Motivation

Remembering Stephen Covey and Zig Ziglar

Two great men who were mentors and friends to me passed away this year—Stephen R. Covey in July and Zig Ziglar just this past week. I’d like to share a few thoughts about these wonderful guys.

Stephen Covey was a devoted husband to his wife, Sandra, and dedicated father of nine, grandfather of fifty-two, and great-grandfather of six. He was also a great friend and colleague to many, including me.

A great memory I have of Steve was when we did a session together in Salt Lake City. During my presentation, I talkedstephen_covey about how the most popular management philosophy was “Seagull Management,” where managers don’t come around until something goes wrong—and then they fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out.  That line normally got a good laugh from audiences, but not this time. Then Steve whispered to me, “Ken, the seagull is the state bird of Utah.” Oops!  He later told me about the role the seagull played in Mormon history.  When the early Mormons were settling in Utah and planting their fields, they were plagued by swarms of locusts that began eating all of their crops. The people thought they were going to starve to death. At one point they looked up and saw a huge cloud of seagulls flying toward them. They thought the seagulls were coming to finish off what the locusts hadn’t eaten.  Instead, the seagulls ended up eating all of the locusts, saving the settlers’ harvest and their very lives. Steve even took me to the place in downtown Salt Lake City where they have a statue of a seagull.

Steve was such an inspiration and a teacher to so many.  He was a giant in our field and a very special human being.  His legacy here on earth will go on for years to come.

Zig Ziglar had a big impact on me. During the times we were on the platform together, he modeled for me that it was okay to share my faith as long as I wasn’t trying to convert folks. He told me, “Your faith is part of who you are, and people want to know what makes you tick and what is important in your life.”

Zig ZWhen I was 65, I called Zig because Margie and I had been invited to the 59th Anniversary of his 21st birthday. I asked him, “Zig, are you going to retire?” I will never forget his reply: “There’s no mention of retirement in the Bible!  Except for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and David, nobody in the Bible under 80 years of age made much of an impact. I’m not retiring—I’m re-firing!”  What a difference his phrase of “re-firing” has made in my life the last eight years.  I quote him all the time. In fact, I’m working on a book on “re-firement” and my coauthor and I are going to dedicate the book to Zig.

One last thing I learned from Zig.  He once told me, “I never met a golf game I didn’t like.”  Ever since, I play a lot of N.A.T.O. golf—Not Attached To Outcome—and I enjoy the game so much more. He was an inspiration to everyone fortunate enough to meet him.

It’s always tough to lose important people in our lives. I think the best way to honor them is to make sure you reach out—today—to the people you love, and tell them how important they are. As Margie says: “Keep your I-love-yous up to date.” You’ll never regret it.

Categories: Leadership, Learning, Life, Love, Management, Motivation, Relationships, Uncategorized, Values | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

I recently had a wonderful experience working with the founder and the head of leadership for a wonderful healthcare company in the Midwest whose main focus is elder care. It was inspirational to be with leaders who understand that the most important customer they have is their employees. They really want their employees to be excited about giving the absolutely best, most legendary service. The elder healthcare industry has tried hard to change a less-than-stellar reputation caused by news reports over the years of some facilities mistreating patients. But this organization has a great reputation for serving their patients. The workers respond to the needs of the patients and maintain an atmosphere that is stimulating and exciting for them. Continue reading

Categories: Customer Service, Motivation, Servant Leadership | Tags: | 4 Comments

Why does Leadership Matter?

Even in these hard times, some people still wonder whether or not leadership really matters. Jim Collins did a good job explaining why leadership matters.  He wrote the bestselling book From Good to Great.  In that book, Collins talks about how great leaders have two capabilities:  One is resolve, or determination to accomplish a goal, and the other is humility.  He describes how leaders with resolve and humility can build a good company into a great company.  But one of the best ways to appreciate the value of good leadership is when you see how fast a poor leader can take a good organization down. Collins says it takes a lot of people to move a good organization into greatness, but it can take very little time for just one lousy leader to send a great organization downhill.

Leadership is very important. Leaders have a major role in setting the vision to move toward the organization’s goals, and then creating a motivating environment for people so those goals can be reached. But boy, leaders who don’t know what they’re doing, or have big egos, can take a good company and drive it straight into the ground. So don’t kid yourself.  Leadership does matter.

Categories: Goals, Motivation, Vision | 5 Comments

I’m OK, You’re Not – It’s All About EGO

I believe the biggest addiction problem in the workplace today is the human ego.  When people operate from their ego, their behavior tends to be based on fear rather than trust. When people behave out of fear, they have a high need to control others and their environment and they have a win-lose orientation toward everything.  Even when discussing the weather they want to make sure you know that they know more about weather than you do. They broadcast a philosophy about life that states “I’m okay, you’re not.”

I discovered this addiction many years ago when my wife Margie was writing a book with Dr. Mark J. Tager entitled Working Well and studying what made a healthy work environment. One of the questions they asked people in their research was, “Can a bad boss make you sick?”  A lot of people said, “Yes.”  They cited examples such as migraine headaches, ulcers, sleepless nights—even heart attacks and cancer.

I became fascinated by people’s perceptions of bad bosses, so I started asking people around the country to describe the worst boss they had ever worked for.  The primary description I heard was that of a high ego-driven person.  The worst managers were described as poor listeners who were reluctant to share credit and always wanted to be in the limelight.  While a lot of people would think people with a big ego had high self-esteem, I found the opposite to be true:  Individuals who operate from their ego are usually covering up “not okay” feelings about themselves.  They try to compensate for feelings of inadequacy by overpowering others and controlling their environment.

Why do I feel ego addiction is so harmful to the business community?  Because it is holding back progress in organizations.  Companies all over the country are having difficulties moving toward being the kind of organization they need to be to make it in this economy.  Companies today need to be customer driven, cost effective, fast and flexible, and continually improving.  To do this we need high-trust environments.  And yet, throughout the work world managers are hesitant to empower others and give them a chance to have more responsibility and take initiative to make decisions.  The people who are fearful and holding back support of these changes in business are those who are operating from their ego.  They fear loss of power and control.

People who are hung up on their egos and who operate out of fear really need love.  Yet it’s hard to love these people because they don’t seem very lovable.  Instead, folks with big egos seem to be demanding, self-centered, and unsatisfied. They feel better about themselves when they can make others feel inferior.  Fortunately, their attempts don’t have to be successful.  As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Just because someone has power doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a need to feel appreciated.  When was the last time you caught your boss doing something right?  When was the last time you gave your boss a hug?  I’m not necessarily talking about a physical hug—even a psychological hug can help.  Thank her for her support or for doing a good job on a certain task.  In my sessions I ask people who are parents whether their love for their kids depends on their kids’ achievements.  Rarely does a hand go up.  We love our children without any contingencies—it’s called unconditional love.  I think the same approach is needed in the workplace today.  We need to learn to trust and respect others, even if we sometimes have a problem with their behavior. If we can help everyone in the workforce feel good about themselves and raise their self-esteem, we’ll have more people willing to share power by permitting others to take initiative, make decisions, and let work teams be the main vehicle for decision making.  To overcome ego addiction, people have to get in touch with their own worthiness.  If it’s hard for them, others can help.

Everyone in organizations should set a goal to maintain or enhance the self-esteem of the people with whom they interact, for the benefit of all.  Big egos can be tamed with the right amount of tender loving care.

Categories: Feedback, Manage Up, Motivation, Positivity, Praise, Relationships, Workplace Culture | 7 Comments

What it Takes to Give a Speech

I often have people come up to me after I’ve given a speech and say, “Boy, would I love to be able to do that for a living—go around the country and give speeches.”  When I ask them why they don’t, they say, “Oh, I could never do that.”

Did you know that the fear of public speaking is higher on the list of fears than the fear of death? This probably doesn’t surprise any of you who have dreaded having to make a presentation. Some individuals have such an aversion to public speaking that they may even decline career opportunities based on the chance that they will have to speak in front of others. While this may seem startling or sad, the truth of the matter is that public speaking is a learnable skill. People who feel inadequate about themselves in front of a group can learn to become good speakers.

I firmly believe there are three things that can impact your performance in public speaking:  body language, routine, and your belief system.

Body Language. If you want to become a good public speaker, closely watch other public speakers to see what they do and how they carry their body.  For example, I have observed that good public speakers walk with their shoulders back and their heads high and use a lot of hand and arm gestures. If you are nervous, hold your head up and your shoulders back and say, “I am feeling good. I am feeling really good.”  Silly as it may seem, this actually works.  The mind does not know the difference between what it perceives and what you tell it to perceive. Think of a time when you were feeling very confident and productive in some area in your life.  How did you act?  How did you walk?  How did you talk?  What did you do?  It’s pretty hard to feel inadequate if you walk and act like you know what you’re doing.

Routine. What is the routine people use when they make a presentation?  When you see a good bowler, for example, they always start at the same mark, take the same number of steps, and release the ball in the same way.  By getting a routine established, you signal your brain that all is well. If the material I’m speaking on is new to me, I try to practice it several times with others—friends, employees, family—prior to delivering it to a group I don’t know. I get feedback each time, and I try to think of questions audience members are likely to have while I’m speaking.  I also use notes until the information becomes second nature to me.  Before I give a speech, I usually engage in deep breathing and a quick review of what I plan to say, which I may do with someone I’m with just prior to my presentation.  When I get on my feet, the first thing I do is tell some funny story that gets the audience relaxed and gets me relaxed. Then I can get into my speech. Now a lot of people tell me, “But I’m not good at telling jokes.”  Well, this too can be learned. Experiment with what works best for you in breaking the ice with a group.

Belief System. Finally, what are the thoughts and beliefs that you have about public speaking?  The late, great speech coach Dorothy Sarnoff used to suggest repeating these words to yourself before giving a speech: “I’m glad I’m here.  I’m glad you’re here.  I know what I know and I care about you.”  Repeating these thoughts can change your belief system so that you actually become glad you are there and glad the audience is there. You know what you know and you can then stop worrying about not being good enough or perhaps not being able to answer a question that is asked.  When you focus on caring about the people in the audience, it becomes difficult to be fearful of the same group or of the situation. Once you start saying this over and over, it will have a tremendous impact on your level of confidence.

After applying these principles, you need to practice, practice, practice to hone your skill.  Seek opportunities to make presentations or join a Toastmasters International club in your area.  It will then only be a matter of time before you can perform as a professional and experience the joy and excitement of sharing your thoughts and helping others in the process. Good luck!

Categories: Commitment, Confidence, Consistency, Motivation, Optimism, Positivity | Leave a comment

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