Winners' Wisdom
by Jim Stovall

The Credibility Crisis

We live in a world that in a few short decades has gone from “a person’s word is their bond” to “you can’t believe anything you hear.” In the course of one day in my office, via e-mail, fax, and unsolicited phone calls, I will be told that I have qualified for a $99 all-inclusive trip to Disney World; I may have already won $10 million; if I will order computer supplies, I will be given a free computer; a salesman wants to stop by for no more than 10 minutes to bring me a free gift; and dozens of other dubious offers. It has reached a point that, mentally, everything we are told is discounted and deluded to such an extent that it is virtually meaningless.

It is ironic that while trying to dictate this very column, I was interrupted by a phone call that I was forced to take because a rude woman insisted that it was regarding a lost or stolen credit card. My assistant put the call through to me; however, in reality, the woman was trying to sell me a credit card protection package that, according to her, would protect me if and when my credit card was lost or stolen.

If you can’t believe someone during the introduction or initial meeting, why would you ever want to have a personal or professional relationship with them? How can you ever trust anything they tell you? Whatever happened to under-sell and over-deliver?

One of my mentors told me when I was in my early 20s that the key to success in business is to always do what you say you are going to do. First, this will give you a reputation for honesty and integrity. Second, and maybe more importantly, if you know you are going to have to follow through on everything you say, you will be much more careful and cautious what you promise.

As we all know, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are people who are asking you to give them your money, your support, and your votes. These people want you to trust them to lead us into a troubled future, and they tell us with a straight face that they are going to lower taxes, cut spending, and increase services and benefits for everyone.

As you go through your day today, look for people who do what they say they are going to do. Allow them into your inner circle and reject everyone else. You will have a wonderful day and a wonderful life.

Fear and Respect

It is ironic that the people who most need to receive a message are often those least likely to hear it. Too often, we are a good judge of everyone’s character except our own. Unfortunately, we view everyone else in light of their results but view ourselves based on our good intentions. If you can find a few people in your personal and professional life who will be honest with you about your own performance, you are, indeed, fortunate. The most valuable people on any team are those who will be frank and honest with the leader.

There are two basic kinds of leaders – those who lead from fear and those who lead from respect. In the short run, both methods will appear to work; however, the only long term fuel that will propel a team to greatness is respect. You have probably heard about the old sign that was posted on a job site so that all the workers saw it daily. “Firings will continue until morale improves.” While this will generate a great deal of activity, it will not improve productivity. In fact, fear is the least effective long term human motivator.

People who fear for their jobs, careers, etc. will do the least they can to stand out from the crowd. If you lead by fear, you will get the letter of what you asked for but not the spirit of what you need. In order to get your team’s honesty, creativity, and maximum efforts, you must lead from respect. The only way to get your team to respect you is to demonstrate to them on a daily basis that you respect them.

At the point you are forced to deal with someone in your personal or professional life in the context of fear, you have already lost the battle and are on the verge of losing the war. Most people on a team want to perform at a high level. They feel the peer pressure of those around them and the momentum that team work creates. Threats of being fired or otherwise disciplined, except in extreme cases, take away all of that positive momentum and leave the team in confusion and fear.

People who are afraid quit thinking about their goals and start thinking about the consequences. There’s a big difference between succeeding and not failing. People who want to succeed will join hands with everyone on the team and multiply their efforts. On a good team, one plus one equals three. On a team full of fear one plus one equals one-and-a-half. People will point fingers and blame one another instead of solving problems and reaching the goal.

You have probably seen a basketball team enjoying a 20-point lead, trying to hold the ball and run out the clock. This strategy quite often fails because teams are built for success and to win, not to hold the ball in an attempt to not lose. As you go through your day today, respect those around you, and you will find a team worthy of any task before you.

Talking and Communicating

It has been said that we live in the communication age. I would certainly agree that technology has given us many new opportunities to communicate, but I fear that they are vastly overlooked and underutilized. Just because you are talking does not necessarily mean anyone’s listening. And even if they’re listening, it does not mean that you are communicating. In order to have true communication, two or more people must agree on terms and how those terms relate to everyone in the real world.

When I first started the Narrative Television Network, our entire corporate flow chart consisted of two people – Kathy Harper and me. You would think this would virtually ensure good communication given that there were only two of us; however, communication often broke down, and Kathy taught me many lessons on how two or more people cannot only talk and listen but truly communicate.

One of the most important lessons Kathy taught me regarding communication is the process of ranking a statement. The phrase “This is important” is heard millions of times in people’s business or personal lives each day. So while you may utter the phrase, “This is important” and while someone may, indeed, hear your words, you may have not necessarily communicated your thoughts.

Kathy taught me how to quantify statements numerically on a scale of 1 to 10. Taking the statement “This is important” numerically would work as follows. If someone came into your office or home and said I have something to talk about and “this is important,” you would understand that those words can mean nothing or everything. On a scale of 1 to 10, “This is important” at level 1 might mean “I have a thought or idea that I want to share with you. If you think it has merit, we can proceed. If not, I don’t really care.” At level 10, the phrase “This is important,” would mean “I have a life or death issue affecting our personal or professional future. This is vital to me to the extent that unless everyone can see this my way I will have to discontinue this relationship or affiliation.”

The term “love” is another generic misunderstanding waiting to happen. People use the word so loosely that within the context of one hour, someone might communicate they love baseball, they love hotdogs, they love a certain TV program, they love their dog, they love ice cream, or they love their child. While every statement may be accurate, the degree must be quantified if you are truly going to communicate.

As you go through your day today, don’t only ask, “What did you say?” Ask, “What did you mean when you said that?”

On the Same Page

All of us are a part of a team in our professional lives. You may think you are The Lone Ranger or an exception to this rule, but you’re not. As I write this column, it would seem to many that being a columnist is a one-person job. In reality, I am dictating these words to a very talented person who will then take my words--after she fixes punctuation and grammatical problems I create--and then she will send them to newspapers, magazines, and online publications literally around the globe.

There are other people at each of these sites who make sure they are typeset, printed, loaded into the proper electronic files, etc. In a professional sense, no man or woman is an island. Even if you work alone from your house, you have vendors, suppliers, contractors, as well as customers and clients.

Each of the people on your team must perform well for you to reach your potential. There are several elements to performing well as part of a team.

1. Each team member must understand their role and how it fits into the overall picture. They must be aware of expectations and deadlines as a part of the overall project or goal.

2. Each individual must understand their own personal success as a part of the team-experiencing corporate success. An individual football player may perform flawlessly, but without the coordinated efforts of the team, he will suffer failure and defeat.

3. Each team member must feel that their creativity is appreciated and their input is valued. There may be no better advice on performing a task than that which comes from the individual who constantly performs that single task.

4. Each team member must share in the victory or experience the defeat. There can be no individual success unless the team succeeds. Every piece of the pie must be valued.

As you go through your day today, consider all of the people on your team that you may have overlooked in the past. Realize that you are only as good as they make you. Understand that the vast majority of people want to be on a winning team, and they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Give them a place to fit and a structure where they feel secure and appreciated, and they will make you a superstar.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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