Parents take on the hardest job

July 22, 2017

The Boy Scouts were at camp.  In an inspection, the director found an umbrella neatly rolled inside the bedroll of a small Scout.  An umbrella was not listed as a necessary item, so the director asked the boy to explain. “Sir,” answered the young man with a weary sigh, “did you ever have a mother?” Everyone has heard of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but do you know about Parents’ Day?  In 1994 U.S. President Bill Clinton established Parents’ Day as the fourth Sunday in July for “recognizing, uplifting and supporting the role of parents in rearing of children.”  This […]

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The best lessons are short, sweet and useful

July 13, 2017

Readers of this column are remarkable when it comes to telling me what they like most about my weekly musings.  Of course, I’m honored when they tell me they have posted my words on company bulletin boards or used the lessons as motivation. But without question, the most frequent feedback I get is that the column-ending morals are a very useful summation of the message.  Occasionally I compile a list of my favorite morals from the past couple of years.  Be my guest to share them! Whatever you’re selling, you’re selling yourself first. Don’t presume what you assume is correct. […]

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Don’t give up on your dreams

June 29, 2017

J.C. Penney, founder of the retail giant that bears his name, once evaluated one of his young clerks, stating he “wasn’t thorough and wouldn’t have much of a future in the retail business.”  The employee?  Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. Despite Penney’s hopeless prediction, Sam Walton built the largest retail empire in the world.  The opinions of honest, well-intentioned people can sometimes be off the mark.  Don’t let misguided judgments keep you from pursuing your dreams. I love to read about people throughout history who were told they couldn’t do something, or wouldn’t amount to anything and then achieved great […]

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Friendships can lead to good working relationships

June 23, 2017

Two friends were walking through a dense jungle.  Knowing the dangers, they promised to stick together whatever happened. Suddenly a tiger appeared in the bushes.  One friend immediately turned and ran, climbing up a tree and leaving his companion behind.  He watched as his friend dropped to the ground and played dead. The tiger approached, sniffed around, and leaned down, seemingly whispering something in the man’s ear.  It roared once, then stalked away. Feeling ashamed, the other man climbed back down the tree.  “What did the tiger say to you?” The man looked up.  “He said, ‘Never trust a false […]

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More street-smart ideas to try

June 15, 2017

You learn to be book smart in school, but you better not forget that you need to also be street smart.  As I like to say, knowledge does not become power until it is used!  I succeeded because I have street smarts that I either developed or picked up throughout my career from some of the world’s smartest and most interesting people. I have done four previous columns on street-smart ideas that have generated terrific reader feedback.  Here are some more of my favorites. First idea:  Know thy competitor.  Walmart founder Sam Walton, richest man in America at the time, […]

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Your business is known by the customers you keep

June 8, 2017

Few issues baffle me more than the lack of service that businesses think their customers will tolerate.  I just don’t understand how some companies keep their doors open.  On the other hand, I’m sure that some of those businesses can’t figure out why they lose customers. I receive lots of mail from folks who have had unpleasant or even nasty experiences trying to get problems solved.  I hear horror stories from readers who waited patiently for help only to be told they should come back another time when it wasn’t so busy . . . phone calls getting dropped while […]

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The worst failure is the failure to try

June 1, 2017

Failure can become a weight or it can give you wings. That is the message I hear every spring when I attend the Horatio Alger Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C., where 10 new members are inducted annually.  I was honored to be one of them in 2004.  During the short speeches given by new members to the audience, which includes more than 100 scholarship students, the message I hear over and over again is – Don’t be afraid to fail. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Va., that was founded in 1947 to honor the achievements of […]

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Optimists see opportunities in challenges

May 25, 2017

Two hikers were camped out overnight in the mountains.  A thunderous voice roused them from their sleep.  The voice said, “This will be the saddest day or the happiest day of your lives,” then instructed them to pack up their belongings, make their way to the river, gather stones in their backpacks that they couldn’t look at until morning, and continue on their journey never to return to the river or the mountain again. The hikers did as they were instructed and stumbled through the darkness to the river.  They stuffed their packs with cold, wet stones and carefully trekked […]

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Be careful when offering criticism

May 18, 2017

When you offer criticism, be aware of whom you are criticizing and how they might receive it. Case in point:  A number of years ago, my son David was entering his senior year at Stanford University.  He thought it might be fun to spend his last college summer freewheeling in San Francisco, working five or six shifts a week as a waiter.  He figured he would earn enough money to really enjoy his leisure hours.  He was pretty driven and interviewed at a swanky brand new restaurant called Stars, being opened by renowned chef Jeremiah Tower.  It was scheduled to […]

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Mentoring works both ways

May 11, 2017

Anyone who doesn’t understand the value of one minute hasn’t been paying attention to my good friend Ken Blanchard.  Starting with his “One Minute Manager” and moving through a series of bestsellers, he has shown his millions of fans how just sixty seconds can improve your chances for success. Good news – he’s at it again, this time with “One Minute Mentoring,” a must-read for folks looking for some help and those who are prepared to offer it.  He’s teamed up with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, a former Twitter executive and author of “Twitter for Good.”  Their combined knowledge of intergenerational mentoring […]

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Values determine who we are

May 4, 2017

In the famous French story, “The Little Prince,” a fox becomes the best friend of the young royal on a fictitious planet.  When the fox must depart from the prince forever, he offers to tell him the world’s most wonderful secret if the prince meets certain conditions.  The little prince agrees, does what is expected and then asks to be told the greatest secret. “Only that which is invisible is essential,” the fox replies. The most valuable things in life cannot be seen with the naked eye:  love, friendship, hope, integrity, trust, compassion and values. You can’t see values, touch them, […]

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Compliments do wonders for our sense of hearing

April 27, 2017

Mark Twain once said, “I could live for two months on one good compliment.” We all love to receive compliments.  They make everyone feel better.  Turns out studies show that compliments can also help people perform better. In a study published in PLoS One, researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences at the University of Tokyo, recruited 48 adults to perform a task that required them to tap items on a keyboard in a specific pattern.  Then the adults were split into three groups.  One group received personalized, individual compliments from one of the administrators of the study.  Another […]

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Humor works at work

April 20, 2017

Life is funny, the saying goes.  And when it isn’t funny, sometimes a sense of humor is what gets us through the tough times. Humor plays a special role at work.  As critical as it is to take your work seriously, it is equally important to NOT take yourself too seriously.  Many years ago, a Fortune Magazine article talked about how executives should be funnier.  I remember it well, because one of my biggest pet peeves is people who cannot laugh at themselves.  The wonderful example the magazine used involved auto executive Eugene Cafiero.  When he was president of Chrysler, […]

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Stress is a fact of life

April 13, 2017

Stress is a used, misused, abused and overused word in our daily conversations.  But what is stress, clinically speaking?  Dr. Hans Seyle, the father of Stress Management Research, said “Stress is the wear and tear on your body caused by life’s events.”   He believed the most frequent causes of stress are an inability to adapt and not having an established code of behavior to guide our actions.  Translation:  If we can’t change, we need to understand when enough is enough. Because April is stress awareness month, now is a perfect time to discuss how stress affects us.  Hundreds of […]

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Employee retention a cause for reflection

April 6, 2017

Employee retention is a hot business topic today.  No longer do people stay at the same company for 25 years and collect the gold watch like in years past.  In fact, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the average worker will have 12 jobs from age 18 to 48.  A shocking statistic.  That alone should tell managers that all the time they put into hiring, training and promoting may just be preparation for the employee’s next job – and chances are it will be somewhere else. Employees have more bargaining power than ever before.  Unemployment is relatively low, and […]

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