Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

Over the last three years, I’ve asked hundreds of business owners this question:

What’s Been Harder in Your Business Than You Expected?

More than 95% of the time, the answer was immediate and unequivocal:

The People!

Jason Colleen owns Colleen Concrete and when I interviewed him he employed about 50 people.  Jason’s response to the question captured the essence of what I heard over and over again.  He said,

“I didn’t expect so many headaches to come from the employees.  Every little problem they have somehow becomes my problem.  People are just so high maintenance.”

Dealing with employees seems to be a universal challenge.  The truth is, people have issues and the more employees you have, the more issues you have.  But there’s another truth as well, and that is:

Great Companies Grow One Person at a Time

Or more precisely, great companies grow one great person at a time.  One of the things I’ve discovered in my own business and in the experience of the owners I’ve interviewed is that you can’t stack enough good people up to make a great one.  Good simply isn’t good enough.  Great people are far more likely than good people to do three things on a consistent basis:

  1. Initiate: Fundamentally, initiative is thought or action that is not prompted by others.  It’s the ability to assess independently and the willingness to take charge before others do.  The soul of initiative is an intensely active engagement – engagement with the company, client, problem or opportunity.  Initiative requires thought, which as Henry Ford said, is probably the hardest work we do.
  2. Stretch: Stretch is about setting your sights higher, much higher, than what seems reasonably achievable. Unless there is a critical mass of people in your company that are willing to reach for incredible, you’ll never achieve incredible.  When you stretch, even if you fall a bit short of incredible, you will inevitably wind up doing better than you would have if you didn’t stretch.
  3. Grow: Employees usually have an expectation that you’ll pay them more next year than you paid them this year.  But why would you?  The only logical reason would be that they contribute more next year than they did this year.  Great employees get that.  They’re always looking for ways to make themselves more valuable.  They improve their skills; they learn how to use new tools; they take classes to expand their knowledge.

That’s what great people look like.  Now, I’m not saying these great people won’t also have some issues.  But if I have to deal with people issues, I’d prefer to be dealing with the issues of highly productive contributors as opposed to the issues of the mediocre, uninspired or disengaged.

With the horror of the Japanese tsunami catastrophe still unfolding, ask yourself this.  If there was a 9.0 scale earthquake in the city where you live and you managed to survive it, what would you do then?  Let’s suppose you cannot “shelter in place” (a FEMA term) because your apartment building is unlivable or gone.  A week goes by and no help arrives.  You are running out of the food and water you managed to gather up.  The power grid is down and you have seen no soldiers, police, fire fighters or power company repairmen.  There is no water coming from the faucets and criminals are looting the stores and roaming the streets.

Admittedly this is a very bad and unlikely scenario but the smartest thing you could do might be to get out into the farmland that surrounds many big cities and offer to work for food, shelter (even if just a place in the barn) and protection.  In the rural areas of most countries people still grow their own food and many even build their own homes.  Their one- or two-story buildings are more likely to survive a major quake than high rises and they will certainly know how to grow and preserve food to last a few years.  And at least in the US, they are likely to have guns to protect themselves and their neighbors (and hopefully any temporary lodgers like you).

Individual Responsibility & Accountability

The pioneering spirit that drove people westward in the 1800s, and founded towns across the plains all the way to the west coast, is still alive and well in this country.  And I come from that heritage – – – my dad said his family was so self-contained on the farm in West Virginia that except for the scarcity of flour, sugar and salt at the local store, they barely noticed the depression in the early 1930s.  They grew and stored everything they needed.  Even today there are two groups of mainly-rural Americans who are still this self-sufficient; those that need to be (due to poverty) and those that just want to be.  Let’s talk about the latter.

There is an amazing satisfaction that comes from being individually accountable and responsible for building/repairing things and growing food with your own two hands.  Some people grow their own food in the suburbs or on farms, usually starting out with vegetable gardens but sometimes extending to orchards and even farm animals such as chickens, sheep, hogs or cattle.  Still others repair their own cars, trucks and farm tractors.  Some people move “off the grid” entirely and build power generation (solar, wind, etc.) and power storage systems to run their basic lights and home appliances without a monthly electrical bill.

In many parts of the USA – – –  the West, the Midwest, far North-East and the South for example – – – self-reliance is a matter of cultural pride.  Farm kids are taught how to grow corn, beans and potatoes; to preserve food to last at least a year including canning vegetables, salt/sugar curing of meats, etc.; to kill and pluck a chicken; to get a diesel tractor restarted after it has run out of fuel; to sharpen a dull mower blade with a bench grinder; even to weld metal parts back together.  I was taught all these things as a kid and they have served me well through the years. I’ve added basic building skills such as forming and pouring concrete, building stud walls, wiring a room, laying shingles and hanging drywall.  As an airplane owner I’ve even learned to maintain an aircraft, changing oil and spark plugs and doing any number of other maintenance tasks permitted by the Feds and common sense.

Basic Skills

Going back to our hypothetical survival situation, there are LOTS of scenarios that could require you to improvise to survive. Some basic skills could mean the difference between surviving and not.  Even if you have only limited hands-on skills, here are some basic jobs you really need to master:

  • Safely jacking up your car/truck, removing a wheel, breaking-down a tire, installing a gooey rubber “plug” in a hole, remounting the tire and remounting the wheel on the car.  Yes I know AAA usually just tows the car for us and a garage mechanic plugs the hole, but what if neither the AAA nor the mechanic are around anymore, and escaping from danger (approaching weather, bad people, etc.) requires you to drive away?  You need to be able to do this yourself.
  • Know how to “dress” a fryer and I don’t mean put a small shirt and pants on it.  That means at least being able to cut it into leg, thigh and breast. Ideally once a year you should go to a farm, buy a freshly killed (beheaded) fryer, take it home and then pluck and then gut it, setting aside the heart and liver (aka giblets) for stewing.  If all hell breaks loose someday, you are thrust into a survival situation, and a chicken wonders across your path, you will be able to eat.  Let your kids 10 or older see how this is done.
  • Develop (or hone) basic camping skills: how to erect a tent and tie a few basic knots, how to use a whetstone to sharpen a kitchen/other knife and how to light propane/camp gas lanterns and stoves.  These stove skills could enable you to boil water so it becomes safe to drink, especially important since a person can go 14 days or so without food but only 3-5 days without water.
  • Know how to safely siphon fuel using only a 3 foot piece of rubber hose and your thumb or mouth.  (Do not email me about this being too dangerous to even try, because teenagers have been stealing gasoline this way for almost a hundred years.  Just don’t swallow!)
  • For a bunch of reasons, know how to shoot a rifle, shotgun and pistol. Go to a range, rent a gun if you don’t own one, and get an instructor to teach you basic weapons safety, handling and shooting.  This could save your life someday.
  • Throw a survival skills booklet – – – there are dozens of titles and styles – – – into the trunk of your car or into your closet at home.  Many pilots already get this training as part of their survival education or when in the military and other people get it in school through the Boy/Girl Scouts or 4H Clubs.  But a good refresher course and reference book would be a great gift idea for everyone.

You don’t need to move into a cabin in the wild and become a fully self-contained homesteader.  But adding a few basic skills will improve your self-confidence and your sense of self-reliance.

Donate Carefully

The Japanese people who are suffering terribly now desperately need our help.  But scams are appearing and even established charities are asking people to be careful how they give money.  For example please do not give to the Red Cross or other charity and earmark your contribution only for disaster relief in Japan.  This really ties their hands.  And to avoid being the victim of relief-scams, before you donate anything see these comments from the Maryland Attorney General

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation