Monthly Archives: July 2014

Commitment

family-333064_640Too many adults seem to wander in life with no apparent purpose.  They go to work each day and come home to watch TV and drink “a cold one.”  They interact with others only when it involves alcohol and pleasure seeking.  This lifestyle cannot bring happiness. 

People need to be committed to a cause in order to have purpose in life.  Most of our societal problems are the result of so many people following the mantra of the 1970’s, “If it feels good, do it.”  True happiness, however, only comes when we commit ourselves to the more worthy cause of God, family and fellowman.  Some good examples would be Rotary, church, adult literacy, hospital volunteers, Boy or Girl Scouts, schools, etc.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”                                                        -William Hutchison Murray

Some choose being committed to making as much money as possible; others choose popularity and fame, or a career.  These commitments produce a temporary satisfaction and a hollow sense of achievement.  True happiness can only be achieved through a commitment to serving others as Christ would have us serve them.  One can make money, be popular and have a great career, but following the example of Jesus Christ will yield a far greater reward.

It is not an easy task to help our children understand that they must be committed to blessing the lives of others if they want to achieve true happiness.  Teaching this lesson must start with example and the example only works if we know the sweetness of serving ourselves.  Sue gives this example, “My cousin’s older children have a sense of value because they are really needed to help care for their special-needs, younger brothers.   Everyone needs to feel that they are a contributing member of the family.” 

We can only teach commitment if we are committed to a worthy cause.  Then, as WH Murray says, “Providence moves too.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”  Our lives will be richer, more fulfilling and happier.



VIII. Reward Your Employees Fairly

 accolade-63001_640“The secret of success is sincerity.  Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”    -Jean Giraudoux

It is ironic that someone would try to fake sincerity, but sadly, it is fairly common.  In reality, success in management has nothing to do with sincerity.  I have seen bosses who sincerely think that the way to succeed is on the backs of their employees.  Most who have reached the management level will say, “Our people are our greatest asset.”  Many truly believe it but a far smaller group will treat employees that way.  They might talk about wanting to improve the corporate culture but sincerely do not want to make the necessary changes in how they reward their employees – Aye, there’s the rub.

Rewarding employees fairly has a direct impact on maintaining the company image, giving customers the service they expect, creating quality products, minimizing legal actions and increasing employee retention.  In that light, it is one of the most important keys of success.

When considering employee rewards, the first item on the list is typically the pay.  Pay is required by law for all employees and overtime is required by law for all non-exempt employees.  Minimum wage and wage and hour laws dictate the lower limit of pay.  But, rewarding employees fairly is an entirely different matter.

Some argue that “studies have shown” that pay is not a motivator.  There is some truth to that statement it can not stand alone.  The complete truth is that pay, including bonuses and perquisites, is not a motivator when the pay is adequate and fair.  

Adequate pay is enough for employees to maintain the minimum lifestyle that they are willing to accept. 

Fair pay means that it is essentially equal to what others in similar positions are receiving both inside and outside of the organization.

I worked for an organization that had a large percentage of workers that were paid slightly above minimum wage.  Their jobs were emotionally and physically demanding; much more so that their friends who worked at In-N-Out Burger for relatively the same pay.  The turnover was horrendous, with all of the terrible side effects on their managers and the customers.

Management was reluctant to increase wages even slightly.  They often cited that many employees currently in management had begun their careers in the same low-paying jobs.  They neglected to recognize that the current managers were being paid approximately 30% more than minimum wage when they worked in those jobs, and the current employees were now making less than 10% more than minimum wage.  The current employees were living on government assistance and receiving help from their parents because their wages were neither adequate nor fair.

I finally convinced the owner to increase the starting salary and give modest increases to high performing staff.  The changes were immediate and significant.  Morale improved, customers received more consistent service, manager and employee complaints decreased dramatically and in the first 12 months of the program total turnover decreased by more than 25%.

Turnover costs are estimated to be $4,000 for an employee making $8 per hour, according to the American Management Association.  A study done at Louisiana State University for $8 per hour employees estimated the cost to be $25,000 per employee.  In this particular company, the turnover savings approximated $600,000 per year.  That was just the tip of the iceberg of benefits the company received for paying adequate and fair wages.

Paying adequate and fair wages applies equally to burger flippers, engineers and nurses.  Once the basic requirement of paying adequately and fairly has been met, the organization can work on the other rewards that will motivate their employees.

10 Best Practices of Rewarding Employees

  1.   Adequate pay
  2.   Fair pay
  3.   Recognition
  4.   Trust
  5.   Work/Life Integration
  6.   Autonomy
  7.   Opportunity to Advance
  8.   Communication
  9.   Honesty
  10.   Respect

Each of the items on this list must be addressed to have employees that are motivated to achieve their highest potential.  The “non-compensation” rewards are interwoven in all of the 10 Best Practices of Exceptional Leaders and are addressed in the posts on this blog. 

So, the secret of success of being a good leader is not sincerity.  The secret of success is sincerely rewarding the employees adequately and fairly.



Character 

silhouette-84825_640Good parents want nothing more than for their children to be men and women of character.  That is, to be individuals who have honor, goodness and integrity.  These attributes will benefit each child and anyone who associates with them, because strength of character is necessary to achieve any worthwhile goal. 

The character, or integrity, of our children also has a tremendous impact beyond our own family. Confucius said, “The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.”  What we do with our children helps strengthen our society.

A good character is not genetic.  It must be taught, learned and earned.  Some would debate if our children are who they are because of nature (they were born that way) or nurture (they were raised that way).  Most parents would agree that their children are unique but they can be taught.  In other words, there are elements of nature and nurture. 

Our character is the sum of our choices.  Therefore, we must take advantage of the time we are with our kids to teach them to make good choices.  Once they leave the house, there isn’t much a parent can do to help them make correct decisions.  We love them and want them to be successful and happy in life.  The following are some ways to help children to choose correctly so that they will become men and women of character.

  1. Teach correct principals. Children must be taught not only right from wrong but also good from better and best.  The teaching of parents should also be supplemented by allowing the kids to associate with people of character.  For example, if a child likes sports, the most important consideration should be the coach.
  2. Set a good example. Those who disregard the law typically raise children who disregard the law.  Our society is plagued with individuals and micro-societies that justify bad behavior because of some past wrong, or perceived wrong, that was done to them or someone they know.  Parents must be mature enough to do what is right regardless of wrongs done to them.  
  3. Reinforce the importance of a good character. We have a bronze plaque on our front door that reads, “Return with Honor.” It is intended to be a constant reminder of what is expected of each member of our family, parents included.  It also helps every family remember that their actions reflect on all members of the family.
  4. Recognize and reward good behavior. It is much more important in developing character for a child to be recognized and praised for helping someone with their homework than for scoring the winning touchdown.  It doesn’t happen often enough.  Society is teaching kids that winning at sports is more important than almost anything.  Our most effective method to combat this lie is to praise appropriately.  
  5. Explain the law of consequences. Moral agency is one of the greatest of God’s gifts to man.  An eternal truth is that you can choose your actions, but you can’t choose the consequences.  Since every person has agency, it is up to parents to teach their children to make choices that yield positive consequences.
  6. Help kids connect the dots. When we counsel our children with, “Don’t hang around with kids who don’t share your values,” or “Don’t use alcohol or drugs.”  We must also tell them why.  “Kids who don’t share your values will make it very easy for you to make bad choices.”  “Alcohol and drugs impair you and could lead to decisions that will destroy your life both physically and morally.”  Then, follow up with examples.  There are thousands of bad examples.  Most teenagers are smart but they are not always good at connecting the dots of the long term results of their actions.
  7. Let them make as many decisions as possible. Learning by experience is the best way for someone to learn if those choices will not jeopardize their physical or spiritual well-being.  As my wife says, “Let children learn to make choices.  Mismatched clothes at age two or three is okay.”  As they become older, they are able to make complex decisions with parents establishing the boundaries, for example, “You can wear whatever you want, as long as it is not offensive.”  “You can go out tonight, as long as you will be home by curfew and I know where you are going.”  “You can use the car as long as I approve of where you are taking it.”

Finally, parents must be mature enough to allow their children to pay the consequences of their actions.  Constantly saving the child from consequences is a great way to raise an irresponsible adult.  Being consistent in teaching correct principles and modeling honorable behavior is the best way to help our children to be people of good character.

This article was also published on FamilyShare.com

VII. Nurture Your Employees

nameko-228854_640“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Think of the people in your life that have had a significant impact on you. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly they said or did that so dramatically impacted your life, but you remember how you felt when you were with them or thought of them. Employees are people and if you want people to respond positively to your leadership, you will treat them like people.

The act of nurturing – caring for, feeding and protecting – requires more than setting schedules, giving orders and approving time cards. It is the essence of being an exceptional manager. As Gail McGovern, CEO of Red Cross and formerly with AT&T and Fidelity Investments, said, “Your job as a leader is to tap into the power of that higher purpose – and you can’t do it by retreating to the analytical. If you want to lead, have the courage to do it from the heart.”

All too often, managers treat employees like they were nothing but fungible fungi.
Fungible means interchangeable, like commodities of oil or wheat. One is just the same as another. Fungi is the plural of fungus, like mushrooms that live on dead or decaying things. And, most of us are familiar with Mushroom Management – “Keep them in the dark and feed them a lot of manure.”

People are not the same, they are not fungible. They have unique talents, life experience, training and personal issues. People are not like machines. A machine can tolerate a bare minimum of care. If the machine breaks, you can buy the same machine that performs the same tasks in exactly the same way. Managers who see people as fungible pay their employees just enough to keep them from quitting, because the managers believe that if employees leave they can be easily replaced. This perverse sense of reality will ensure that their best employees will leave and the manager will be left with those who can’t find another job.

Neither are people fungi. The best employees want to share in the success of the business. They want to work for managers that discuss the issues of the company and genuinely listen to their input. They are not looking for work/life balance because that denotes a competition between work and their life. They are looking for work/life integration that allows them the flexibility to live normal lives.

One of the most influential philosophies in managing employees, and in managing life, is taught by the Arbinger Institute. This philosophy had a profound impact on me personally, both in my former role as a CEO of a power plant, and in my own family.

The following is my summary of the Arbinger Institute philosophy based on my personal study over the last 15 years. Do I see others as they are – as people or as objects? If I see others as people, I recognize that each has their own life with all the challenges that that entails. I understand that people are individuals who have needs, wants, feelings and are worthy of my consideration.

Or, do I see others as objects – objects of blame? Are they objects that are:
1) Obstacles in my life that make it more difficult for me to get what I want and so I blame them when I don’t get what I want?
2) Vehicles that I can use for my own purposes without regard to what they might need and so I blame them when I can’t use them for my purposes?
3) Irrelevancies that offer me no advantage, so I can just ignore them and I blame them for being an annoyance that I have to tolerate?

Once I see others as people, I can stop justifying my own bad behavior by blaming others, and become a true leader. Consider how different it feels to be complimented or corrected by someone who sees me as a person as opposed to someone who sees me as an object.

Treat your employees as who they truly are, people. They are not fungible fungi to be Mushroom Managed. When you nurture your employees by leading with your heart and making your employees feel that they are appreciated and valued, they will flourish and will be more productive and loyal. You will be an exceptional leader.



Citizenship

flags-316407_640It is a wonderful blessing to be a citizen of the United States of America. The USA was founded by God-fearing men who were inspired to establish this nation. During his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington recognized the hand of God in founding our nation: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency” (First Inaugural Address, 30 Apr. 1789).

Children need to be taught how blessed they are and who has made this all possible, including God, the founding fathers, those in the military that have protected our freedoms, and good and honest statesmen today who work for the betterment of the country rather than their own personal gain.

We live in a society of political correctness which is highly influenced by the moral compass of Hollywood – not a dependable source. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31). Too many of our children and younger adults have been seduced by the sophistries of secularist professors. Many of the voters of today are good people who are being deceived by the appealing arguments of teachers and leaders who have more faith in their own intellect than in the hand of God. This is a dangerous trend for our country.

The USA is also the world’s most powerful economic nation. This was no accident and capitalism is the mechanism that has made it possible. We are blessed to live in a country with the best health care, delicious, nutritious and plentiful food, nice houses with heating and cooling, etc, thanks to capitalism. It would be wise to consider the words of Thomas Jefferson each time you consider supporting a candidate that believes that government would do a better job of taking care of everyone, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”

It disturbs me that so many young voters are willing to surrender more and more control to big government in exchange for promises of cradle to grave entitlements. Appropriately regulated capitalism will always be better for Americans than government controlled socialism. As Winston Churchill so eloquently said, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

My kids make fun of me because I am always writing Letters to the Editor. I believe society is becoming increasingly corrupt and someone needs to say what others will not. Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be” (Letter to Colonel Charles Yancey, 6 Jan. 1816).

Therefore, we must teach our children, and anyone else that will listen, that which many call good is really evil and vice versa. This includes the meaning of the word “tolerance” which has been distorted to be a disguise for acceptance of evil. We should be kind to everyone but we do not need to embrace their bad behavior. Be particularly careful of political platforms that teach this brand of tolerance.

Patriotism should be demonstrated at every opportunity. Fly the flag, vote in every election, pay attention to political issues, etc. The United States of America is one nation, under God. We must promote and defend that important truth.



VI. Train employees and encourage learning

team-114655_640As Sergeant Stryker (John Wayne) said in The Sands of Iwo Jima, “Life is tough, but it’s even tougher if you’re stupid.”  It is harsh language but the concept rings true.  The good news is that employees can overcome workplace stupidity if they are given proper training and they are committed to learn.

When I graduated from college with my degree in accounting, there really was no technology requirement.  I learned how to use a ten-key adding machine at my first job.  The computing power that now resides in an iPad is more than all the computers that occupied the data processing building at my alma mater when I graduated.  It is absolutely true that if I had not continued to learn, my job opportunities would be severely limited.  As a CPA, I am required by the State of California to keep my accounting skills and knowledge current by receiving Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits from classes that I take annually.  I also have to be proficient with a computer and business software to remain relevant in today’s business world.

Almost all jobs require initial training and ongoing learning.  Employees are more confident and comfortable if they are properly trained.  Customers receive a higher quality product/service from properly trained employees.  It has been said, “Hire the smile and train the rest.”  This philosophy works when the employee has the capacity and the inclination to learn and the company does, indeed, train the rest.  Another adage states, “Energy is more important than IQ.”  However, the employee’s energy must be focused on learning the very best job skills.  Also, in order for employees to advance in their job, they must show confidence.  Confidence is only worthwhile if accompanied by competence.  In summary, every good employee must have the proper attitude, training and experience.  Good employers play an important role in all these attributes.

I have worked with a number of companies that emphasize training and learning.  Training includes on-the-job training, formal trainers that are brought in to teach specific topics from time to time, paid college tuition programs and establishing personal learning objectives at every annual performance review. Employees at those companies appreciate the training that is provided and often cite the training programs as one of the most important benefits that the company offers.

I once attended a seminar by Robin Sharma, a motivational speaker and best-selling author on the topic of leadership.  He said, “Your number one goal is to grow leaders faster than your competitors.”  An important element of training is to train the next generation of leaders at your workplace.  If you look around and find no one qualified to take over the business, the fault is that of the current leadership.

The key elements of training for succession are: 1) Find the talent, 2) Train the talent, 3) Pay the talent enough to keep the talent, and 4) Include the talent in transition plan development.

Training is essential to a successful business.  A good leader will promote training and learning at all levels.  The benefits are to keep the employees skills relevant, to increase employee satisfaction, to provide the best possible product to the customer and to prepare the company for the future.

Olympic athletes train for a lifetime to be one hundredth of a second faster than their competitors.  They train for peak performance.  Do the same – don’t be stupid.



Appearance

painting-63186_640Physical appearance is very important to most adults and crucial to teenagers.   Most plastic surgeons depend on that fact.  We did our best to ensure that our children were well groomed and dressed.  We also paid for acne treatments and braces, when necessary.  It was important to us that our children had a positive self image, remembering that outward appearance is not the most important attribute.  Certainly, appearance is less important than integrity, modesty, righteousness, etc.   

How we dress and treat our bodies sends a message to those that see us.  It is basic advertising.  Whether we like it or not, we send messages by our dress, our words, our body language, etc.  We are, in essence, marketing ourselves by the choices we make.   

The following are the words of our oldest daughter.

“When I was in my first year of college I went with some friends to the mall and pierced my ear. I didn’t do the piercing in the lobe, but at the top of my ear. My Dad did not like this at all. He didn’t think that I should put holes in my body anywhere and that this hole would give people the wrong impression of me. He sent me a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup in the mail. I didn’t know it was chicken noodle soup though because he had taken off the label and replaced it with one that had the symbol for poison on it and in big letters read “POISON.”

His lesson was included in a letter. If there is delicious, comforting, nutritious and wholesome chicken noodle soup inside the soup can how would anyone know if the label showed something different, like poison. It is the same with how I present myself. I have a wholesome and good spirit inside, but if my appearance says differently how would anyone know?  I let the hole in my ear close up and haven’t worn an earring there since.”

Most people enjoy beautiful things; however, some have a more refined sense of beauty than others.  They can appreciate good music, beautiful art, colorful flowers, the vast ocean, majestic Sequoia trees, etc.  The most refined can see beauty in people that are not physically beautiful.

It is important to not overemphasize physical beauty in our children.  It creates a distorted sense of self-image at best and can be devastating at worst.  Because of the society that we live in, we need to be especially careful with our daughters.  It is equally important that we teach our daughters that beauty is not sexual and that dressing and acting “sexy” is not being beautiful.