Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stop Kicking in Open Doors! Go Through Them!

When I am out at various speaking engagements I am frequently surprised at how easy it is to get managers and employees to accept and agree to various management concepts and yet how hard it is to get them to apply these concepts when they get back home in their work

Everyone agrees with Gallups study showing the connection between employee satisfaction and business unit performance or Pfeffers "Seven Practices of Successful Organizations". Even more provacative concepts like Tom Peter's statement "(1)the two most important factors in business today are inconsistency and unpredictability; and (2)we desperately need more traitors inside the corporate moat!" are widely accepted. I have spoken to many other public speakers and authors and they all express feelings of humility about actually getting paid for delivering messages that are largely common sense.

Why is it then that we seem to be intellectually prepared to accept these concepts as reasonable and valid and yet have such difficulty in implementation? Following are at least some of my reflections and certainly not a complete list.

Civil courage!

Doing things right in an environment that has lulled itself into mediocrity takes guts. Treating employees with respect in an environment that views people as interchangeable resources requires an understanding of your own values and the conviction to follow them. Really putting the customer in the center of your business (not just the center of your powerpoint presentations) can lead to breaking rules, tradition and culture.

We are paid to create value not follow orders!

It is a common misconception that employees are paid to execute fixed behaviours which have been defined by management. Simply stated, employees are paid to do what their bosses tell them to do.

The reality is that, at best, a manager can point in a general direction and usually has no better understanding than any other employee about how to reach the target. All employees are paid to use their minds to understand what steps and behaviours will best contribute to creating value.

Getting fired is not the worst that can happen!

If employees and managers are courageous about their convictions and accept the responsibility for creating value not following orders, there is always a chance that they might get fired. This is one of the most frequent comments I get from my audiences. I have to agree that some organizations or some managers might not tolerate people who actually walk the talk! Another way of getting fired is not delivering results.

Many years ago I was involved in a project in which in order to succeed we realized we would have to break many rules (not laws) and take a great deal of personal risk. My working group came to the conclusion that we would rather get fired for breaking rules than be run off for not delivering the results. (In the end we delivered excellent results and no one ever complained about the rest.) In short, I just can't imagine seeing it as anything but a merit if you got fired for doing the right thing! Spending a lifetime sucking up and kissing ass seems a lot worse!


Doing things right is difficult and does not always come naturally. Like anything else in life excellence comes to those who strive for it. World records don't get broken without dedication, committment and sweat! Mediocre companies can only become great companies by the same means.


The only way to dig up the kind of motivation required to succeed is to have a true passion for what you are doing. The only way to have that kind of passion is through starvation or fascination. Most of us are not desperate people in desperate situations! Our daily survival is not at risk. Therefore, the vast majority of us will find our passion for success by focusing on something we truly love.

The next time you are in the audience listening to a speaker and you find yourself thinking that this guy is just kicking in open doors. Why not stop watching all these open doors and start walking through them!

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