A humorous look at the role of a leader in any organization. If you have ever been a leader, I’m sure you can relate to this quote from an anonymous author.
As nearly everyone knows, a leader has practically nothing to do except to decide what is to be done; tell somebody to do it; listen to reasons why it should not be done or why it should be done in a different way; follow up to see if the thing has been done; discover that it has not; inquire why; listen to excuses from the person who should have done it; follow up again to see if the thing has been done, only to discover that it has been done incorrectly; point out how it should have been done; conclude that as long as it has been done, it may as well be left where it is; wonder if it is not time to get rid of a person who cannot do a thing right; reflect that the person probably has a spouse and a large family, and any successor would be just as bad and maybe worse; consider how much simpler and better matters would be now if he had done it himself in the first place; reflect sadly that he could have done it right in twenty minutes, and, as things turned out, he has had to spend two days to find out why it has taken three weeks for somebody else to do it wrong.
Did you know that Lord Nelson, England’s famous naval hero, suffered from seasickness his entire life.
“I am ill every time it blows hard and nothing but my enthusiastic love for the profession keeps me one hour at sea.”
(See YouTube video: Lord Nelson Seasickness Letter in Tunbridge Wells.)
How could the man who destroyed Napoleon’s fleet lead men into battle when he himself was fighting a battle within himself? He did so by not only learning to live with his weakness – he learned to conquer it. And in so doing, he went on to become England’s greatest Naval hero.
Most of us have situations in our own lives that challenge us on a day to day basis. These may be physical or they may be psychological, but rest assured, everyone who has ever tried to accomplish anything in life has had to overcome their own personal seasickness.
Oftentimes it is a private war; carried on quietly within our own lives. But unlike heroes like Nelson, no one will celebrate our victories, no one will recognize our successes, and no one will pin a medal to our chest for winning. But even without the fanfare from others, nothing can dim the quiet satisfaction of knowing in our own hearts that we did not give up!
A hopelessly lost salesman came upon a farm house where the owner was rocking away on his porch. Late and desperate to get back on the road he stopped to ask for directions.
“Take the dirt road in the direction that the sun sets; keep going until you go past the old post office. Make a left after you drive past the broken down tractor that them Taylor boys left a sittin’ there,” explained the farmer. “Keep a goin’ a bit more until you pass the old sawmill, …” he continued but was interrupted by his old hound dog who let out a rather painful groan.
“Aroooogh,” moaned the dog.
The farmer continued, “…once you get past old McGreevy’s farm, make another left, and …”
“Arooooooogh”… once again, the dog lets out a painful moan.
“Excuse me,” asked the salesman, “but is there something wrong with your dog?”
The farmer looked down at the dog, paused a second, and then replied, “Naw, he’s just lying thar on a nail”. “Wait a minute,” asked the puzzled salesperson, “if he is lying on a nail, why doesn’t he just get up?” Without missing a beat, the farmer said matter of factly, “Don’t hurt enough to get up, just to complain about it…”
Moral: How many times have you criticized someone for how they are doing something? How many problems have you solved with your friends over beers at the local pub? How often do you feel like you have a better idea? Well, stop complaining about it and do something about it!
Remember: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
While it brought billions into Facebook’s coffers, one could hardly call the first day of trading a success. They opened at $38/share and ended up the day at $38.27 (a gain of less than 1%).
The only reason why their stock didn’t dip below the opening price was because they were being propped up by bankers who poured in millions every time the stock threatened to go below $38/share. In fact, the stock price was a flat $38/share a mere 30 seconds before the closing bell before the bankers once again jumped in to help save “Face”. (See “How Facebook’s Bankers Saved an IPO, Kept Shares Above $38” for more information.)
They say that people vote with their pocket books. Based on first day of trading, Facebook is ready to be voted out of office. Is this indicative of social media sites, in general or are people getting tired of Facebook?
My daughter said something quite profound when I told her about what happened. She said, “Dad, it’s just a web site. People get tired of it and they go elsewhere.” Wow, so Facebook may be subject to the same fate suffered by mega-giant portals like AOL, Yahoo, and Netscape? Maybe that’s why sites like Pinterest are trending upwards while Facebook is trending down.
Is it possible that people are getting tired of Facebook not adding anything more to their life than just a time-suck?
While reading the book, I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59, I stumbled on a question that Sergey Brin asked of his marketing folks. It really got me to think about how we look at corporate costs.
Think for a second, what is the biggest expense that a company can incur? Is it facilities cost, equipment leases, or big-ticket purchases? Is it health care, taxes, or employee salaries. It must be salaries and benefits, right? That is what has been preached to me from well-meaning CFOs.
Wrong! The single largest expense a company can incur is “opportunity cost” and it can literally make or break a company.
(Sorry, I set you up.)
Opportunity cost can be defined as the ‘profit foregone by selecting one alternative over another. It is the net return that could be realized if a resource were put to its next best use. It is “what we give up” from “the road not taken.”‘
It is like I try to teach my kids, every day you make decisions to do (or not do) something. When you decide to do one thing, you are consciously (or subconsciously) deciding NOT to do something else. It is the consequences of those decisions that directly impact opportunity cost. In the case of companies, every action taken (or not taken) has an affect on the bottom line.
It is the phone call that is not made.
It is the product that is not shipped.
It is the project that is not completed.
It is the process that is not managed.
It is the follow-up that is not performed.
It is the questions that were not asked.
All of these have a direct impact on business either immediately or down the road – but they definitely have an impact.
Thinking in terms of opportunity costs takes a different mindset; one that is not necessarily natural to most people. But considering it in our daily actions can make all the difference in the success or failure of a company.
OK, so as I wrote this, I was also preaching to myself, but I couldn’t miss the “opportunity” to put it out there.