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“A Reasonable Balance between Perfection, Expectations and Reality” Vol. XCVIII

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Dear Manager,

I believe we all strive daily for the highest level of performance, both for ourselves and for those we manage.  If you are anything like me, there is a desire to reach for perfection in the hope that the final result might come close!  Too many of us have “expected” perfection only to be disappointed by a less than perfect world.  Although I finally gave up trying to achieve perfection decades ago, the ongoing search and the subsequent benefits continue to reward. 

I was recently working with a client – a perfectionist by nature – who was completely frustrated with sustaining time lines in her Product Development department.  She had established these time lines in order to insure her products would get to market well ahead of their selling season; her performance evaluations would be based on her ability to meet these schedules.  As is common, there were diverse parties and factors influencing the outcome, with priorities that sometimes varied from her own.

Meeting marketing time lines comes as close as there is to having to find perfection.  Customers (not to mention Christmas) won’t wait for you to get your act together.  Our discussions revolved around having the ability to impact those areas over which you have some control.  If you have a huge rock in your path, you must find a way within your control to get around it; the rock is not going to move, nor can you let it stop you.

So, if we accept that perfection will not happen, we can strategize around it.  My client and I discussed the possibility of asking for greater input in defining her timelines, knowing full well when her drop-dead dates were.  In anticipation of resistance and misfortune, the plan included backing up the dates to a time line that would insure success.  No one needed to know the absolute drop-dead date other than her.  The “soft dates” would become, for all intents and purposes, her published time lines.


The initial challenge this individual encountered was that her predecessor had not created any degree of urgency or accountability in this process.  Having failed to do so, this individual had very effectively trained her partners to believe that they had no personal ownership in the outcome.  This is also very likely why this individual had been replaced!


The objective then became searching for progress with each and every obstacle, as compared to perfection.  She would begin by meeting with members influencing her time line, ask for their input, and share her appreciation for their support.  She would then ask what they thought would be “reasonable” for her to expect with regards to her schedule. If they were in her shoes, how would they proceed?   She also had to determine if they were indeed committed to their participation, and determine a completion date that would be workable for all parties.  She then wrote down the date of the meeting, their commitment, and the date agreed upon.  A copy would be given to each person for future reference.

Back at her desk, a calendar was established with all the dates that had been committed to.  Additionally, she noted dates on which to contact these individuals for a status update.  In each case, she would reference their prior meeting, and the agreed to time line.  Was she being a “nudge?”  Probably, but she was also taking much greater control of her own destiny.

Once the ground rules had been established, her team began to understand that she was absolutely serious, conscientious, and committed to their collective success.  They also realized they did not want to be the one person who fell short of their commitment.  A winner is born!


My wife and worked on the restoration of an early 1900’s apartment building.  It was a wonderful project with many surprises and even greater potential rewards. We’d done other restoration projects, yet nothing of this magnitude.  As general contractor, I worked on the design, city code, bid process, purchasing, and staging, with over fifty independent contractors.  If there was any doubt about where the word chaos was coined, it had to have been on this type of project!

It can be a matter of orchestrating a diverse group of pieces, players, and parts, into a semblance of cohesion.  In a compacted time line, the process becomes an ebb and flow of forward and stalled motion.  My wife is convinced that our experience in staging trades shows is what  saved the day.  (Thank goodness someone was paying attention to our trade shows!)

If just one piece of the puzzle falls out of place, it quickly impacts the next three stages of the process.  I began to realize early on there could truly be no sense of confidence in meeting even reasonable expectations and time lines.  This said, I have also learned a great deal about how to quickly shift and find flexibility in the development process.


With perfection seemingly out the window, it was time to plan a workable strategy. If I could expect challenges on a daily basis (a proven fact), how could the process be staged in such a way as to anticipate and prepare for these obstacles? We certainly weren’t going to head home at midday whenever “an issue” arose.

The objective became to create as many as three workable options in staging contractors, finding parts, or actually completing the specific work.  Fortunately, my lead contractor is someone I had worked with for years on other projects, and I am proud to say that we only “had words” once during the entire process!  His patience with me, consistently sharing appreciation to all the players, and their collective willingness to overcome obstacles – to be flexible – made all the difference.

The final weeks of the project produced results that exceeded our wildest expectations … and was only a tad off budget. While my wife and I had labored over the smallest of details (seemingly thousands of them), success has been in the ability of the team to implement our collective vision.

Never underestimate the potential of a group of professionals with a single purpose.  So, how did they ever complete The Panama Canal?


Personal Regards,



 INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2013.  Duplication of this publication is permitted for both personal and business use. Excerpts may only be quoted with acknowledgment of INTERPERSONAL/INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM as the source. For re-publication rights, please contact the editor at KEENAN@INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM


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Dear Manager,

I’ve found my greatest pleasure, both personally and professionally, in feeling that in some form I’ve made a positive impact professionally on others. Having made this statement, I also never feel as if I’ve given enough. I’d guess it’s a combination of not giving enough in some instances, and feeling as if I may have given too much in others. All in all, I have no regrets; I hope to never quench this thirst.

I also find myself contemplating the “takers of the world” who never seem to have anything of value to offer their profession. I believe we’ve all found this dichotomy to be perplexing. We can’t penalize those in need because there are those who are there to take advantage.

We’ve all been assisted on our path to success. If we retain a clear memory of this fact we, in turn, have a moral obligation to assist others along their path. Time must be found, regardless of our schedule, just as it was made available unselfishly to us. While this topic could capture a full issue of INTERPERSONAL, I’d like to give it a slight twist.

Where does freely providing advice to others end, and the act of consulting, sharing one’s own intellectual property, begin? I believe this is a quandary for most all professionals. This has little to do with the recent college graduate, or the friend who needs some advice over lunch. This has nothing to do with volunteering to assist companies in need, such as the Service Corp. of Retired Executives program. This has everything to do with receiving a call from parties whose objective is to gain personal or financial advantage from your expertise. That’s the rub, that’s where I feel ones good nature can be taken advantage of.

We certainly have a lot invested in our own education over these many years. The hard knocks cost us dearly both emotionally and, just as often, financially. I’ve always made a personal commitment to, in the very least, show acknowledgement and provide reciprocal assistance to those who have assisted me in any way. I hope that they understand I am a “reciprocator” in the hope we can assist one another again. While this would be true for many professionals, we also know it is not true for all. No one wants to keep score.

What is a new idea, let alone your expertise, worth? While some would say there are no fresh ideas, I believe in this time of ongoing technological transition, there are more new ideas than there have ever been in the past. These ideas weren’t thought of for the simple reason that they had no current or relevant application. Quite simply, now they do. My door is always open to a better way of doing things. In fact, there are times when I am obsessed by it. I find this time to be very exhilarating, with enormous potential for personal and organizational growth. I read about and analyze business practices at an ever-increasing pace.

This information can be found in many forms, and often the most cost effective approach is in the expertise of others … possibly yours. We can pool our network of reciprocal associates for the answers to many questions. Yet I have found it difficult to garner the depth of insight or detail to solve the broader equations. Often, we need a bit more. Certainly others will continue to ask for your expertise. How can you share in the benefit of providing your knowledge and ideas on a professional basis? We’ve just returned to the quandary that brought us to this discussion.


It begins by first acknowledging that you have a significant amount of knowledge, experience, and expertise to offer. How can you possibly ask others to respect your time and expertise if you haven’t established a sense of value for it? What is an hour, a day, or week of your time worth? The price of time should be consistent with the lost potential of having invested equal time in another endeavor.

I’ve often written that at this stage in my career it’s very important to me that my services create clear and apparent value to all parties. There are consultative opportunities with individuals or companies that either don’t fit my expertise or whose values are inconsistent with my own. On more than one occasion I’ve taken myself out of a contract due to incompatibility issues. If I can’t see substance and consistent progress in my participation, I can’t become a part of the problem. In contrast, I’ve enjoyed some extraordinary and productive working relationships for extended periods of time. The role of a consultant can be very pure, but all parties must understand two things: First, it’s the consultant’s fundamental responsibility to be candid with observations and analysis, and to clearly express them. Second, the final decision is always the client’s.

I’ve researched a number of compensation options for my own use. Now that my only source of income is consultative-based, I needed a formula that would create value for both my clients and me, personally. Why shouldn’t you create a similar formula for your own time as well? My research suggested there were three formulas that would seem most beneficial to all parties. Failure to address your established compensation rates early on suggests you have no more respect for your time than they do.

1) Hourly/Daily: I’ve used this for limited projects and for specific areas of a client’s focus. In most cases, it’s comprised of a single meeting. Only you can establish a fair rate, but this is by far the highest rate I charge. I also believe it’s been the greatest value for my clients. In a very few hours, the majority of the obstacles in a focused area can be knocked down, creating priority, analysis and direction for a client. Whether it takes a few hours, or a couple of days, a client can literally save thousands of dollars versus the alternative of trial and error.

Challenges and Benefits: Assisting on an hourly or daily basis encapsulates the consultant’s experience leaving less time to provide the breadth of information the client needs to apply the conclusion. Time restraints may ultimately position the consultant as either a cheerleader or a wet blanket. Much can be shared in a limited period of time, yet will the information be assimilated and the proposed strategy effectively implemented? In the end, I believe it’s a small price for the client to pay as compared to proceeding into uncharted waters alone.

2) A Retainer: This approach to consulting provides a much greater long-term reward to the client. Fees are based on the number of days per month they choose to use consulting services, and usually include a one-year contract. The monthly rate is negotiated, but normally falls to approximately 70% of the equivalent daily rate. A retainer provides the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship and partnership in meeting your collective objectives. It also provides ongoing checks and balances with regards to progress being made. I’ve found this to be a primary focus in working with my clients. We collectively establish a time line and list of goals and priorities for a ninety-day period. Once duties are delegated to either the client or me, I formalize the agenda in writing and return a copy to the client. Periodic reviews are made to establish progress and momentum.

Challenges and Benefits: In the consultant’s absence, there are no guarantees that the client won’t fall back into old established patterns and thought processes. In other words, you can’t want it more than they do! The good news is that, in this scenario, the consultant is available (as defined in the contract) to assist in the effective implementation of the established initiatives.

3) Shared Risk / Shared Reward: In the right circumstances, this is by far my preferred consulting relationship. To proceed in this model, it’s critical that the consultant is confident in the collective objective, and in the client’s ability to implement it effectively. Failure on a client’s part to follow through with the specifics of one’s initiative, and you’ll be left whistling in the wind. This approach is most effectively used in the implementation of innovative ideas, products, or expansion strategies. By nature, this type of relationship obviously demands greater partnership. I’ve used this approach in conjunction with a retainer as well. Effectively, the consultant is compensated on a percentage of the agreed-to sales growth, product performance, or revenue recovered.

Challenges and Benefits: Let’s put our shared risks and rewards side by side; we both win or we both lose. You have my full commitment: in turn, I’ll need yours. It doesn’t get any better than that. I have found these to be the most rewarding consulting relationships.

I hope this month’s issue gives you some alternatives, both in professionally assisting others and in dealing with those who are looking for a free ride. In the process, I hope it provides you with the time to do a little reciprocating!

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2011. 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