The Land of ‘-est’!

The Land of ‘-est’! – By Arnie Wohlgemut

We live in the land of ‘-est’.  Yes, it is true.   Let me explain.

We compare our lives to others.  We want to be the rich-est and the smart-est, have the bigg-est house, the nice-est car or be the b-est dressed.

Living for the ‘-est’ is a mirage – we think happiness is just ahead of us.  But when we get to it, it vanishes.  Focusing on comparison and competition does not lead to success or happiness.  In fact, I have never seen a happy person who competes for these things.  (Oh, except for the fleeting moment when they believe that they are the rich-est, skinny-est, smart-est or the cute-est person in the room.)

All studies show there is strength in a team, but how do you add value to a person, help one another succeed or work as a team if we are self focused?

Vince Molinaro, author of The Leadership Contract, talked about competition and teams when he wrote:
“Excessive competition creates poor working relationships with team members and keeps you from engaging stakeholders in a genuine manner.  If you can’t bring people along with you, you’ll make your life much harder.”

Don’t get me wrong, a little competition is good, but not on the backs of others.

I strongly believe in becoming all you can be – I wouldn’t invest so much energy and time in mentoring and teaching in leadership circles if I didn’t.

But I also believe we need to escape the land of ‘-est’ and invest in the land of ‘-er’.

You know, the place where we make an effort to become a better listen-er, a kind-er person, smart-er, fair-er, and even happy-er.

Folks I know who are kind and generous tend to be much happier and healthier.  They don’t waste their time on competing – they focus on their own goals, becoming a better lead’ER.

My focus is to learn from others – even when there are points of disagreement, there is always a nugget I can take away.  Comparisons are futile – I can always find someone better and not quite as good as me.

The only ‘-est’ I’m after is being the best I can be!

Change? Not me!

Change?   Not me!  –  By Arnie Wohlgemut

The conversation went like this:

“I’m not doing anything wrong,” he spits out.  “Management is just picking on me!”  He sat back and crossed his arms confident he set the record straight.

“Do you play hockey?” I asked.  A confused look crossed his face.

“Yeah” he replied, clearly not interested.

I took a leap: “What else?  Soccer?  Golf?  Tennis?”

“Soccer” he muttered, confused by the direction of the conversation

I pressed on.

“Is it ok to play soccer using hockey rules?”  I didn’t wait for a reply: “The same principle applies here.  We play by the workplace rules – everyone, even you.  It starts with respect.  Think about it next time you feel temped to say things that are not respectful.”

This little exchange provides insights into the process of change management.  First, we all must be on the same page.  Without the support of senior management, it’s a waste of time.  Secondly, the manager must be all in.

Here are 5 basic principles of change management that help me move forward towards the goal:

A.     It is human nature to rationalize bad behaviour away.  The most dangerous language from a manager or leader is “Oh that’s just Sally!”  Unfortunately, I hear this far to often.  If the behaviour is not acceptable – address it!

B.     The first response, when confronted, is defense.  We would prefer to believe the actions as “just not that bad”.  Ask yourself, how bad does it have to be for you to act?

C.     The lack of feedback can play a big part in the process of having lasting change.  We all know the importance of providing feedback in a timely manner.  Ongoing feedback is much more effective than the grand slam of critique.  Give negative feedback as needed. Refuse to let it reach a tipping point.

D.     Low performance standards can sometimes be addressed through policy, or at performance review time, but don’t forget to apply your standards consistently across your department.

E.     High performance standards with poor follow-up is just as troubling as low performance standards.  If there is even one sliver of alternative or “bad” behaviour by the manager or leader, that behaviour will eventually become the norm.

Understand the importance of resisting complacency.  Next time, address the issues promptly.  As a manager or leader of a team, you are required to do the hard work needed to see improvements and positive change.

Wofür Lebst Du?

Wofür Lebst Du? – By Arnie Wohlgemut

There it was, a bill posted on a lamp post in downtown Berlin.

Not what I expected.

It caught my eye and I stopped to notice where I was and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

All day while touring this sign haunted me. Why you ask? Loosely translated, this sign means “For whom do you live?”

I suppose many of us could answer that we live to serve a higher power such as God, or our children, ourselves and most likely our wife (if you’re married, you’ll know what I mean).

All joking aside, this sign grabbed me because other than my God, I would like to think I live for others as well as myself.

As a director, I quickly learned that my management staff served themselves. They had little interest for the greater good of our team. I had to quickly come up with a way to make them understand that WE as a TEAM are not at the TOP of the triangle, but rather at the BOTTOM!

Imagine the look on the faces of my staff who worked hard, kissed the proverbial butt, stole ideas so that they could shine, climbed on the shoulders of whomever so that THEY could reach the TOP!

The bottom you say? What does that mean?

Well, imagine a Triangle or pyramid, upside down and you, with your team being at the bottom. Supporting your staff, holding them up, teaching them, watching them grow and thrive. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see where that leads and what strong individuals we can mentor simply just by being confident enough to “be at the bottom”?

Wofür Lebst Du?

Please Save Me From ….

Please Save Me From….     By Arnie Wohlgemut

You fill in the dots.  We all have things in life we dread (and avoid): cleaning the house, the morning commute; budget meetings; impromptu meetings with the boss.  You name it.

I DREAD annual performance review time.  As important as they are – and I stand on this – I just don’t like doing them.  I thought of them as part of the job and just dug in.

But I’ve learned that I don’t have to operate in that “dread space”.  Here’s what I learned:
1. Dread is the seed of fear.  Dread consumes hope.  Don’t kid yourself.  Your mind is a powerful influencer and dread can set us up for a very bad day.  Instead of hoping for a good drive home or a productive meeting, dread sets us up for a much worse experience.

2. Dread is simply expecting to have an unpleasant experience.  If we have prepared ourselves for that meeting, we should have self confidence that it will be successful.  If your meeting plan didn’t work out: get a new plan!

3. Dread is passive.  It doesn’t make things better, make it easier or even make it go away; it just sets you up for the fall.  Dread leads to real fear and will stall the progress your team has made.

4. Dread can control you.  Don’t let it.  When you feel dread coming on, remind yourself you know the pattern and dread doesn’t change a thing.

5. Anti-dread action.  If you are having a bad day, take responsibility.  You have control over your attitude.  Make your mind up that you’re not going to dread anything.

The good news?  You can choose not to be controlled by dread.  But it will take courage.  You can’t take the easy way out. 

Confront your personal gaps.  Your staff count on you.  Be bold.  Be the leader you can be!

Lonely at the Top

Lonely at the Top – By Arnie Wohlgemut

I have heard repeatedly that top executive and folks in high level positions say it is lonely at the top.  I wonder why?

Is it that being successful attracts friends and family you didn’t know you had?  Are the tough decisions you make scaring folks away or attracting a ‘different’ crowd?  Is it the competitive nature of your business that limits your circle of friends?

Could be any one of these!

After all being in a position of authority is not about making friends, you have a job to do and results to deliver.

On the other hand, what would happen if you surround yourself with a great team of players that collectively make you stronger?  People that you trust and respect, those who you could frankly discuss both challenges and opportunities.  A team that has skills and experience that compliment yours.

I for one have never subscribed to the lonely at the top thing or felt lonely.  Maybe I was fortunate or naïve.

I believe it’s a matter of attitude.

John Maxwell says, “One is a number too small to achieve greatness.”  I think it is also too small a number to achieve great things.

Where do you stand?  Alone?

Cookies and Training: 6 Metaphors – by Arnie Wohlgemut

Cookies and Training: 6 Metaphors – by Arnie Wohlgemut

Those of you who know me will smile when I say, “I love cookies.”  Yes, it was no secret!

Each tempting bite is like the training opportunities.  If shared effectively; your team consumes every bite, leaving no crumbs behind and interested in a second ‘cookie’.

Here’s how I see it:
1. Know your team’s favourite cookie.  Understanding your team helps you tailor your training messages.
2. Presentation matters.  A good-looking cookie is extremely tempting!  Tempt your team with training that is presented well and they know what they are getting.
3. The “YUM” factor.  I love oatmeal cookies.  And, yes, I have a favourite brand.  I buy it again and again because I know what I am getting.  Credibility matters in taste and training.  When your team knows you are presenting with proven knowledge and experience, they will listen.
4. Hit the spot.  Each opportunity has a specific need; meet it!  The right amount, not to small or big.  Clarity is the key.  Leave the ‘hints of chocolate” in the palate.
5. Make sure it’s a treat.  Few people would see a cookie as a punishment or something they have to get through.  Training should be the same.  It gives them a boost to make it through the day.
6. Serve fresh.  The cookie bag that has sat on my counter, open, for about 4 weeks is not all that great.  Nor are old lessons repeated over and over.  Keep learning and have an open mind, I’m sure you can find a fresh way to present a tasty morsel.

Grab a cup of coffee and a cookie as you figure out your approach to training.

Values – By Martin Grant MSc

Values – By Martin Grant MSc

What do you think of when someone asks you to name an example of a value?  I have often asked myself the same question and I’m sure that like me, you think the traditional values that are commonly mentioned such as loyalty, discipline, integrity and love as examples.

It turns out that values are the specific belief systems that we have about that which is most important to us.  Here is the first dilemma in setting values: you have to be honest with yourself, and if you’re not honest with yourself then you cannot place value on your own values.  Asking yourself to be honest is difficult, as you may not like your own answer.

They are the fundamental, ethical, moral and practical judgments that we make about what is right and wrong.  This is our internal moral compass and it guides us accordingly.  As such, values direct our motivation and, in the same way, can be described as either toward or away from.  Similarly, whether operating at the conscious level or unconscious level, they guide our every decision and ultimately determine our behaviour and results.

What happens, however, if you do not have a clear idea as to what is most important to yourself and what your values are?  As a result of this you may do things and, then afterwards, you find that you are unhappy with yourself.  This is a type of “internal conflict” that arises because of opposing sets of values that conflict with each other.  Although you might take action at one level (conscious), there is a part of you (unconscious) that does not believe that what you are doing is right.

This type of internal conflict invariably results in failure and you end up feeling bad about yourself.  How many times have you not really tried at something and then, when you don’t get the result, you feel bad about yourself?  Not about the result but knowing you could have done better yourself.  This is often the case at work, at school and or perhaps going to the gym as an example.

In order to get the results that we want in our lives, we have to have a clear and fundamental sense of who we are, what really matters.

Values by Martin Grant MSc., Director Learning and Development, was originally published June 29, 2015.  See more about Martin and original post at

Courageous Leaders

Courageous Leaders – By Arnie Wohlgemut

Vince Molinaro wrote in his book The Leadership Contract: “Let’s face it: Leadership is hard work, and it’s getting harder. To truly excel, to truly be a great leader over the long term, you must have the courage and persistence to do the hard work of leadership.”

On the surface this seems like a no brainer.  Work environments are getting more complicated, technology is advancing and demographics are changing. Traditional work habits are being changed by so many forces it’s hard to keep track.

So where does the notion of courage and persistence fit in?

I believe courage and persistence is essential, everyday.

Early in my career, I was managing an team of about 20 trades and supervisors for a local board of education and we were facing a new issue. The workload for some unknown reason was dropping fast. The number of service requests were in sharp decline. I assembled my supervisors and we collectively agreed to implement a planned maintenance program.

Believing I could implement this plan I shared it with my division manager, however, it was not well received – in short, we were told it was a poor plan and a political risk. So, these plans were shelved.

About a month later my team and I reviewed the workload and decided that we either down size or implement a pilot of the planned maintenance program.

The pilot was launched in two schools – it was a huge success. All the small things that normally were considered too minor for a service request were being fixed, staff were productive and the principals were pleased. Even the division manager supported it after receiving such positive feedback!

If it wasn’t for the courage and persistence of my supervisory team, jobs would have been lost and small maintenance items would eventually become expensive emergencies or real eye sores.

You see, as leaders, we can acquiesce to small thinking or discouragement. We can walk when we hit a wall.

Or we can be bold, courageous and persistent, leading for the good of the corporation, our team and those we serve.

Strategy is Destiny?

Strategy is Destiny? – By Arnie Wohlgemut

Strategic plans and tactical plans for facility and asset managers is a big part of my business.

So, I asked myself: why are they not always effective?

In an interview, Richard Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo Bank, suggested that what actually provides success and what is difficult to copy is not so much knowing what to do (deciding on the right strategy), but the ability to do it.

He had repeatedly argued that organizational culture and the ability to operate effectively (successful implementation) is much more important to organizational success than to have the right strategy.

How true is that!

The culture of action in an organization directly drives results.

He goes on to say, “I could leave our strategic plan on a plane, and it wouldn’t make any difference.  No one could execute it. Our success has nothing to do with planning. It has to do with execution.

Our actions – not our intentions – measure our success.

• Start doing those things you could and should do in the plan
• Start doing more than expected of you in the plan
• Start doing important things daily in support of the plan

Successful execution is destiny achieved.

How Many Leadership Secrets Are There?

How Many Leadership Secrets Are There? – By Arnie Wohlgemut

Good question!

I looked on Amazon and found there are over 29,000 books listed about leadership, nearly 8,000 listed about the ‘Secrets of Leadership’!  There are nearly 85,000 books listed about management alone.

By the time this blog is posted, more will have been added.

No wonder we are confused.

Larry Winget in his book It’s Called Work for a Reason writes: “There are books that talk about the seven secrets, the eleven secrets and the four secrets . . . . How many leadership secrets are there?  Here’s an idea to try: Lead.  Get out in front of your people and give them something to follow – just lead!”

Now there is the key!  Did you see it?

“Get out in front of your people and give them something to follow.”

Sounds easy.  But is it?

At a one of my leadership principles workshops recently, I asked the question: “what does a good leader look like?”

In a quick brainstorm, the group came up with:
* a person who is honest;
* someone who follows ethical principles;
* a leader is authentic and consistent;
* my idea of a leader puts others ahead of self;
* leaders are helpful.

See! No secret!

The same things that it takes to be a good leader today are the same things it has taken to be a good leader throughout history.

People want someone to follow.  Set the example.