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Slow Leadership


A new study suggests workplace stress may be as hazardous to your heart health as smoking, high cholesterol and other conventional risk factors for cardiovascular disease

 

Maybe this will finally convince some of the “I can take anything work can throw at me—and so should you” brigade that macho posturing about uncivilized hours and work amounts in the workplace isn’t such a bright idea.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (Job Strain Can Be Risk Factor For Subsequent Heart Attacks), people working in high-stress jobs are just over twice as likely as those in low-stress posts to suffer a heart attack or be hospitalized for angina, which often is a precursor to a heart attack.

“It is a very important effect,” said Michel Vezina, a researcher at Universite Laval in Quebec and a co-author of the study. He deemed it “comparable” to the impact of tobacco smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Prevention efforts should go beyond changing individual living habits to “take into account the work environment,” Dr. Vezina said.

And although senior managers and wannabe high-fliers may believe that they are the only ones who face real job pressure, the heart health may be significantly greater among ordinary people faced with meeting the crazy deadlines and profit targets those same executives impose.

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Despite the constant emphasis on communication, today’s levels of understanding are worse than ever

Listening properly takes time and attention. It means that you have to concentrate on what the other person is saying, not on what is going on inside your head. Sadly, in our rushed, frantic world, with its obsession with quick gains, less and less real listening takes place. Yet to listen to another person fully and patiently is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give them.

You’re buying a car. The sales person asks you what kind of vehicle you have in mind. You start to explain—but how far do you get before he or she says: I’ve got just what you need?” The quicker that point is reached, the less actual listening has taken place. That salesperson isn’t listening to what you want to say. He or she is listening only for what can be used to make a quick sale.

Most people can hear—and more or less understand—words as fast as they’re spoken. They can even make superficial sense of what is being said. What they can’t do at high speed is listen—in the sense of understanding fully what the other person is wanting to communicate and what it means to them.

That takes time. Time to make sure you heard everything and understood their real meaning. Time to weigh all the facts and reach a reasoned conclusion. Time to hear what is not being said and take that into account too. Time to note the emotions behind the words and feel enough empathy with the other person to get on their wavelength. Time to consider the implications of their words and work out a comprehensive response.

When people listen and respond quickly, they can only operate on first impressions and gut responses.

Listening just for for my needs, not for what you want to say

The sales person who talks over your explanation with a pre-digested list of product features is only doing what they’ve been taught: responding to the first buying signals they think they’ve detected with an immediate attempt to close the sale. Their objective is to sell as much as possible as quickly as possible, not to understand what each customer might really want to explain.

In our hurly-burly world, speed has become a god. There’s no time for something as slow as proper listening. All there’s time for is reaching a quick decision on which pigeon-hole to push each event into, so you can get on to the response—the action part—as quickly as possible.

The art of listening

Real communicators differ from the far more common, fake kind because they start from a different set of assumptions

  • They assume that they have no idea what the other person is going to say until after they’ve finished saying it in full.
  • They don’t believe they’ve understood what has been said until they’ve verified it carefully.
  • They assume that much of the real meaning is not in the words. It comes in the tone of voice, the stops and starts, the obvious signs of emotion, the body language. They give their full attention so as not to miss any of these.
  • They have learned that they don’t usually know what the other person really means by what they said. It has to be discovered, if only because many people find it hard to express their thoughts fully without the patience and help of the person listening.
  • They believe that everyone deserves a response based on careful, thorough thought—and that instant answers are an insult when the other person is taking the time and the trouble to try to explain.
  • They know that understanding owes more to empathy than hearing—and that seeing through another’s eyes means no longer focusing on your own concerns, but on theirs.

People like this are, of course, far more successful communicators than those whose mouths typically work twice as hard (and fast) as their ears.

When they respond, what they say is exactly what is needed. When they ask questions, every one is relevant and insightful. When they offer a comment or an idea, it will be right on the button.

They may be slower, but they are orders of magnitude are more effective.

Only fools value speed over effectiveness; and only arrogant fools assume that they know what others are saying without showing them the courtesy of listening with care and close attention.

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My weekly posting on Lifehack.org deals with the feelings some people have that they are dogged in life by bad luck.

Is this truly the cause of their misfortunes? I don’t think so.

Any “luck” has to be random, and the essence of randomness is that it doesn’t conform to any kind of pattern.

Here’s a brief extract from the article:

No one is habitually luckier or unluckier than anyone else. It may seem so, over the short term (Random events often come in groups, just as random numbers often lie close together for several instances—which is why gamblers tend to see patterns where none exist). When you take a longer perspective, random chance is just . . . random. Yet those who feel that they are less lucky, typically pay far more attention to short-term instances of bad luck, convincing themselves of the correctness of their belief.

 

The best way to to improve your fortune is to decide that what happens is nearly always down to you, then focus on what works and what turns out well, not the bad stuff. Your “fate” depends on the choices that you make. When random events happen, as they always will, do you choose to try to turn them to your advantage . . . or just complain about them?

You can read the rest of the article here: Do you suffer from bad luck?


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A reminder of one of the basic ideas of Slow Leadership

It’s a while since I have written about the eight basic principles of the Slow Leadership approach to life and work. Over the next few weeks, I propose to revisit each one. Today, I will begin with the idea of “right tempo.”

There is a correct speed for every activity. Some you need to do quickly, many are much more effective if handled at a slower speed. Whatever tempo is the right one should be the tempo you choose. Getting the tempo wrong always ruins the result. That is why today’s obsession with speed is often so counter-productive: faster is not always better. There are times when it is very much worse.

If a piece of music is played too quickly or too slowly, the melody is spoiled. If a speaker talks too fast, the words become garbled. If too slow, the meaning is lost and the talk becomes boring. It’s no different for work. Rushing comes from habit and poor organization and often leads to lowered quality and a sense of incompleteness. When you’ve rushed something, you know you haven’t done it justice. Going too slowly is much less frequent, but usually results from procrastination, perfectionism, and bureaucratic not-picking.

Choosing the right tempo is an important leadership skill. Good leaders know when to move fast and when to wait on events. By rushing when it’s inappropriate, poor leaders make bad decisions and unforced errors. By procrastinating when they need to act right away, they miss important opportunities.

Which speed is the right one?

Consider these points to help you get the tempo right:

  • Do you want a quick fix, a purely conventional answer, an answer that works, or one that is innovative? The difference in the outcome probably lies in the time you allow yourself to find that solution.
  • What is causing you to feel you must hurry? Is there a genuine reason? Is it just habit? If you do not need to hurry, why do so?
  • If others are becoming impatient, can you understand why? It may be that you are falling into the traps of perfectionism or procrastination. If so, speed up. But if they are simply impatient out of habit, consider that they will never accept their haste as an excuse for any mistakes that you make as a result.
  • Never equate speed with excellence. Faster is only better if whatever it is is being judged purely on speed. A fast car that constantly breaks down may be far less desirable than a slower one that is reliable.
  • Speed is usually more about glamor than excellence. Do you want a flashy response (plus the risk that people will soon realize that it has little but glamor to recommend it) or one that will solve the problem fully?
  • Speed is rarely the only criterion for success. What else is required? Can you achieve the other criteria fully if you concentrate on speed alone?

Are there benefits to going more slowly?

Taking your time gives you the chance to reflect and consider a topic from many angles. When you rush through a task, you’re forced into a one-dimensional perspective. There’s no time to sit back and take different viewpoints. This is a severe disability. If you only allow yourself time to consider one way to approach an issue, how can you tell it’s the right way?

Today’s over-emphasis on so-called industry best practice is a direct result of unnecessary haste. Faced with continual pressure to decide instantly, leaders look for some way to offset the increased chances of making a poor choice and incurring blame for it. By turning to the most common and fashionable answers, they can claim what they did was what most people would have done, even if it turns out to be wholly unsuitable for their particular case. They sacrifice being right for feeling safe amongst a crowd.

What speed feels right?

You can often feel which speed is the right one, merely by paying attention. Some speeds intuitively produce a sense of excessive haste. Everything feels breathless and unstable at that tempo. Just as you instantly know if you are driving too fast for comfort, you will know if you are pushing your abilities beyond their natural limits.

In the same way, something done too slowly drags and loses all sense of forward momentum. It feels sluggish and heavy. You can sense that far too much detail is being inserted, or those involved are simply trying to avoid reaching some point that they are frightened of.

Slow Leadership doesn’t favor slowness for its own sake. In a world addicted to speed, we try to remind people that doing some tasks correctly always takes time. Sometimes you need to wait to see how events will turn out before reaching a firm decision.

Helping others learn always demands time and patience. So does working through difficult and complex choices. An organization that demands speed over accuracy is gambling with its money and its future. You may as well toss a coin.

Think about the right tempo for every task. When you find it, stick to it, regardless of the pressure to speed up. This is the first and most essential step to being in control of your life and work. Being a leader means setting out to control the way you use your time and the time of those who work for you, not letting external pressures control you. If you allow yourself to be rushed, you’ll quickly find yourself out of control, hurtling towards some future you never chose . . . and a place you don’t want to be.

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Can you display integrity only when it suits you?

Many people believe that they practice integrity, yet also allow themselves to slip from that standard when that suits them better. Since a calm mind and a clear conscience are major buttresses against suffering workplace stress, anyone who aspires to practice Slow Leadership ought to ask themselves this fundamental question: “Do I really behave with integrity—or do I only do so when I find it convenient?”

Peter G. Vajda, writing recently for Management-issues.com (Integrity at work — how do you stack up?), posed the question of how far you can mix integrity with convenience. Is it acceptable to set aside the demands of ethics, honesty, and truly fair dealing when it is convenient to do so?

My own experience suggests that this is what most of us do. We believe we really are honest people—and we are, most of the time—yet we still allow ourselves the occasional (or not so occasional) lapse from strict standards of integrity when we feel that we need to do so: to meet a deadline, achieve a target, avoid getting into hot water, or butter up some superior.

Mr. Vajda’s view of such lapses in uncompromising:

Integrity is a lot like being pregnant. Either you’re pregnant, or you aren’t. There’s no middle ground. It’s the same with integrity. Either you’re behaving with integrity, or you’re not.

I’m not so sure.

Discovering your own truth

It’s good to have high ideals, but far harder to match them every day. I agree that we would all feel calmer and less anxious if we always behaved in ways that matched our deepest values, but human beings are fallible creatures. the last thing we need to do is add to our stress by feeling guilty because, faced with an impossible deadline or a raging boss, we fudged our consciences to meet our goals.

You might want to try the quiz in Mr. Vajda’s article to see how you match up to his lofty standards. I would use it for another purpose: to help understand what most often causes me to suffer from regrets and a bad conscience.

There’s more to be gained, in my view, by seeking understanding of yourself and your motives than there is from erecting some golden standard of perfect behavior and battering yourself for falling short.

Slowing down offers everyone the chance to take part in a fascinating piece of detective work: to unravel reality from the mess of myths, half-truths, misperceptions, and wishful thinking that makes up our own view of our motivations in life.

Integrity has to begin with a true understanding of who you are and what matters to you most. Only then can you see to what extent to actually live these values in your life and work. And if, as is true of most of us, the answer is that sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t, you can see what effect this has on your life.

I suspect that those who genuinely explore the effects of NOT living with integrity soon reach the conclusion that it isn’t worth it. The benefits from short-term convenience are far out-weighed by the drawbacks of long-term regrets.

Then it becomes merely rational to stick to what your conscience dictates, not a matter of guilt or following anyone else’s standards.

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Deep convictions equal a strong you

 

The Corner Post Principle comes from wire fence building. The deeper you build your corner posts, the stronger the fence’s foundation and thus you can stretch the fence farther.

Expert leaders with solid personal leadership insight view their character as their corner posts. This includes trustworthiness, honesty, collaboration over competition, sticking to commitments, a strong work ethic and, most importantly, integrity.

Stephen Covey on integrity…

One of the most important ways to manifest loyalty is to be loyal to those who are not present. In doing so, we build the trust of those who are present. When you defend those who are absent, you retain the trust of those present.

 

Seven Secrets to Integrity

  1. Know when to say no to projects, ideas, and even jobs that aren’t congruent with your core values.
  2. Especially during your busiest hours, stay committed to a pre-defined list of priorities.
  3. Over-promise and over-deliver. Many times integrity at work and at home manifests itself through your work ethic.
  4. Gain clarity on all time and duty expectations. The clearer you understand what others need from you, the more specifically you can live up to those expectations.
  5. Apologize when necessary. Integrity is not about being right or having the answer all the time. Many times it only takes saying “I’m sorry” when other people would just walk away.
  6. Remember that you aren’t what you do once, you are what you do repeatedly. This is also an excellent metric when examining the other’s behavior.
  7. Respect people’s time and show up early. It is amazing how a person’s core integrity is illuminated in even the smallest of gestures.

Rhett Laubach is a professional speaker, author, leadership expert, and founder/operator of YourNextSpeaker, LLC in Edmond, OK. For 15 years, Laubach has presented interactive, educational programs, in 35 states, to more than 500,000 individuals. He also coaches hundreds of individuals to develop their communication skills. To learn more visit www.YourNextSpeaker.com, PLI Blog: pliblog.YourNextSpeaker.com, & Speaking Blog: speak.terapad.com.

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Adding all the pluses and minuses honestly might produce a different picture

The almost universal assumption that “the bottom line” in business equals the net amount of profit is not correct. That’s merely the accounting version—and generally accepted standards of accounting omit a great many elements of a business that carry significant weight in real terms. If you want to understand the true corporate “bottom line,” you must take account of all those intangible and non-financial items that affect an organization’s growth and progress. It’s the same in your own life: the bottom line needs to be calculated using all the data, not just the parts that are easily turned into numbers. The only version of the “bottom line” that really counts is the one that measures whether you are acting in a way that enhances life . . . or diminishes it.

For decades, businesses have used accounting conventions to provide a picture of their status and progress. If they are being honest, everyone knows that these are inadequate. They omit huge areas of importance, such as the power of a brand, the impact of customer attitudes to the business, and the impact of fashion and the changing nature of society.

There have been some attempts to put a numerical value on a brand, and “goodwill” is used as a financial proxy for the intangibles of customer loyalty and appreciation, but such intangible items play a minor role in reaching a calculation of “the bottom line.” And that is without all the growth in “off balance sheet” items that has been so characteristic of certain corporations—especially those that have later fallen foul of the law.

Corporate intangibles

Organizational types are always attracted to things they can measure numerically. It gives them a feeling of being “scientific.” It makes it easy to produce comparisons and benchmarks. It looks objective.

But what is easy is not always correct, and reaching a “bottom line” figure on purely numerical and financial data tends to distort reality.

What is the true position of an organization that is currently making substantial profits, but alienating its customers by the methods it has chosen to do so? What about one that is maximizing short-term gains by mortgaging—or compromising—long-term growth necessities? As the world finally wakes up to the size of the problem of the human impact on the environment, what is the “bottom line” for an organization that relies on old, polluting technologies to make its profits?

The rash of Chinese imports to the USA that break US standards of product safety shouldn’t surprise anyone. All these Chinese companies are doing is copying their Western models by finding ways to maximize short-term profits at the expense of quality and safety standards. The main difference is that they aren’t nearly as practiced at doing it, so they are caught out more easily. Western companies have been sacrificing ethical and environmental standards for over a hundred years in their belief that immedaite financial profitability is the only “bottom line” that matters.

Personal calculations

For individuals too, those “bottom line” calculations are far trickier than they look.

The writers of the Christian Bible were aware of this thousands of years ago. “What shall it profit a man,” they asked, “if he gain the whole world yet lose his own soul?”

That question is just as relevant today as then. Is it a fair calculation of your personal “bottom line” to look only at getting and spending? Is it enough to make as much personal profit as possible, if the cost includes wrecking relationships, threatening your own health, and reaching the end of your life rich, alone, and despised? What if your personal profit comes mostly by exploiting others or pillaging the environment? Is that acceptable, merely because it makes sense in financial terms? What value do you put on a clear conscience and a civilized world?

A fresh calculation

The assumption that profit and financial success are the only “bottom line” calculations that matter, even to corporations, seems to me to be hopelessly superficial and naive. The rise of Hamburger Management, with its mindless mantra of “faster and cheaper,” has merely made matters worse.

The most effective corporations have never subscribed to a view that short-term profitability is all that matters. Costco, for example, provides employee wages and benefits well in excess of what proponents of financial-bottom-line-only thinking believe is correct; and still makes substantial profits. Before it lost its way and gave in to the supposed financial gurus (and not incidentally nearly went bust by doing so), Marks & Spencer in Britain was noted for putting product quality and high ethical standards at the top of its list of priorities. So long as it did so, it appeared impregnable to competition. When it dropped such “antiquated” notions in favor of fashion and profit, it soon lost its premier place.

What about your “bottom line?” How are you calculating it?

Is your personal “bottom line” calculation based on nothing but the size of your bank balance, the number of expensive toys you own, or your prospects of promotion? Where do peace of mind, sound relationships, trust, ethical standards, and good health rate? You cannot put a monetary value on them, but many people have found after a while that they would give all the money they have to bring back these intangibles of a civilized life . . . if only they could.

The true “bottom line” is the value your life has. Does your presence on this earth enhance it or harm it? Are others glad that you are alive, or do they blame you for diminishing their lives?

Until you make that calculation—and make it honestly—you are nowhere near the real “bottom line” of existence.

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Dealing with objections to slowing down

“I can’t slow down. I have so much to do. If I slowed down, my results would fall off and I’d be in a total mess.” It sounds like a reasonable objection to the idea of “Slow” in the workplace, but it’s not. Much of the reasoning that justifies our frenetic world is like this: plausible on the surface, but deeply flawed on closer inspection.

Why do people have so much to do? Much of it is genuine overload, caused by macho management and greedy cost-cutting. But a significant part is also due to faulty working styles. They’re overworked because they rush too much and cut too many corners, so they’re forced to go back to correct mistakes. Put plainly, they are encouraged to substitute effort for effectiveness.

It’s easier for bosses and organizations to force employees to do more work and keep longer hours than to invest in what would be needed to help them become more effective in the time normally available. Increasing effective working takes thought, research, investment. Making people work harder usually takes little more than inbred dictatorial behavior and a certain amount of posturing and shouting.

The rationale of excessive work demands

Let’s be honest. Business today isn’t about making goods or providing services—let alone providing employment. It’s about making money. It always has been. Once you accept that, a good deal of what is done becomes totally rational.

If you can increase output by making people work longer hours, while paying them no more to do so, why wouldn’t you? And why wouldn’t you keep on doing it until they collapse? It isn’t making your business a whit more genuinely productive (productivity is the ratio of effort to output in a given time, not length of working hours). But it is making you a whole lot more money in the short term.

Pleasing Wall Street is vital because most money today is made by trading stocks and financial derivatives, not by making or selling things. With executives’ incomes also dependent on stock options, they’re only interest is in stock trading too. Look at the vast salaries “earned” by people who run hedge funds. Doesn’t that show you where the real money is being made?

That’s why so many business leaders happily sacrifice long-term success for short-term profit. It’s a simple case of “take the money and run.”

Back to slowing down

If you really want to prosper in the long term—individually or organizationally—it’s going to require you to be more effective. Focusing on short-term gain, and gambling in the financial markets, won’t help you in that. If you want to have a long-term, fairly secure path to success, being more effective at what you do is the only thing that counts.

How do you improve your effectiveness? By thinking hard, exploring deeply, listening carefully, and finding ever more creative ways to do better than you have until now.

What do all these actions have in common? They take time, attention, and careful focus. They can’t be accomplished by tearing through your day like a hamster trying to break the world speed record for spinning its wheel.

Slow down. Give yourself time to think more clearly. Use that thinking time to become more effective at whatever you do. Then use the time that frees up to do even more thinking and improve still further.
You’ll establish a virtuous cycle that will pay big dividends over and over again. You’ll both work less and see more for your efforts.

Isn’t that what productivity really means?

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The basics are rarely considered glamorous or awe-inspiring. Their value and importance are demonstrated, time and again, through the enduring success of individuals and organizations. From every strata and corner of the business world and beyond, winners are associated with the superior execution of the basics. Slow managers can dramatically improve themselves and their organizations simply by “recovering” the fundamentals.

Vince Lombardi is one of the earliest of American football’s head coaches. His enduring legacy is that of excellence, integrity and winning. His speech, “Gentlemen, this is a football” is repeated often.

Even after winning two Super Bowl championships, training camp opened with a deadly serious review of the basics. Lombardi would give an exact description of a football, then a football field, then players and coaches. Every season, every player and coach re-learned and re-qualified on the fundamentals of the sport.

Coach Lombardi did not step into a winning program. In fact the 1958 Green Bay Packers held a 1-1-10 record. Thanks to Coach Lombardi’s leadership, the 1961 Packers won the NFL championship.

Lombardi made champions of the players he had, not an expensive group of “hired guns.” You can create success for yourself and your organization as you are. All it takes is a little leadership and a lot of fundamentals.

Buy low. Sell high

Successful businesses and business professionals know the definition and value of basics. Fundamentals are the core set of skills, abilities, and processes that lead to success. A manager with faded technical, conceptual, or people skills will be eclipsed by competitors. An organization that loses its expertise in the cost, quality, and delivery of its product will become a victim in the capitalist jungle.

Business people like excellence and winning. For its own sake. Too often, looking for the big score, we overlook the little register ringers. The small wins add up. They cost less as well.

The basics are inexpensive, since they are part of the core investment. You (intuitively) know that the maintenance of plant and equipment is the price of staying in business. See the fundamentals in the same light. A winning strategy never defers the renewal of core skills and abilities.

The larger your business, the easier it is for the basics to become deferred. Re-training 500 skilled technicians is harder and more expensive than re-tooling 50 football players. It is vital to the survival of the business to re-strengthen everyone.

Lombardi used a punishing regimen of exercises, drills, and training classes to improve his team. Your approach to yourself, or your organization, may not be as harsh. It must however be as serious. If you aren’t willing to master the basics, you aren’t willing to win. No one walks or coasts to a championship season.

Collect as early as possible

Are fundamentals enough? Probably not. They are a hygiene factor. Their absence dooms the effort, but cannot, alone, guarantee success.

Fundamentals make the complexities easier to execute. The basics are a sure foundation for your strategies, tactics, and gambits. Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense builds on the legacy of Vince Lombardi’s fundamentals.

Consider Honda, 3M and Federal Express. They deliver the goods with quiet excellence. Satisfied customers provide the loudest portion of their marketing. With pleased customers on your side, it’s much easier to push the fundamentals agenda.

If you can’t transform the entire organization at once, create pockets of excellence. They create buzz within the organization. Eventually pockets of fundamental excellence infects the entire organization.

The same is true of individuals. You may not be able to knock out all of your bad habits this week, buy keep up the pressure. As each reformed skill is put in place, it’s easier to enable the next. There’s still a fair chunk of work involved, however.

Watch the pennies

Be vigilant. No one deliberately gets sloppy. The daily pressures of the business world encourages a shortcut here and there. After a 10 or 12 hour day, even the most diligent among us might settle for less than “sharp and crisp.”

After a while your level has slumped. At that point, it takes a deliberate, and usually jarring effort to correct the situation. The best of us are imperfect at times. The best of us are willing to put in the effort to recover our best and brightest level.

If your fundamentals are weak or declining, you know what to do: recover your basic skills and abilities. Spend the time and money it takes. Disconnect or dismantle any complexities that interfere with that mission. They likely weren’t working well enough, if at all, anyway.

Will you restore or replace your complex strategies and tactics? Eventually. You will likely find that with viable basics in place, those complexities will change as well. An improvement of your basic abilities will dramatically change your strategies and tactics. Strong basics make for less expensive and more effective strategies. I’m sure you’ll find a place to invest the extra cash.

Vigilance is the price of freedom

Strong basics will strengthen your brand and franchise. The next level of success is harder and higher without the boost of fundamentals. Their price is disproportionately low compared to their benefit.

One of the first benefactors of your improvement will be the customer. The money spent on improving customer satisfaction is never wasted. It comes back in profits and additional customers. Most organizations like additional customers.

Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending cycle. “Just as I got the delegation process fixed, the quality system needed attention.” I never told you being first-class would be easy. On the other hand, who wants to be second-rate?

Slow managers win by being sharp on the fundamentals, then bringing the rest of the game into play. Get ready to sharpen yourself. You want to win, right?

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Why expressing your gratitude can take you further than you think

Sometimes a picture hits you and makes you stop and think. That’s what happened to me when I came across this on the web (You can find it at You give me faith).

Our grab-and-go, macho, Hamburger Management organizations aren’t big on gratitude: they’re much more focused on what they can get—preferably for nothing. They also carry around this fixed mental assumption that people only do things for some material reward. That’s why their idea of “incentives” always comes back to money.

Not only is this picture of the world wrong, it’s insulting to all the decent people out there who still believe in civilized values and know just how much we depend on one another. Ignoring gratitude makes you selfish, and being selfish makes you vulnerable.

It’s becoming a gratitude-free world in some places

If everyone is out for themselves, you can expect neither help nor consideration when you get into trouble. You are truly alone, with only your own strength and cunning to depend on. Worse, you can firmly expect others to try to trip you up, if they can, since you represent nothing to them but competition.

That, of course, is exactly the behavior you find from assholes and those whose only aim in life is to climb to the top, probably over the bodies of those they encounter along the way. They’ll take your help, if you are willing to offer it. Hell, they usually demand it. Just don’t expect any gratitude or help in return.

These jerks aren’t dumb, of course. They know perfectly well that their style of operation—their game plan—is a case of “eat or be eaten.” They know how vulnerable it makes them, which is precisely why they are so ruthless. In a world without gratitude, only those at the very top have any security—and theirs only lasts just so long as they can hang on to that alpha position.

It’s time to call a halt

Gratitude isn’t just a pleasant trait, it’s also a very powerful one.

Thanking others and recognizing how much we all depend on support and co-operation makes it far more likely that help will be there when you need it. Those who help others most freely are most likely to be helped in their turn—provided that gratitude as recognized for what it is: a major constituent in the glue that holds together groups of all sizes, from a few friends to society as a whole.

A grateful customer is more likely to overlook future mistakes and stay loyal despite the temptations offered by competitors. A grateful employee is less likely to leave when times get tough. Grateful colleagues pull together. Grateful bosses trust their people more and are trusted more in return.

You cannot buy goodwill of that kind, no matter what incentives you offer. Today’s bonus may become tomorrow’s expectation, but genuine gratitude can last for a lifetime.

It’s good to see that some people still value it as it deserves.

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