Michael Willard, writer, painter, columnist, entrepreneur
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Chapter Nine

The Cuddly Curmudgeon (Loyalty Continued)

If communication were merely about a note sent out in the morning, then any nincompoop who could string a few words together would be a descent Silverback.

It isn't. Communication is about face-to-face time, not in the touchy feely way, but in the truly interested manner of a concerned manager. Communications takes work; often it is effortless work, but work nonetheless. It is a concentrated effort to connect each day with employees with whom you spend much of your waking life.

You need to be a sociologist and a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a psychic. You have to be the Good Humor man and a cheerleader. You need to know how to deliver bad news without saying the sky is falling. Moreover, when the sky is falling, you're the one who has to show such determination and confidence that your team will believe it is merely a summer thunderstorm. It helps also to have been a fairgrounds carnie and to have run with the bulls in Pamplona. I sense a question from the audience. You sir, yes you in the first row.

Oh, you say this works in a tiny organization of less than 100 people, but you manage several thousand in several cities. Good question. Easy answer. Think of the Internet as your personal handshake with every employee, and use it liberally. You just cast a little wider net with your Barnum & Bailey Inc. Notes, but please, dumb it down such that it doesn't read like a company's internal newsletter. Make it as personal as feasible.

Next question.
Is walk-around management with those 2,000 people in five offices really possible? Don't get your undies in a bunch. It's not that big a deal.

What would you do if you were a senator from West Virginia, a rather small state but still with 1.8 million people?

Be a politician. Follow closely the activities in each office, and look for opportunities to write a note to an employee about his or her work, maybe handwritten, maybe through the Internet. On occasion, pick up the telephone and call. It will startle the bejesus out of Mike from Middle Management, but Mike will be impressed you noticed his work, and your loyalty barometer will rise accordingly. More important, he will tell everyone in the office about the call he received from the boss out of the blue yonder. Look for the opportunity to surprise.

I didn't mention West Virginia by accident. For eight years I worked as a top aide to the U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, the man who much of that time controlled everything from the flow of legislation to the temperature in the Senate side of the Capitol Building. Sen. Robert Byrd was one of the busiest people I have ever met, with national and home state responsibilities and constituencies. Each night he took a list home of people with whom he could touch base, whether a newspaper editor, a strong supporter in a county, or perhaps just a constituent whose problem had been brought to his attention. His constituent relations were considered legendary - and he treated his employees fairly, as well.

On the other hand, if you are a distant boss, seemingly and haughtily above the sausage-makers, you will wander forever in the land of the doomed. Even a King stands a good chance of losing his head if he tries to assume leadership. Leadership must be given, never assumed. On occasion, I have heard people in leadership brag about how sparingly they give praise or even words of appreciation. They utter macho phrases like "it's not my job to be liked." That, my friend, is dumb, though perhaps it worked in some sweatshop at the beginning of the industrial revolution. These are the people who are always saying, "I'll have my girl call your girl."

Speaking of the company's internal newsletter, take personal charge of it. This doesn't mean you write the stories, layout the pages and oversee the production. It does mean that you not only know what goes in it, but you set the tone of it. All should know you are the publisher and the chief has cooked up the information that goes into publication. If you've lost control of communications in your company and you are the CEO, take it back. It is one of the most leadership important tools you have.

I alluded earlier to those motivational sayings that adorn the walls of many corporations. You know, the ones that look as if they were purchased at the same trading post that sells velvet Elvis blankets and paintings with dogs in business suits playing cards. Lose them. Do you really want your employees laughing behind your back? The other day I read on the bottom of someone's e-mail: "I Will Meet My Daily Objective Set By the QURE Standard." I changed the wording slightly so as not to embarrass a friend and a client, but doesn't this sound like an old Soviet boss urging the proletariat to meet a five-year plan?

There were 120 employees in the Washington, D.C. office of a previous agency where I worked. Less than 10 remained a dozen years later, though a few have moved on to other cities within the system. In the advertising and public relations businesses, the employer and the employees generally have about the same amount of loyalty, which is about the same as Elizabeth Taylor had to her minor category husbands.

I received a letter from a colleague the other day. He was leaving a company after a dozen years; the reason he was given was that the company didn't have a place for him in London following his assignment in New York. This fellow spoke with an English accent. He drank tea and ate crumpets. He actually knew the rules of cricket. By God, he was a real Englishman. Why wouldn't they welcome him back with open arms and a bottle of Dom Perignon in a genuine leather case and delivered by a three slightly plump but still naked nymphs. After a dozen years of stewardship--unless a recent falling down drunk--one would think this fellow would have tenure. He seemed to be respected by all who worked with him on various client assignments.

As a silverback manager, I would have moved heaven and earth to make this English fellow seem at home in my company for one simple reason: I had already made a considerable investment, one that cost thousands of dollars in corporate training, company culture assimilation, and, of course, the fact of knowing someone who can get good tickets to Wimbledon. A Hay Group report suggests that replacing professional employees can cost as much as 18 months in salary, which, as the late Sen. Everett Dirkson use to say, "A million here, a million there, and pretty soon we're talking about real money."

The Invisible Bond

I am a cuddly curmudgeon. I believe that there is an unwritten contract - aside from any written contract - between professional employees and the big chief, or whatever the CEO or owner is called. This unwritten bond has various off-the-road rules, primarily dealing with mutual respect. This road is paved with good intentions carried out and not the potholes of mistrust.

I realize this sounds high-minded, even Biblical, but somewhere along the line - particularly in public companies - there has been a breakdown in responsibilities from employer to professional employee and from professional employee to employer. Everyone is on the make, and for the wrong reasons. This has little to do with ambition, which is a good thing, and everything to do with greed, which is over-rated.

As I am writing this, I am thinking of a close friend who told me this weekend he was being released after about 20 years with the public relations agency with which I am familiar. He was simply too old at 61 and too expensive at, probably, several hundred thousand a year. Over the years, he has brought in millions of dollars to the company. He has dutifully hand-held and serviced with bedrock knowledge a major client. What were they thinking? This fellow may not win a track meet in a sprint, but in the idea Olympics he wins every time. He's the guy already in the showers when the young pup is wheezing across the finish line. This is not prejudice here, merely practicality. The dummy who made this decision had sawdust for brains.

On The Make

Right now, I am thinking of the Enron's Kenneth Lay, and the "perp walk" I saw him make on television a few years back. His hands were firmly clasped behind him with steel cuffs. The one-thing about false loyalty to a company, as we saw in the Enron situation, was how quickly senior employees turned on one another. It is interesting as well, that right up until the fall, the leadership of Enron was still exhorting their employees to hold on to their stock, manipulative and conspiratorial to the end. The late Mr. Lay's only redeeming characteristic was that he-unlike others in the leadership-did hold on to the stock, and saw his fortune reduced to a pittance. In this regard, he was in the same boat as the thousands of duped Enron employees. The difference, of course, was that he helped cause the mess, or at least that's what the Feds said.

Given a lack of loyalty, the most common discussion over the water fountain is who has the best executive recruiter. Everyone is looking to be traded to the Yankees. Employees have become more consumed about moving up than about moving toward the company goals. This, however, is not just the fault of the employee. It is the fault of the boss, the company, the CEO, the Board of Directors, the Chairman, the Chairman Emeritus and maybe even the long dead founder.

Many corporations have the collective intelligence of a pet rock. They show a lack of loyalty to professional employees that would be alarming if it were not so ludicrous. They look at the smallest of details and not overall talents. They institute such medieval systems as Quartile-ing, and ask other senior professionals to judge every employee below the highest levels, putting them into quartiles as to fitness for executive assignments. This is cruel and unusual punishment. It often leads to legions of Uriah Heeps, while talented but less political employees are tossed aside after sitting in the final fourth quartile for several months.

Age, as we have seen with my friend from the public relations industry, also is the great eliminator. Anyone 50 or over in the professional work force is in what I call the portfolio bubble. They are heading to the red zone, which is roughly defined as 60 and beyond. Even though surveys say these are the most loyal people to the company, the same surveys suggest the company doesn't return that loyalty. They are expensive, and are perceived to have lost a step or two in the old business game. Younger employers, often those on the verge of entering the portfolio bubble themselves, feel the need to trade the old veteran for the young southpaw out of Toledo. Hence, when the great Fortune 500 alphabet soup companies begin layoffs in a downturn, they look first to the aging managers. Age discrimination is obvious but more difficult to prove than mayhem by O.J. Simpson.

I have mentioned previously an employee of my company, Dr. Volodymyr Senchenko, who at 79 remains very active. In a downturn a few years ago, he would have been an obvious choice in shedding excess manpower. While he has a keen mind, he came up through Soviet times, and that heavy overcoat remains. He thinks like a Soviet. In the modern world of ultra light computers and Wi-FI Internet connections, the professor is a stranger. He writes out his assignments by hand and, since he doesn't speak English, they have to be translated and transcribed, therefore adding at least one more person to the process of work production.

However, I spoke earlier of an invisible bond. That bond is not created in the first month on the job, but builds up over time. The professor had been with us nearly 10 years, and wanted to continue working. The fact was, like many, he was supporting an extended family. When all the pluses and minuses were added up, a real world solution would be to send him into retirement. At my company, as you can see from some of the ideas put forth on in this book, we don't live in the real world. We live in the Willard World. It is a little wacky, sometimes inefficient, but one in which a fair profit is made. We felt we had an obligation to the professor, and that he would reward us in turn. That downturn was ten years ago. We survived to thrive. The professor is still with us, though now currently working from his home office. He contributes at least one story each month to the general interest Internet magazine we produce, The Ukrainian Observer, and he is a continuing resource in terms of third party contacts and information that will help us push a proposal over the finish line first.

Capacity and Billings

Many corporations talk in terms of capacity and billings and not value, and apply test tube formulas developed by business schools to an employee's performance. They substitute a mathematical equation for a human one. The most unpardonable sin is to let a recent business school graduate run rampant in your human resources department. Don't. Instead, hire a successful football coach or maybe a circus clown.

The international company with which I worked nine years ago in Ukraine would have never let me provide a pension for the family of a colleague who died suddenly while on the job. This is the Wild East. I did so anyway, and raised it when I bought the local office of the company. If we were owned, instead of being tethered through franchise agreements to various international companies, we would have far fewer employees, due to business school formulas about excess capacity versus billings.

Recently I came across a release from a corporation seeking employees. It spelled out the need for "qualified human capital". I don't know about you, but to me qualified human capital sounds like something you put on plants and is sold in burlap bags. I wouldn't want to work there. As Rick Nelson crooned in his signature song, "Garden Party", "If memories were all I had, I'd rather drive a truck." No wonder a 2003 study by the Walker group suggested that only 30 per cent of the employees in the United States are loyal. Their bosses are confusing them with turnip seeds by the gross.

To make up for all these unpardonable sins, the corporation has a company picnic, or maybe a night out at a ball game. Of course, there is also the annual Christmas Party. This is like a serial killer confessing his sins to a priest after every deed. It makes them feel good, but it really doesn't accomplish much. The campaign for loyalty is an everyday one, beginning at first light and ending when the lights go out. Moreover, strangely enough, while money is a factor, we are told by virtually every employee survey imaginable that it is not the main loyalty motivator. However, don't be stupid; it's right up there at the top.

After communication, I would have to list remuneration as the glue holding employee loyalty. We're not talking just salaries here, but the benefits employees receive, from vacation time to the employer contribution to 401K plans. The more creative you can be, the better, and it has often been said that a menu approach to benefits - where the employee picks his own perks - is a creative approach.

However, the trick is in demonstrating to the employee that benefits beyond those required by law are not entitlements. They are, in essence, extra pay for extra value. Those not giving the extra value in a professional atmosphere should probably be working at the Exxon station. That extra value is what sets one professional firm apart from the ordinary one, and it is the only way to win the competitive race.

The Loyalty Formula
So, the formula goes communication + remuneration + X = A loyal employee. Okay, I give up, what's the X? Actually, it is the most important element of loyalty and employee retention. It stands for worth, or, more precise, a feeling of self-worth, accomplishment and career progress.

If you are afraid of heights like I am, chances are you would not bungee jump from the world's highest suspension bridge for a pay raise that, after taxes, meant you would only take home an extra couple of hundred a month. However, if the Bungee Jump God were to raise the ante, and tell you that with one jump you not only set a world's record for Bungee Jumping but also would collect the Medal of Freedom and be enshrined in the in the Country Music Hall of Fame, you might have second thoughts. Hence, we have our "feeling of worth" standard of loyalty.

People need to feel wanted. They want to feel needed. They need to feel that the big Silverback thinks not just about the entire team, but also about them individually. And the only way I know to do this is to tell them, and tell them often. This goes contrary to the old-fashioned rule about giving praise sparingly. When I wrote an early novel, a person in the entertainment business for whom I had great respect read it, and said he really liked it. In fact, since he was in the movie making business, he even hinted at its future commercial possibilities. Before I had my first rejections from publishing companies, this little praise stirred and encouraged me to flail away at those typewriter keys (and it was a typewriter back then). In no time at all, I had dashed through a third of a second novel. Neither book has yet to be published, but a little praise had sent me into a writing fury.

Why, Why, Why?

Have we always been this unenlightened in the professional services field? Yes, or at least so it seems.

How is it that you know all the answers? I don't; I'm guessing from personal experience. But don't you think something has to be better than Neanderthal to the third power?

I blame a lot on the golden idol known as the stock market, a place where everybody wins or loses at the closing bell. Don't get me wrong. The market is a wonderful institution. It is a barometer for measuring the health and strength of businesses during various cycles. It is where people like you and me pull a chair up to the table each night and gamble that our chosen companies will end up winners at the end of the day. It is one of the most ingenious inventions of not only this century but of the ages. It can also be more exciting than a horse race.

However, we abuse and misuse the market. We see it as a sprint when we need to look at it through the eyes of the long-distance runner. When one's eye is constantly on the quarterly earnings report, one gets myopic. To cheer or to jeer a single report in the tableau of a 50-year old company seems rather silly. It also seems rather goofy for that company to make decisions based on three-month, six-month, 9-month or even one-year intervals. The British won virtually every skirmish in America's Revolutionary War, but the colonists at Yorktown won the war six years after Bunker Hill.

The leadership of most corporations simply has not sufficiently articulated long-term strategies. Sometimes they are challenged to think beyond the current day, even the current hour. On the other hand, employees want more from the corporation than the corporation is generally willing to give. He or she has no sense of delayed gratification. The note left from the executive recruiter is like a siren call. In essence, in many major corporations, the professional manager and the professional employee are at undeclared war with one another.

Some time ago I wrote down for a publication what I felt were necessary ingredients to good management of a company. For lack of a better business name, I called them "Beautiful Business Bromides".

1. When others are retreating, yell charge.
An economic downturn will send most companies scurrying like prairie dogs for the nearest hole. This is a big mistake, but it is a blunder made often by companies that can't see beyond the length of a blind man's cane. Think of the story about the frog in water that is slowly brought to a boil. Because the change in temperature is so gradual, the frog does not move. Eventually, it is too late, and the frog has literally croaked. This is what happens to companies when they retrench or standstill in a time of crisis.

A crisis, by its very nature, forces some change. Make it positive change. If one is to toss a Hail Mary pass, it is best done when the defenders are off the field. Double your advertising and PR budgets, he said, self-servingly. The fact is, though, the payoff is generally always greater than the expense. Besides, you'll have more fun and your employees will admire your crazy spunk.

This is exactly what happened to my company in the summer of 1998 when a 20-month economic crisis closed in on Russia and then Ukraine in a matter of weeks. The value of the currency dropped by 50 per cent, and businesses all around - including our competitors - were reducing wages and laying people off. We did neither. Instead, we kept salaries pegged to the dollar and assured our employees we had no plans to lay off anyone. We notified our clients that since we were all in a crisis, let's work together, and we partnered such that the impact of devaluation was minimal. We even launched new products. Of course, we lost a little money, but we were looking toward the horizon. When the crisis ended, we were a much stronger company and were even ready to open a new Moscow office.

2. When an employee says he is leaving if he doesn't get a pay raise, suggest he not let the door hit him in the butt on the way out.

Over the years, no matter how good an employer you are, people will leave. It is a sun-coming-up happening. If it is a valued person, and they are moving on to a non-competitive environment, wish them well and tell them you will keep their job open for a certain period should they have a change of heart. This is being overly generous; but at least they are not leaving to a competitor - with all your trade secrets on a compact disc.

However, if they are going to a competitor, then tell them the company was the Last Chance Saloon. Then, go out and hire someone better to fill the job, and pay him or her more. Believe me; it will make you feel good, even superior. Obviously, you would have (or should have) been paying the just departed employee his worth. Eventually, you will be feeling like a genius for getting rid of the guy.

3. Value ideas. Give credit.
The boss is often the boss because he can elevate the ideas of others to a higher level and can, in fact, turn that idea into a solid business platform. Be liberal in giving credit to the originator of an idea. You are the boss. The King of the Mountain. You look petty when you don't serve as an advocate for your employees' ideas. One of the best slogans one of my companies ever came up with was the idea of the office manager. It was for Road Kill Potato Chips. She wrote, "If it's been there more than a day, we let it lay."

4. Hire personally. Fire personally.

Hiring is rather easy, but a crapshoot. Generally, you take the advice of someone who knows the potential employee, and you also look at his or her track record. Forget the resume, except for a cursory glance that shows no great interruptions for prison time. The literary license that goes into a resume - which by the way is read on the average for 15 seconds - would put John Gresham to shame. If the professional job candidate were successful in previous positions, chances are they will keep on churning like the Energizer Bunny.

However, with hiring comes an equal amount of responsibility when it comes to firing the same person. This is something that really can't be delegated to the minor league vice president in the human resources department, no matter how many warm and fuzzy courses he took to make giving the ax seem less painful than buying snow tires.

I still feel badly about the time I was asked to dismiss someone who had recently been moved into my department at another agency. While I had not sufficient time to judge her abilities, the word came down from on high. She had to be let go. The stated reason was that she simply didn't pass muster, but really the reason was she had a personality conflict with the vindictive SOB who had been her previous superior. Exile to Elba was insufficient. He wanted her out of the company.

I called her into my office. She was bubbly, cute and had recently gotten married, all of which were characteristics unrelated to my assignment but weighed on me nonetheless. The moment I mentioned letting her go, a tear formed in her left eye, rolled down her cheek, and plopped on her white, spring dress. Then, quite suddenly, the quiet hurt turned into a river of tears and vocal wailing, the kind you hear after earthquakes in Turkey. I was not merely uncomfortable; I felt stupid. My courage went AWOL when I was asked by my boss to dismiss the lady. I should have said, "Do it yourself."

In a downturn, the costliest mistake possible is to panic and start letting people go. Chances are the rough patch is only a momentary glitch. Again, we all learn from mistakes, and my own are most vivid in my mind.

I called Caroline into the office to let her know I was laying her off. She was merely a courier, but did we really need a courier in a recession? She was rather stoic about it, but seemed to take a minute to catch her breath before replying. "I understand," she said, soulfully. "It's tough out there. My husband got laid off just yesterday." Before she could say another word, I told her to forget that the conversation ever took place. However, before the evening was out, she called me at home. "You meant to let me go," she said. "I understand. We will be fine." Within the next couple of months, while the economy had not rebounded, the company did, but by this time Caroline, a good, honest, hardworking employee-a keeper-- had found another job.

5. Respect both old and the young.

I would be just a suspicious of a business of only 20-somethings as I would a business of only 50 or 60-somethings. Aged is to be valued in business, likewise youth. I discovered a great filmmaker when he was only 20, giving him the opportunity to direct commercials in our company.

I would be really hypocritical if I did not truly believe in the above statement. In advertising, you learn to romance the product to the extent that it remains believable, even true. However, I wrote an entire book called The Portfolio Bubble: Surviving Professionally at 60 about the value of older people in professional positions, so long as they have truly made the decision that work is rather fun, and retirement rather dull.

6. Tolerate an occasional lapse into perceived incompetence.

This may seem a strange statement to many reading my writings for the first time. However, there is a second part to that equation. Never tolerate an unethical lapse. Mistakes are fixable; competence is teachable. Unethical behavior can be fatal, and can rarely be rehabilitated. In our office in Kyiv, we have a number of quotations on the wall. One is by Warren Buffet, and it goes: "If you lose money for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless." I try to set the ground rules early, and repeat them often. The old saw about the only thing you have is your reputation needs to be put up in lights - on Broadway, maybe even bounced off the clouds by some new fangled laser process. Your reputation keeps the business - the type business you want - coming through the door. An unethical misstep--amplified through rumor--can last forever. I know, Benjamin Franklin probably said that first, but I said it second.

7. Business is simple. If you take in more revenue than you spend, you are winning.

This one is even obvious to the folks in the human resources department. However, I will note it here because this is the second time I have written these passages. I included them in an even less ambitious project. The fact is that the only game one plays with a balance sheet is Russian roulette. Be honest with yourself. Don't hold on to a write off until it and you grow old, gray and wrinkled. You will eventually die, but the overstatement will become that lie writ large.

When I started my first business, I kept the names of the few clients and the revenue expected each month-definite, likely, possible, a long shot --written on the back of my monthly schedule I carried in my coat pocket. That list of clients today has grown from four or five to forty, but I continue to keep that list and a projection of revenue, updated every couple of days. Are there more scientific ways of tracking revenue? Of course, but this keeps me closer to the business.

8. If you consider your job to be work, then find another job.

Life is too short. I have had many jobs, but the only work I ever did was bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly on a Friday night. News reporting, politics, and the PR and ad business have always been like school recess. You spend half your life on the job. Do you really want it to be work?

Whenever I felt I was getting into a work situation, I put in my notice. As noted, I wrote poetic resignation letters, but they were "see you later" letters just the same. I never left a job not liking my boss. I simply didn't give that possibility a chance. Also, and this is important, I have advised employees that I thought it was time for them to move on, even without letting them go. There are certain situations when an employee simply outgrows an employer.

9. Finally, hire people who are better than you are.

And don't be paranoid about it. This is called leadership.

And speaking of leadership….

Selling Donuts and Other Sorrows

I was 12 when I landed my first job selling Flower's Donuts door-to-door. With some minor difficulties, I kept stray dogs and neighborhood bullies at bay as I plied my salesman's trade. At 18, I moved into management, and then my real troubles began. The year was 1963. I was honchoing a crew of four buddies in an effort to keep the ballparks at RAF Upper Heyford in tip-top shape for U.S. officers and enlisted men stationed at the military base.
I was in over my head. My young peers didn't want to recognize my authority. I was the guy who, after all, played on the same football team they did, and with them sneaked into the Officers Club to shoot pool after it had closed for the evening. Before too long, however, I had mastered a lesson of management: Psychology goes a lot further than intimidation, particularly if your arsenal of threats has the impact of soap bubbles.

If we did a good job, I convinced the Captain, my boss, we would make excellent umpires at the various softball games played on the ballparks we kept so neatly manicured. It is amazing the power of outstretched arms, a thumb stuck high in the air, and a shout in the direction of a full colonel who was positive he was safe, "YOURE OUT." Plus, we got $3 a game.
Hence comes my first rule of management, which I repeat once again: "Have fun and make a profit. If we make a profit and don't have fun, I don't want to be here. If we have fun and don't make a profit, I can't be here." It's poetic. Memorize it.

So, a few more Reality Bites from the big Silverback.

Reality Bite 1: There are always options. No matter how difficult the problem, rarely do difficult situations have a single solution. The first option might seem easiest, but it is not always the best one. It is the same with women (and, I assume, men), by the way.

Reality Bite 2: Be egalitarian in your thinking, but dictatorial in the administration of those thoughts. Your employees will respect you, rather than think you a patsy. This is slightly paternalistic. However, the fact is the best businesses are a little paternalistic. Lawyers, regulators and human resources folks should get over it.

Reality Bite 3: Politics is a mistress of business, as much as that of government. Remember to think to the third and fourth power, and not just to the immediate result. This is not higher math. It merely means thinking politically. Think three steps ahead, and not just of an immediate result. This will save money, time and embarrassment. Don't you get the feeling I am telling you things you learned in kindergarten and I, having bypassed rug rat school, have had to learn from experience?

Reality Bite 4: Chasing dreams is part and parcel of good management. However, be able to recognize a nightmare. There is nothing more foolish than thinking big, talking big and consistently failing because you lacked the resources, energy or plain stick-to-it concentration necessary to accomplish a goal. In other words, avoid the all hat and no cattle syndrome.

Reality Bite 5: Think about how an employee's wife or husband will react to a certain event, situation, new initiative, etc. that confronts the spouse. I want the wives, husbands and significant others of my employees to be proud of the work their mates are doing. If there are problems at home, the work will suffer. Help keep the home fires warm. This is one of those nuggets to which I didn't pay enough attention in marriage No. 1 and marriage No. 2. For example, it didn't help, when I was United Press International bureau chief in Kentucky, for the first wife to see one of my employees and his wife on television attending the Governor's gala ball, the event of the season. "Are you sure we weren't invited," she asked?

Reality Bite 6: Wake up everyday with the attitude you are going to win. Quite often you will lose, but it is the war that counts, not the battle. Woody Allen says 90 per cent of success is showing up. Just think what a little more effort and attitude could do.

Reality bite 7: Take calculated risks. You need the edge and your employees need the excitement of change. However, remember the other maxim: Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I've never bet the farm on a decision, though some thought maybe I had.

Reality Bite 8: Value age and experience. Never cast off an employee who wants to work because he or she reached a certain arbitrary age. Remember, retirement is an invention of the 20th Century. Famous heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey went to his Houston clinic when he was in his 90s, and operated on most days. Col. Harlan Sanders, the great Kentucky Fried Chicken entrepreneur with his 11 secret herbs and spices, didn't sell his first franchise until after he was 65 and a pensioner. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright had his most noted commissions after he was 60, including New York's Guggenheim Museum. Just a few months ago, I visited my old boss, Sen. Robert Byrd, who is 90 and still very active as chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee.

Reality Bite 9: Visualize. More is accomplished with daydreams than night dreams. Dream in Technicolor and Dolby Sound. Set aside a time of day just to think. I go for a walk in the park, and never fail to come back with a pocket full of ideas.

Reality Bite 10: Be decisive, but don't set arbitrary deadlines on making decisions that will impact the strategy of your company. Decisions often need time to cook. Don't make decisions in the heat of an argument. A cooling off period is needed. I admit that this has been a problem for me, as well as for many of us who can be rather volatile at times.

Reality Bite 11: Add to your life's portfolio. It will make you a better manager. At age 42, I took up stock cars as a hobby, and raced at Orlando Speed World. At age 49, I took up oil painting. At 51, with the advent of more information on the Internet, I began to take charge of my own investments. At 53, I became a grandfather, which I had nothing substantial to do with. At 54, I became a new father, which is amazing. At 58, I held a one-man art show, displaying more than 50 canvases at Kyiv's prestigious L-Art Gallery. After age 50, I wrote six books, one a novel. In the future, I know that something will be out there that interests me as much as work. Maybe tap dancing.

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