Fred Picker’s shovel



When you meet with people, give them respect.  Respect their time, their money, and their possessions.  Take pains to value their priorities even if they are different than yours.  This is common courtesy and it’s good business.

Years ago I was a young man working on a building project and needed a shovel.  My friend Morris offered to loan me the shovel of Fred Picker; his new father-in-law.  Fred was happy to do this when asked and I was happy to be able to use a shovel without buying one.

About a week after this loan, Morris met me at the building site and told me that Fred had visited there a few days prior and was not too happy about the condition of his shovel.  I stared at the shovel while he spoke but didn’t have a clue what Fred could be upset about.  I knew I had used it and left it outside for a week but it was still there.  It wasn’t broken, stolen, or abused. He mentioned something about it being rusty so I hit it a few times with a wire brush and returned it to Fred.

Fred brought his shovel back to me.  He wasn’t smiling and I could tell he was quite upset.  He gave me a stern lecture about returning borrowed things in the same condition they were received.  Fred told me he had loaned that shovel without a bit of rust on it and it was oiled and sharp.  He expected me to clean and sharpen that shovel and only then would he accept it.

Fred Picker taught me a valuable lesson that day about caring for tools and respecting others’ things.  Anyone who uses tools for a living knows that tools being clean and sharp makes a considerable difference in their performance.  And greater than that, people have standards that are sometimes different than ours.  We need to perceive and respect those standards even if we don’t understand them or agree with them.

People have different standards regarding time, emotions, formalities, money, decision making, chit-chat, dress, and many other other things.  Like shovels.  Especially when it’s their time and their money and their shovels, we need to be very respectful.  Don’t expect that your standards are the only right way.

Being respectful of others’ way is something quality people do.  You might strongly disagree with them or their decisions but there is rarely a need to assume they are wrong and you are right.  The one exception to this are your minor children.  Spouses, adult children, co-workers, bosses, employees, the homeless, the rich, and everyone else should be respected.

Being respectful of others’ time and possessions is good for business too.  Your customer’s time is due your respect.  Tell them so, then back up your words with actions.  Treating your supervisors and direct reports time and possessions with respect is always a good idea and might earn you their respect.

And certainly if you borrow someone else’s tool or anything, return it in a better condition (or with more gas) than it was loaned to you.

And Fred, if you’re reading this I want to thank you once again for making me sharpen your shovel that day.  You helped me become a better person than I was.

No more complaining


Complaining will no longer be accepted here.  All complainers are being asked to cease that habit and replace it with more positive thoughts and words.  Your complaints irritate the rest of us. They lower productivity and make small problems bigger while erasing progress.

However, the BIGGEST reason we will no longer permit complaining is because of the damage is does to YOU, the complainer.  You are much too important to us to see you lower yourself to complaining.  We care about you and your contribution here so cannot permit you to be hurt like that.  So the complaining must stop immediately.

It is widely known that the situation you’re complaining about will actually INCREASE the more you complain about it.  We attract into our life what our thoughts think and our words speak.  So don’t think or say any complaints about difficult people or circumstances unless you want more of those.

We know this habit is hard to break so we have added some tips to help you get started:

1. Ask 2 or 3 of us if your complaining is a problem.  You might be in denial and we’ll do our best to bring you back to reality.  We’ll be kind, if you’ll be humble.

2. Make a decision to not speak any ill of any one or any situation no matter how justified that may be.

3. Ask one of us to hold you accountable for this change.  We will be glad to help by clicking a clicker, holding up a finger, raising an eyebrow, or whatever it takes to remind you to behave.

4. Create sympathy for the person/situation you are tempted to complain about.  Imagine they have suffered a terrible loss and are coping the best they can.  (It’s probably true!)

5 . Make a list of 5 of your favorite personal successes and how you feel about those.  Read this list every morning before you do anything else.  This creates a good positive thinking habit.

6. Get accustomed to a new perspective.  Expect to be happier, more peaceful, and more creative.

Complaining is a subtle form of self destructive behavior and we will not allow our valuable people to do that.

Any further complaining will receive disciplinary actions.  No exceptions.

Bob R

Check your emotions

kirk and spock


Many communications in the workplace (and at home) are derailed because of poorly used emotions.  Unless you control your emotions well during difficult conversations, those conversations are likely to turn out much different than you plan.  For many of us, using unchecked emotions create strong reactions in others as they misread our intentions.  You can expect retaliation, sabotage, and anything but cooperation if you overuse emotions.

Others of us communicate coldness and uncaring by our stoic demeanor that we don’t intend.  Like Spock, we are perceived as someone who isn’t connecting with the human side of the event and therefore not engaged at all.  Without realizing it, you might be sending a message you don’t intend.  You also can find yourself being attacked or opposed for no apparent reason.  I’ll write about these people later.

Right now, let’s discuss the idea of purposely controlling our emotions.  Or being more like Spock.

We’ve all seen confrontations of people where volatile emotions were allowed to get out of control.  It seems that all reason is abandoned.  These people argue from their heart and sometimes their very valid complaint is lost in the delivery.  They appear shallow, barbaric, and unruly.  Their message and their influence are destroyed.  And they destroy it themselves.  This is the tragic consequence of their unchecked emotions.

I remember years ago attending my sons’ sporting events and all the dads getting very emotionally involved in the games.  When we felt that things turned out unfairly, our unchecked emotion of anger caused us to create some very dangerous situations that I’m thankful didn’t end in tragedy.  Our own children were very embarrassed of our behavior for good reason.  And our behavior only hurt their situation on the field.

Here’s what to do if you suffer from this temptation:  First, realize that as humans, we are emotional creatures, but not only emotional.  We have the ability to reason as well.  And it’s reason that must be given first priority.  So, in every emotionally delicate situation, concentrate on subduing your emotions.  Act as if you become emotional, you will lose everything you’re trying to gain from the situation.  Focus on trying to understand the others’ point of view in a calm and serene way even if they are screaming at you.  Often, if you remain calm, everyone will follow your lead and calm down as well.

Then work hard to engage that thinking part of your brain instead of the feeling part.  Just doing this will create more options than you had thought of previously – when you weren’t thinking.  Focus on understanding all parts of the problem and creating win-win solutions.  And make your words few.  Act as if using a few carefully chosen words will be best (which they will).  Next, talk softly.  Lowering your voice can really soften the emotions of everyone and create a more thinking environment than a reacting one.  Finally, respond slowly.  Slow responses during a highly charged situation work like a fire extinguisher on a hot fire.  Counting to 10 before you respond is still good advice.

What if every conflict and misunderstanding in the world used more reason and checked their emotions?  What if your most important relationships were filled with disciplined emotions and reason?  What kind of person will you become if you become master of your own emotions?  All good I bet.  Bob R


Watch your image!


I went to a food market today where a cookie delivery truck was parked outside.  Even though I did not come there to buy cookies, the ads on the truck caught my interest and I planned to look over the cookie display inside.  However, when I saw the extremely unhealthy and unkempt cookie salesman working the display, I immediately changed my mind.  My reaction reminded me of how important our image is and how people make business decisions about us – justly or not – based on our image.

Image is a measurable dimension of versatility. How we dress, groom ourselves, our hair, our posture, and how we move our body all affect our image.  Our image is interpreted by others as high or low.  High image makes people around us feel more comfortable and respected.  Low image makes them feel uncomfortable, and we are perceived as being selfish, strange, or undesirable.  Our personal and business success is subtly determined by our image in ways we may not be aware of.

Some people are very aware of how image creates success.  Celebrities maintain their image with great care.  I suppose some politicians and high school cheer leaders do too.  Think about how odd it looks when see someone famous without their normal cultivated look!

The picture above is Margaret Hamilton in her most recognized role.  Reportedly, she dearly loved children and spent all the years after her famous movie reassuring them she was kind and not really a witch.  She had to do this for over 4 decades!  That’s how powerful that image was to children.  I remember seeing her when I was a child.  She scared me to death.

So, how can we manage our image better?  Let’s talk about clothes, fitness, grooming, and body motions.

Wear well fitting clothes that reflect how the most successful people in your industry dress.  Studies show that the proper fit of clothes matter much more than fabric choice.  Choose clothes you look your best in and purge your closet of all the rest.

Fitness matters.  We’re not all athletes and you don’t have to be.  But good nutrition and regular exercise matters to both your health and your image.  Make a habit of exercising to build muscle and aerobic capacity.  You will look better and increase your image.

Don’t neglect grooming.  You may or may not care about how you look and smell but it matters to everyone else.  And those people have a big effect on things that matter to you.  Make sure your face, hair, and the rest of you are groomed well.

Body motions.  Maintain good posture at all times.  Keep your body motions smooth and confident instead of quick and jerky.  Face people with confidence and respect.  Smile whenever appropriate.

Give me a call if you would like some coaching or training on creating a better image.  Increasing your image creates more sales and more influence.  It creates success for you in ways you cannot see.  Other people appreciate your efforts and often try to help you.  Focus on your image and watch your personal and professional success zoom!  Bob R


You’ve got what you want… now what?


Most of the astronauts who went to the moon in the 60s and 70s came back and got depression.  I’ve noticed that many new homes in my area go up for sale shortly after the owners move in.  When I find myself playing cards on my phone I always get a letdown when I win a game.  White men over 65 (in America) are increasingly prone to suicide.  The 7 year itch plagues many marriages.  What’s going on here?

Achieving goals is a double edged sword.  Setting and achieving goals gives us a wonderful high.  However, it’s the working toward the goal that provides the longest lasting energy in our life.  Getting to your goals is…well…a bit anticlimactic.

I am the biggest fan alive of having goals.  Written, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound.  I believe that every person would be better off if they lived their life by written goals and our whole society would be better off.   But keeping an “inventory” of goals is so important for a rich life and good mental health.

Here’s what NASA did:  when the astronauts who came back from the moon started showing signs of depression, they coached the crews of the following flights to set goals NOW for AFTER they came back.  When they did this, the astronauts did much better.

And here is the application for us all.  Create several goals to work on.  Set priorities and make plans to achieve them.  Plan your work, then work your plan.  But set some short term goals and some long term goals as well.  Create the discipline of planning your next move while you’re working on the current move.  Of course, some people can go overboard on this and plan out the next 20 years without achieving any of them. We’re talking about balance here.  Plan your life, then live your plan.

The applications for your success in sales, business, leadership, relationships, and your own self esteem are huge.  People who do this well emit such an aura of confidence they attract other successful people and attractive opportunities.  They get in a habit of goal achievement.  This creates a feeling like a kid at Christmas even if they are 70 years old.  They create success more easily than most people.

And it all starts with setting goals and working on them.  So, get out your pen and start with a list of 20.  And here is my offer: for the first 30 people who email me their goals, I will review them and send them back.  So get going.

P.S.  This is not easy.  It’s hard.  If you think setting meaningful goals, working to achieve them, and planning your next move while working on the current one is easy, its not.  Do it anyway.  Bob R


How Ebenezer Scrooge became a hero

ebenezer scroogeYou remember Ebenezer.  He was visited by 3 ghosts one Christmas eve and woke up a changed man.  Well I’m in the business of helping people change and if you want results like this please give me a call.  I make selfish, arrogant, mean spirited people wake up the next day exceptionally kind, unselfish, and cooperative.  If that were only true…

The reality is that change is very difficult for most people over the age of 12.  By the time we are adults, we are stuck in our ways many times over.  Our annoying tendencies irritate our families at home and coworkers on the job.  As much as we would like to change other people, the truth is that other people are very hard to change.  If you are counting on someone else changing to make your life better, you are going to be disappointed.

However we can change ourselves and others can change themselves if they are sufficiently motivated.  Let’s talk about each of these.

Changing ourselves.  I highly suggest that you make it your goal to continue to improve for the rest of your life.  People around you are hoping you’ll change. Almost no other goal will create as much success and personal satisfaction as this.  The most successful people you know have done this for years and that is why they are so successful.  You will be more successful and dynamic for the rest of your life if you do this too.  It just won’t be easy.  It will be painful.  Just know that pain is the price of change.  How?  Set some goals to be better looking, a better listener, more giving, and more responsible. Then ask someone to hold you accountable for those goals.  That should hurt, er… help you change.

Changing others is a whole different ball game.  Nobody can really change anyone else.  You can’t change a single employee, family member, or friend.  We can create consequences that seem to cause others to change but remove the consequences and what do you have?  the same behavior usually returns.

So what should we do about this?  The first thing is the case of responsibility.  Make sure to accept 100% responsibility for all your actions.  Don’t blame other people.  Don’t make excuses.  If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.

Secondly, make sure you accept 0% responsibility for everyone else’s actions (unless they are your minor children).  People who take on responsibility for other adults live frustrating lives and actually impede the progress of the other person.

Remember that your job may include creating those consequences for other people to change … or else!  If you supervise other people or you’re a parent, this is a necessity.  Just be sure to include real unconditional love with those consequences especially for your children and also for your employees.

Finally, realize that you being willing to change and improve will be a powerful incentive to others to be willing to do the same.  Sometimes we admire other people that perform exceptional feats and want to emulate them.  We call them heroes.  You can be a hero for those around you.

We want the people we live with and work with to change for the better.  Well they want you to change too.  Let’s take charge of changing ourselves first and being catalysts for others to change.  Ebenezer did it in one night.  I guess we can take a little longer.

“It’s our fault,…really.”


I witnessed a tragedy in customer service this week.

About 6 of us were riding in the shuttle bus from long term parking to the airport terminal.  As the bus rounded a turn, water poured out of the AC unit above the back seats and gave one business woman an unwanted shower.  She came forward in a moment and with a cool calmness, complained to the bus driver.  The driver immediately started stammering excuses about how AC units were supposed to do that, how it wasn’t the driver’s fault, and other deflections.  No sympathy.  No condolences.  

How unfortunate!

You can guess what happened next.  Because the driver did not accept responsibility for the event, the wet haired woman became even more flustered.  She told the driver she was having a business meeting in another city in a few hours.  She was sure the water was contaminated. She demanded to know who was responsible for the buses.  The other riders began to sympathize with her and identify with her plight.  We silently began to blame the shuttle company even though logic told us it was likely a deferred maintenance problem.

Why?  Because the driver – the company representative – did not “own” the problem.  The driver forced the ownership of the problem back the customer.  Bad move.

We’ve all heard the expression “the customer is always right”.  That doesn’t mean the customer makes no mistakes or is never at fault.  It means to never let the customer own the problem.  YOU own the problem.  The customer may be the only entity that can fix it.  No matter.  YOU own the problem.  The customer may be 100% at fault.  No matter.  YOU own the problem.  

When you make it clear to the customer that you recognize there is a problem and you are going to do what you can to find a solution, the customer sees you as an advocate.  Not an adversary.  

Now I realize there are some circumstances where “admitting fault” is not prudent.  Like at the scene of an auto accident.  Or other touchy legal situations.  This is different.

But in the delivery of goods or services where the customer receives less than satisfactory (to them!) service, you can normally accept the responsibility.  You can say “It’s our fault, …really” or “I’m sorry that happened, we should have prevented that” or “I am responsible for that”.  These kind of words signal the the customer that you are taking ownership of the problem and not deflecting the problem back to the customer or anywhere else.

To win loyal customers, every person in your organization needs to be customer focused.  Everyone needs to take responsibility for customer issues and allow customers to always be “right”.  This is not just the role of a few individuals.  It needs to be company wide.

My guess is, this bus driver was taught the routes, how to call in when leaving the terminal, and how not to leave people standing on the lot waiting for a ride. I think the idea of owning the customer’s problems wasn’t a class they offer there.  

I fly again in a couple days.  I haven’t decided yet if I’ll choose a different parking company.

Drink the Kool Aid


kool aid man

Was it mass suicide or mass murder?  Whichever, it changed the meaning of drinking Kool Aid.

In 1978 Cult leader Jim Jones was involved in the deaths of 900 of his followers in Guyana who drank Kool Aid laced with cyanide.  Here’s the wiki story:

Before this event, drinking kool aid meant having a cold, wet summer time treat usually for kids.  Since then, drinking the kool aid means to blindly accept and “swallow” some philosophy or someone else’s direction.  “Don’t drink the kool Aid” means to be skeptical and guarded.  Otherwise, you might be deceived and drink some poisonous stuff.

So here we are with our guarded and skeptical selves holding back commitment from our employers, our suppliers, our personal relationships, our governments, and every other establishment we are connected with.  I can remember very well 1978 and the change in commitment that happened then.  I am sometimes very reluctant to “buy” ideas, endorsements, directions, etc.  But should I be that skeptical?  Should I not do my homework and due diligence but then put my whole energy into something when I finally believe it?  Should I not drink the Kool Aid?

There is a big price to pay for sitting on the fence.  Making no commitment or a tepid commitment weakens myself and the organizations to whom I make commitments to.  Imagine a whole company or family where everyone is just mildly committed to coming in. (Maybe you don’t have to imagine, maybe you see it daily!)  Withholding our commitment discourages our team members.  It causes poor customer service.  It makes us less valuable.

Now before I get too preachy here let me say that there are definitely some people/organizations that you should NOT commit to.  Hitler, Enron, and Jim Jones come to mind easily.  And to be fair, many of their followers saw the light and abandoned ship before the slaughter.  Being thoughtful and careful about who you commit to is prudent.

But we are in far greater danger of doing damage by our lack of commitment than we are of being deceived. 

Think about this:  When we fail to give our whole endorsement to someone we are either exposing our lack of courage or our lack of judgement.  We need to play devil’s advocate for so long, then give them our whole commitment for that part of our life.  We need to drink the Kool Aid.

What I mean by drinking the Kool Aid really means acting.  Act as if your spouse is prettier, nicer, smarter, and more loving than they really are.  Act as if your leaders are wiser, fairer, and more altruistic than you think.  Act like the new policy is going to be great even if you have a few misgivings.  Now you really believe the new policy has some flaws and might fail, but believe it in anyway – at least to other people.  At least until you decide to leave.  Then you don’t need to act anymore.

My key point here is to drink the Kool Aid at work.  Tell everyone you meet how wonderful the place is, how great the products or service is, and what a great person your boss is.  Be surprised when outsiders say something negative.  Be disapproving when insiders talk negative. Be the poster person for your employer.  Someone told me years ago to work hard for my employer right up until the minute I left.  What great advice!  That’s what we all need to do with our hearts and minds as well.  

I recently read Stephen Ambrose’s book “Nothing Like It In the World” about the building of the first transcontinental railroad.  It struck me that there was lots more Kool Aid drinking going on there than I see today.  Is that one reason those people did amazing things?  Is this a missing ingredient in your organization?  I see it missing in many places and it creates mediocrity where there could be excellence.  

So here is my suggestion:  Review your level of commitment to the people and organizations you are a part of.  Resolve to increase that commitment to a high level for the entire 50 hours or 2 hours that you are there.  Do this for 90 days and let me know what an impact this has in your life.  Thanks, Bob R

“Do Not Do” list for Leaders

No! Don't do it, Superman!

Here are a few critical things leaders must never do:
1. Don’t wimp out.  Be brave!  Never let them see you sweat. You will sweat of course. You’ll sweat the future, the details, the prospects, us, the competition, your own circumstances, because you’re responsible. Just don’t give in to fear.  Be strong and courageous.  We don’t want to follow a wimpy leader.  You must display an aura of humble confidence and self assurance.  Be optimistic without being delusional.  Be calm about challenges and cool under pressure.  Even if you are concerned, know that our every eye is watching you to see how we should respond.  If you want us to be calm and collected, you do it first.

2. Never whine or complain.  Keep a positive attitude about everything.  Don’t succumb to the any negative voices around you.  Always keep your chin up and speak encouraging words.  Don’t give in to trash talking.  We might whine a little but you must keep a higher standard.
3. Never lie or compromise on the truth.  If you lie, tell “half truths” or “stretch the truth” even a little bit, we cannot trust you.  And if we cannot trust you, we will not follow you or do what you want done.  We are so accustomed to being lied to we almost expect it.  If you lie or compromise on the truth, you’re just like any 2 bit criminal.  So much for leadership.

4. Never choose your own good over the good of the group.  Do this and it will quickly tell us how selfish you are.  Why would we respect or follow a self centered leader who cares only about himself and not any of us?  We’ve seen your type before and we just pretend to follow you.  When times get tough, we will throw you under the bus like you’ve done to us.

5. Never underestimate the power of good or evil in people.  Everyone of us have tremendous power for both good or evil.  No bad person is without some good.  Likewise, no person is so good that they can’t be taken over to the “dark side”.  Knowing this, you must see each of us as having a conflict within ourselves.  Your job is to encourage the good to flourish and do nothing to permit the bad to show itself.  This means you must always call us to think and do good things.  You must reward our good behavior and punish bad actions.  As much as we push the boundaries, we’re counting on you to hold us accountable.  The buck stops with you.

6. Never play favorites.  This is divisive.  We know you have favorites but it feels so unfair when you unjustly favor them.  If they earn a reward by merit, then that is understandable.  Just don’t favor one of us because you like us better.  That creates some pretty ugly office politics which distracts us from our goal.  Be fair and we’ll respect you more.

Stay away from this list of don’ts and be more like superman!

If you want to build a ship…


if you want to...

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea“.   Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

That’s a great way to build things.  Help people catch the same vision you have.  People will work much harder to achieve a dream than they will for almost any other reason.  Most people are looking for vision they can pour their heart into.  Give them a reason to do that.

Too many leaders expect their people to work just for money.  They just drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks.  They never connect the mission and vision of the organization to each person’s work and role.  Wise leaders do this and we can all learn to do better.

Here’s a few first steps:

  1. Know what your vision is.  It’s pretty hard to teach others to long for the endless immensity of the sea when you don’t long for it yourself.  Know why you’re there and what the purpose of your work is.  Learn what your best customers think of your offerings and what the history is.  Clearly define the vision in just a few words so it can be easily memorized and repeated.
  2. Keep you passion up.  It’s easy to let our excitement wane for our jobs when we’re focused on the details of serving our customers.  Have a pep rally with yourself daily to renew your commitment for the vision.  Make it obvious so those around you can see that you’re the most passionate one in the organization about ship building.
  3. Share your vision.  Keep talking about the exotic places the sea connects us with.  Paint visual pictures for people how they can go places they’ve never been before and see things they’ve never seen before.  And become people they’ve never been before.  Take time with people, listen to their dreams  and share how you see them succeeding.  Keep reminding others about the vision and how important it is to attain that vision.  Be an advocate for the ideal.

I know a man who was the leader of  a small organization not too long ago.  Every time he spoke he talked about the vision of the organization.  It became a joke really that every time he stood up to speak, everyone knew what he would talk about.  But the man was a genius.  That constant message about the future of the organization and how everyone would share in the bounty created enormous energy in that company.  I saw his people gladly perform extraordinary feats for him and thank him daily for the chance to be with him on his journey.  And you know what? I never heard him drumming up people or assigning tasks and work.  He just kept teaching them about something endless and immense…