Henry Ford

Reputation – good ones travel fast

Your reputation is a riddle; It is guaranteed to always arrive before you do, and stay after you leave. Knowing this fact can help set you apart from the crowd. Your reputation will serve as your introduction, it will set expectations for those you meet, it will remind others of your demonstrated abilities. In many ways it’s your spokesperson, and you want your spokesperson to have wonderful things to say about you. Therefore, you must carefully build the foundation of your reputation through your actions.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”– Henry Ford

Delivering what matters. Not everything has to be done; just the important stuff. Identify which actions make the most difference to the company, project, team and you – then put your energy into accomplishing those.

“You earn a reputation by trying to do hard things well.”– Jeff Bezos

Every day. Start each day with a picture of success in your mind – for that day. Break down your goals into what you can do today and do that every day. Make success a habit.

“Repetition makes reputation.”– Elizabeth Arden

Will pave the way. This is what opens doors, gets invitations, and garners resources. Delivering what matters every day is the foundation for your reputation.

“There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast.” – Brian Koslow

Growth: be who we’ve become.

growth - goldfishIt’s said that a goldfish will only grow to the size of the tank it is in. It would actually be more accurate to say that the environment that exist inside of a small tank can limit the growth of a goldfish. A high concentration of naturally occurring items such as nitrates in water and certain pheromones in the fish itself are what can limit growth. Moving to a larger tank where these items are diluted removes their negative effects and allows the fish to grow to its full potential.

Growth in individuals and companies is the same. We will not grow to our full potential if our environment is growth inhibiting. Do we have challenging goals that stretch our abilities? Are we surrounded by others who encourage our growth? If we are, then we are on our way to being all we can become. If we are not, maybe it is time to change the environment or change to a different environment.

 “Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not.  When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.” – John Maxwell

 Growth is not a destination; it is a direction. Growth is moving forward not backward. Growth is meant to be continuous.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have not meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

In fact, according to Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

When we grow we are like the fish who no longer fits into the small tank – we leave behind what we were so we can be who we’ve become.

Why so complicated? Simplify.

complicated simpleWhen Ford sold the Model T in 1908 it was the first mass-produced car for the middle class. Henry Ford had a simple vision, “I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best material, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise…” When demand for the Model T increased dramatically in 1913, Ford switched to using only black paint to increase the efficiency of the assembly line and to keep prices affordable. It is here that Henry Ford is often quoted as saying, “Any customer can have any color paint as long as it’s black.” It was a simple vision.

By 2006 Ford was selling cars under nine different brands in six continents. It had become a much more complicated business and Ford lost $12.6 billion that year, the year that Alan Mulally became the CEO and began what would become one of the greatest turnarounds in business history.

Mulally re-focused Ford to simplify the business and return to profit using the same process he used as the CEO of Boeing, the same process that other great leaders had used in the past: Simplify the Message, Simplify the Schedule, and Simplify the Measurements. If you find yourself in a business that has gotten to complicated, take a look at this three-step process.

Simplify the message

Steve Jobs was a master at simple messaging. From the Apple logo to every new product release, the message was clear and easy to understand. Jobs said, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Alan Mulally started with harkening back to the simpler time of the Model T. Henry Ford envisioned, “Opening the highways for all mankind,” According to Mulally, you have to figure out a way to, “Get every employee to understand the vision of the company, buy in to the plan, and feel supported in their jobs.”

Mulally introduced a simple message called One Ford. “One Ford optimizes our collective strength by aligning our efforts toward a common definition of success, with a clear focus on the skills and behaviors we must develop to accomplish One Team, One Plan, One Goal,”  This would bring all the global businesses together to more efficiently and effectively achieve success.  This included simple behaviors that were fundamental to One Ford: Foster Functional and Technical Excellence, Own Working Together, Role Model Ford Values, Deliver Results.

Simplify the schedule

Jim Rohn is best known for being a bestselling author and motivational speaker. He began his career as an entrepreneur in the direct selling business where he learned his craft and developed methods for success. Rohn’s simple method for success is stated as follows, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practiced every day”

Alan Mulally joined as the CEO of Ford during “Meeting Week.” This was the time of the month when all of the corporate meetings happened across one entire week; finance, sales, products and others. Mulally sat through the week then cancelled all of the meetings and replaced them with one weekly “Business Plan Review,” meeting where the strategic focus of the company would be reviewed all in one day. If problems were identified in this meeting, follow-up meetings would be scheduled to dig deeper and identify solutions.

This new meeting structure brought the entire company into focus for every executive to see, offer opinions and solutions in line with the One Ford message of working as One Team, with One Plan, and One Goal.

Simplify the measurements

Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was the author of 51 books that sold over 600 million copies that were translated into 20 languages. His books covered deep, complicated subjects in simple ways that everyone from the youngest toddler to the oldest adult could understand. Seuss said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

When Mulally joined Ford in 2006, the automotive business was complicated, and it would remain complicated. But Mulally could handle complicated. When asked how he would handle auto manufacturing when a car has 10,000 moving parts, the former Boeing CEO responded, “An airplane has two million, and it has to stay up in the air.” The questions would remain complicated while the answers would be simple.

Gone were the long presentations during “Meeting Week” from every division and they were replaced with color coded charts in the “Business Plan Review” that showed the same data for each division so everyone knew if they were on track or not, where they were not, they would talk about how to get on track. Mulally is known to tell his team to, “Let the data set you free.” These simple measurements would foster greater unity across the whole team in line with the One Ford message of working as One Team, with One Plan, and One Goal.


Leading a company the military way

patton on leadershipI was recently asked if a military model of leadership was adequate to run a company.  When I responded seeking the definition of military leadership, I understood why the question was being asked.

There is a misperception of what military leadership really is: marching and drills, marching and drills…This initial response is usually taken from a movie, or television show that focused on basic training (boot camp) where the very beginning of military leadership is formed. Even children’s stories are filled with these ideas: Colonel Hathi’s March (The Elephant Song) from The Jungle Book says it this way: “The aim of our patrol,  Is a question rather droll,  For to march and drill, Over field and hill,  Is a military goal!” 

But the military wouldn’t be successful if this was the full extent of its leadership. The military has eleven principles of leadership.  I have summarized them below with a reference to how each of these is viewed in non-military professions.  You will see from these principles that the answer that a military model of leadership is not just adequate to run a company it is essential.


1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Learning is a lifelong task that you should continue no matter what you are doing. 

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise.  View life as a continuous learning experience.” – Denis Waitley

2. Be tactically and technically proficient – In whatever business or profession you are in, aim to be the best.

“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” Abraham Lincoln

3. Know your soldiers and look out for their welfare – Take time to get to know them and look out for their health and well being. They will notice you genuinely care about them and probably perform better.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell

4. Keep your soldiers informed – Tell those you follow you what your plans are, accept their insight and suggestions, make them a part of the planning.

“We must open the doors of opportunity.  But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

5. Set the example – In everything you do you must do it well and set a good example.

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Make sure you give clear instructions, ask for feedback on what your followers think you said.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Tony Robbins

7. Train your soldiers as a team – Create community and teamwork.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

8. Make sound and timely decisions – Look at the options and then make the best choice.

“If a decision-making process is flawed and dysfunctional, decisions will go awry.” – Carly Fiorina

9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Delegate certain jobs and tasks, training up new leaders.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important that hiring and developing people.  At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” – Larry Bossidy

10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Align strengths with responsibilities.

“The key to any game is to use your strengths” – Paul Westphal

11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions –Taking responsibility for things is a key trait of a leader

Success on any major scale require you to accept responsibility…In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”Michael Korda

Leaders: Faced with an ethical dilemma?

ethics picture Potter StewartHow do you lead when you are faced with a decision where the option that works in favor of the bottom line is not the most ethical?  Here are three thoughts that will lead you to the right decision:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, former said, “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”  A man who invested twenty-three years of his life deciding cases on the foundation of law, had strong opinions on doing the right thing not just the lawful thing. 

Never decide what you should do based on what you can do – it’s not the same.  Your decisions should always be based on what is right for all involved.  This is not to say that everyone will like your decision.  But if you can say you were honest and forthright in your dealings and provided opportunity for everyone to succeed, than you did what you should.

You’re not just in this for the money – it’s about the people.  Singularly focusing on maximizing short term profits is not the sole intent of business.  Are you providing a balanced life for your employees?  Are you giving back to the community in which you conduct business?  Are you’re shareholders proud to be associated with your company? You could even ask if people are seen wearing t-shirts with your company logo embroidered on it – now that says something.  What is the total impact of your company’s existence?

 “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”­ – Henry Ford

 Short term gain achieved with less than ethical behavior will lead to long term failure.  Never underestimate the memory of people who were impacted by unethical decisions – either benefiting or losing in the end.  No matter the outcome, you will have lost the trust and confidence of everyone involved.  If you made an unethical choice in this area, what’s to stop you from making an unethical choice somewhere else?

 “If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, how do you lead when you are faced with a decision where the option that works in favor of the bottom line is not the most ethical? You make the ethical decision – end of story.

The Four Obstacles to Change

obstacles - Michael JordanAs a leader you will experience obstacles that may cause you to veer off your vision unless you have plans to move around them or through them.

The obstacles you will face as a leader are not physical impediments, but the responses of some of the people around you whose lives are being changed. If you pay attention you will see the obstacles coming and be able to take action to avoid running into them or being stopped by them.

According to Dr. James Belasco, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” Large changes, like moving from where your team is now to where your vision will take them, require giving up a lot. Remain calm when people challenge your vision. Recognize that it isn’t personal; it is a natural response to change.

There are four obstacles that emerge in an attempt to stop or slow down change in the people’s response to change. Your particular plan for continued success will differ slightly for each of these four responses but your theme will remain the same: focus on your vision. Automobile industry pioneer Henry Ford had this same idea in mind when he said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

The first response to change is fear of failure. In this response, there will be doubt cast over the possibility that your vision will work. Comments will be made about your vision and your ability to deliver your vision. You can recognize this response by comments such as “This has been tried before and it didn’t work,” or “He has never led a group this large, I am not sure he can do this.”

When this response occurs, don’t spend your time debating when comments are made; instead invest your time achieving your quick wins, one at a time. There is no better way to remove doubt or fear than through the observation of success.

The second response to change is forced failure. In this response, there will be action taken to impede any progress on your vision and derail the train of success you have set in motion. This response can come in the form of intentionally missed or incorrectly completed assignments. You may also see that one or more people will refuse to agree on the next steps, but instead will want to debate the solution endlessly.

Take each person responding in this way aside and discuss their response one-on-one. Acknowledge and validate their fear of the change that is occurring, and reassure them that your vision will create success for everyone, including them. Finish the conversation by reaffirming your commitment to your vision with a promise to not let their actions interfere with the success of the rest of the team. Once your team knows that you are committed to their success, they will commit to your vision.

The third response to change is false friendship. In this response, your attention will be drawn to other activities in an attempt to take the focus away from your vision. Statements that start with “Let me tell you as a friend” or “No one can do this as you can” are frequently meant to divert your efforts to areas away from your vision.

Your time is limited and should be invested in achieving the purpose and vision of your team. If the suggestion or request does not bring you closer to success, return your focus to your vision and proceed. Don’t let flattery cause you to forget your focus.

The fourth and final response to change is false facts. In this response, your intentions will be challenged through statements that misrepresent the truth in order to convince others not to follow your vision. For your vision to be successful, your team must believe in your intentions. Your team will turn to you for an answer to these claims.

Do not argue or spend time trying to prevent these challenges from occurring. Instead admonish the challenger and demonstrate your intentions by recounting the success of the team and moving forward to further success. The proof of your character comes through in the lives of those on whom you have an impact.

Leaders: Do you have healthy competition?

competition with myselfThere is nothing wrong with being competitive.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to win.  It’s how you go about it that makes competition healthy or not.

Healthy competition focuses on improving yourself and as Bill Walsh said, “Letting the score take care of itself.” Unhealthy competition focuses only on defeating others, and looks for methods to accomplish just that.

Healthy competition provides for positive outcomes beyond the short term success of winning any one game or medal in sports; and any one client or contract in business.

Here are the three different ways that healthy competition improves your chances for long term success:

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With opportunities come obstacles – here’s the four you will always face

obstaclesAs a leader you will experience obstacles that may cause you to veer off your vision unless you have plans to move around them or through them.

The obstacles you will face as a leader are not physical impediments, but the responses of some of the people around you whose lives are being changed.  If you pay attention you will see the obstacles coming and be able to take action to avoid running into them or being stopped by them.

Read More…

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