The Answers are on the
by Paul B. Thornton
W. Clement Stone began as a shoeshine boy and became a multimillionaire.
He credits his success to three words: Do It Now. He required everyone
who worked for him to write those words on index cards and post them in their
The sayings and quotes business leaders post on their desk or office wall
often represent a guiding principle they have followed to achieve success.
Here are some of my favorites.
- "Take Care of the Customer or Someone Else Will" - Sign in the
office of the general manager of a small ice cream store.
Change from being "boss focused" to "customer focused." Bosses are important,
but customers are key. Job security is not something the company president
gives you-it's something that customers provide. When customers see how
motivated you are to understand their needs and provide great products and
service, they continue to place orders, and that's what gives you job security.
- "Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible" - Sign in the office of
T. J. Rodgers, founder and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor.
Remember the old advice that goals should be challenging but attainable.
No one ever said, "set impossible goals." When impossible targets are set
you must think of totally new and different ways of getting the job done.
If you had to increase your productivity by 30% what would you do? "Pressing
the pedal harder" - doing more of the same - won't get you there. An impossible
demand forces you to rethink everything. Question old assumptions and methods.
Quantum leaps in performance require creativity and innovation.
- "Best is the Enemy of Better" - Sign on the office wall of a
middle manager at Milliken Company.
Change from thinking "best" to thinking "better." When you think you have
the best training program, the best technology, the best anything - what
happens? You get complacent. You stop questioning and trying to improve
your product or service. By definition, continuous improvement is not a
one-time event. To make this point, an operations director begins his weekly
staffing meeting with this question: "OK, folks, what records did you set
last week? If you didn't break records, you didn't improve." That challenge
sends a clear message and keeps people energized and focused on improving
- "Insanity is Hoping for Different Results, While Continuing to do
the Same Thing." - Sign seen in several cubicles and manager's offices.
Just "hoping" isn't enough. Change is needed. The ability to change the
way you operate to match the changing needs of customers is a prerequisite
for survival in the marketplace. Keep a focus on the business reasons why
the change is needed. Establish a deadline to begin the new behavior. Announce
publicly the change(s) you are making and why. Reward yourself after you
have achieved initial success.
- "There was an Important Job to be Done and Everybody was Asked to
do it. Everyone was Sure Somebody Would do it. Anybody Could Have Done it.
But Nobody Did." - Sign on the office wall of a middle manager at the
former Hamilton Standard Division of United Technologies Corporation.
Communication breakdowns cost time, effort, and money. Words like "everybody,"
"somebody," and "anybody" are vague and usually produce confusion. Be specific.
For best results, define and get agreement on who is responsible for what
actions. Sometimes it's wise to define responsibilities in writing as well
as discuss them verbally.
- "Benchmark the Best!" - Sign on the desk of a senior manager
at a large aerospace company.
Sam Walton said that he spent more time in his competitors' stores than
they did. He readily admits that many of his best ideas came from benchmarking.
However, just imitating the best won't put you at the head of the pack.
Benchmarking starts by having the right attitude. Organizational psychologist
Carla O'Dell states that you must be humble enough to admit that someone
else is better at something and wise enough to learn from them.
- "Successful People are the Few Who Focus in and Follow Through"
- Sign in the office of Stew Leonard, Jr., President, Stew Leonard's Dairy.
Focus and follow through are important ingredients of success. Lacking focus,
some people don't see the target or get distracted easily. Follow through
on your commitments. Remember how you felt when the repairman said he would
be at your house at 9a.m., but didn't show up until 3 p.m.! Nothing impresses
a customer more than someone who keeps promises.
- "'There is Very Little Difference in People, But that Little Difference
Makes a Big Difference. The Little Difference is Attitude. The Big Difference
is Whether it is Positive or Negative' - W. Clement Stone" - Sign in
the office of the former President of Security Services Company'
Yes, attitude is still big. Positive people see opportunity in every situation.
Negative people see doom and gloom. Positive people create energy when they
describe what's possible and take action to pursue their goals.
- "Practice, then Preach" - Sign in the office of a former Executive
Vice President at The Travelers.
Set the example. Walk the talk. When you do that you earn credibility and
the opportunity to influence others.
- "Childlike Qualities We Should All Keep - Curiosity, Playfulness,
and Fun" - Sign in my office.
The next time you're at the playground, observe the children. They are curious
and approach each situation with a sense of wonder and freshness. They have
no baggage or preconceived ideas. Lighten up. Have fun. Most of us aren't
doing brain surgery.
What are your guiding principles? Do you have them posted on your office
wall? When you visit business associates, customers, suppliers, and competitors,
check out what's posted in their work areas. These nuggets of gold may give
you additional ideas about how to achieve your business and career goals.
Paul B. Thornton is the author of numerous articles and six management/leadership
books. The second edition of his latest book, The Triangles of Management
and Leadership is available at llumina.com, amazon.com, and bn.com. His
company, Be The Leader Associates, designs and delivers management and leadership
programs. His e-mail address is PThornton@stcc.mass.edu
by Paul Thornton | Many more articles in
Creative Leadership in
The CEO Refresher Archives