Your Team Culture Is In The Mirror

The culture of an organization is defined and imbued by the leader; plain and simple. To identify and understand the culture, simply get to know the values and operating style of the leader. If you are the leader and seek transformation in your people then you need a mirror, not a manual to begin the process of change management. Vision, mission and values statements are not enough – you must be the change you seek in your organisation, especially when it comes to being customer-centric and market driven.

Although the leader sets the tone and defines the organization’s culture, people rather than vision and mission statements are the manifestation of culture and it is therefore essential to hire only those with the right attitudes and values. One of the leader’s most important roles is hiring for cultural fit but the problem with most hiring processes and job descriptions is that the focus is on skills, experience and qualifications. These are important prerequisites for hiring but rarely the reasons for firing. Instead, the rationale for dismissing an employee is most often ‘poor cultural fit’ and this can be a point of contention when seeking to manage an employee out.

Latent brand risk resides in any employee who is a cultural misfit or emotionally disconnected from positive values. For this reason, one of the most expensive mistakes an organization can make is to hire or retain misaligned staff. It is important to manage this commercial and brand risk by understanding that skills are easy to measure and evidenced but values often live behind a façade of salesmanship. Know what you are looking for beneath the surface of a resume and understand how to penetrate the persona being projected during an interview. Here are characteristics that the best leaders seek in a senior team member:

  • Guided by solid moral values. They treat others as they wish to be treated and place the well-being of the corporation, team members and customers above personal interests. They never bully or undermine others through gossip, negative politics or passive-aggressive behaviour. They clearly understand what is right and wrong and have the courage to always act with integrity.
  • Committed to being part of the team. They ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role. They believe their personal value comes from the timely results they deliver and their positive influence; not from their position, knowledge or qualifications.
  • Cares about quality in everything they do. They actively listen and ensure understanding before jumping to solutions. Proposals are well written and follow the brief or address the problems articulated. They proof-read everything, including e-mail, before sending.
  • Driven to achieve results. They focus on what needs to happen daily to achieve the right outcomes. They have a bias toward action and focus on delighting customers. They focus on business-case and managing risk.
  • Strategic thinker. They gather intelligence to create insight before making decisions. They consider the politics within an organisation and the various self-interests at play in complex decision-making.
  • Strong work ethic. They work intelligently but also know there is no substitute for a strong work ethic.

All this begs the question: how do you hire for cultural fit and discover the truth about a person’s character? The psychometric tools that measure intelligence and identify dominant personality traits do not address the issues of values and attitudes. To minimise hiring risks it is essential to understand all the relevant factors, including how candidates think and operate. The best employers focus on the following elements:

  • Past performance is an indication of likely future performance. Reject any candidate with a resume that fails to document high performance against targets or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Use candidate skills, experience and qualifications to screen individuals out of the process and then obsessively focus on cultural fit with the remaining applicants.
  • Thoroughly research candidates and use social media tools such as LinkedIn to find connections within your network to further eliminate or validate someone in advance of an interview.
  • Challenge claimed achievements and be weary of people who claim to have achieved great things with past employers yet regularly move on within eighteen months.
  • Ensure the candidate evidences claimed traits with examples of difficult situations they faced and the challenges they overcame. Ask them about their most difficult situations and failures, then what they specifically learned.
  • Use reference-checking early in the process, not as mere validation at the end. Most importantly, you select and request the referees you want to talk to.

Even with the right employees in place, the leader’s actions set the tone and define the culture that cascades throughout the organisation. So what defines a healthy culture in the context of business? Here is some food for thought. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, chronicles what he describes as ‘level 5 leadership’. His research identified the attributes of the very best leaders who possess the following:

  • Face the awful truth in acknowledging realities.
  • Accept personal responsibility when things go wrong.
  • Attribute success to others when things go well (genuine humility).
  • Have quiet yet unbreakable determination in achieving success.
  • ‘Hedgehog Principle’ for developing unassailable market position.

Interestingly, the first four elements are attitudes and only the last item on the list is a skill. 80% of what Jim Collins identifies as essential attributes for sustained leadership are difficult to measure and not usually evident in a traditional resume or catered for in the job application process.

Use a Mirror not a Manual to Create a Customer Centric Culture. Everyone within the organization represents the brand and the leader needs to enthusiastically embody and live the culture of the organisation and make all values, vision and mission statements real and meaningful for everyone in the team.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Gavin Llewellyn

How To Create Customer Centric Culture?

Everyone who touches a customer needs to be a steward of the brand and seek opportunities to deliver value and create revenue. Everyone else in the organisation ultimately supports people who interact with customers – back office and technical staff therefore have frontline employees as their internal customers. Customer service is the new sales model in a world where social media gives every consumer the ability to instantly damage or build a supplier’s brand. Unhappy customers tell everyone who will listen and they can do real damage to your brand. Your website, other digital points of presence and social media strategies must be used to empower staff to engage customers and stakeholders in meaningful conversations, not just to project your sales and marketing messages.

Rather than restricting staff in their internet and social media activities, consider thoughtfully implementing programs that educate and empower staff to be transparent and responsive to customers through any channel. Be clear with your employees that with freedom comes responsibility and accountability. Also be transparent and communicate openly to staff and customers that when mistakes are made you always seek to rectify the problem to the complete satisfaction of the customer.

To ensure productivity and control, provide tools to staff such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems with embedded social media feeds delivering a ‘single source of the truth’ about customers. Implement ‘web to lead’ systems so that when a customer interacts with your website you have a system to capture their interest or complaint. Especially reward staff who listen in social channels and convert unhappy customers into advocates – every complaint or negative Tweet about your brand is a sales opportunity! Reward staff who refer new business regardless of whether they work in the sales department. Most importantly, acknowledge staff who go above and beyond their job description or market expectations in delivering exceptional customer service.

Vision, mission and values statements are meaningless without validation through the actions and behaviours of employees. Personal attitudes and values must be aligned with the corporate ethos and connected with emotion. To achieve this consider your vision, mission and values statements and then write something new: ‘Here at our company we believe …’ Then define how these beliefs should manifest in the attitudes and actions of you and the team. Make it real with examples and acknowledge those who exemplify the culture and values. Consider the effectiveness of Richard Branson who personifies the Virgin brand. It can be argued that Richard Branson is the Virgin brand and he ensures that every Virgin business obsessively hires based on cultural fit. This is because they know they can train skills but it is very difficult to alter attitudes and values.

Conversely, look at the disaster of Enron where the appalling values within the leadership drove recklessness and greed that spread like a cancer to eventually destroy the corporation and harm hundreds of thousands of lives. Enron’s caustic culture was their biggest commercial risk and it festered behind a paper-thin facade of clichéd mission, vision and values statements.

The leader is the culture and poor hiring, especially within senior ranks, introduces significant brand and business risk. Corporate and individual reputations take years to build and can be lost in an instant through the misbehaviour of an individual. Because the foundation of positive culture is values, authentic leaders are committed to a solid moral framework regardless of whether anyone is watching. Anthony Howard is a thought leader on moral leadership and his white paper, It’s Time For Moral Leadership, is a must read for exploring this in greater depth.

The reality is that there will always be a gap between aspiration and execution but without striving to become better we do not grow. Look deeply at the value you bring customers and markets to identify the higher purpose of what you do. How do you impact individual lives and society? In what way are you a force for good in the world? Instilling a foundation of positive values and beliefs for making a difference is tremendously powerful in harnessing human energy to build your enterprise and brand.

As a leader, first strive to be a good human being who places customers and staff ahead of your own needs. Be a force for good and, rather than criticise, encourage and seek solutions. Be energetic and passionate about the success of your team and customers. Be accountable and driven to achieve results.

In summary: Define what you believe about yourself and your organisation concerning the value you offer your customers, markets, investors and employees. Then document how these beliefs should emotionally impact behaviours at every level. Begin with yourself and become obsessively focused with customer success and bring your entire team on the journey of change so that every individual can personally own the right values and embody the culture. The leader’s actions need to be the culture. Constantly ask yourself: How are my actions evidencing the culture we claim to have? Be the change you seek in your organisation and carefully recruit only those who share your customer centric values. Empower and liberate the team to represent the brand and trust them to step up and do the right thing.

These are the key ingredients for creating a positive customer-centric culture:

  1. Focus on your higher purpose relevant to customers when defining your culture and create emotional connections for all staff.
  2. Use a mirror, not a manual, to transform your organisation by living the values to transfer the culture.
  3. Carefully hire only those who are culturally aligned and have proven themselves to possess the necessary attitudes and values.
  4. Empower and liberate all staff to embody the culture and represent the brand. Trust the team to step up and reward and recognise those who create customer magic.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Nick Webb

      Love Versus Greed. What's Your Corporate Culture?

      Within every person is an innate desire to go beyond making a living to make a difference. We should all seek meaning and purpose in what we do but can a career also be a calling? Can we do well and also do good? Do nice people always come last? Are most rich and successful people crooked in some way? Can an organization’s culture go beyond the posters espousing mission, vision and values; to instead be the living behaviors of the leaders, cascading down throughout the entire enterprise? I’ll answer all these questions with two contrasting case studies that will blow your mind.

      If within our lifetime, the average lifespan of a class of people in society had dropped from 80 years to 18 years, we would think there was something seriously wrong... yet this is exactly what has happened in the USA. In 1955 the average lifespan of Fortune 500 corporations was 80 years, nearly 60 years later the average life is just 18 years! Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020 more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we haven’t heard of yet.

      Here are some other interesting facts: Average tenure of employees is dropping dramatically and only 7 of the top 500 public companies in America have average tenure of more than 10 years! When you consider that it costs between $15,000 and $25,000 per employee every time there is churn, it’s a massive issue. But not at Google and Amazon; right? Google’s average tenure is just 1 year and Amazon is not much better at 1.1 years.

      Today in the workplace we face the rise of narcissism – from Gen-Y (all about me) to Millenials (instant everything). Millenials are 30% of workforce and 81% think they should set their own schedule and almost one-third would leave their job if they got a better offer. ‘Loyalty’ and ‘values’ seem to be ill-defined commodities for many.

      So what’s needed? What should organizations do to overcome this problem? Every organization needs fully engaged employees and they should have documented vision, mission and values to set the tone.

      But statements up on the wall are not enough. I’m reminded of the manager who catches his employee wandering into work late again for the third time in a single week and collars him as they stand in the office foyer. He says to the employee: “Is it ignorance or apathy that’s the reason for you turning up for work late almost every day?” The response was laconic: “I don’t know; and I don’t care.”

      I help companies create these leadership documents and I often see that the concepts are poorly understood. Here’s my take on what they should mean:

      • Vision for our aspirational place in the world and markets within which we operate.
      • Mission for the difference we want to make in the lives of others – our purpose and cause.
      • Values for how we operate – the behaviors we expect from everyone in our team.

      A recent client I worked with had these as their values in an employment contract: Zest for people, inspirational customer experience, thirst for knowledge. I’m not sure what you think about these but let me tell you a true story of a company that changed the world. Their four values were chiseled into marble in the main lobby of HQ: Communication, Excellence, Respect, Integrity.

      This company impacted the lives of almost everyone in the USA and many others around the globe – yet they didn’t manufacture technology and they weren’t a media company. The chairman was Ken Lay and his company’s vision was “To be the world’s leading company; achieved by the relentless pursuit of shareholder value through free markets and innovation.” The company was hailed as a ‘leader of the new economy’. On their way to this lofty goal they became the 7th largest corporation in America with a market capitalization of $70 billion.

      It took the company 16 years to grow from $10 billion in assets to $65 billion but it took just 24 days for them to go bankrupt. It was the largest ever corporate collapse globally... the corporation was Enron and they were on a quest to become the dominant ‘new economy energy company’. We’re going to contrast two corporate cultures and the positive case study is breathtakingly counter-intuitive; but let’s consider Enron first.

      Enron was unbelievable. Pure fraud at many levels and they also applied an obscure and dubious accounting practice called ‘marked to market.’ The concept was to book future hypothetical revenues based on ideas they had with unproven contracts to recognize it in their books as profit and, believe it or not, cash-flow without the actual money being generated!

      For one contract with Blockbuster Video, they signed a 20-year agreement to introduce on-demand entertainment to various U.S. cities by year-end. After several pilot projects, Enron recognized estimated profits of more than $110 million from the deal, even though analysts questioned the technical viability and market demand of the service. When the network failed to work, Blockbuster withdrew from the contract but Enron continued to recognize future profits even though the deal resulted in a loss.

      Enron ended-up buying the electricity assets from The State of California, and then created a futures trading exchange that they manipulated to make hundreds of millions of dollars by ordering power stations to go off-line for ‘unscheduled maintenance’ to deliberately create black-outs and panic. The Governor of California lost the next election and Arnold Schwarzenegger came to power (note that ‘Arnie’ was not complicit with Enron’s activities).

      Here are some of the staggering facts:

      • $1 billion ($1,000,000,000) was pulled out by executives using insider trading and just as it went bankrupt, top executives were paid bonuses totaling $55 million and also cashed-in $116 million in stock options.
      • 20,000 Enron employees lost their jobs and medical insurance.
      • $2 billion in pension / superannuation funds instantly disappeared.
      • The biggest accounting firm in the world, Arthur Anderson (also America’s oldest) was put out of business and 29,000 people also lost their jobs. Shareholders sued for $20 billion.

      So what was Enron’s leadership model and who did they look for inspiration and guidance? The CEO, Jeff Skilling, reported to Ken Lay and he was a big fan of Richard Dawkins’, The Selfish Gene. They subscribed to evolutionary greed and competition – survival of the smartest. The words chiseled into marble in the main lobby (Communication, Excellence, Respect, Integrity) were meaningless and mere marketing spin. Whether you’ve seen the movie Wolf of Wall Street or watched the movie Margin Call, they both show the real life consequences of failing to be anchored to the right values.

      Culture in any organization boils down to just one thing…. the behavior of the leaders. Culture is how we treat each other, it’s how be behave and it’s what we do. Leadership is not a position, it’s who we are. How we behave matters and we’ve seen the devastating consequences of poor values from leaders in business, sport (Lance Armstrong), politics and even churches. Make no mistake, when people in positions of power lose their moral authority, it’s over for them even if they remain in their role for awhile – it’s just a matter of time before the fall.

      Enron was a precursor to the 2008 GFC and in my opinion it wasn’t a financialcrisis, it was instead a values crisis resulting in financial carnage – it should have been called the GVC. You might think that these kinds of things don’t happen today… oh, yes they do. The human condition is an ever-present problem. We’re all wired for addictions, fear and greed, and to lie and cheat. It’s our commitment to the right values that insulates us from the worst of ourselves.

      Enough negativity; you probably already know about Enron, so what’s the corollary and how can we positively lead? I want to tell you an amazing true story about a company that did something completely ‘out there’, the opposite of Enron. They ended-up being featured on the television program Undercover Boss and the episode garnered the highest rating of the year with 18 million people watching it.

      The company is Herschend Family Entertainment (HFC) and Joel Manby is the CEO. He had much in common with Ken Lay from Enron. They both had very poor childhoods and were raised in religious Christian homes. Ken Lay’s father was in fact a Baptist Minister. Both saw education as the way to create better futures and both went to Harvard Business School. But they made very different choices concerning their values.

      Joel had a brilliant career. He took over Saab in North American and did a spectacular turn-around. The reward was that they added South America and Asia-Pacific to his workload. He was in Australia on a trip well into his new expanded global role when he had a tough call with his wife. He was away for two-thirds of the year; their marriage was struggling, his kids hardly knew him, he was stressed and tired most of the time; and he didn’t like who he was becoming. He asked his boss if he could pull-back to just running North America… the answer was a resounding ‘no’.

      He quit to join a technology start-up but then the bust came… he had 90 days to save the company and that meant firing a lot of people. He went through very difficult times; his work was defining him in ways he didn’t like and he wasn’t happy – professionally or personally.

      It was then that he was asked to apply for the CEO role at Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE), the world’s largest private theme park operator with 10,000 employees in 26 locations.

      Imagine being in a boardroom of a company with 10,000 employees and you ask the question of the chairman of the board: “How would you define the culture here?”

      The answer from the founder’s of HFE, Jack and Peter Herschend, was difficult to fathom: “Love; and leadership by being a servant of others.”

      Joel understood what was behind the words. He writes in his book, Love Works: “I wanted to work somewhere that rejected the false dichotomy between profit and people, or profit and principles. I wanted, in short, to be the same person all the time: at work, with my family, at my church, and when I was alone.”

      He joined HFE and embraced their culture. He had been in the role for a few years when the GFC hit and here is an astounding fact. Although they had to retrench many staff, they received the highest ever employee satisfaction ratings during and after the down-sizing process! This is because junior, middle and senior managers all decided to defer capital programs to buy time, supervisors and managers alike also asked if they could take pay cuts to fund staffing levels. Even those who were ‘let go’ were given 3 months on full pay to find another job and had all of the company’s resources available to help them transition.

      The culture of HFE is encapsulated by two principles: 1) Servant-based leadership, and 2) Love as defined by patience, kindness, trust, unselfishness, truthfulness, forgiveness, and dedication. It’s their paraphrase of I Corinthians 13:4-8 in The Bible. You may be thinking WTF and I agree… Wow, That’s Fantastic! But it’s delivered for them in amazingly positive ways, both with profit and people. Their staff have purpose in what they do and are truly engaged at every level.

      Television is a cynical place and HFE took a big risk allowing Undercover Boss to make an episode with hundreds of hours of footage that was edited down to what the producers thought would pull the biggest ratings.

      Joel says in his book, Love Works: “When your personal values match your work values, you stand the best chance of being content.” He’s been head-hunted many times but loves who he works with and the opportunity to live an authentic life.

      HFE is not the first company to create this kind of culture. 250 years ago a company was started by an Irish man who wanted to help people having their lives ruined by potato-based spirits which were rotting stomachs and causing terrible alcoholism. His name was Arthur Guinness and his drink was brewed for high nutrition and relatively low alcohol content…. He showed you can make money and make a difference, that you can do well and do good, that you can even serve humanity being a factory worker brewing beer. 100 years ago Guinness was providing free medical and dental care for employees, they paid for funerals, helped employees with housing, gave huge sums away to charity… and free beer every day! Unlike modern companies who offer some of these perks to attract the best talent, they did it because it was how they could live their values.

      Values are everything in leadership and for managing people and teams. Values-alignment is usually labelled as ‘cultural fit’ but HFE measure values together with performance. Great results are not rewarded unless accompanied with the right behaviours. Their managers must consistently live in accordance with the organization’s values. Personas and facades don't cut it at HFE. Only competent, authentic people can sustain leadership positions. Everyone’s performance appraisal process is based on the tool below (adapted from the matrix in Love Works, page 158).

      HFE understand an important truth: We must be the person worthy of the success we seek. Our behavior matters in achieving results and that’s because people matter, both customers and staff.

      The greatest risk to any business is not on the balance sheet, it’s the values within the people of power inside the organization and those who represent the brand. Do you really know what your values are? Do you know what you stand for? Are you and your team truly driven by your mission and purpose, personally and corporately?

      Leadership is an inside job. We cannot achieve and possess wealth unless we do, and we can’t do unless we are. We need to be the person worthy of the success we seek, otherwise success will be temporary or a mere illusion. The opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. Are you brave enough to love your staff and customers?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Chris van Dyck

      The Big Lies That Kill Success and Happiness


      I was speaking at a CEO conference recently and one of the other keynote speakers said from stage; "The purpose of life is happiness." I sat there thinking to myself, that's completely wrong. It's a lie and don't fall for it. Happiness is a byproduct of purpose, meaning and making a difference. It comes from service rather than focusing on yourself, pumping yourself up or buying yourself status symbols and expensive toys.

      Too many of us are addicted to the endorphin sugar-hit of winning or the thrill of reckless behavior. We long for the fleeting feel-good factor associated with recognition; often in [look at me, look at me] social media. Many seek to escape with alcohol or drugs while some retreat into the mind-numbing distraction of entertainment. The goal of life (and lasting happiness) is not found in being the center of attention or meeting our own needs. Happiness is a state of mind and I want to share with you the true value of what we pursue.

      "Although our actions and behaviors define us; it's who we become that determines the real value of everything we pursue." From the book: 

      Lasting success is the result of our positive choices and habits. Success is rarely an event; it’s a process. The key to living a successful life is to develop the right habits and make the right choices. We must thoughtfully choose our environment and beliefs as they create outcomes within us.

      These are the big lies that will rob you of success and happiness in life, both professionally and personally:

      1. Happiness is my primary goal. No, happiness is a byproduct of having meaning and purpose in what you do. It also comes from having a grateful state of mind about how you see yourself in the world.
      2. I am entitled. A sense of entitlement causes you to lack gratefulness and repels those who can help you. It also undermines the necessary work ethic needed to create what you want. Position and qualifications are merely a 'ticket to the dance' and we need to earn the support of others in how we behave and contribute.
      3. It's all about me. Narcissism disconnects us from relationships. To have good friends we must first be a great one. We must provide exception value to our employer and customers. Zig Ziglar famously said "If you can help enough people get what they want, then you can have what you want." Serve others with integrity and commitment and you'll attract success.
      4. I don't need to learn anymore. We must be the person worthy of the success we seek. If you don't read then you're not a leader, plain and simple. Disruption is a powerful force being exerted constantly on every business and individual careers. Our ability to unlearn and relearn is essential for staying relevant.

      Be open to new ideas and committed to learning. Avoid a narcissistic sense of entitlement and instead pursue worthwhile activities that make a positive difference in the world and the lives of others. Serving is what sets you on the path to happiness and fulfillment.

      What does great leadership look like?

      The very best leaders live by example and embody unbreakable determination in pursuing their cause, yet they do not bully or manipulate. Rather than create pressure they provide clarity, focus and energy for the people they lead. They focus on providing the right environment and ask the right questions rather than give answers. They are humbly self-aware, not self-absorbed, and they are honest, direct and accountable in their commitments and behavior. They understand that a good leader is first a good human being.

      Much can be achieved when you don’t care who receives the credit and when you surrender the need to be constantly right. Leaders seek to understand before attempting to be understood. They know that lasting motivation comes from within and they therefore encourage their people to personally take ownership of outcomes. They build their people’s self-esteem and promote their team’s ideas by encouraging them to take calculated risks, stretching their capabilities. When things go wrong they provide support and do not lecture or punish. Neither do they rescue when the consequences are not catastrophic; instead they regard ‘opportunities to fail’ as useful. Later, without negative emotion, they facilitate reflection.

      Great leaders are morally grounded in enduring values yet adopt purposeful pragmatism rather than judgmentally hold to narrow dogmas. They value difference, suspend judgment and accept diversity. Our ability to build other people in teams is more important than having all the ideas. Be counter-intuitive in your leadership style by humbly serving rather than grandstanding. Do what it takes rather than merely your best. You cannot lead from behind; pull people through rather than push. Accept the blame when things go wrong and learn the necessary lessons from criticism and failure so that you can adjust accordingly. Genuinely pass the credit on to others when things go well – success is always a team effort.

      Time is the only critical limited resource. Invest your time and treasure it rather than spend it. There is no such thing as wasted time if you always have a good book with you when you travel. Do not allow the trivially urgent to prevent you from doing the important. Make time for what matters most. Set goals and priorities, and regularly measure your own progress.

      Less is more – less talking creates more influence and more learning; less clutter and distracting noise creates more clarity; less information creates better cut-through in the message. The best way to improve something is to reduce it. Cut the unnecessary elements away rather than add complexity or overhead. The more we take the less we become; we only become greater when we give and contribute. We can become our very best when we let go of what we treasure and embrace the very things we fear. What does not kill us can make us stronger. Building character and developing emotional resilience is a valuable foundation for future success. Failure can educate, and with resolve to overcome, we can gain wisdom and prosper.

      Happiness is a state of mind concerning how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world. Be grateful for what you have. Laugh as often as you can. Reject judgment, bitterness and revenge – they are self-destructive forces, devouring the host. Do not take yourself too seriously; instead have an optimistic attitude and positive sense of humor. Freely admit when you are wrong, and say ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ every chance you get. Forgive and move on. Be prepared to take risks but without foolhardy recklessness. Never be a victim; instead be fully accountable for your own success and happiness. Do not blame others or bad luck for failure and set-backs. Believe in yourself and earn the right to ask for what you want. Never bully or manipulate and do not allow knowledge to manifest within you as arrogance. Do not allow success to make you egotistical; instead, learn genuine humility in acknowledging the contribution of others as well as good fortune or blessing.

      Choose your friends and work environment wisely as both will change you through osmosis. Avoid those who are addicted to destructive gossip. Encouragement is far more effective than criticism – believe in the competent and help them become better. Expect the best of others and treat them with respect regardless of their station in life. Serve your employer, team and customers ahead of your own interests – trust the law of reciprocity to reward your integrity and ability to create value. Show thoughtful initiative and a strong work ethic. We learn nothing while talking, and making a noise rarely makes a difference. Instead become a great listener who is genuinely interested in others, asking insightful and powerful questions.

      Success is living a life of purpose and achieving your goals, yet the passage of time is the only valid perspective for measuring achievement. There is no excuse for not being your best or failing to fulfill your potential. Barriers and difficulties are there to exclude average people, and for the purpose of ensuring the worthiness of those who achieve. Scarcity is what creates value. We all wish our circumstances would improve but it is usually we who must change first. Become better rather than wish it were easier. Be the change you want to see in the world – start with your own bedroom, garage, and backyard. You cannot manage an enterprise if you cannot manage yourself. Avoid gossip, criticism and judgment. There is genuine peace in not worrying about things that don’t matter (inconsequential trivia) or are outside your control.

      Knowledge and technical competence is not enough. Your value to your employer and customers is defined by your ability to positively influence and deliver results. Thinking strategically and executing masterfully is more important than adhering to methodologies. Think RSVP in every commercial endeavor and obsessively pay attention to excellence in execution.

      Success or failure is the accumulated result of thousands of tiny decisions. Most people become disempowered through inner-corrosion rather than a catastrophic external event. Sustained success is the result of painful and diligent growth occurring below the surface, for the most part unseen by the outside world. Work on yourself rather than criticize others. Self-awareness, self-discipline, self-leadership and positive attitude are what attract success beyond mere knowledge and skill.

      Work is not different from the rest of life – bring all of yourself to your work. Treat your sales career as a profession that creates value rather than being a competitive game. It has serious and profound lessons to teach if you are open to learning. Be the person worthy of the life you seek – success and failure, belief and doubt are necessarily conjoined. You can find the problem and the opportunity in the mirror.

      Here is another post that explains my framework for leadership.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker

      Main image photo from Flickr.