Diseases of the Workplace

What Kills a Business Culture?

Out of the top things that stress out people the most, work and finances are in the top three.  The other is anxiety about the future, but I think most of that anxiety if really investigated, could be traced back to unhappiness with work or finances.  As a business owner and former employee of various industries, I have seen firsthand how stressful the workplace can be.  In my experience, very very few people are actually satisfied with their workplace and much of that dissatisfaction comes from the culture of the business itself.  A business is really only made up of two things; people and a culture. Both of them affect each other.  People create the culture, but the culture can change if people’s attitudes change or new people are brought into the culture.  With that in mind, here are the biggest diseases that will destroy a business culture and lead to a decline in sales and happiness amongst staff.

Habituation- Do you remember what it was like to drive a car for the first time?  Were you nervous?  Did you check your mirrors multiple times and turn down the stereo so you could focus?  When you first undertake something, a good amount of attention and action is required to perform the task.  However, after we get used to doing an activity over and over, less effort is required.  This is called habituation.  Now, you may drive with one hand on the wheel, another on a cup of coffee while the stereo is blasting.  What used to be hard and required intense focus is now somewhat easy and less focus is given.  The problem is that over time, habituation can lead to a degradation of the quality of the business systems and culture.  

Consider this; a new hire is likely to perform to his or her best ability and take an active interest in learning the job.  After a while, however, as the employee becomes used to the job, the attention to detail and willingness to learn and grow often decline.  Whereas a new hire may go the extra mile to impress others, the employee who has been on the job a while will likely not be looking for an opportunity to go the extra mile. The new hire will pick up the dustball in the corner because they see it does not belong.  After time, the old employee will not even notice the dustball. They have become habituated to the job.

“Not my job disease”- This may be the worst and most common of them all.  I would venture to say every workplace I’ve ever been a part of has a fair share of employees who do not even try to help our their coworkers or employers because they consider a certain task to not be in their job description.  Not only are these people not willing to go the extra mile to help out, they won’t even go the first mile.  The person who only does the bare minimum to keep their job destroys the culture because the attitude is infectious.  Soon, others will say the same thing.  What these people do not realize is that a business is like a ship- if things are going well, the ship can hold extra personnel and cargo for a time.  But, if things begin to turn downward, only the people who are absolutely necessary to the survival of the ship will be a part of the crew. The others will be let go. Those who consistently refuse to go the extra mile to help out the crew will be among the first to be let go.

Staff doesn’t know the mission-  Why does the business exist and what is the mission of the business?  These two questions must be answered very clearly by the ownership and every single associate of the business must understand the answers so clearly that they can repeat the answers with confidence.  If the staff does not understand why the business exists or what the mission is, they cannot be in alignment and that will lead to dysfunction in the systems and operations of the enterprise.  You would be surprised how many employees do not know what their place of employment actually does or why it is important.  Every single staff member must understand and believe in the mission of the company to create unity, harmony and a positive working culture. Without alignment on the mission, the business is doomed and the workplace culture will reflect that.

Lack of communication from all levels- Communication is key to any enterprise, relationship or any other undertaking. It’s vitally important that every person in an organization is able to properly communicate with other co-workers, management and ownership.  So many organizations have staff that don’t speak to each other or even resent other individuals in the business. If there is a lack of communication in the workplace, basic functions of the organization will not be able to be carried out properly.  Moreover, mistakes will not be caught or voiced to ensure that systems are put in place to keep the problems from occurring again.   

Perhaps the most important reason for great communication is that people thrive when they feel they are a part of something special.  They need to be reminded what the mission is, what needs to be done, how it should be done, who needs to do it and why it is important that tasks are accomplished.  Much like a relationship, all parties need to feel like there is an open line of communication so that growth can occur, both for the individuals and the company as a while. Without it, employees will begin to resent the business and other staff and the business will suffer.

Not enough focus on growth- Nature requires growth from every living thing.  If you are not growing, you are vulnerable.  If a relationship is not growing, it’s declining.  The same is true with business.  If a business is not growing, it may as well be dying. Inflation and competition will eat away as a stagnant business until there is nothing left. Growth is required to thrive and every associate in a business must understand this concept.  Considerable attention must be given to acquiring new customers, not just keeping the ones you have.  All growth comes from new customer acquisition and the future referrals from them. Growth focus looks like this: New Customer Acquisition—> Deliver Incredible Service—> Referrals.  The cycle then repeats. If every associate is not focussing on this cycle there will be stagnation in the business and that will lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment in the workplace.  People need to feel like the future is going to be better than the past. Progress equals happiness. Growth equals excitement and energy.  Stagnation leads to boredom and a lack of care. The culture of a company must have a focus on growth in order to succeed. 

No focus on harmony- I’ve written previously about the importance of harmony in a relationship and a workplace.  I’m a strong believer that harmony among all associates in a business is necessary for a happy workplace.  If discord or animosity exists even among a few employees, it will quickly sweep through the entire organization like a virus.  Soon, the happiest, most productive people will find themselves subject to the unhappy that comes with a lack of harmony.  It should be that we all strive to work together with each other to achieve a common goal or mission.  To do this, harmony is required. Watch out for people with negative mental attitudes. They will destroy a culture and kill a business. My advice would be to look closely at your own actions and beliefs to make sure that you are not the one guilty of a negative mental attitude. Hint: if you believe that everyone else at the job sucks except you, you’re probably the one guilty of spreading negativity and ruining the harmony in the workplace. 

“I’m the only good worker disease”- This belief is so common and so deadly in a workplace culture. In life, it’s easy to believe that we are all the stars of our own movie and every else in our life is just a supporting role.  Although it may certainly feel like you are the “good guy” and everyone else isn’t the real star, this type of thinking can quickly lead to the belief that no one else cares, or that you are the only one who does a good job.  If you think poorly of your co-workers, not only does this suggest a lack of harmony is present in your workplace, it also suggests that you have a negative attitude towards others.  If you are truly the best worker in your business, your efforts should be to help everyone else where you are able, not speak poorly of them or their work ethic.   If you are a leader or an influencer in an organization, this is especially important.  People should look to you for leadership and guidance on how to improve and be better.  This will not happen, however, if you bash others as being inadequate or poor performers. Instead, they will come to resent you and that will lead to more discord in the workplace. 

There you have it.  There are of course other attitudes and behaviors that will destroy a workplace culture, but these are my top seven.  At the end of the day, a workplace culture can be as great or as poor as the people who comprise it want it to be.  If you want to be a part of an incredible workplace, make sure it does not suffer from the above listed problems.  Moreover, make sure that you are not guilty of the attitudes listed.

Advertisements

Health is Wealth

The True Path to Riches

In my journey through this life, I have had the pleasure of meeting thousands of people in many different industries and occupations.  As I have progressed in business and expanded my dealings to include real estate and other investments, I have been very fortunate to meet many individuals with a very high net worth. In other words, they are what we call wealthy or rich.  The knowledge that I’ve gained from the individuals is truly priceless when it comes to making money and dealing with the stresses of business.  However, most of the conversations that I have with the wealthy people steer in a direction towards health and fitness. I would even venture to say that most of the time spent in conversation is me answering fitness and diet questions that they have.  I find this interesting, because most of these people are much more financially successful than I am, but nevertheless I am the one giving advice. This has led me to an interesting conclusion; that true wealth lies in being fit and healthy.  

Sure, money is important.  To say that it’s not is to kid yourself.  Nothing can replace money in the areas where money is concerned. Money is very important.  But money can be replaced with more money.  Most rich people have lost money in different investments only to earn it back later on.  What is even more important than money are the things that cannot be replaced. Namely, health and time. The quality of life you have and the amount of time you have to live are by far the most important things in life. Being fit and healthy is the best way to ensure a high quality of life as well as longevity.  I’ve found that having a high level of fitness is also one best paths to self satisfaction. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you are dissatisfied with your body or plagued with health problems, the quality of life will not be any greater than someone who has much less money and is perfectly healthy and athletic. A BMW or Ferrari or a mansion cannot replace a healthy, lean and toned body. Although, a lean and toned body in a Ferrari or BMW is mighty fine….

This leads me to my next point; the greatest investment you can possibly make is in your physical and emotional well being.  I mention emotional because emotion comes from motion.  By changing your physiology, you can dramatically alter your emotional well being.  Studies show again and again that exercise is more effective than antidepressants and other drugs to promote an overall feeling of well being.  I can personally testify that I cured my depression after being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis by going to the gym and transforming my body through weight training.  Now it’s a regular part of my life (almost daily) and I love it because it puts me in a great mood and makes me feel powerful as opposed to powerless against a disease.  I train earlier in the day because I feel it sets me up for a good day.  I’m able to deal with the stresses of life much better having already trained my body and elevated my mood.  Being fit gives me a sense of power and control over my world.  I don’t feel like life is happening to me, but rather that life is happening for me.

Of course, the other big factor in fitness and health is nutrition.  Although I believe exercise is one of the most important things anyone can do to improve their life as a whole, diet is just as important.  Because diet and nutrition are such a stigmatized subject and many people don’t like hearing or reading about it, I’ll keep it simple.  There are foods and supplements that feed and nourish your body and there are foods and substances that harm it greatly.  Your body is fueled by the nutrients you give it and your physical performance depends greatly on this fuel.  Not giving the body proper nutrition is akin to making a bad financial investment over and over again without learning the lesson.  I cannot even tell you how many “rich” people I have met that are severely overweight, out of shape and very unhealthy.  You would think these people, who clearly have great knowledge of how to produce income in the marketplace through wise investments decisions, would understand the need to invest the body.  Perhaps they do, which is why I get asked for training and nutrition advice so often by affluent people.  But as we all know, it’s easy to understand something intellectually. It’s another thing to actually take and act on advice.  

If you’re fit and healthy, congratulations! Stay on the path and live life to the fullest.  If you are fit but haven’t quite made it in the marketplace yet, don’t worry.  The wealth will come as long as you stay healthy and make good decisions.  If you have affluence, but have failed to stay fit and healthy, remember this….there is only one true path to lasting wealth. And that my friends is to do what ever is in your power to achieve a healthy and active lifestyle.  

Winning Friends, Influencing People

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I am often asked what books or people influenced the most in my life.  There are so many books, quotes, poems and stories that have changed my thinking and helped form me to become the person I am now.  There are however only a few books that I return to almost every year when I feel that I need to review the lessons written on those pages.  I just finished re-reading a classic by Dale Carnegie, a book that has been read by countless leaders and influencers over the past eight decades since it’s original publication.  If you are looking for one of the most powerful and useful books ever written, read How to Win Friends and Influence People.  The lesson are timeless and applicable no matter who you are.  It is a textbook on how to communicate with others and influence others to your ways of thinking.  At the end of each chapter is a recap about the lesson of that chapter. I have listed those principles below because I believe they may help others.  For more in depth stories about how these principles have been used throughout history, you will have to read the book in it’s entirety. Enjoy…and take notes.

How to Influence Others

1.Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.

2.Give honest and sincere appreciation.

3.Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Making People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest..
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Win Others to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “you’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try to honestly see things from the other person’s perspective.
  9. By sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: Change people without resentment

  1. Begin with honest praise and appreciation. 
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the faults seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends. 

What Do You Have a Right To?

Enough About Your Rights

This post will be short and may sound like a rant, but I feel the need to clarify the difference between actual “rights” and things people wish they had. In today’s social media environment, there are so many millions who like to say that they have a “right” to free education, a “right” to free healthcare, a “right” to a certain income. These are not rights. These are wants. No one has a right to ask something to be free while others are paying for the service. In fact, there are only a few rights that exist to humans. Among them are the right to life, liberty and property. That’s it!

This means that you have a right to your life- no one else has a claim on it. You have a right to own property, which comes from the fact that you own your body and what your body produces via work in the marketplace. Lastly, you have the right to liberty, meaning that no one else has a right to initiate violence or aggression against you, nor do you have a right to do so to anyone else. Liberty means that so long as you are not violating another person’s life or property, or initiating aggression against another, you are essentially free to go about your business. These are really the only rights that exist for all humans. Just as you have no right to a free car, because you would be violating someone else’s property and liberty by taking one, you also do not have a right to free college (because someone would have to pay to service your education- a violation of their property, their money and time). The same goes for health care. As long as someone is spending time and energy to service your health care, they must be compensated. You do not have a right to ask others to pay for what you are receiving. That would be a violation of their property- their money. You have no right to a “universal income” without producing valuable work to earn income. Even if the government is paying, other individuals are truly the ones on the hook for what the government spends.

I apologize if this all sounds harsh. You may have been told you have endless rights to many things. Much of this is due to that fat that government are engaged in other activities and spending on programs besides concerning itself with protecting your liberty and property. Government should exist to protect your rights and that’s it. You do have rights after all. You have the right liberty, life and property. You have the right to not have others violate your rights. You do not have a right to violate other’s life, liberty or property. You do not have the right to ask for a product or service for free, because someone must spend their labor and money to support that product or service, so asking it for free would be a violation of their rights. It’s also worth noting that groups do not have rights. Only individuals, all individuals have rights. You do not have special rights because you identify with a certain group of people. Nor do you have less rights because you’re a part of a group. You have the same rights- life, liberty and property.

In Liberty,

Sean

Being World-Class

What it Takes to be World-Class

Being a business owner for more than a decade, I have been forced to become a student of the marketplace. It’s my opinion that the only businesses that will continue to thrive in the coming years are those who are determined to be world-class. Not just good or even great, but only world-class organizations will be able to navigate the rapidly changing and volatile business climate. Unfortunately, good enough will not cut it the way it used to in generations past. Technology has vastly improved our lives, but it has also created increased competition in the work place and removed many of the boundaries and limitations businesses have, leading to more businesses being able to compete in a global marketplace. Businesses who compete in a crowded marketplace will all eventually reach the same fate unless they are able to break out and become world-class. What follows is what I believe makes a company (or an individual) world-class:

1. Inspire a feeling in people- World-class companies inspire certain feelings in others. It’s as if there is something special the company does, and other people want to be a part of what is special. A world-class company has no problem finding great people to join the organization because great people want to be around other great people. Think about world-class companies- Apple, Disney, Lego, Rolex, Ferrari, all of them can be associated with some special feeling. The best companies make people feel special about buying their product or being part of their team. They inspire a sense of pride.

2. Obsess about being the best at only a few key things- World-class companies and individuals understand that in order to be the best in the game, their focus has to be on being the best and doing what it takes to achieve that distinction. World-class performers know that only the best get recognized and acknowledged long-term. For world-class companies, it’s about leaving a legacy and only being one of the best companies will ensure that. The key is to only focus on the things you can be world-class at and not be distracted by those you cannot.

3. Work to be better all the time- The best understand they must constantly work to improve or they will not be the best for long. For people, progress equals happiness and the same goes for companies. For world-class companies, making progress is a necessity.

4. Fixing and anticipating problems before they arise- Problems are a part of life and business. The longer you live or stay in business, new problems will arise that will force you to grow and adapt. World-class companies differ in that they are able to anticipate problems before they occur because they have fully thought through and tested their ideas. If problems do occur, world-class performers are quick to make it right for the client.

5. Almost anyone would recognize its greatness- This almost goes without saying. World-class and greatness are almost synonymous. It’s worth repeating though the greatest companies and performers are recognized by others outside the industry as being world-class. The reputation of world-class companies is important to uphold. Without it people recognizing

6.People talk about the high quality and refer others without hesitation- Great companies make it exceptionally easily for clients to refer them to others. World class companies’ products are like a status symbol. Having the product or service means something, it stands for something.

7. Paying attention to details- The gardeners at Disneyland are meticulous about exactly how they plant the flowers and which way the plants are facing. The janitors, also known as cast members are careful to pick up trash and clean spills immediately. They take pride in making the clients experience a special one. This happens by paying attention to detail. The beautiful wrapping of an Apple product illicit a special feeling in the customer because they understand the company they are doing business with is paying attention to detail. When a car’s upholstery is hand stitched, the same attention to detail allows the business’ driver to take pride in doing business with them. Clients of world-class companies are happy to do business with them. This matters a great deal because the client knows if the company can pay attention to detail, they will pay attention to them as a person, even care about them! Focussing on details as well as the overall picture is what separates good from world-class.

I’ve struggled to move up from being good or great at certain things to world-class. Like many things in life, even if you have a roadmap on how to get somewhere, it can be exceptionally difficult to actually get there. In fact, most just look at the arduous journey and never take the first step. Still others, try for a while and then move on to something else or settle for “good enough”. My sincere desire is that everyone become world class at one thing in their lives. A world-class parent, athlete, student, philosopher, teacher, salesperson, employer, employee, CEO, speaker, actor- anything that helps other people. I think we should all strive to be world-class at whatever we do. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and world-class companies do it right more often than not.

In Heath,

Sean

Dealing with Loss

Something Worth Considering

Much grief and despair that humans experience is due to some loss in our lives. We either lose someone or something and we feel pain because of this. We become attached to certain relationships and possessions. When we lose what we are attached to, immense pain occurs. Pain is a natural part of life and there is no way to eliminate completely from our lives. However, I think that it’s worth considering that when it comes to loss, it would serve us well to remember that we don’t actually own anything in this life except our own bodies and mind, and even those can be taken from us. Therefore, becoming too attached to people and things is actually a cause for pain that can be reduced because everything we perceive that we have in life is actually on loan to us. Circumstances outside our control can take these things away at any time without warning. Indeed our very lives are just on loan to us by nature, the universe, God, whatever term you prefer. Like a car at the end of the lease, we will have to turn ourselves back in to the dealership.

Should we walk around dwelling on the fact that we truly own nothing in this life? I don’t believe that is the best way to live. Instead, I think that quietly recognizing the fact that we don’t really have control over anything except our own mind and actions can help us actually reduce the pain we feel when we lose something or someone. The Stoics referred to this practice as negative visualization- by contemplating the reality that we will eventually lose everything and everyone in our lives, we can prepare ourselves and reduce the sting of the loss when it occurs. The practice can also lead to a greater appreciation fort the people and things in our lives. Because nothing lasts forever, we can learn to take nothing for granted and appreciate all we have just a little more. The pain of loss can also be lessened just by remembering that we were lucky to have been blessed with certain people and things in the first place. Eventually, we will lose everything, including our own existence, so we should actually learn to enjoy what we have a little more.

Again, nothing can ever stop the feelings of pain nor the grief associated with loss. But we can learn to reduce that pain by practicing negative visualization. The real key to satisfaction is wanting and enjoying what you already have, not in yearning for something else. Remembering that everything is temporary, we can learn to enjoy our time living. Life is beautiful exactly because it is temporary. So treat people a little better, appreciate your relationships a little more, enjoy material things without becoming too attached to any of them. Attachment leads to unnecessary pain because loss is inevitable. Enjoyment without attachment, that’s the simple formula for fulfillment. Just remember this, what is simple is not always easy!

In health,

Sean