Mac's Maxims

The Sooner One Gets "IT", the Happier They Will Be

EBITDA or Die!

Everything is a Trust, Respect or Confidence Issue

Remember: Be Kind


The Sooner One Gets "IT", the Happier They Will Be

I've been involved with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. When I was a Scoutmaster I had charge over twenty-nine 12-13-year-old boys. I was tasked with nurturing and molding their young minds to help them become better human beings. I took my role very seriously and tried to magnify my calling to the best of my ability.

One night, at one of our monthly campouts, as we were all sitting around the campfire, I asked my boys an open-ended question: "At what age do people typically tend to get it?" I didn't explain what I meant by "it." I wanted to see if they, themselves, got it.

Wisely, the boys said there is no specific age when people get it. Some people, they concluded, never get it. They also suggested that some people get it at an early age and others only catch on late in their life. They surmised there are many people who only get it after a life changing or significant emotional experience that caused the person to reflect upon one's life.

I then asked: "Who do you feel are the happiest in this life – those who get it, or those who don't?" They all agreed people who get it are better off than those who don't. They agreed that the ones who don't get it end up struggling in life.

Finally, I asked these highly astute young men to tell me what the "its" are in life that people need to get if they want to be happy.

After a very interesting philosophical discussion they concluded there is an "it" in every element of life. There is an "it" in school; and those who figure it out do better scholastically than those who struggle or rebel against "it."

They also concluded there is an "it" at home and in the family. Those who know it and do it have a happy home and loving family, while those who struggle or rebel against the "it" of healthy family relationships have a difficult home life. And, they assumed, there must be an "it" at work that, when understood and adhered to, leads to a happy and successful career.

There is an "it" in every business. The key to success is figuring "it" out and doing "it". Those who don't get "it" or who fight against "it" are those who struggle the most at work.

Managers have the responsibility of helping their employees to get "it." The main purpose of identifying what you want from your employees is to help employees get the "it" of work – the reason why the company exists and why they exist as an employee. The sooner employees start fulfilling their reason for existing, the happier and more successful they will be in their career.

EBITDA or Die!

A few years ago a client of mine, who is the CEO of a large casino gaming company, was bemoaning the fact that several of the General Managers at his casino properties didn't seem to grasp the key elements of their leadership role. He felt they weren't focused on the thing that matters most.

"What?" I said. "You mean they don't get EBITDA or Die?"

The CEO's eyes grew wide. "That's it!" he exclaimed. "That's it exactly! They don't realize they need to make the numbers. They don't get that their job depends on the profitability of their business!"

It's sad that some managers – even executives – don't understand why they exist.

There are only two reasons why you exist as a manager in an organization – to increase revenue and to reduce costs. You exist to improve the profitability of your organization. Every action you take should either drive more revenue to the business or drive costs out of the business. Nothing else matters.

Many mangers argue against this premise. They say there are less cold, and more altruistic, reasons for why a manager exists, such as to provide a quality work environment, to support employees, to deliver exceptional customer service, to keep employees happy, etc.

But if we follow the logic of their argument to its ultimate conclusion we see each of their objections are merely means to the two overarching purposes of increasing revenue and reducing costs. For example, the reason why customer service is important is to attract and retain customers. The reason why a company wants to attract and retain customers is to increase the company's revenue. And, delivering exceptional service creates loyal customers, thereby reducing marketing costs because these loyal customers return again and again on their own.

Similarly, the reason why a manager should strive to keep employees happy is so the workers will be more productive. The reason why the company wants the employees to be more productive is so they will produce more. The reason for producing more is to create more products or deliver more services, thereby increasing revenue. And, the more productive the workers are, the less number of workers are needed; thus reducing labor costs.

Employees, too, exist to increase the revenue and reduce the costs of their employer. That is how one guarantees his or her existence as an employee. The more an employee – or manger or executive – does to improve the profitability of the company, the more valuable they are to the organization. People who get why they exist tend to stay in existence.

Everything is a Trust, Respect or Confidence Issue

Think back to the last time you had a conflict with your boss, an employee, your spouse or your kids. What were you upset about? What did you talk about? What was the real issue?

People spend a lot of time arguing about surface issues without ever getting to the heart of the matter. Managers counsel employees regarding their tardiness. Wives nag husbands to help out more around the house. Parents berate a child for poor grades in school. But these aren't the real issues.

Everything conflict is a trust, respect or confidence issue. It's not the tardiness of an employee that's upsetting; it's the impact the lateness has on the manager's trust, respect or confidence in the worker that is so frustrating. It's not the fact that the husband doesn't wash the dishes that upsets the wife; it's the disrespect he shows by not helping her out. It's not the poor grades that concern parents; it's the lack of confidence they have in a successful future for that child if he or she doesn't get a good education.

Again, think about the last time you were in conflict with someone. You probably spent most of your time talking – or arguing – about a specific object or behavior. But it's not the behavior that is upsetting; it's how that behavior impacts trust, respect and confidence between you and that person. It's not the object that is the issue; it's how that object reflects the level of trust, respect and confidence between you and that individual. Everything is a trust, respect or confidence issue.

If you want to resolve your differences with another person or get them to change their behavior, you have to stop talking about surface issues and address the real issues of trust, respect and confidence. You need to use these words in your conversations. A missed deadline, for example, is not about a specific date on a calendar; it's about whether a person can be trusted to deliver on time. The tone of one's voice is not about pitch or inflection; it's about whether a person feels respected or disrespected by the way another person talks. The number of letters of accreditation behind a doctor's name is not what matters; it's whether a patient can have confidence that the surgery will be performed correctly.

When your sixteen-year-old son or daughter wants to borrow the car, it is not a car issue. So stop talking about the car. Every element in the discussion about the car is directly related to trust, respect and confidence. Both the parent and the teenager have issues of trust, respect and confidence that must be addressed for both parties to be completely at ease when the sixteen-year-old drives away.

Everything in this life is a trust, respect or confidence issue. What you do, and how you do it, either increases trust, respect and confidence, or it diminishes it. So start talking about the things that really matter rather than the surface issues that are not the real problem.

Remember: Be Kind

One of the reasons why people fear soliciting feedback from a boss, spouse or child is they are afraid of what will be said. They're afraid the feedback will be overwhelmingly negative.

I've been traveling for my business for the last 35 years. Some years I've traveled almost 80 percent of my time. My son is 28 years old. That means, at times, I have missed 80 percent of his life.

When my son was eight year's old I greatly feared that I was a horrible father. Because of my travel schedule I wasn't doing many of things "normal" fathers do. I wasn't there for my son's Cub Scout activities. I didn't attend his T-ball games. I missed his school programs and parent-teacher conferences. And when I got home on weekends I was too exhausted to take him camping or fishing.

One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room when I realized what a lousy father I must be. I wanted to be better. I wanted my son to know that I loved him more than anything else. I wanted to do whatever my son needed me to do for him in order for him to feel I was a good dad. But I realized, only my son could tell whether I was a good dad or not. That meant I would have to ask him. But I was afraid if I asked for feedback regarding my fatherly duties, he would unload on me and tell me how horrible I was. It took me several weeks before I worked up the courage to solicit my son's opinion about me.

Then, one quiet night, I sat on my son's bed and asked him whether I was a good dad. He said yes. But I knew that was just a programed response. So I asked him to tell me what characteristics, qualities or actions would indicate to him that I truly was a good dad. I was prepared for him to rattle off all of the numerous things that good dads do that I wasn't doing because of my travel schedule. But he didn't. Instead he told me about the good things I already was doing. He told me about how he felt loved because of the quality time we spent together, limited as it was. Then, ever so gently, he mentioned a few, minor things I could do to be an even better dad.

That night I learned a great lesson about feedback from my son. I learned that whenever you give someone feedback you need to remember to be kind. People fear receiving feedback because they're afraid to be dumped on with a laundry list of things they have to do to improve. People can't take a bunch of negative feedback. They can only handle one or two suggestions of where they can improve. My son, at age eight, knew his dad needed kindness instead of criticism. He knew he had more chance of me improving as a dad if he didn't tear me down by pointing out my failures. Instead he built me up, and then gave me a couple of simple things I could do to be better.