Archive for December, 2008


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Vol. XXX

Dear Manager,

My son Ben graduated from High School over a decade ago. Now, many years later, I reflect on just how much pleasure I gained from following his ten-year athletic career. I’ve seen hundreds of games, savored unexpected victories, and have been crushed by disappointing losses. I always thought I enjoyed his efforts because sport was “just a game,” a pleasant diversion to the “more serious aspects of business.”

Over the years, sports took on a bit more importance. With league titles at stake and an invitation to the state championships, the “game” grew to carry an increased sense of urgency. I guess it’s all in ones current perspective. Is business a sport, or is it business?

While reading the sports page I found a quote that, in a few brief words, had greater implications for business than in its intended reflection on athletes. Del Harris, former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, was being interviewed. In the very last part of the article, almost as an aside, he threw out the following phrase:

“Probably one of the most overrated aspects in life is talent,” Harris said. “A lot of people with talent have no jobs and are total failures in life. Many other people, through mental toughness and hard work, have been able to achieve greatness.”

Managers depend on the value of those they manage. If you have a number one in the line up, there must also be a number nine. As managers (coaches), we have no choice but to think in these terms on occasion. If we don’t, we won’t survive very long.

Let’s think about Del’s words and how they impact each of us as managers. I believe that this quote describes the difference between our number one and our number nine associates, employees or staff members. There are four categories that best describe the talent and work ethic of athletes, let alone individuals in business. I’d like to prioritize these categories based upon their value to the individual and the rest of the team.

#1 – A combination of talent and mental toughness

This is simply the best of the best, and as good as it gets! Usually these individuals are your number one assets. Their ability to manage themselves, think beyond themselves, and consistently out-perform others is amazing. It’s difficult to take any personal credit for these individuals; they simply are so capable and independent unto themselves. These individuals are a pleasure to be around, and set a high standard for all of us. If we could surround ourselves with this type of individual, the World Series would be ours, and our company’s growth would take us off the charts.

#2 – Less talent with mental toughness

These individuals also have the potential to win our number one spot. And when they do, there is no greater sense of pride as a manager. These are the individuals who step up again and again, accomplishing much more than is expected. This is the group that causes us to think, “I didn’t know they had it in them!” They make us look good, and provide a great deal of satisfaction. Talent can be a blessing; toughness comes from one’s gut.

#3 – Talent with less mental toughness

These are the individuals that we hope and pray will meet the expectations of our first category, but never do. We buy into their obvious talent, yet they always fall short. While they are so close to greatness, they rarely achieve it unless it meets their personal agenda. These individuals always seem to present themselves as having “arrived.”

Their talent has been their greatest curse, for they have never had to develop the discipline and work ethic to begin to understand greatness. They have sold themselves a bill of goods. Natural talent is a gift, while the development of talent requires mental toughness. I believe it was this aspect of professional sports that Del was lamenting; the package never lives up to the presentation.

#4 – Less talent with less mental toughness

For all intents and purposes, the third level is as low as we go in the spectrum as it relates to management. Those in the fourth category, less talent and less mental toughness, will simply wash themselves out – on the playing field as well as in their careers.

So, what are the qualities of mental toughness with which we hope to associate ourselves and promote within our organizations? Mental toughness suggests an ability to take greater control of our mind and its thought process. Years ago, the well known author and psychologist, Wayne Dyer, was asked what he suggested to his patients when they showed signs of depression. “Anything,” he responded. “Ride a bike, go to the park, read a book – do anything but think about being depressed.”

People with mental toughness will do anything as an alternative to thinking counterproductive thoughts. I’ve heard people say, “I can’t seem to get these negative thoughts off my mind.” Yes you can! While it may take practice, we can control our thoughts. If we can’t, I can’t imagine who can! And if someone else is, tell them to get lost!

We’ve all watched a sporting event and heard an athlete described as being in their zone. When this occurs, no matter the game, no matter the situation, their ability to score and perform is unfailing. We’ve all felt this in business as well, when an average day turned to diamonds. With every call, with every conversation, the outcome exceeds all expectations.

There are also those days when we find it difficult to tie our shoes … and tying our shoes may end up being the highlight of the day! Acceptance and understanding of these contrasts is a very real aspect of mental toughness. Equalizing the highs, lows, wins, and losses is critical to ongoing success. Some days cannot be characterized. They simply are what they are.

I read a second article in the sports page that also seems to relate to this topic. (I’m obviously getting more out of the sports page than I am out of the business section!) A sports analyst was interviewing Wayne Gretzky, who is undeniably one of the greatest hockey players of all time and a current N.H.L coach. “We really believe if you let excuses creep into the locker room, they get bigger and bigger and it’s an easy way out,” Gretzky said. “We haven’t talked about any of the guys not being able to play.”

The author went on to say, “Gretzky’s message was clear. You take the cards you are dealt, suck it up, focus and perform. It’s one thing to act tough and pound your chest … quite another to take a hit and show some guts.”

So, is business a sport, or is it a business? If the talent, mental toughness, individual and team success required to win a championship are the same qualities necessary to succeed in business, then why don’t we find the straightforward, no-nonsense approach of Del Harris or Wayne Gretzky in the business section? While some thrive in the absolute discipline of positive mental strength, others horse around with the alternative!

Are you letting excuses creep into your locker room?

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM


Management Rewards No Comments »


Dear Managers,

Someone shared with me years ago that with the obvious time limitations in ones professional career, ones only hope to compete for the top is in the ability to multiply your efforts. Managers cannot exist without individuals to manage, and their ultimate survival hinges upon their willingness to use their knowledge and expertise to strengthen those around them.

As we look around, outside of the entertainment and sports industries, there are very few individuals who are considered individual “stars” based solely on their own efforts. Managers are rarely judged on their individual accomplishments; they are judged on the success of their organization. Too often, this concept is not fully embraced by management. It may seem safer to manage “underlings” than it is to accept the challenges of managing ones peers.


We are no stronger as a manager than our ability to delegate within our organization. Our human limitations hit us right between the eyes every day. From my experience, performance begins with granting your staff ownership of their position. This objective is founded on management’s ability to surround itself with individuals who thrive in such an environment.

If management lacks confidence or perceives risk in sharing the most critical aspects of running their organizations, they are one or all of the following:

• Only managing themselves

• Unwilling to surround themselves with the best in their field

• Unable to meet the needs of the organization through delegation

While giving complete and unconditional control is a gradual transition, you will find the more you give these individuals, the greater the return. One step at a time, individuals will rise to the occasion.


There are obvious risks in taking personal ownership. There are many individuals who are willing to take the ownership, yet will “do a 180” when it comes to the responsibility and risk that accompany their new-found wealth. By nature, individuals want the freedom without the bottom line accountability. Regrettably, it is all part of the package.

As managers we must instill confidence, by example, that the down-side risk of taking ownership is a minimal one. The alternative, lack of personal ownership, carries a much greater long-term risk.

Encouraging ownership requires management to understand and accept that individual failure is part of the learning process. Effort, ownership, and putting oneself on the line will fall short on occasion. Lack of effort and failure to take a position and assume responsibility will fail at every turn. Is there any question that we would accept a periodic set back from an individual who is consistently managing their position with a strong sense of ownership?


Management thrives on individuals who are willing to provide you with their full commitment. These are the individuals who, without hesitation, consistently give their best, honest and capable efforts. These are the individuals who become the driving force within your organization and set a standard for their peers.


All of us have endured working with individuals who present themselves as professionals, yet never quite live up to the presentation. What greater frustration in life than to be surrounded by individuals who have chosen to accept mediocrity in themselves, their employees, and their companies. Remember the story about the customer who completely lost it when her fast food order was botched at a local drive through? She angrily jumped out of her car, climbed through the window, poured drinks on the employees and smashed several electronic cash registers to make her point. I believe we can all relate at some level.


The word “pride” is often used in fairly loose terms; all individuals understand this quality at varied levels. With a very strong sense of pride, there can be no fear of failure or consequence relating to other’s opinions. There is truly only one fear, and that is failing oneself. Pride is a very personal emotion; you go to bed with it and you wake up with it in the morning. What are a few of the qualities exhibited by individuals with a strong sense of pride? I am fortunate to work with such individuals, and the following is a list of the qualities I have noticed:

• These individuals work very well independently. Their rhythm seems interrupted in the absence of a personal challenge.

• Their work almost becomes a one-on-one contest with themselves. They develop a way to become even more effective in meeting their objectives.

• These individuals assume full responsibility for all set backs; no one else is responsible for their success.

• No one can possibly establish a greater sense of urgency than the sense of urgency they have placed upon themselves.

• These individuals look at what is expected as simply “the norm,” and know they can achieve more!

• These individuals are always looking beyond the current objective to the second and third generation. They know their current objective can establish an advantage and prepare them for even greater results in the future.

• These individuals are always looked up to by their customers and their peers. When they have something to say, others listen.

• These individuals understand about being the best, and want that feeling again and again.

As managers we have the responsibility to recognize these individuals and create an environment for peak performance. If you think about it, we, as managers, cannot personally insure anyone’s success; ultimately this falls squarely upon their shoulders. It is management’s responsibility to create an environment where peak performers can flourish and achieve their personal best.


We have all worked with individuals who underestimate their own ability
to succeed. We may have even been told that an individual is unwilling or incapable in certain areas. There is only one way to effectively determine, for both parties, a person’s limits in a given area: simply ask this individual to accomplish the task, provide an understanding of how to meet your needs, and give them a time frame in which to do so. Your show of confidence in their abilities will go a long way in insuring their success.

The initial response might not be what you expect. There is a look, not unlike a deer in the headlights, that says, “But you’ve never asked me to do this before!” Show confidence, be firm, provide no options and ask for a follow up. Only in this environment will your staff continue to grow and meet the needs of the organization. We can all look at our daily routines and see areas that made us uncomfortable in the past. Expect those around you to take on a challenge and they will rarely disappoint you.

Success drives success. Peak performers with pride, those who take full ownership of their position within an organization, don’t understand simply working for a living. They are always looking to make an impact for their company, themselves, and their future. If managers must indeed multiply their efforts to compete for the top, then they, too, must rise to the occasion and surround themselves with individuals for whom “the top” is the only acceptable place to be.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2008. Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.ORG as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM