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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

“Of Course Patience Will Both Challenge and Reward Us as Managers,” Vol. XCVII

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Dear Manager,

A very real challenge for experienced managers (let alone those of us qualified for subscriptions to Modern Maturity) is patience.  I know my own patience threshold, if left unchecked, is significantly less than it once was. 

My personal assessment suggests that a combination of factors impact our ability to find patience in the hectic lives we lead.  Failure to exhibit a dose of patience on a regular basis will only serve to negatively impact us personally, professionally, and possibly even medically.


Society today seems a bit less patient be it terrorism, war a difficult economy or just the much faster pace that we find in all our lives.  Patience would suggest a level of satisfaction and acceptance in the most simple of pleasures let alone surviving a traffic jam on Friday afternoon.  We have all seen the speeding driver who is destined to arrive five minutes before we do.  What could possibly motivate the urgency and these five minutes?  Ultimately left unchecked “the crankies” are likely to set in for a time.  Now won’t that be fun for those we work with let alone those whom we are devoted to at home.

I believe one of the greatest losses for patience with maturity is the self perception that we have “seen it all.”  While not true, I’m here to tell you it can sure seem that way on occasion.  How could this knucklehead try to pull this stunt, is he fresh off the planet of Zubadar?  Tell me this has never crossed your mind!


Our challenge as it relates to patience is in our failure or lack of desire to forgo judgment of others.  It becomes increasingly “convenient” to pass judgment upon others based upon our own frame of reference and the experiences factors that have established our own foundation of base values.  Obviously no one can possibly have the benefit of our experiences let alone expertise as if they were their own!  We may see an individual perform a task in such a way that we also would have done so similarly earlier in our lives.  We have now learned that this similar approach could not, will not work.  We know this to be true, but it may or may not be our position to now right our own former wrong.  If in fact you at one time approached this scenario similarly, how can we possibly pass judgment, failing to be patient in this very similar situation?


I have been involved in board and executive meetings where I have clearly deferred to others in those areas of consideration for which I have little or no experience.  Obviously the experience and input of others should carry the stage.  One of these areas was often financial and auditing issues.  I had little or no valuable input and clearly suggested so.

On other occasions financial people would involve themselves heavily into the sales and marketing areas for consideration.  There were instances when it was clear the meetings direction was in direct conflict to what every fiber of my body suggested could possibly find success.  This is where diplomacy and patience must rule!  We have all been here; we have all fidgeted in our chairs.  How does one possibly sit still when the iceberg is in full view but seemingly can only be seen by you?  If this isn’t the ultimate test of patience, I don’t know what is.


I find this example and lack of patience to be my own greatest challenge.  Managers devote their lives to finding and nurturing success.  While not always accomplished, it comes with greater and greater frequency for the seasoned manager.  We know our areas of strength, we avoid the alligators we chase the doves. 

The targets become much larger the opportunities become much more realistic.   A kid in the candy store mentality begins to consume us with potential.  Yes we want all the candy we can possibly hold and maybe just one piece more.  There have been times when patience was required not just in the form of days and weeks but in the form of years.  On reflection these were also some of the greatest lessons learned, regardless of my patience in the process.


I’m not sure if further discussion is required, so I won’t.


… accepting the frame of reference of others. I have known individuals who speak in what would seem to be a very different language.  While I consider myself mostly computer literate, this continues to develop at a fairly elementary pace.  I will sit down with a tech person, and it can become almost comical.  Their frame of reference is so much more sophisticated to my own, that most of the basics that I am looking to absorb is lost in their fourth generation examples.  They may leave without a clue to the fact they have provided me with less than 20% of the meetings potential.  I’m sure that they think I am some kind of moron.  Have I done the same to others as it may relate to meeting their fundamental needs and meeting the potential for mutual success?  There is no question that I have failed others in the past.


We can all appreciate the truth in this old axiom.  Having said so I have also known individuals who have “patienced” themselves right into mediocrity.  You can begin to understand my challenges in finding the correct balance between patience and boredom. 

There is middle ground that all of us must find if we are to be the most effective manager we can become.  Is there a simple formula; if you have found one I beseech you to contact me.  I would certainly not want my patience to run out.


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

“Personalizing your Organization Skills,” Vol.XCV

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Vol. XCV

Dear Manager,

What would be considered the founding fundamentals for an outstanding manager or entrepreneur? Having worked with many real pros, my vote would include the following abilities: organization, the ability to define and respond to priority, discipline, and focus on effective delegation.

I’ve recently been meeting with a circle of friends to learn from each other by sharing our standards of how best to sustain personal growth in some of these arenas. From experience, most managers would suggest these are topics essential to good management. I’ve also found that in application, effectiveness as compared to reality can be all across the board. I’ve known and worked with some of the best; I’ve also seen the alternative. It all begins with organization.

In the early 80’s, I had a sales person who was moving out of state. She offered to bring me her files, which would be provided to her successor. She was a good salesperson, we had a good working relationship, and I knew her files would be invaluable to a new rep. When she arrived, she placed a neat stack of business cards bound by a rubber band on my desk. When asked where her files were, she confidently said this was all she had. Her “organizational system” had been wrapped in a rubber band! By her expression and body language, I knew that she was indeed telling me the truth.

Astounded, I set forth to develop a training session relating to organizational skills. As a group, we shared ideas that would help us individually and as a company. It’s certainly not essential that everyone uses the same system, but it is essential that a system exist (hopefully, one that is outrageously effective!).

Over the years I’ve used a simple system, developed by sharing ideas with others, that’s extremely successful for me and other professionals. If your current organizational system is outrageously effective, congratulations. Perhaps the suggestions in this month’s INTERPERSONAL wouldn’t apply to you, but I’ll bet you know someone who could use them!


It’s time to re-acquaint yourself with a narrow rule legal pad (yellow is my preference, but you are more than welcome to select your favorite color). Begin by visualizing, or by drawing, four quadrants on the page.

• The upper left is my primary corner/quadrant, and is devoted to names of individuals, with their phone numbers, that must be contacted at my earliest possible convenience. These are individuals who’ve left me a message, or come up on my calendar, as needing to be contacted. Once my commitment to speak with this individual has been completed, their name is crossed out. In the event a message was my only option, a check mark is made to acknowledge an effort was made.

• Projects for the current day/week are listed in the upper right quadrant, to be accomplished as time allows. Generally, these are listed by priority. Once again, when the task has been accomplished, it’s crossed off the list.

• I reserve the lower left quadrant for phone calls that may need repeated follow up in the days ahead, or calls that are of priority but not immediate.

• Finally, the lower right quadrant is reserved for projects that hold potential, but require further thought prior to implementation. I use this for the incubation of ideas and projects.

Each topic or individual is simply a brief reminder of a priority at hand. Once noted, there’s no longer the need to try to remember who and what the primary areas of focus are for the coming days. It’s a huge relief to get it written down, and then to be able to let it go until an appropriate time. There’s also tremendous satisfaction in the “visual” of what’s been accomplished in your day. What’s more rewarding than CROSSING SOMETHING OFF YOUR LIST? Discipline would suggest, of course, that a name or project stays on the list until accomplished.

At the end of the day, I pull the top sheet, transfer incomplete projects and contacts (with any additions made during the day) in preparation for my next day in the office. With this, each day has a fresh start, and I’m confident nothing is being forgotten or dismissed out of hand. Simple, as promised.

If organization is the foundation of being able to prioritize, find discipline, and delegate, how would a system such as this help fulfill all of these priorities for managers? Basically, a system such as this provides you with all the visual tools and information to accomplish these objectives simultaneously.

The ability to prioritize in an organized fashion shows you, at a glance, those individuals and projects that demand your immediate attention. Knowing that things won’t “cross themselves off,” will give you the discipline to stay on task whether you are in the mood or not. We all find ourselves a bit overwhelmed at times, inertia sets in and, in all honesty, a nap would seem to hold the greatest priority.

Additionally, this process creates an exceptional vehicle for determining priority areas that, realistically, deserve the attention of someone other than you. If a contact or project is consistently sliding day after day to your revised list, consider making it someone else’s priority.

Some might suggest that an organizational discipline such as this would be too confining or dominating. I’ve found it to be just the opposite, as it provides me with the confidence, the luxury, and freedom to let go. This, in turn, enhances my down time.

Forget the PDA and get yourself a YLP!

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2012. 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

“Give Up on Pandora Closing Her Box!” Vol. XCIV

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Dear Manager,

We’ve continued to address the ever-changing economic environment that we, as managers and business owners, now navigate. A better understanding of its evolution will spark creative thought, and bring greater clarity to our own evaluation.

In conversations with managers and organizations, I continue to be befuddled by those in complete and abject denial, that how they’ve done business in the past must be significantly rethought, if not completely overhauled. In review of lessons past we can find greater understanding of just how deeply this economic evolution has impacted our own (and very personal) economic arena.

One final time, past economic standards, assurances, expectations, climates, and scenarios are, for all intents and purposes, collectively in the toilet. If we’re still waiting for a failing sector to make a miraculous recovery, then we, as captains, are destined to go down with the ship. Compound this with a very challenging economic cycle, and I can almost hear the sucking sound of water rushing through the portholes.


Changes in purchasing power, options, habits, mentality, and motivation are all about thirty degrees off center. In fact, think in terms of this shift as having created a new point of center. This is how far we’ve come. What were the contributing factors, and how has it occurred at such lighting speed?

Years ago, when we “needed” a new bike or transistor radio, we’d head to the local hometown department store. This is where everyone made their “major purchases.” Selection may have been limited, and price comparison was somewhat of an option, but we could always find a bike or a transistor radio.

With amazing levels of expansion, and billions of dollars in discretionary income available, the retail industry became much more specialized in its product and presentation. Small, yet specialized retailers became the seed for the phenomenon we now know as the “big box.”

From lumberyards to video stores, if you can fit it into a profitable big box environment, we’ve either seen it, or are likely to in the future. You can bet your last dollar on it! Certainly there are industries that have been spared, often because the profit/service models haven’t yet been economized to scale. We’re only destined to experience further proliferation of this very successful business model.

This age of knowledge, instant price comparison, minimal profit margins, and flexibility has forever changed the average consumer. Combine the price points now available in these sectors, with the absolute worldwide exposure now available on a product-by- product basis on the Internet, and we can begin to see how far we’ve come from the local department store environment.

As discretionary income has increased, discretionary time has decreased. There can be no turning back. I spoke with an associate recently who summed it up nicely. “The two-income family simply no longer has the time for the former shopping experience, and the single-income family, either by choice or by economic circumstance, can no longer afford to pay a premium when shopping.”


We’ve all been economically educated, in fact spoiled, with ways to maximize our discretionary income. The low cost models of the big box and the Internet have effectively accomplished this task. I can’t fathom a more competitive retail and service environment than the one we find ourselves in today, with the exception of the great Depression. With profit margins of 6% to 10% now found at Sam’s and the like, do you really think “PANDORA’S PRICING” can ever be ratcheted out of the consumers’ psyche? Jeff Bezos will never step away from his model of free freight, even if he wants to. Pandora strikes again! The model, the expectation, the psyche, is set in stone.

How has this new, well-informed, well trained, price conscious consumer responded to these new found low pricing freedoms? The world has now become their oyster. If they can find this purchasing power in one sector, why not expect it in all areas of purchasing decisions? Are you going to buy a copy machine or big screen television at Costco, or Bloomingdale’s? As a culture, we now expect to receive similar price considerations, and are no longer afraid to ask! The economic training continues, moving us even further off center.


The earliest and greatest initial success on the Internet has come through the bidding process of purchasing both consumer and commercial goods and services. This exciting approach to purchasing has only taken the consumer further off center as it relates to their frame of reference and expectations relating to purchasing power. If I can bid for a car three thousand miles away, why not allow it to compete with one three miles away?

I’ve worked with construction contractors for over thirty years on both large and small projects. In years past, I would have depended on a contractor I trusted to subcontract and complete the entire project. I now have the time and motivation and efficiencies to “shop around,” meeting with a minimum of three trades’ people competent in their specialty. The savings have been nothing short of startling. On a recent project, custom cabinets from a new relationship netted $18,000 in savings. Pandora Rules!

There certainly have been occasions where my newfound purchasing freedoms were less than well received. Individuals (at times friends) who couldn’t bid competitively felt betrayed by my willingness to look beyond the convenience of simply asking them to do the job. I may like you as a person, but does this obligate me to pay significantly more to sustain the relationship? By nature, myself included, business gains enhanced margins out of convenience and long standing relationships. I respect this. I’ve also found advantage in not blindly accepting this.

As a culture, we now have an enriched perspective relating to value. There are simply too many rewards to appreciate and embrace. We’ve been conditioned to expect and deserve this value in all facets of our life. This reality will challenge all of us in business, in many cases for the better.

We must first accept the seduction of Pandora, enjoy her virtues as they benefit us, and accept the revised point of center. She’s not going to close the box.

Personal Regards,


INTERPERSONAL© is published by INTERPERSONALBIZ.COM, Keenan Longcor, Editor, ©2012. 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