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Ken Keller: Three thoughts worth considering about your business

Brain food for business owners

Posted: September 14, 2010 7:12 p.m.
Updated: September 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.

This is a “back-to-basics” time for many businesses. Clients are asking for more. The response of the business starts with asking more from employees.

The question is how to do this in such a manner that builds pride in the organization and also enhances the competitive advantage in the market.

Here are three thoughts that might help a business owner to accomplish these objectives.

In a conversation between two individuals that had been in business a very long time, the subject came around to professionalism. Specifically, the discussion focused on how to become and remain a professional. Both agreed that it was easy to fall into the trap of doing less than professional work because others were doing so. 

One of the gentlemen bemoaned the fact that some of the people he had been dealing with were somewhat less than he had expected.

“Telephone calls and e-mails aren’t returned. People are curt, not friendly, less than social, barely civil. Mistakes are made; no one apologizes. Essential work is not completed in a quality manner, and it is often late. Clients bear the brunt of this, but the colleagues of these so-called professionals don’t like it either,” he said.

He went on to state that while he recognized that dealing with people was often challenging, many so-called professionals weren’t professional at all. 

“True professionals,” he said, “do the job even if they don’t feel like it. They do it to a higher standard because they have higher standards. They set an example in all that they do. They raise the bar for others to follow. And others should follow or find a job somewhere else.”

This leads to two questions for the leader of the business: First, are you setting the example for professionalism in your organization? Second, how are you teaching your people how to become more professional?

When planning, many owners have become programmed to think in terms of “either or.” The brain says, “Either it will happen, or it won’t.” 

This type of thinking makes decisions rather simple, but it doesn’t allow much room for being either optimistic or realistic.

Another way to consider planning is to take the possible outcomes and divide them into three categories.

The first would be “best case” where it all works out, no hiccups or problems.

The second is the “worst” case. Think that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong and make plans accordingly. This may be negative thinking, but it provides for thinking through a plan.

The third case is the “middle case;” the realistic view. This is the “most likely” scenario. Things won’t go as planned, but the goals will be achieved, probably late, over budget and with some problems.

This creates two questions for the business leader: First, are you being realistic in your own planning? Second, what are you teaching your people about planning and expectations? 

Yoda’s words
In the movie “The Empire Strikes Back,” young Luke Skywalker spends time learning from Yoda, the Jedi master. At one point, Yoda tells Luke to perform a specific task, to which Luke replies, “I’ll try.”

Yoda looks at Luke and speaks clearly: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

One of the challenges of every leader is to build confidence in those that follow. As the leader, are you encouraging people to do or to try? And what are you rewarding, the effort or results?

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom-line results. He can be reached at (661) 295-6892 or Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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