Thoughts on Success and Leadership

Thoughts on Success and Leadership

Over the years I have come across leadership principles, through experience, in books and in advice from trusted mentors and peers. As a leader mentoring staff and guiding new leaders, I haven’t found one spot that provides a summary of key concepts.

This “leadership 101” article is a way of providing those key concepts. I will be updating this post as I use specific concepts that are missing, or need further clarification. Please feel free to post any other key concepts you see missing and I will add them to this article. – August Neverman

Thoughts on Success and Leadership

“I have never met a man so ignorant that 
I couldn’t learn something from him.”

– Galileo Galilei


Listen first, then listen some more. Think before you communicate. When you need to communicate do it with visuals, verbally, mathematically and written, use every option you can. If you feel like you are communicating a lot you probably need to double the amount you are communicating.

Say it multiple ways

The phrase “A picture is worth a 1000 words” is still true. Also remember it’s harder to write a concise, clear one page summary than a 10 page summary. Simplify and consolidate but no more than the content permits. Use analogies to help bridge new ideas to your audience (client, customer, employee or supervisor). This is especially true with technical subjects.

Remember in some cases it can take up to seven different styles of communication for a person to fully understand what you are communicating. One of my bosses told me “Shut up and listen” its good advice. If you “think” someone understand something, don’t assume, communicate to ensure they understand. Ask the person to explain the concept in their own words.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t
live long enough to make them all yourself.

– Unknown

Keep it positive

If someone asks “How are you… how are things…” respond with a POSITIVE statement. “I am wonderful.. excellent.. fine.. good” and when talking or guiding others use positive words. In a business project use positive words. Also remember to be positive with you self talk, if you can’t find your own success you are unlikely to find it in others.

  • “We face an excellent challenge…”
  • “I have good news…”

Paint as positive a picture as possible (but don’t ignore the facts). Point out that we have succeeded in other situations. Never lie, or paint a terrible situation as good. An honest message that is negative is acceptable, but always focus on what we can do; how we can succeed. In other words, communicate the plan to resolve the problem and share the vision of success.

KISS (Keep it simple stupid)

Simplify the message but don’t lose the message by over simplifying. Follow the advice of Albert Einstein. He said “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

When to delay communications?

You need to confront problems and problem people directly and quickly, but prepare yourself first. Have a plan, rehearse the situation, know the problem, and then communicate. If you are responding to a hot email, remove the TO/CC list and write the email and let it sit, forward it. Ensure its facts and measures not emotion. If you receive a hot phone call get the information before responding, and if possible tell them you will call them back in 5 to 10 minutes with a plan. Give yourself time to THINK.

Role play

If you have to have a hard interaction, write it out, type it up. Go through it in your head. Write up answers to all the likely questions, concerns, complaints or excuses. Find someone to role play with and practice the interaction. Put yourself in their shoes so you can predict their likely response. The more you rehearse the less stressful the situation will be for both of you.

Public Speaking

This is hard for some. Learn to do it. The basic advice is know your subject, anticipate the questions, speak to the audience as if you are talking to an individual. Successful public speaking requires knowledge of what you are talking about, and an intense desire to tell it to other people. Preparation and repetition will reduce your stress. 

“It usually takes more than three weeks 
to prepare a good impromptu speech.”  

Mark Twain

Script for Success

Create an elevator speech, who you are, what you do, what your teams do – 1 to 2 minutes. Help your staff interact in predictable ways. AIDET* from Quint Studer – Acknowledge Introduce Duration Explanation and Thank You. This is a great communication framework. Acknowledge the person, introduce yourself (including your 1 minute resume), give a Duration of what you are there to do, Explain the situation/work/activity and then thank everyone. I like to follow up with – what can we do better next time. Google it, watch a YouTube video. AIDET is simple AND IT WORKS (and it is not just for healthcare).

Non-Verbal Communication

Your posture, your clothing, your personal hygiene and most importantly your smile, all communicate something. You need to measure your physical response, engage with eye contact. Ensure you aren’t allowing the situation to control you.

  1. Be a front seater.
  2. Practice Making Eye Contact.
  3. Walk 25% faster.
  4. Practice LISTENING! Really LISTEN pay ATTENTION.
  5. Practice speaking up and getting others to SPEAK UP.
  6. Smile ALWAYS.
  7. Slow down when everyone else is rushing, speed up when everyone else is going slower.

Anger and Frustration

If you are angry channel it – if you can’t redirect it, escape the moment. Anger is natural, so use it to provide positive energy. Your body will react to a highly stressful situation as if you are in combat mode (fight or flight). You cannot avoid that, but you can turn down the adrenaline, or redirect it, if you can change your focus to something else. For me it’s a positive image, maybe thinking of Louis Armstrong Wonderful Life song or visualizing my favorite beach. Getting away mentally for a few seconds can give you time to recognize the symptoms and control yourself so you can be organized in your response. Staying focused on the problem without the stress, will let you find the solution. Let the anger fuel a peaceful response and turn the anger into victory (paraphrased from Martin Luther King). As the saying goes “When you fight with a pig you both get dirty… and the pig likes it.”


Put on the Uniform

When you work, put on the uniform. Play the role. This is both a physical uniform and mental state. If you are in bad mood for some odd reason, ACT positive. Put on the positive face, think of a positive image or positive moment and fix it in your mind. Don’t let one negative thing impact your entire game.

Dress the part – being crisply dressed will very rarely have a negative effect. Whether you like it or not, your clothes are something you are judged on. Wear a good suit, smart skirt, nice tie, clean crisp blouse, wear the uniform of your boss or even your bosses boss. Also remember that even digging a hole has a uniform, that can look either prepared and ready to deliver, or disorganized, confused and unprepared. Pick your uniform carefully, it matters. It sets a tone for those around you, even if you aren’t the boss.


You influence behavior walking into a room, answering the phone, and being silent in a meeting. People can tell if you are smiling on the phone, people know if you are interested in them and listening. Influence them by listening. Influence by following up, giving each person you interact with a sense of importance. Influence by being aware of your actions and how your customer and or team will perceive your actions.

Stabilize the Strategic Priorities (control target changes)


Share everything except failure. Share knowledge and it will grow. Share success and it will repeat. It is tempting to keep some specific information secret to use as leverage, that technique can work but it will create barriers and a non-team environment. Share expertise, and the entire team gets better.

Do I Pass the Gossip Test?

  1. Do I spread rumors about other people?
  2. Do I always have good things to say about others?
  3. Do I like to hear reports of scandal?
  4. Do I judge others only on the basis of facts?
  5. Do I encourage others to bring rumors to me?
  6. Do I precede my conversations with “Don’t tell anybody”?
  7. Do I keep confidential information confidential?
  8. Do I feel guilty about what I say concerning other people?


You are responsible 1st and foremost for yourself. You can’t truly control anyone else but you can control yourself. So manage yourself 1stand then influence everyone else. You can accept or even take on additional responsibility, growing what you do. Delegate authority, as a way to give staff a sense of protection. You will be responsible for their failures. And you will allow them to take all the success.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

-Wiston Churchill

“It is my job”

Everything is your job, absolutely avoid the “its not my job syndrome”. You are not limited to your job description. The job description line that says something like “and other duties as assigned” should just say, “and other duties you know you should do even if they aren’t fun or clearly defined”. Make sure things get done, even if they aren’t directly your responsibility. This could mean ensuring a plugged drain is repaired, a lost customer finds what they are looking for, fixing an error you find in documentation or marketing. You are the business, and as a leader this is even more evident. Even if you are not a “manager” if you are reading this and its resonating, you are probably a leader. Take on the role and it will come to you one way or another.

  1. Don’t sell yourself short.
  2. Use positive vocabulary.
  3. Stretch your vision.
  4. Get the big picture of your job.
  5. Don’t think about trivial things.

“There are two primary choices in life:
To accept conditions as they exist,
or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

– Dr. Denis Waitley

“Be the bad guy.”

As a leader, sometimes you have to be the bad guy. You need to accept you will deliver news someone may not want to hear. If you don’t deliver it and explain it you are likely condemning a situation to get worse or a staff member to fail. Being the bad can be done with tact, but it will usually be uncomfortable and hard. Balancing persuasion, influence and being the bad guy will keep a solid relationship with those you manage.

Also sometimes you need to lead strongly, I refer to it as being the “Benevolent Dictator”. This means taking action at some point, setting standards, and protecting the staff and/or system from catastrophic failure. Letting staff fail in a productive way may work when staff are relatively sheltered from risk, but if it is public or high risk you may need to force the situation and demand best practice and enforce it using traditional role based authority. As time and circumstances permit, it is best to explain the benefits where possible to doing it the right way, therefore reinforcing why you are mandating something.


You need to persuade your customers, your peers, your employees and your boss. It needs to be their idea if at all possible. Dictating is possible, but will likely backfire especially if it’s the ONLY means of direction. If you cant persuade ensure your staff truly understand. If you do end up dictating (which is worst case) your staff need to know you have their back. When persuading, ask a leading question, ask “how else could we do this?” possibly even suggest a bad example. If you can accept being wrong, the stigma will be reduced if their idea is wrong. Get the conversation going, possibly even leave it to a lead to organize, and let the lead win with the goal.

Practice servant leadership (practice, practice, practice)


Be generous with public praise. Pointing out the right way, the improvements, or that extra effort rewards the employee and reinforces positive behavior. Praise the team, share the success.

Sharing the win makes it bigger. If you aren’t sure about praising in public try it in private first. Praise publicly reprimand privately.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

– Jack Welch

Catch people doing the right thing!

Capture the positive in reviews, celebrate it. Turn your employees in for the Mission awards, and identify employees that deserve a small reward such as a gift card. And do it as close to the positive activity as possible.

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
― George Washington,

The four word management job description:

  1. Communicate
  2. Communicate
  3. Communicate
  4. Execute

Little things count

Take advantage of little things. Such as a bounty on something or the X ticket killer of the month. Create small positive competition with the idea of giving all staff a chance to have a win even if its small. Tie the games/competition to goals in a small simple way, ticket champion, positive comments in surveys winner, biggest saver of the month, fewest complaints and so on. These types of small items show value and demonstrate that you are keep track of the details. Implement these type of programs ONLY if you can sustain them.

Leaders MUST be cheerleaders. Direct all of your teams energy or it will be wasted


Be generous with authority and stingy with responsibility (freely give them the authority to act but back them up, and share responsibility on problems/failures, give them the win when they succeed). When someone shows initiative let them take the lead, let them run the project. Guide them if they need help in leading, let them be the example to others. Only manage when you have to. Most people will do the right thing, and fast if you let them. Ask them to summarize their work and lead, if they are your partner they will do more for you.


  1. I act in accordance with the truth as I believe it to be.
  2. I move toward the dominant picture. What I am thinking about I am bringing about.
  3. As I visualize the new I become dissatisfied with the old.
  4. All meaningful and lasting change first starts on the inside and then works its way out.
  5. I change the performance when I change my self image.
  6. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
  7. Believe without evidence.


When you feel attacked don’t fight back immediately. In some environments the fight cannot be won, or will only create new enemies.

Agree! Consider tactics such as agreeing there is a problem or if there is no obvious problem that there MIGHT be a problem. Agreeing and partnering to solve the problem will put you on high ground and leaves the attacker without a target.

“Mine” Mistakes. There is gold in there. Mistakes are Learning Opportunities, learn from mistakes to make your next activity a bigger success. Be your own constructive critic. Research failures, find out how to avoid them.

Don’t argue. You WIN by refusing to fight petty people. Expect to be sniped at. It means you are succeeding. Snipers are psychologically sick, help them if you can, feel sorry for them if you can’t help them.

The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.



Attitude, your outlook on life, your mood, your situational sense. Always watch for the ways to win. Don’t let a negative attitude consume you.

attitude is more important than intelligence…

  • Negative Attitude = Failure
  • Positive Attitude = Success!

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

-Milton Berle

All leaders cast a shadow

Your shadow influences the organization, customers, partners and leaders. It is there always, whether we like it or not. Your attitude is reflected in your staff. If you feel you can win, they will too. If you can’t find a way, they won’t be able to either. If your glass is ½ full their glass will be too. Watch your words and – keep the positive attitude. Every post on Facebook, every entry in a Blog, every email is a reflection of you, its your shadow. Don’t forget it never goes away. This only gets more complicated as the lines between work and private life blur.

Before you take negative action ask this question “Is it important enough to argue about?” Remember in an argument nothing can be won but something can ALWAYS be lost. Ignore errors of little consequence.

To do it, believe it can be done.

  1. Be receptive to NEW ideas.
  2. Experiment
  3. Be progressive not regressive
  4. Be PRO-Active not RE-Active.

Clear Personal Goals

Create an image of yourself in 10 years. Write out a 10 year plan. Surrender yourself to your desires. Set goals to get more energy, to get things done, and discover the real enjoyment of living.

Remember the POSITIVE, ignore the negative (forget it). 

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face … we must do that which we think we cannot.” 

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Positive Environment

Be environment conscious, mind diet makes the mind. Make your environment work for you. Don’t let small thinking people hold you back. Get your advice from successful people. Get plenty of psychological sunshine. Go to new places, restaurants… travel. Avoid, discourage and eliminate gossip.

To think confidently act confidently.


Internal Voice

If you have a positive internal voice it will reflect outwardly. You emotional state and self worth are yours to set. Outside action can influence your mental state, but your reaction is yours to chose. Remember to discern between factual negative feedback and mudslinging, also remember to focus on process. 

Your opinion of yourself will ultimately affect those who you manage, in both their opinion of you and their overall sense of satisfaction in the workplace. Finally, your past does not control your future. We each have the pen to write our future.

Progress is a way of thought.

People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.

– John C. Maxwell

Measure for Success

You must measure to succeed! If you are not measuring what you are doing you can’t succeed, progress, improve or win. Measurements remove opinion and subjective review. Clear measures give everyone the same set of rules. Measures are easier to communicate than clarifying “Do the right thing” or “Improve customer satisfaction”. If you say “Improve customer satisfaction 20% measured by the results of the customer survey” everyone will know the target. Simple shared clear measures are powerful (and very hard to argue with).

Make sure SLAs, SOWs and other agreements use measures that meet the SMARTER/DMIAC rules. Don’t set yourself up for failure by selecting measures that cannot be attained or even worse cannot even be measured. All SLAs and SOWs must be as short as possible. A single paragraph for a simple measure, a few pages for a complex goal. If you can’t say it in a few words keep trying until you can.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure”

-W. Edwards Deming

Believe progress, push for it, accept it.

Automate measurements wherever possible, have them delivered on a timely basis. Make them into graphs. As time permits, learn CQI, LEAN and Six Sigma. There are a couple of mnemonics related to measuring:

  1. DMAIC– Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.
  2. SMARTER – Simple Measurable/Meaningful Attainable/Appropriate/Ambitious Realistic/Resourced Timely/Trackable Evaluate/EnjoyableReview/Reevaluate/Reward

Apply ROI to everything

The concept of a Return on Investment (ROI) is critical. Even if there is no cash investment there is a time investment. If I invest 30 hours will I save 30 hours or get some measurable value for that 30 hours?

Regular sampling – Apply LEAN to workflow on daily rounding and identify those processes that could be shortened or eliminated.

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

– Aristotle


Know your current situation: if you are driving fast you need to know the speed, how much gas you have, where you are. You need money to be able to keep moving ahead.

Financial Terminology

Learn the language of Finance. If you don’t know the difference between Net and Gross profit – find an accounting book and read it, or take a class, or search the web. Ensure you understand basic accounting principles. Know how your business finances are measured.

Study Financial Concepts

Remember the 80/20 rule? If you invest 100% in 1 project you get 100% out. If you invest 20% in 5 projects you get 400% return. This is NOT always true, but it is an amazingly accurate rule of thumb. And add in failures and you have much better odds of success with the 80/20 rule.

Measures in Financials

Remember we need to measure as a Team. As you measure financials make sure you and the rest of your team are using the same measures. Otherwise there is no real common ground and no shared Vision / Goal because everyone is measuring differently.

If You Can’t Measure It,
You Can’t Improve It.

-Peter Drucker

Reticular Activating System

  1. Change your target and you will change your vision.
  2. Change what you focus on and you will drive toward it automatically.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

– Wayne Gretzky

Apply Six-Sigma Continuously

  • Can we change the work altogether?
  • Can we provide value differently?
  • Can we give more for less?

Practice hard-wiring the CQI model into every day workflow.


There are lots of different personality types. If you aren’t careful two can rub each other the wrong way without actually being “wrong”. Review Myers Briggs personality types.

Variety and differing opinions build successful teams

Having a wide variety of personality types is a benefit on a project. The detail person will drive the big picture person nuts, but both make the project more complete. Getting them to see each others value builds the team and dramatically eases stress long term stress. Differing styles help you know your weaknesses, so they cant be used against you as easily.

Focus your efforts

Know that there generally only four types of people you must interact with on any activity: (1) allies, (2) neutrals, (3) skeptics and (4) naysayers. Invest time in the allies and skeptics and as little with naysayers as possible, meeting SLA’s and basic standards only.

The naysayers are a bottomless pit of time and communication. They will absorb all effort and only reflect negativity or more questions. Watch out for those interactions, if you find them manage your time with them carefully. 

A skeptic converted to an ally, can change the entire feel of a project or team. Include skeptics in decision making and you can transform a culture, or jump-start a near dead project.

  • Good leaders work at it every day.
  • Leadership is not genetic, its effort, self improvement and follow-through.
  • Good leaders never give up, even when the situation is bad.

“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.”

― George Washington Carver


Analyze the problem first. Many problems are caused by process. It’s probably not an individual personal issue, its more likely

  1. the leader failing to communicate
  2. poor process
  3. lack of understanding
  4. poor or non-existent training

Before you take action, ensure the problem is real and recurring. Before you reprimand look in the mirror first.

Is it a trend?

Ensure the problem isn’t an outlier. Never treat a statistical outlier as a trend. This is where measurement is critical and basic statistics is useful, if you aren’t familiar with it, learn what a “statistical outlier” is. If you chase a truly random event as a process failure will will move backwards instead of forward. Measurement is the key tool that links to this quality.

The Magic of a follow up! 

When you are following up on a problem ensure its resolved. Communicate progress, and remember “I dont know but we are working on it” is a legitimate answer. Follow up with customers and staff after you determine root cause.

Finally set a reminder by creating an appointment (maybe by dropping an email onto your calendar) to ensure you confirm the problem is truly resolved with the customer. That simple phone call, or email followup can make a huge difference. Apply simple communications to problem solving and build influence, trust and confidence at the same time.

Up, sluggard, and waste not life;
in the grave will be sleeping enough

– Benjamin Franklin

Prove the other guy wrong

Many people will identify why something isn’t possible, practical, doable or realistic. Show the doubters they are wrong. This requires the self confidence to identify previous success. Think of AIDET – if the doctor says she has done 1200 procedures successfully; she isn’t really bragging, she is reducing your fear of a procedure and sharing her qualifications.

You don’t need a college degree, or 50 years of experience to be right. Leaders are driven by a desire to fix things, to improve the entire organization, to find a better solution, to find a way when everyone else says no. Further the leader communicates that vision, that goal, clearly to staff. This is not an issue of intelligence, or training, its about drive, innovation and commitment. This quality of a leader enhances other qualities, combining it with communications, measuring and improving smaller targets first and larger targets later. Combine this with DMAIC and proof of success will silence naysayers.

“Always listen to the experts.
They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why.
Then do it.”

Robert Heinlien  


First remember you set the example. All the expectations should start with you. Remember communications, problem solving, your influence and your shadow. 90% of activity will be a reflection of what you permit and demonstrate.

“A good leader leads the people from above them.
A great leader leads the people from within them.”

–M. D. Arnold

Employee development

Remember For every negative comment you need to make seven to ten positive comments to outweigh it. So if you are guiding someone to act differently, role play, ask questions, let them conclude the better outcome. When coaching ask a lot of questions. “Why?”, “What were your options?” “How could you do it differently?” Guide the employee to a set of options they come up that you agree with. Remember, summarize what you discussed in writing, some people wont register verbal entirely and others wont register written entirely, doing both ensures better communication.

  1. Practice adding value to things.
  2. Practice adding value to people.
  3. Practice adding value to yourself.

Ongoing employee issues

If the behavior occurs a 2nd time, ask the question, “Did I communicate verbally 2x and written at least once?” See Communication. At minimum in coaching discuss verbally and follow up with written summary of what you discussed. If problems repeat, provide further verbal and written detail. In some cases the repeat you think is unnecessary “lights the light-bulb” and the employee changes. Worst case if the behavior doesn’t change, you have the proof you did everything you could to help the employee.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize
a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

–Arnold Glasow

Honesty, Patience & Respect are VIRTUES to live by

Do what is RIGHT, follow your conscience. It might not always be easy but it’s the only way to happiness and success.

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

– Friedrich Nietzche


Vision beats everything. If everyone has the same goal and is working toward it, you will find a way to achieve that goal. Vision is identifying a future state and communicating it without all the details (allowing people to be creative in achieving the goal). Simple clear vision that is shared is a powerful tool to creating a successful work environment. If no-one knows what the goal is, no one can help achieve it.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right,
for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

Run on Auto Pilot!

Let your goal be your “automatic pilot”. Get absorbed in the goal and you’ll find yourself making the right decisions to reach your goal.

  • Think Victory. Remember Success. Believe Big. (Plan Big Succeed Big.)

Do NOT underestimate your brain power.

Technical and organizational challenges will always exist. The details will work themselves out when you have a clear goal shared by all.

How to Reach Goals

Goals are achieved in small steps, acknowledge them so you see progress. Build 30 day goals. Take detours in stride, they just mean taking a different path to the goal. Think BIG and work in small attainable steps.

Don’t worry about what “others will think” or “others will say”

Avoid Scotomas

Scotomas is Greek for Blindness (if you don’t see it you cant change it). In a nutshell if you have a belief that leaves you blind to an idea or specific knowledge it doesn’t exist to you. You must accept change, and seek out your blind spots and eliminate them.

  • Imagination multiplied by Vividness = Reality


Look at things not as they are, but as they can be. Visualization adds value to everything. Think long term, a happy customer comes back again and again. A small loss today for a gain in the long run is worth it.

Analyze, decide and act.


Set the bar high. You have heard the phrase all ships rise with the tide. All behavior and success matches the goals. Set realistic measures that are slightly higher than you expect, if they achieve them praise them, if they don’t but are close point out the progress between where they are and where they were. Its Win – Win. Assign 25% to 50% more than staff can complete and let them manage the “extra work”. They can fill in between lulls in projects, or when they need a mental break, and remain productive. Try to assign the “extra work” as bonus subjects that the individual would seek out.

  • Set goals high especially for yourself.


If you spend 20% more time planning you will be 80% more successful. Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfectVince Lombardi. Praciticing, role playing, planning and review allow for perfect execution. Remember perfect is enemy of good, but we can apply the concept of continual improvement to the 1st 20% of our invested effort.


If you are moving at a speed that is completely manageable you are probably being beat in the race. Whether its, customers, technology or projects, you need to be going faster than you are comfortable driving, and keep everyone aligned while speeding. Going faster is not in competition with planning, it does complement. Applying the 80/20 rule if you combine planning + SMARTER/DMAIC+ speed and “just do it” you will get 5 tries for each 100% of effort invested and you will get better at winning. Teach your teams to do this and you will be hard to beat.

  • Preparation + Planning = Success
  • Luck does NOT exist.
  • Fear is natural and ACTION will cure it

“Get a shot off FAST. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.”

Robert Heinlien

Just Do It

Action avoids paralysis. You can over analyze something, but remember perfection is extremely expensive. Keep the Pareto principle or 80-20 rule in mind. Basically it means it commonly takes 20% of the full time to complete 80% of a task while the last 20% takes 80% of the effort. So if you have limited resources doing a lot of 20% efforts gets you a HUGE return on investment. Even if you make a mistake you only invested 20%, and can do another 20% to get it right the 2nd time.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
― Vince Lombardi

Walk 25% faster

If you are going somewhere go with purpose. If you walking with a customer (peer/partner) walk at their pace, and give them full attention (Listen). If you are walking with a person you are guiding walk a bit faster, the body and mind work together, so a good pace will help them.

Fail Fast

This is the idea of the 80/20 rule, and applying it wholeheartedly. Try something, if it works grow or move on, if it fails try something else and move on. You will get four tries in (or more) if you build a culture around the acceptance of risk and trial. Unique failure you learn from is ok, repeated similar failure is unacceptable.

Failing fast is an especially valuable technique when there isn’t an established best practice. If you follow ALL the other rules failure can even provide value, by identifying more information to make the “2nd shot count”. This also avoids a culture of “too big to die”, where resources are invested in large projects that aren’t going anywhere. A fail fast environment will scrap what isn’t working. It also allows for “hair brained” ideas that just might create a new paradigm, or new product or new service that gives you an edge over the competition.

“Perfect is the enemy of Good
― Unknown

Take action regardless of how you “feel”. Be an activist. Don’t WAIT for perfect conditions. “Just DO IT.” Ideas require action for success. Action will cure fear.

“Karpa Deim” Seize the initiative, be a crusader.

Improvise, adapt, overcome

As a leader you must recognize that the only constant is change. To survive and grow, the process, technology, organization and product must continually improve and change, sometimes in a dramatic revolutionary fashion.

“Solve it and solve it quickly. Solve it right or wrong. If you solve it wrong it will come back and slap you in the face and then you can solve it right. Lying dead in the water and doing nothing is a comfortable alternative because it is without risk, but it is an absolutely fatal way to manage a business.”

– Thomas J. Watson


Ensure you are building on solid ground. This is for staffing, systems and process. If your foundation isn’t solid the rest doesn’t matter. Also apply all the other rules to people, systems and process. ROI needs to apply to education of staff, upgrades for systems and implementation of new process. Vision, Planning and Communications are necessary for success in any of the three.

  • For people focus on communications, goals, measures, process and so on, until all the basics are covered.
  • For systems focus on measures and up-time; stabilize process, eliminate root cause predictable process problems. Then focus on improvement/expansion and growth.
  • For process ensure common understanding of LEAN, ITIL, PMP or whatever process you are implementing. Common, clearly understood, shared expectations are key.

“Give customers what they need whenever, wherever, they need it and allow them to get knowledge and share knowledge at their pace by their rules.”

– Information Week


When you are in a new environment or starting out new as a manager, start with easy small changes “low hanging fruit” wherever possible. Making changes requires nearly all the skills we have reviewed. You need to persuade, communicate, measure, allow for “start overs”. Build on success, allow momentum to pull the team forward. Change for changes sake is not a good plan, however, moving toward best practices, improving where you know you can when the efforts are 20/80 and the ROI is high… implement the change with the team. Too much change at once, even perfectly prepared change, will overwhelm you, your staff and your customers. Pace the change, build a habit of change, create process around the change, so that it has a sense of familiarity. Make the change only a small piece of a regular process.

If you don’t make mistakes you probably aren’t moving fast enough


Teams are groups of people who achieve a goal/vision. That group can be employees, plus customers, plus partners and even if managed properly adversaries.

When you

  1. Build and then communicate a shared Vision
  2. Have a clear ROI and benefits
  3. Establish a solid SMARTER/DMIAC plan
  4. Define clear roles/responsibilities
  5. Communicate it all to the entire group.

you will succeed.

When the team succeeds praise them publicly.

  • Ignite Their Passion
  • Review Performance Regularly
  • Discuss Mission, Vision and Strategy
  • Catch them doing the right thing and point it out
  • Staff Development is Necessary
  • Communicate responsibility/expectations clearly


You have to use the right skills in the right situation, and be flexible when the skill set you chose is not getting you the results you need. Watch the situation, measure it and adapt. You cannot always influence or persuade, and sometimes you will need to use the trust capital you have built to solve an immediate problem. The engineering part of management is acquiring the skills, the art part is knowing when to apply them, as a number of them conflict in style and technique.

Every good manager learns to be a better manager every day.

  • “The Magic of Thinking BIG” David J Schwartz, PHD [1956]
  • The Toyota Way by Jeffrey K. Liker
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
  • “The Leaders Handbook” by Peter Scholtes
  • “The Team Handbook” by Peter Scholtes
  • “Hardwiring Excellence: Purpose, Worthwhile Work, Making a Difference” by Quint Studer
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume (an interesting perspective on how to present yourself)

If you’ve gotten this far, you may enjoy other “food for thought”.

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