the owner knew you by name? What if every now and again they asked you if you had time for a  free wash and vacuuming…on the house? Would any of those things make them stand out?”

“Of course. Any of those would make them stand out.”

“And if they did all 3 would that just blow you away?”

“Yes,” he said. “Honestly, I’d be blown away if they were just a bit more polite.”

“And yet you go still take your car there because they’re competent and close by your office. But you don’t think to recommend them.”

Knowing the manager or the owner hasn’t got anything to do with changing oil. Neither does washing or vacuuming a car. But if we stake on a few subtle, but personal things…suddenly they’re worth talking about.

I May Not Be The Best Fork In The Drawer, But I’m Your Favorite Fork

Some years ago when our son was still single and living at home, he was preparing to move out of town for an excursion we had hoped he wouldn’t take. It’s a long story with details that aren’t important except for the fact that my wife packed up some silverware to give him to take with him. It was an everyday set of eating ware that contained my favorite variety of forks. Yes, I’m a fork snob. The tines on these forks was just right for my liking. I had no idea she had given them to him. Until one day after he was gone I went looking for a fork.

I found one. Just one. “What happened to all the forks?” I asked. “I gave Ryan that set of silverware,” she said.

“So I’m left with this one fork that somehow got left behind?”

“I guess he forgot one.”

Well, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to have at least ONE. I still have it. It’s in the drawer with the other forks, but my wife knows me well enough to know that if that fork is clean…I want that one.

It’s a fork. How important is a fork’s style, you’re wondering? VERY IMPORTANT, to me.

We’re attracted to what we’re attracted to. I don’t know why necessarily. My first girlfriend in 1st grade was blonde. And in spite of their reputation to be ditzy, I’ve been a lifelong fan of smart blondes. My first girlfriend was the smartest girl in the class who happened to be blonde. Ditto for my wife (okay, she’s reddish blonde…but I kinda like redheads, too). 😉

The point is, I don’t know why my first girlfriend was blonde. I do know why she was smart. I’m no fool. But some guys like girls who aren’t so smart.

From music, to films, to TV shows, to food, to colors — we like what we like.

I hate sushi. I’m not a fan of fried chicken. Or beets. We hate what we hate.

Find something I love and I’ll find somebody who hates it. Find something I hate and I’ll find somebody who loves it. My view isn’t likely to change their opinion any more than they’re likely to change mine. As the sign in my office says, “It Is What It Is.” My daughter bought me that sign ’cause I say it so much.

You’re either attracted to my style and substance or you’re not. More substance isn’t likely to alter your view. That doesn’t mean I’m not learning stuff and getting better at what I do all the time. I am. I take my work to help people seriously. I just don’t take myself all that seriously. If you don’t like that, there’s the door. Wait a minute. There’s the button somewhere up at the top to close this page and forget me forever. I won’t be offended. Because you may feel toward me like I feel toward beets. There’s nothing possible to make me like them. Everything about them offends me. The color. The smell. The taste. The texture. The name.

The FREE Higher Human Performance Monthly Short Course

For years listeners, readers and casual observers have noticed something about me. I wasn’t selling anything. Well, I was…but not to them. My work historically has been face-to-face. Selling has been direct and physical. Not virtual.

I know. I know. Makes no sense for a guy who’s been producing online content since about 1999, but that’s the truth. And I’m about to change all that. Very soon if I can.

But first, I’m ready to step up my game in the freemium arena. Email newsletters. Ebooks. Reports. Videos. All those ethical bribes people use to get you onto their list…I’ve never worked at any of them. I’ve always felt like asking you to listen or read the content was pretty awesome enough. It seemed rude to ask you for more, even though I’ve had optin boxes at the site for some time. Honestly, until now I never cared if you opted in or not. As a result, most people didn’t. And that makes sense. Why should you care if I don’t?

Today, I do care. I care because I’m preparing some short email courses – and I’m talking 20 minutes max (audio) and a single email. No, they’re not designed to go in depth and teach you EVERYTHING. They’re mostly designed to make you use the greatest tool you’ve got, your brain. I want to help you think. More clearly. With greater hope. And belief.

I want to be your favorite fork. I know there are plenty of forks out there fully capable of being a fork just like me. Maybe even better than me technically. But not better than me at having you feel the way you feel when I’m the one serving you. I don’t feel the same about a meal that I have to eat with my least favorite fork. I enjoy the same food much more with my favorite fork in hand. That’s how I want to be for you.

If that’s the case – if I am your favorite fork – I want you to join the email list so I can send you the monthly short courses. For now, that’s all I want in return for this dazzling content I’ve been giving you free of charge! If you sign up you’ll get some other cool stuff that I’ve been giving folks for awhile. Once the honeymoon is over and you’ve been sent the free video and audio that I’m still sorta proud of, then each month I’m going to do my best to send you something pertaining to HIGHER HUMAN PERFORMANCE that I hope will help you. I’ll be leaning on your feedback to improve these as we move forward. And I’ll expect you to tell me if what I give you sucks. My mandate is going to always be to suck less! 😀

Be well. Thank you for listening!

Randy

Subscribe, rate and review the podcast

240 Higher Human Performance, The Podcast ReBranded

240 Higher Human Performance, The Podcast ReBranded

I’m 1583 miles away from Madison Avenue in New York City, but I’m only 9 minutes from Madison Avenue in Hurst, Texas. If I were closer to NYC I’d have handled up on this rebranding long ago. But that’s not how I roll.

I’m a street fighter and hustler. Sometimes more the former than the later. So this rebranding has taken longer.

There’s no excuse really. It’s not like I had some major heavy lifting to rebrand. Bula Network, LLC has never really had much of a brand. It’s been more of a word game I suppose…all based on falling in love with a Fiji term that entered my life through who-knows-where many years ago. One thing led to another and bam, I needed a company name so why not? I’m keeping the company, but changing the brand.

Higher Human Performance

Sit down in front of me, throw me your business challenge and I promise you it won’t take me 10 minutes to come up with some insightful ideas. More than a few people have told me, “You’re a good strategic thinker.” It’s a gift. 😀

Except when I need to help myself. I can wrestle with the seemingly smallest challenge in my own business and feel like I’m trying to bench press three times my body weight. Just impossible to lift.

Such was the case when I challenged myself to rebrand the podcast. I asked all the right questions. Or thought so.

But no answers came back. It was just the sound of crickets. (I bet you don’t have a single YouTube video with over 144K views)

I wanted the new name to more properly tell people what the podcast was about. That presented me with my first challenge. I had to actually narrow down to a focus and have a subject. What a novel idea for a podcast.

Listen, I have freely admitted that I didn’t start this podcast with you in mind. Shoot, I didn’t have myself in mind. Well, not directly. I only had two people in mind back years ago when I started all this (no, this podcast wasn’t the first online audio I did; that was back in 1999 when it was really hard to do). My son. And my daughter. Nobody else was on my radar. Because it never dawned on me that anybody else would ever discover what I was up to.

Truthfully, I didn’t think my kids would even figure it out until I was dead. That was then. This is now. And I’m still alive. Barely.

To this day I couldn’t tell you if either of my kids has ever listened to a single episode of anything I’ve recorded. And I’m cool with that because I know one day they will. Which was precisely the plan all along. To lay down some audio tracks of stuff – that’s right, STUFF – to pass onto my kids. And now that they’re here, maybe my grandkids. My son and daughter weren’t even married when I started all this years ago.

Over time things have changed mightily. Along the way I made a major career change. My professional identity – wait a minute, I went through a period without much of an identity – was a meandering mess. I’d head in one direction, then get bored and change direction a bit. But it was all okay with me because again, I was hitting record basically with 2 people in mind.

The podcast grew one listener at a time. At a snail’s pace. But that was okay ’cause I never expected ANYBODY to listen. Not during my lifetime.

Then I connected with a few key people years ago. Some through Skype calls. Others through email. A few in person. Many of them have been loitering the Interwebs with me for years. Probably better said, I’ve been loitering it with them.

These are just a few of the people who have been part of the online journey…some of them going back almost 10 years, but almost all of them going back at least 4 years. Knowing that I was making connections with real people was a happy surprise. I said I was a strategic thinker. I never said I was smart. I certainly wasn’t smart enough to figure out the power of online connections…and the impact knowing other people were listening in, if only occasionally, might have.

I’d tell you that it instantly changed everything, but it didn’t. Again, I was slow on the uptake. But over time it began to dawn on me that no matter how many were listening – and I was NEVER working to build a community or an audience – I really had to get focused. Well, maybe I didn’t have to, but I knew I needed to. I knew the podcast deserved that. After all, if the content was going to be good enough for my now grown kids, then why wouldn’t it be good enough for others, too? It could be. I just needed to do some things to improve it.

I confess that this epiphany hit me a few years ago, but I didn’t act on it. I was too busy chasing my tail. I kept delaying it. Putting it off for another day.

I was devoted to the craft of podcasting. I was taking an oddball approach. Jon Buscall even wanted to talk to me about it for his podcast. Keith Davis even asked me to do a video for his public speaking site. Across the pond I was a freak of nature. Here in Texas, I was simply another freak. 😉

My responsibilities to other people was growing. Internally I was feeling it. I needed to morph. I needed to provide more value. I needed to provide a more predictable resource. After all, one of my biggest skill sets is helping businesses deliver more predictable success. It was high time to apply that to an art that was near to my heart, podcasting. This podcast.

Erik K. Johnson is the Podcast Talent Coach. About a month ago he did an episode on 3 Steps To Create Your Avatar. Erik’s objective with that episode – and he done a few others like it before – is to help podcasters figure out who their ideal listener is. Or who they’d like it to be.

As a seasoned business guy with oodles of marketing experience, I’ve spent lots of time figuring out ideal customers and how to attract them. The problem was, I never viewed my podcast like a business. That was probably a mistake. Not because the podcast was a business and I was being neglectful, but because I never viewed the podcast “like” a business! As a result, I never much thought about an ideal listener…because I already knew my ideal or target listener, my adult kids. It’s all reminiscent of the movie, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Except I wasn’t on my way to the Forum, or anywhere else really. I was just doing what I was doing for reasons all my own, until I realized I wasn’t alone. Not entirely.

But that’s not the only reason. In fact, it’s not even the real reason. Sorry. I wanted to get more targeted in the content and in trying to connect with more people.

My career has involved pretty much every aspect of business building. It started in sales, but quickly migrated to management. Marketing, operations, inventory, purchasing, merchandising and anything else you care to name…they were all part of my career. Building an organization was always a central focal point in the past few decades. That meant developing and leading people. Sitting alone one day, writing notes, doodling and thinking I wrote down, “higher human performance.”

Higher human performance.

That’s precisely where my focus has been for years. Because business involves people serving people. Because our businesses hinge on higher human performance. But it’s not about having super humans working for us. It’s not about us being super human. It’s about ordinary people consistently doing extraordinary things. Sure, it’s about systems, processes and workflows. But it’s also about skills, habits and expectations. It’s all the stuff that business building demands.

So today begins a new chapter. Along with a new name, Higher Human Performance. It’s not about sports. It’s not about running faster, or further. It’s about people. It’s about you, but it’s bigger than that. It’s about US. All of us out here working hard to launch a project. Or working to gain traction for an idea. Or trying to get our endeavor to soar a little bit higher. Or a lot higher.

I need your feedback. Use the contact page or just use your built in microphone on your computer and click that “send voicemail” button to the side.

Randy

Scroll to Top