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Doug Dickerson

Doug Dickerson is an award winning columnist and director of Management Moment Leadership Services. He is the author of the new book, Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders. Visit www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to learn more.
Posts from July 2012


4 Reasons Why You Need Patience… Right Now!

It is not necessary for all men to be great in action. The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience. – Horace Bushnell

A recent story in Business Management Daily about the success of online shoe retailer Zappos brought my attention back to one of leadership’s most needed and personally challenging virtues – patience. Like many, I am not always a patient person and continually need improvement which is one reason why the success of Zappos caught my eye.

That Zappos excels in customer service is a given, but when asked why more organizations are not like them CEO Tony Hsieh said, “Patience.” Hsieh says most firms won’t put in the time to build employee morale and customer service. “It’s whether you’re willing to make that commitment,” he said.

We have been taught from an early age that patience is a virtue, but to what end? To be sure, patience in employee relations, business negotiations, and in achieving strategic goals is important. Let’s look at the value of patience and how it can be a game changer both personally and professionally.

Patience builds your reputation. A well-rounded leader is set apart from the rest of the pack by mastering skill sets that lead to success. At times, many of us are driven more by impatience; with ourselves and others, than by the virtue of patience. Our impatience can be our demise. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  Building your reputation as a leader in these challenging times requires patience. Managing your reputation as a leader begins by mastering the skill of patience and not giving up.

Patience gives way to remarkable results. Part of the Zappos success story comes from strong employee engagement. Hsieh says, “The No. 1 focus and priority for the company, even though we want the brand to be about customer service, is company culture. Our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like great customer service, will just happen.” Developing a culture of employee engagement like Zappos can only be realized through patient dedication. Building your brand and reputation takes times; it doesn’t happen overnight.  Successful brand leadership begins with patience and a commitment to the due diligence necessary for excellence.  

Patience leads to positive recognition. Ultimately, there is a reward for the virtue of patience. The reward may be greater sales, increased customer satisfaction, stronger profits, or a promotion. Whatever the measure of realization looks like for you it is the dividend of patience and hard work. But this realization begins with understanding the causes of impatience.

Vic Lawrence at selfgrowth.com says the most basic reasons for impatience are: lack of control, lack of understanding, lack of planning, lack of communication and unrealistic expectations. When you claim control of these issues you can claim the rewards that patience can deliver.

Patience is your most formidable resource. Many people in business are looking for a leg up on the competition and ways to improve company performance. Sharp business plans and the best talent money can buy are no substitutes for the virtues needed to guide you in the right direction.

Patience is not easy to come by and when it matters most you want to be the leader who is making smart decisions based upon sound principles rather than knee-jerk reactions. Patience is one virtue that will serve you well.  I just wish it didn’t take so long to learn.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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The Blessing of Plan B
Most people go to their grave with their music still inside them – George Bernard Shaw

Antonio was an Italian boy who loved music, but whenever he tried to sing the music that was in his heart, it came out so badly that all his friends laughed at him. Next to singing, the boy loved to hear the violin. He had a pocketknife he always carried with him and we would whittle all sorts of things with it.

One day Antonio learned that the greatest violin maker in all Italy, the great Nicolo Amati, lived in his village. Antonio began to whittle a violin and worked many hours on it. When finished, the boy walked to the house of Amati, who just happened to answer the door. The boy handed the master the small violin he had carved and said, “Sir, I love music, but cannot sing. I wish with all my heart I could learn to make violins.”

The great Amati smiled, looked at the small gift and said, “Beautifully done. You want to make violins? And so you shall. In time your violins will make the most beautiful music ever heard!” And so, Antonio Stradivari became the pupil of Nicolo Amati and in time made violins that equaled his master’s.

Consider the successes of the likes of Henry Ford, R.H. Macy, Soichiro Honda, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. The common thread among all of them is that their eventual successes were only attained after many failures early on in the careers.

Resilient leaders are not deterred by the disappointment that comes when Plan A is no longer an option. Success comes when Plan B is embraced and that can make all the difference. In business and in leadership, plans do not always turn out as we hope. In these times of testing you have a choice.  Here are three things to remember when Plan A falls apart and Plan B falls in your lap and you are tempted to throw in the towel.

Plan B creates opportunity. Stradivari’s contribution to music was not to be found through his voice, but through his hands. He joined the passion of his heart with the skill of his hands and made his mark on the music world with it.  The challenge in leadership is not to lay down what is in your hand but to use it. It may not be Plan A, but Plan B turned out incredibly well for Stradivari and it can for you if you choose the right attitude and give it all you have.

Plan B redirects your skills. Upon the outcome of this Hollywood legends first screen test, the director of MGM noted, “Can’t dance. Can’t sing. Can dance a little.” Undeterred, Fred Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer. He kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from. As a leader, you will face many challenges and you will at times hear the voices of those telling you that it can’t be done. But in the end all that matters is what you believe in your heart and having the courage to pursue it; even if it is Plan B.

Plan B prepares you for a rewarding life. In many respects Plan B is not just about opportunities, but overcoming adversity. While his name is synonymous with some of the biggest films in the modern era, this movie director was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television. Years later in 2002, Steven Spielberg returned to school and completed his BA.

The blessing of Plan B is not always easy to see in the beginning. The blessing of Plan B is realized when we embrace it and begin the journey it takes you on. Wise leaders are flexible enough to know that when one door closes it is not the end; it’s just the beginning of living out your dream in a manner you didn’t expect.

Have you discovered the blessing of Plan B?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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Are Your Expectations Serving You Well?
Oft expectations fails, and most oft there where it promises – William Shakespeare

A story is told of a young psychology student serving in the Army who one day decided to test a theory. Drawing kitchen duty, he was given the job of passing out apricots at the end of the chow line.

He asked the first few soldiers that came by, "You don't want any apricots, do you?" Ninety percent said "No." Then he tried the positive approach: "You do want apricots, don't you?" About half answered, "Uh, yeah. I'll take some." Then he tried a third test, based on the fundamental either/or selling technique. This time he asked, "One dish of apricots or two?" And in spite of the fact that soldiers don't like Army apricots, 40 percent took two dishes and 50 percent took one.

The story is a reminder of the power of expectations and how they serve you in leadership. A word of caution to leaders is not to neglect this important leadership component- staying abreast of the expectations of your customers and clients; not to mention those of your organizational team.

Denis Waitley said, “Our limitations and successes will be based, most often, on your own expectations for ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.” He’s right. So let’s probe a little deeper and be sure that the expectations you have are serving you well. Here are four questions for your consideration.

Are your expectations based upon reality? In leadership there is a fine line at times between expectations and reality. It is what Colin Powell refers to as the “ground truth” of measuring your current situation against the unvarnished truth as it exists. Expectations ought to be based on a blend of your current circumstances measured against future goals. Facing your expectations with this reality will keep you focused as you achieve your goals.

Are your expectations in harmony with your vision? While expectations must be grounded in reality they too must be in keeping with your vision. Do not sacrifice your vision because of your reality. The power of your expectations will carry you beyond your reality because it is a powerful motivator. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” The power of your expectations will cause you to overcome any adversity if you put your mind and heart to it. Are your expectations vision based?

Are your expectations transferable? The buy-in of your expectations is critical. Have your expectations been articulated to and embraced by your team? John Maxwell was right when he said, “The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by their leader’s ability to empower.” The expectations of one has limited fulfillment. But when those expectations are embraced and enacted upon by your entire team, you will see a compound effect take place that will carry you to the next level. Make sure that your expectations have been transferred and received.

Are your expectations helping or hurting? Tony Robbins said, “People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals-that is, goals that do not inspire them.” Are your expectations inspiring others? Leaders must evaluate their expectations in light of how they meet organizational goals and if they are properly promoting the health of the organization. While strong expectations serve your organization well, unhealthy ones can have a negative impact. It is important that the leader get it right and that the expectations you promote are taking you in the right direction.

Are your expectations serving you well?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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Leadership Lessons from Sheriff Andy Taylor
Barney! You beat everythin'... you know that? – Sheriff Andy Taylor

Last week we lost a beloved television icon – Andy Griffith passed at the age of 86. Griffith starred in numerous television shows over the years but is best remembered for his role as the folksy Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show.

Recognized by TV Guide as the 9th best show in television history, its timeless appeal and life lessons have entertained generations of loyal viewers. Surrounded by a cast of characters such as Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), Opie (Ron Howard) Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) and Gomer (Jim Nabors), the show remains a fan favorite today.

The passing of Andy Griffith leaves a void in an otherwise challenging era of television where we could perhaps use a little more Mayberry and a little less Jersey Shore. But that aside, the lasting values that The Andy Griffith Show espoused over the span of an eight-season run remain with us. Sheriff Andy Taylor taught us valuable leadership lessons. Here are a few worth remembering.

Lead from the heart not by the book. While sworn to uphold the law Andy taught us that sometimes it’s best to lead more by the heart than by the book. Andy’s deputy, Barney Fife, was a straight-arrow, letter-of-the-law enforcer. And while Andy appreciated the zeal displayed by his eager deputy, he taught us that in life sometimes its grace extended that mean more in the long run than adherence to strict codes. Andy taught us the value of leadership from the heart.

Loyalty is never out of style. Andy taught us the value of friendship. Regardless of how bad Barney, Otis, or Gomer may have messed things up or demonstrated their ineptness; Andy seldom allowed their actions to cast them in a bad light. Andy had a way of finding the silver lining and their mistakes less than what they seemed. Andy modeled a leadership style that always cast others in a good light, even at his own expense. In business, loyalty is a two-way street; Andy shows us that it’s still in vogue.

Slow down and enjoy the journey. Regardless of the duties of his office, Andy always found time to take Opie fishing, Helen Crump on a picnic, to stop by the fillin’ station for a bottle of pop, or strum the guitar on the back porch at night. The demands on leaders are a constant and the “tyranny of the urgent” always remains with us. Andy taught us that the demands of the office will always be with us, but there are no do-overs on spending time with those we love and taking time to slow down and appreciate the journey.

Old-fashioned values still matter. Andy taught us of the value of friendship and that old-fashioned values like honesty and serving others mean just as much today in New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles as they did in Mayberry. We are all too familiar with the excesses and abuses of power and greed, but Andy reminds us that the guiding principles of hard work, friendship and loyalty are just as relevant as ever. Call me a dreamer, call me naive, but the leadership secrets of Sheriff Andy Taylor are time-tested and worth a second look. The 249 episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and its enduring popularity are leadership lessons that will remind you slow down, care more, enjoy life, and lead from the heart.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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4 Leadership Lessons from the Founding Fathers
The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world – James Madison

In the book, Resources, by Kenneth L Dodge, he writes of the experiences of the Founding Fathers after the Declaration of Independence was signed. As we know, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families.

Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another two had sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty.

At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson’s home for his headquarters. Nelson quietly ordered General George Washington to open fire on the Nelson home. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and mill were destroyed. For over a year, he lived in forest and caves, returning home only to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion.

In celebration of our independence it is worth noting some leadership lessons from our Founding Fathers that we can benefit from today. Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” She’s right. Here are four leadership principles our Founders taught us.

The courage of convictions. Our founders clung to and fought for the cause of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Through years of hindsight and the benefit of our modern comforts, it is hard to comprehend their sacrifices.

Leadership today requires a steady conviction in the face of incredible challenges. What will be the hallmark of your leadership? To say that our Founding Fathers were men of conviction would be an understatement, but all great leaders are.

The sanctity of sacrifice.  In the formation of our republic and in signing the Declaration of Independence, the Founders pledged to one another, “our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor,” The leadership principle of sacrifice is not new. Our Founders understood it well. And to that end we understand that sacrificial leadership is selfless, not self-serving.

The commitment made 236 years ago reminds us that no great thing worth achieving comes without sacrifice and that causes greater than self are generally the lasting ones. Great leaders understand the power of sacrifice. What causes are you serving?

The fulfillment of faith. To their credit, the Founders understood and valued the practice of faith.  In their wisdom the founders recognized the truth that we are all “created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” by which we live our lives and practice our faith. While it is not a prerequisite of leadership to be a person of faith, but it certainly is an asset.

It is through the practice of our faith that we see the world around us and the people entrusted to our leadership in a more meaningful way. A thoughtful leader seeks to be a blessing and to serve causes greater than self; a wise one remembers the source.
The power of purpose. It was through persecution, hardships, and struggles whereby the Founders rallied and mutually pledged their “reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” in declaring our independence.

The innumerable lessons our Founders taught us transcend political ideology and religious creed. The rally today is for leaders with purpose, backed by the power of their convictions, faith and sacrifice, to make a difference in the world. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must undertake to support it.” Our Founders were leadership pioneers; let us honor their memory as we celebrate.

Happy 4th!

© 2012 Doug Dickerson
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