Category Archives: leadership

Random Ramblings from your Uncle Ralph

 In the current environment of a corona virus pandemic with its devastating effect on lives, businesses and economies around the world, this article seemed appropriate for reconsidering.

(An extract from Don’t Do It the Hard Way – 2020 Edition, p.117)

Managing in Difficult Times

Ignoring or avoiding a difficult business environment is simply not possible.  It will happen, sooner or later. A credit crisis, stock market meltdown, or a looming recession all affect the attitudes and actions of consumers, employees, investors, lenders and business managers. What are some helpful ideas to respond effectively?

Stay focused

Avoid being distracted by the bombardment of bad news. Stay focused on customers and employees, especially the ones that you have and want to keep. Don’t freeze. But don’t over-react.  Be calm, rational, reassuring and pro-active.

Don’t just share the pain, provide relief.  Misery may love company, but everybody still remains miserable if you just talk about it and do nothing. Try to be more creative and take appropriate action. Don’t neglect the good news; look for the silver lining in the dark clouds – maybe currency exchange and interest rates are down temporarily, so now you can expedite foreign currency sales or re-finance some lending to improve cash flow.

Be relevant

Take a close look at your customers’ changing needs and your product or service offerings.  Do you have recession proof products or are they vulnerable? Costumers will be postponing or redirecting their purchase decisions in the current challenging climate.  Can you keep their business with a new cost-reduced service or a more creative approach to packaging, pricing, terms and conditions?

Leverage the sense of urgency

Nobody is unaware of the current economic circumstances affecting your business. Employees are already aware of the issues and the problems in front of them, so it will be easier to get them to accept the solutions. That means it’s more likely that they are receptive to expense reductions, removing frills, postponing projects, reducing assets and conserving cash. It may be opportune to revise compensation or bonus plans, change distribution channels, move marketing programs to lower cost online approaches.

Take advantage of the sense of urgency that exists. Now is the time to resolve lingering problems; just be cautious not to do permanent damage to key employee, customer and supplier relationships that you want to retain.

Recognize the changing environment

You probably started the year under different assumptions that affected corporate budgets and business plans.  Sales targets may now be unrealistic and should be adjusted downwards to maintain the rewards and motivation for top performers who continue to deliver in spite of challenging times. Try to use an external benchmark to justify the adjustment and not give the impression that you are forgiving poor performance.

Look for opportunities generated by the crisis

If you have been smart enough to stash cash and build a relatively secure business, then you can take advantage of some unique opportunities that exist.  Build your team by attracting top performing employees who may be ready to move from shaky competitors into your welcoming arms. Or buy out a competitor, if the company is suddenly for sale at a bargain price.  The big boys are doing it; so can you.

Talk to your banker

Make sure she is not worrying unnecessarily. Or at least worrying for the right reasons and hearing them directly from you.

If you are in better shape than most and credit is available, then increase your credit limits now to handle the potential unexpected impacts and to support the new opportunities you may want to pursue.

Avoid being the unwilling prey

Recognize that competitors may also see you in difficulty and seize the opportunity to raid key employees or buy you out at a distressed price.  You need to keep close to your key employees and ensure their career plans remain with you. If you are a likely target for merger or acquisition, then start working on your choice of preferred partner and determine your business valuation under normal circumstances, not current crisis conditions. Then take the initiative before you lose control of the situation. You and your business will be better for it.

In summary:

  • Be brave, be flexible, be creative.
  • Analyze, decide, take action.

And don’t neglect to wash your hands!

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, 

Del Chatterson

The false comfort of simple answers

Comforting, but wrong.

I know we shouldn’t quote Albert Einstein. As he often tells us, “Don’t believe all that sh*t you read the Internet.” But I can’t resist.

The important statement attributed to Einstein was, “For every critical and complicated problem, there’s always an obvious simple answer, that’s wrong!”

Whoever said it, they must have had their own references to prove their point. Now we have examples everywhere. Leaders demonstrating manipulative politics, intellectual dishonesty, laziness and ignorance, by promoting simple answers to critical and complex issues.

Politicians have been successful in countries around the world by exaggerating and repeating the easily understood and accepted simple answers to major problems, conveniently ignoring the fact that they’re wrong.  It’s a winning strategy in any democracy where the public does not exercise adequate scepticism and critical thinking. Where they can ignore the experts and analysts in favour of their preferred commentators, who agree with them.

But it’s selfish, unprincipled and lazy leadership exploiting an ignorant, equally selfish and lazy audience, who are ready to believe the easy answers. We all need to try harder to understand the problem and the root causes and then find real solutions that will work for everyone over the long term.

Leadership has to have the character, the intelligence and the moral courage to listen to the experts, accept the facts and introduce change with articulate, compassionate and well-reasoned communication. Leaders need to be able to convince their audience, including critics and opponents, fighting to protect their own ideology and self-interest, that there is a better answer in support of the common good.

The biggest flaw in liberal democracies everywhere is that simple, comforting answers are popular and that ambitious, unprincipled politicians have learned how to exploit that appeal and rise to power, where they inevitably work in their own self-interest, not the common good.

We need to demand better from all our leaders. In politics, in business and in life.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Wrong. Character matters

angry bossWhether you are a CEO, politician, celebrity or simply a humble hard-working entrepreneur or employee, performance is continuously being assessed by the results you achieve. Does it matter how they are achieved?

Some people think not, results are all that matter. They’re wrong.

Character matters. Ethics, attitude and approach matter. Tactics and methods matter. Success and the desired results may appear to be achieved, regardless of the behaviour. Immoral, irresponsible, ruthless, and aggressive behaviour may even appear to have been necessary to achieve the results. Wrong again.

The apparent short term gains will eventually be lost to long term reactions. The used and abused will get even. A legacy of accomplishment may be completely forgotten, when the true character is revealed. Just ask Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein or Rosanne Barr.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:"Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Listen to Mom

Even when she’s not there

 

My Mom passed away almost eighteen months ago, but I still hear her talking to me, telling me her favourite stories, responding with great one-liners and encouraging me to do better and be better. I still try to make her proud.

MOMSound familiar?

If you can, be sure to tell her she's loved and appreciated. Everyday, not just on Mother's Day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

These are my favourite Blog posts to share for Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mom’s everywhere.

 Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:"Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Lead by example

Show the way and how to behave getting there

Leading the chargeLeadership means more than showing the way to achieve your goals and improve group performance. It requires demonstrating your guiding principles on dealing with challenges and working with colleagues, associates, suppliers and customers.

People follow your example more than they will be persuaded by powerful rhetoric. Leadership by command and control may still work, but not as well.

Leading by example means more than "Look at me, I'm rich and famous. You can be too." Yes, bullying and self-promotion may get you there, even get you elected to President of the most powerful and influential country in the world. But you will not remain in charge for long. People will resist. You will never receive the respect and have the influence that you seek.

Better to demonstrate higher principles of respect for others, good character and high moral standards, compassion and consideration for those who struggle to obtain what you already enjoy.

Leadership that sets those examples will generate loyal, long-term followers that we can all be proud of.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:"Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

It takes a conversation

Not a lecture

communicate“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” followed by the evil warden delivering a severe blow to drive the message into the dumb prisoner’s thick skull. Maybe it works in the movies.

But the approach is probably as useless as raising the volume or relentlessly repeating the same message. If you do not have engagement with your audience, the message will not resonate. They may seem receptive, even enthusiastic, but nothing changes unless you get commitment to the objectives, the plan and the expected action for each participant.

Don’t lecture to a passive listener. You’re wasting everybody’s time. Nodding and taking notes may be a positive sign, but it is not enough. You need personal commitment. Yes, I understand. Yes, I will do that.

Start a conversation. Ask questions and listen attentively yourself. Adapt your pitch, presentation, or plan and check if they really understand. What are they going to do differently? What are you going to do differently, now that you have their input? When and how?

Two-way communication is always better than a lecture, if you really want to change behavior and improve performance.

Even if you only want to inform, advise or inspire, like this article. Feedback and comments start the conversation and make us both better.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

The blame game

Goddamn the …?

My Dad grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan where the most hated institution was the CPR, responsible for the railway across the prairies. He liked to tell us the story of the poor farmer who complained “I lost my crop in a hail storm, my truck broke down, my dog died and my wife left me. Goddamn the CPR!”

angry_man ragingQuebec politicians for decades explained their every failure, “c’est la faute du fédéral!” It’s Ottawa’s fault.

We have lots of scapegoats available to us today. For every failure, foul-up, screw-up, disaster or disappointment, choose your favourite. Blame the oil companies, the media, or Donald Trump. Evil rich white guys. Google or Microsoft. It’s a long list if you try.

But the blame game is too easy and it gets us nowhere. Just a lazy way to end the conversation and stop doing anything to tackle the issue. It’s not my fault, there’s nothing I can do.

Let’s stop looking for who to blame.

Let’s look harder for who can fix it and how we can help.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

 

 

 

 

Modern managers are smarter

Are you?

Remember the bad old days when managers judged performance by all the wrong indicators?

angry bossA managing partner who questioned a consultant ready for promotion because, “I’m not sure of his commitment to the firm, I never see him taking his briefcase home at night.” Not noticing the same consultant was usually going home after six and had a roster of very happy clients.

Or the ambitious manager promoting himself by denigrating a colleague for arriving late to his staff meeting, ignoring the fact he was the same individual willing to forego family obligations to attend corporate events on evenings and weekends.

Modern managers are more likely to look at real performance, not work habits or personality traits. Judging and rewarding for results, not effort and time spent at the office. Enabling work-life balance and accommodating family needs to improve employee satisfaction.

There is a very enlightening book on the subject, called First, Break all the Rules © 1999, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, based on a study of high performance managers and how they succeed through their employees. The essential theme is to ignore the rules and standard company policy, treat everyone differently. Don’t try to change who they are and how they work, find out what they like to do and are good at, then let them do it their way.

Modern managers do not follow the lead of their rule-bound old-fashioned predecessors. Which group are you in?

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Pick your poison

Killing key relationships 


Poison (2)There are many ways to kill important business relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, bankers or strategic partners.

But why would you want to do that?

You probably do NOT want to, but you or your staff may be doing it inadvertently. Habits and attitudes that will silently, slowly, but certainly poison relationships. Entirely contrary to your primary business objective of building loyal, long-term effective and profitable working relationships.

Most destructive to those relationships would be the ugly combination of arrogance and incompetence. It is always risky and annoying to be arrogant, but doubly damaging if you do not deliver better than you boast. Customers are very quick to observe the inconsistency and decide to look for a more satisfying experience elsewhere.

Another big obstacle to effective relationships is a manager or owner driven primarily by greed and ego. Soon evident to all, it will make recruiting and retention of employees more difficult. Personal energy and ambition may have been the driving force past initial obstacles in the start-up and early growth phases, but will not help to keep managers and employees motivated and making good decisions. Blind obedience and celebrity worship may be good for the ego, but they will not help you develop a strong self-sufficient management team.

Too entrepreneurial?

Are you too proud, confident, optimistic, independent, impatient and decisive? Maybe beyond reason? Are you ignoring helpful feedback or constructive criticism and stifling employee initiative and decision making? Leadership does not need to be lonely. Listen and learn from customers and employees.

Read the warning signings, then put the lid on tight and push the poison to the back of the shelf.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

More celebrations

Fewer apologies 

It seems to be part of the new approach to historic anniversary celebrations to give more attention to apologizing for past failures and the sins of our ancestors than on recognizing our accomplishments and the progress we have made on all fronts since those evil events in our past.

celebrationsThe celebratory narrative is interrupted by vociferous activists and protestors directing the audience to their issues and raining on our parade. They do get our attention, but it’s not usually the time and place for constructive action on challenging issues. It is too easy to respond to the rhetoric and symbolism with more rhetoric and symbolism, instead of initiating creative and ambitious programs to make real progress. Another time and place, starting with an exchange of mutual respect and goodwill, will more likely lead to practical long-term solutions.

In life, business and politics, it is important and instructive to recognize our accomplishments as well as our failures. It is acceptable to create a mythical version of our history and who and what we are, without denying our errors and imperfections, as long as it inspires us to strive continuously to achieve those high ideals.

Apologizing is not enough. Let’s be more ambitious.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

Join our mailing list at LearningEntrepreneurship.com for ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Read more articles at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.