Michael Feuer

We’ve all seen it before, where co-workers in a company recognize a problem performer, but these same people can’t understand why the boss hasn’t yet taken action or has taken so long to come to grips with the issue.

Conversely, as the boss, how many times have you made what you considered to be an extremely difficult personnel decision and have done so only after protracted analysis, a fair measure of agony and more than an adequate amount of second guessing yourself?

Case in point: One of your top managers has hit the skids, and in your gut, you know that a change is needed. Fearing the worst, you play over and over in your mind the potential negative consequences that could occur if you were to fire this individual. Finally, after all else fails, you pull the trigger and decide to part ways with the onetime A player. Before you tell associates, you rehearse in your mind how you will explain your decision. Once you gather your lieutenants together and finally utter the previously unthinkable, the reaction is almost a unanimous, “What took you so long?”

After you breathe a sigh of relief, your team members start making not-so-subtle comments suggesting that they weren’t surprised, followed by a litany of examples of why your now fallen superstar wasn’t hacking it.

This begs a bigger question: Were you really the last one to realize that there was a problem? Furthermore, did it actually take you too long to make that final decision that, as they say in spy novels, this person was “beyond salvage”?

This provides a good opportunity for introspective analysis. The end result just might help you understand that you were not the last to know, but in fact, you may have been the first to recognize what was looming on the horizon.

Virtually every leader has to rely on experience, combined with instincts, to decide when to either cut and run or try to rectify a problem. Being an executive requires being a very good teacher. When a pupil is not measuring up, the first question is how can you help and what can you do to improve a person’s performance? Most everyone at one point in his or her career hits a rough spot, and with a bit of mentoring, a fair number of wayward employees can turn the corner and again blossom. Also, it’s more economical to at least try to turn someone around after investing time and money in developing the individual. After a certain period, the employee has gained valuable empirical knowledge about the ins and outs of the company and, just maybe, a little extra coaching can make the difference.

However, in some situations, your optimism for achieving Mother Teresa status through patient mentoring wanes, and you begin to come to grips with the fact that it’s time for a change. You then map out your what-if scenarios. Not only one but several. You ruminate over your game plan until you have the best probable solution locked and loaded in your mind for that moment when you have concluded that you’ve run out of road.

Most times, trying yet failing is not a bad thing; actually, it is a good thing and the way a responsible leader must approach an important human resource decision. You can never forget that you’re dealing with the life and livelihood of a person and his or her family, which can be adversely affected by the decision. Many top employees who veer off course and don’t work out were, at one time, effective and loyal contributors to the organization. It’s mandatory to make the effort not only to try to stem the negative tide of poor performance, but also to develop an alternative replacement and transition strategy. This takes time and can be a very solitary task depending on the level of the person to be replaced.

In reality, the boss knows in his heart of hearts before most, if not all, others when something ultimately has to give. Being the boss requires making the difficult decisions after meaningful deliberation and then living with them and making them work.

The boss the last to know? Highly unlikely. Instead, he probably is the first to know when the time to act was finally right.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Most of us sincerely want to be a better person, manager, spouse, significant other, parent, child or Indian chief. Certainly, good intentions and desire are the first steps in self-improvement. The second step is an introspective discovery process combined with a bit of discipline in order to make meaningful progress.

To get started, ask yourself several pointed questions. Has anyone ever made suggestions to you about your management or communication style? Maybe it was a boss or mentor, a good friend or an associate earnestly trying to give you a few constructive tips on how to improve. Best yet, it might have been self-discovery after you did something that did not quite measure up to your own expectations.

Reality is, for most of us, our strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses. As an example, if you're a type A, anal-retentive person who is detail-oriented to a fault and always crosses every T and dots every I, possibly this strength has morphed you into becoming a micromanager of others. Or, maybe you consider yourself a disciple of the great communicator, the late President Ronald Reagan, because you are a terrific speaker who can captivate the other person in one-on-one conversation or every individual in a large audience. The downside of this is maybe you're not a great listener because you fall in love with the sound of your voice and your words. This could translate into you talking too much and unintentionally giving the wrong impression of not being receptive to another person's point of view.

The list can go on and on. The trick, however, is to recognize what you are and what you're not, and then tweak your style for the greater good, helping not only yourself but also those with whom you interface by making yourself more effective and perhaps even a little easier to take.

Try this. Create two columns on a legal pad or spreadsheet and list all of the attributes you think you possess in terms of your management capabilities/style. Keep the list short and focus on what's important, as this is not an inventory of everything you've done or learned since the third grade. Once you've captured two, three or four key characteristics, in the next column record a corresponding set of those things you know don't help your cause.

Next, re-read this personal inventory of pros and cons and look for patterns. If you note, as an example, that you are incredibly disciplined and seldom give yourself any slack, see if you also jotted down on the detractor side of the ledger that people tend to think you push subordinates too hard without differentiating between what is mission-critical versus basic tasks. If you spot this corresponding weakness, it doesn't necessarily mean that you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, but you might just need to recalibrate your standards when dealing with others, recognizing that your subordinates don't have to become your clone to be successful.

Once you've drilled down on the most important characteristics that you want to change, it's time to develop a game plan. For illustrative purposes, let's again assume you're that great communicator, but you sometimes go over the top and incessantly interrupt others, which leads to missing out on their ideas, not to mention becoming a bore. If this is your Achilles' heel, you must focus on the triggers that cause you to behave in this manner in order to strive for improvement.

Maybe you're really not self-consumed, but instead, your mind races ahead to follow-up thoughts that you want to make without allowing enough time for others to absorb and comment on your initial words of wisdom. This suggests you need to put a mental circuit breaker on your lips after you make your first major point, allowing for a long pregnant pause to let others amplify on your point or introduce an opposing or complementary thought. By doing this, you'll help make the conversation or presentation more interactive, which may lead to better resolutions or open the door to new unexplored concepts or opportunities.

Armed with this newly created self-assessment, you'll become a more productive and better leader who has learned to make your strengths stronger and reduce the negative effects of your weaknesses.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

There’s a classic line from the 1970 movie “Love Story” that has become a part of our popular culture. In the drama, the dying heroine played by Ali MacGraw says to her husband, played by actor Ryan O’Neal, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as he apologizes for his anger. It is certainly a memorable and tear-jerking line, but is saying, “You’re sorry” all that bad if it can soothe a wound caused by someone speaking or acting out before thinking?

Disagreements and anger are a reality in the workplace and in life in general. Various people react in different ways when under pressure. Some lose their cool completely and say things they instantly regret, while others launch into tormenting the perceived offender with the silent treatment. No matter the technique used to punish, all of these methods quickly become tiresome and, more importantly, adversely affect the workplace.

Too frequently in the work environment, many people just can’t suck it up and utter the two simple words, “I’m sorry,” even when they know they’re dead wrong. It’s not a macho thing either, as women don’t behave much differently when they feel put upon. What’s a boss to do when this stubbornness becomes problematic?

In a word: intervene. When not controlled, these unreasonable, obstinate antics can become time-consuming and disruptive. It could all start with an impetuous negative e-mail or a less-than-mature voice mail left in the heat of battle that cascades into a futile distraction, as otherwise effective and seemingly sensible employees act out as if they’re in a 20- or 30-year time warp, behaving as if they’re back in the third grade rather than adults in the workplace.

The most expeditious method that works with either the protagonist or antagonist in an office drama is to call a spade a spade, so to speak, and get the feuding parties together and cut to the chase, making each person agree to bury the hatchet but preferably not in each other’s skull. If employees’ anger management issues are left to fester, they can easily result in other people in the same work environment taking sides, and in short order, you will find yourself in the midst of a Civil War. The only thing guaranteed when this occurs is that there will be casualties. It is incumbent on the ruling manager to make sure that the company doesn’t wind up as the victim, incurring a loss of productivity and causing everyone around the two factions to feel as if they’re walking on pins and needles.

While many times it would be easier for the boss to ask one of the warring participants to approach the other to work out their differences, this tactic just takes too much time and the outcome can be iffy. It really doesn’t matter who is right or wrong but that the nonsense is stopped dead in its tracks. The best way to accomplish this is to make it more than abundantly clear that anger in the workplace is a nonstarter and could be a career-inhibitor.

Allowing employees to exhibit a lack of civility will cause a domino effect that will lead to no good. Civility does not just apply to peers. Instead, it’s applicable to all who must work together, including superiors, subordinates and even fellow board members. Don’t confuse civility with agreeing or disagreeing with someone. It also doesn’t mean one has to believe that someone is effective in his or her role. Instead, what must be required is that those within an organization, no matter what level, simply take the higher road and respect not necessarily the person but the role and make the assumption that everyone has a part in working toward shared goals, until it is proven otherwise.

Once everybody knows the rules of engagement, many times the negative engagement suddenly ends and it’s back to business as usual. When that doesn’t happen, it’s time for offenders to be forced to go to their respective corners so as not to do each other or the company any more harm.

To promote coexistence when no one wants to take the first step and say, “I’m sorry,” it’s up to the adult in the room — and that would be you, the boss — to step into the fray with your whistle to call a permanent timeout to these types of disruptive shenanigans.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Unfortunately, when everything hits the fan, it won’t be at a time and place of your choosing, and most likely, it won’t be just one issue.

When you least expect it and when everything seems to be going OK for the first time in awhile, a severe lightning strike may occur, seemingly out of nowhere, even when the sun is shining brightly. Worse yet is that first bolt may be followed by multiple booms, bangs and claps in rapid succession.

It may start with a phone call informing you that the unspeakable has occurred. One of your top people encountered a personal problem that will shed a bad light on your company, or you get a FedEx letter from one of your biggest customers stating: “It’s been fun while it lasted; have a nice life. Sayonara.” As a wave of nausea sweeps over you, your chief accounting lieutenant barges into your office, holding your auditors’ notice and stammering, “earnings restatement.”

Trouble comes in many sizes and shapes, and as the boss, you must always be prepared to provide direction. While any one problem could be monumental, two or more are almost debilitating. What can you do; what must you do?

First, figuratively and literally take three deep breaths and count to 10. Pick up a legal pad and write out the key issues, crystallizing options and setting priorities of who on your team does what. Also write out some ideas of how to get started. Step two, clear your calendar and focus.

The trick in attacking multiple major problems simultaneously is to compartmentalize each of them, quickly determining the downside risks and coming up with temporary fixes to stop any bleeding, followed by long-term solutions. Let’s say another crisis hits when you receive a notice that your largest plant has become the target of a unionization drive. You quickly recognize that if this effort is successful, then your other facilities run the risk of a similar fate. The economic consequences could be enormous, and as equally disturbing is the fact that fighting this will be incredibly time-consuming, costly and will surely divert the attention of management away from sales and earnings goals.

Rather than bemoan your current state of affairs, gather your team together, contact your attorneys and find out what precipitated this situation. Was there an underlying morale problem in the plant, or did the union simply choose your company because it was an attractive target? Don’t always expect the worse, but plan for it. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find out that it was a simple misstep by a lower-level supervisor that antagonized a very small group of otherwise well-meaning employees, which can be more easily fixed.

If the earnings restatement is the biggest threat, then most likely you will take charge of the accounting issues and have your vice president of human resources tackle the union problem. Time can be your biggest enemy or your greatest ally. If you procrastinate and don’t swing into action, the situations will simply proliferate. If, however, you jump in with both feet immediately, you may be able to stem the tide in your favor much more quickly. One thing is for sure: The good fairy won’t solve these problems and your only choice is to take charge.

Of course, you’ll have more than a few restless nights; your calendar will become an instant nightmare as you deal with these problems du jour. Nevertheless, at least, you’ll have started the compartmentalizing issue process.

A few words of caution: Certainly delegate aspects of the problems to your best and brightest but also make sure you’re constantly kept in the loop. An effective leader is much akin to being a juggler and having the skills to keep all of the balls in the air simultaneously.

One consolation is that if being the boss was so easy, then everyone would do it. In fact, being a good leader takes a keen mind, often an incredible sense of urgency and a strong stomach.

Troubles come with the territory. However, there is one major consolation: When you’re at the top, the height can be a bit frightening at times, but the view is certainly spectacular.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

In business, too many executives believe that the best path to success is to “manage mad” thinking this will project an image of determination and tenacity, combined with the ability to strike fear in the hearts of any naysayers with opposing views.

Is there a better way, a more balanced method to manage other than by mimicking a fire-breathing dragon? Unfortunately, we have too many bad role models who employ a fearsome persona. There are the pugnacious politicians who make every issue a black-and-white cause célèbre, screaming, “If we don’t do it my way, we’ll wind up in a shambles on the precipice of extinction.” Then there are the professional and college coaches, with seemingly permanent scowls etched on their faces, who shout their mandates to be sure players know that if they don’t get the play right, they run the risk of being toast.

Corporate executives from the most admired to the most reviled have adopted this managing mad game face over time, some, perhaps, without even realizing it.

Certainly there is a time and place for a boss to raise his or her voice a few octaves, take on facial expressions of the walking dead and deliver a monologue laced with wakeup calls about either doing it the leader’s way or facing possible draconian consequences. This technique is best used very sparingly in situations that warrant an edgy demeanor. However, if a boss constantly plays the managing mad card, it loses its impact and the message becomes diluted as recipients think to themselves, “Same old, same old — just another series of empty threats.” Constantly portraying a vitriolic curmudgeon serves only to dampen hope and curb enthusiasm.

A point of clarification: Don’t confuse managing mad with being direct and holding people accountable while communicating clearly and explaining the positives, as well as negatives, to a team. This latter method is much preferred by those on the receiving end in order for the team to understand what is being said and, more importantly, what is expected of them.

We have all worked with and known people for whom the use of a smile, a compassionate gesture or a little humor at the right time and place is about as rare as politicians treating each other with respect during a debate. Businesspeople are not elected politicians trying to get votes by speaking the unspeakable with Armageddon undertones.

If you’re the boss, ask yourself if you hear what you’re saying and how you’re delivering the message. Do you need a self-prescribed attitude adjustment and a makeover of your style? If a subordinate projected a managing mad style, you would certainly provide the necessary coaching and counseling. However, if you fear you need this type of tune-up, how can you do it without losing face by asking peers or other trusted associates for a no-holds-barred critique?

There is an easy and effective way to accomplish this self-assessment. Surreptitiously record your next talk to the troops, even a phone conference call or a one-on-one session. Most smartphones have this feature. Before listening to your recording and evaluating your delivery, wait a few hours or until the next day so that you can listen more objectively, being a bit more removed from the heat of the moment. Close your door and use a mirror to watch your own expression as you listen to yourself. You’ll immediately know by what you hear and by your expressions in the mirror if you fall into the managing mad trap. Once you’re done, take a deep breath and then quickly jot down your own impressions, including the tone, choice of words and substance of the message. The big question becomes, “If you were the audience, would you buy what you’re selling?”

If you decide you need improvements, and we all do, use the same voice recorder before you give your next battle cry and rehearse a few times using the device to capture your delivery. Also, do these trial runs in front of a mirror so you can see yourself as others will see you.

When you introspectively examine your technique, you may not like what you discover. However, after the shock of realizing you’ve been managing Mad, you can quickly begin transforming your style, not to morph into a likable wimp but instead to become a thoughtful and effective leader whom others will eagerly listen to and then follow. To get results, it’s sometimes not what you say but how you say it.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

There are hands-on executives who get down and dirty in just about every aspect of a business and then there are leaders who manage from 50,000 feet, rarely calling anything but the big shots. Seldom does a single style or technique always fit every situation. Much depends on the size and maturity of a business and simply how many hands are available on deck to fight a specific fight.

In a start-up or younger organization, initially the entrepreneur probably has to do just about everything merely to survive. In a midsize or Fortune 500 operation, a good boss, depending on the quality of the team, can pick and choose the level of involvement in a project based upon the complexity, significance and sometimes just the boss’s gut feeling or inclination.

Periodically, at one time or another, most leaders miss the forest for the trees, either by not getting involved enough or by delegating too much responsibility. Then, when something goes south, the boss nitpicks his or her way into the company’s every twist and turn, driving subordinates nearly to the brink.

Either too much or too little attention is usually well intended, but unfortunately, it can cause more bad than good. Instead, as a boss, one must have a sixth sense of when and, much more importantly, how to get involved and with whom depending how near the undertaking is to getting in big trouble. This is preferable to a blanket mandate that requires an “I must see everything first before going to the next step” policy.

Like it or not, today we’re doing business in a 24/7 world and, to accomplish objectives, speed counts. We must be wary of potential bottlenecks that impede process and progress.

One of the biggest obstacles in moving from point A to B is that too many leaders are lousy delegators. Sure, they talk a good game about empowering their people and letting them run with it, but in reality, they hinder progress because they have an insatiable need to function much like an automobile engine air filter. Unfortunately, instead of helping to clean the air, they suck all of the air out of the project.

The “air filter” executive mandates that every preliminary plan, e-mail or even a simple new idea must first be passed by him or her before the undertaking can go to the next step. In a perfect world, this type of filtering might be good. However, at the speed of business today, this type of management style bogs things down or brings them to a screeching halt, as everyone waits for the “air filter” executive to get around to reviewing the latest step. The results include losing productivity, squelching creativity and derailing the initiative of those encumbered by unnecessary oversight.

When this occurs, everybody is negatively affected, including the filterer. Soon the boss who must touch everything gets overwhelmed by what has to be reviewed and, instead of maintaining control, winds up losing it.

There are simple solutions that an effective executive can employ to speed up the work. First, the boss has to be comfortable in his or her own skin about knowing how and when to follow up, intervene or let others keep the ball moving toward the goal line. It’s not just about blindly delegating, but instead knowing the skill sets of those to whom the boss delegates and everyone involved having a clear understanding of the parameters of who does what when.

Having explicit ground rules in place, the boss can give subordinates much more rope, not to hang themselves, but instead to throw the lasso much further to snag the bigger prize. This also enables the leader to have many more balls in the air, exponentially increasing the opportunities for success on many fronts and, quite simply, improving the overseer’s quality of life by providing more time for the executive to function as an executive. The subordinates win, too, because they have the authority, within prescribed boundaries, to get the job done.

Remember, good intentions aside, it gets down to the fundamentals of how an internal combustion engine functions. If an air-filtering management style clogs the workflow, it can suck the power out of your company’s engine, causing it to shut down abruptly.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012 19:00

The positives and negatives of jealousy

At first blush, it might seem a bit perverse that jealousy can be a good thing, a motivator and a catalyst for change. However, like very rich food, ingested in moderation it can be quite good, while overindulgence can bring on a world-class case of heartburn and indigestion.

Like it or not, in life and in business jealousy is always lurking in the shadows. When it rears its ugly head and is not properly controlled in your organization, it can precipitate a problem, do irreparable harm and become a major distraction in the workplace. It also stifles productivity, turning otherwise earnest and collaborative employees into a bunch of rumor mongering, whispering backbiters.

Conversely, a small dose of good or “productive” jealousy can spur others on to new heights. A leader’s job is to recognize the point when good turns to bad and to learn how to manage jealousy. This involves encouraging it (read that as creating competition) but also putting one’s foot down with a loud thud to get everyone’s attention and stopping the bad jealousy in its tracks when it begins leading to potential negative and divisive behaviors.

One of the many challenges of running a business is acknowledging that not everyone is equal, not everyone is motivated by the same factors. Varying attitudes and personalities can challenge the people skills of even the most effective leader. The infamous Rodney King who was at the epicenter of the disastrous 1992 Los Angeles riots asked the rhetorical question in a nationally televised appeal for peace: “Why can’t we just all get along?” The reality was and is, “Rodney, we probably can’t, no matter how hard everyone tries.” The sobering fact is that anytime there are two or more people together in a room the risk of disagreement and unbridled rivalry emerges and troubles can ignite, many times for inexplicable reasons unknown even to the participants. This is when management has to manage.

Good jealousy is easy to understand and an aware leader knows how to use it effectively. Example: Someone on the team has a unique idea or does something out of the ordinary, which benefits the greater good. The accomplishment is rightly recognized and celebrated by management. There are always people, however, who on the surface join in praising the effort but deep down inside are envious of the other person’s accomplishment. You can read the negative expression on their faces like a bad poker player who’s bluffing and everyone knows it. Enter the smart boss who helps the seeming ingrate understand that he or she can also receive comparable accolades when warranted. The boss then directs the uninspired employee’s envy (jealousy) effectively toward a positive goal, subtly or not so subtly, illuminating a path for the glory seeker to follow to reach a mutually agreed upon outcome.

Bad jealousy, on the flip side, can be like a forest fire that starts quickly and jumps around erratically, destroying anything and everything in its path. The only way to handle this type of negative behavior, which turns cohorts against one other, is with an iron fist and a candid, behind-closed-doors meeting. Typically, this requires identifying the “ring leader” — and there always is one — and then having the boss engage in a very one-sided conversation with that employee to make it clear that this behavior stops when the perpetrator opens the door and exits.

Many times, once unmasked, the naysayers recognize that they’ll be under constant scrutiny and become instant cheerleaders for what was accomplished by the other colleague primarily to defuse any future damage in the eyes of the senior management. Good leadership is about steering the ship, managing behaviors, maintaining a constant vigil, watching for warning signs, and then reacting appropriately without hesitation. In the case of bad jealousy, speed counts, as measured in hours, not days or weeks, in stemming the spread of rumors and innuendos.

There is a delicate balance needed to keep a team on track and productive. However, knowing the difference between good jealousy and bad can keep the organization moving forward. We all know not everyone is created equal, and that means different people must be managed differently to accomplish goals and keep the employees and the company off jagged and potentially painful rocks.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

Saturday, 31 December 2011 20:01

If it ain’t broke, break it now

One of the worst hackneyed clichés is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If this is your way of doing business, then it is a good bet that it’s just a matter of time until you hit that big bump in the road and the wheels fall off your wagon. It may start as a small crack in the underlying pavement of your strategy, manifesting itself as a minor issue with an inquiring customer asking when are you going to do this or that, but you can be sure that this slight whisper will build to that proverbial shout. Face it, whether you like it or not, you’re doing business and competing in an age where existing and prospective customers have access to instant information. This includes quickly discovering the first inkling of the “new best thing” that the “next Steve Jobs” has cooking in his or her garage — something that just might be a breakthrough or meaningful, innovation in your industry.

Customer loyalty today is based on a “What have you done for me lately?” mentality. It’s mandatory that your customers be on a constant vigil for how to improve. For customers to be loyal to you, they have to know that you’re always improving and on the prowl for how to do it better or how to find new solutions to new problems sometimes before your customers even know they might have a problem.

To be a player, you have to devote time, effort and, yes, money to perpetual research and development. R&D is not just for tech companies or manufacturers but also for companies that plan to be around tomorrow. Even small businesses, as basic as a cleaning service, have to be on the lookout for anything that can do it better: from the latest vacuum to a new cleaning chemical that proves to be a better solution (pun intended). Retailers, too, are constantly changing store presentations as well as merchandise. In most businesses, the real villain is inertia, which leads to complacency from within and customer boredom from the same old product even if it’s working. When each side of an ongoing relationship starts taking one another for granted, it’s just a matter of time before problems begin to percolate.

Certainly money is tight for small and big companies alike, and the bean counters are quick to give R&D expenses an evil eye. Unfortunately, and even understandably, it’s usually the first thing cut when sales slow and when banks start tightening leading covenants. The justification is typically that innovation needs to be put on hold because there is no immediate return on the investment.

The bigger question for the CEO is, “Are these types of expenses nice or necessary?” I vehemently would argue it’s the latter. Why do car companies perpetually come out with new models with new gadgets every year? Why do technology companies introduce version 1.0, and then, six months later, come out with version 1.1. The answer to both is, “to keep a product fresh and compelling.” It’s about creating a degree of planned obsolescence to ensure that a product doesn’t become commoditized, which can spell the beginning of the end. As soon as that happens, a company’s trophy product will be knocked off and made more cheaply by someone who doesn’t have overhead expenses as high as the originator and who will surely cut the price and the incumbent’s heart at the same time.

Make sure you’re stirring the pot, asking questions of your team members, making it their charge to dig for even the most elusive answers. This leads to innovation, which is followed by creating elasticity for your products because you’ll have found a way to make your widget better and more economical. In turn, this can increase demand and produce planned obsolescence for the older version. To do otherwise, companies run the big risk of being victims of their own initial success.

It all gets down to changing or being a casualty of change. When you improve your business, you can continue to dazzle your customers and hopefully keep them, which will make your business grow, allow sales and profits to increase and create more jobs. This is the heart of capitalism. So, if it ain’t broke, make sure you break it.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

A popular phrase today that we hear, read and view online is “game on.” These two words typically signify that the time for talking is done and the time for action is now. It’s used frequently in competitive encounters, everywhere from the gridiron to the corporate boardroom. I like the phrase because it’s catchy and short and implies that one is taking off the gloves to move forward. However, these are just empty words unless they’re backed up by effective action and positive results.

For decades — no, make that centuries — a variety of gauntlets, both words and objectives, has been thrown down with friend and foe alike to raise the testosterone levels of the combatants. It could be two prizefighters in the center ring who are given their final instructions and then bump boxing gloves or a company’s splashy rah-rah sales team video of competitors’ products being blown up to symbolize how the new corporate marketing campaign will devastate the other guy.

The problem with phrases, clever clichés and “boast and brag” prognostications is that they mean zilch unless there’s a plan to accomplish the feat. That’s where being “on your game” in business separates the men from the boys, and the women from the girls. Only hip-shooting leaders would ever think of jumping the gun by proclaiming: “Today, we’re going to conquer the world,” without first devising a strategy for the team to execute in order to accomplish the objective. Doing this requires a methodical approach before it’s “game on.”

There are few substitutes, except for perhaps unadulterated luck, for winning without planning, strategizing, training and continuing to fine-tune the integral pieces and parts of the task.

Too many organizations, however, make hollow statements, both publicly and internally, in attempts to fire up the troops to eke out a few extra dollars in sales. Summarily announcing “game on” to your team can cause a great deal of angst and result in serious shortcomings or even total failure if it’s not backed by substance.

All too often, leaders assert a battle cry without providing a thorough explanation of the whys and wherefores of the ultimate objective. If this key omission is made, those who have to follow quickly get lost because the goal is blurry, and they either stray from the course or become totally confused. Quickly the team chalks up the boss’s assertions extolling the company to reach new heights as just another example of the CEO’s having a big hat but no cattle — in direct reference to the rancher who talks a good game but is missing the most important ingredient, the cows.

Engaging in any competition, including business, takes someone to lead and that someone is also responsible for ensuring that all of the required boxes have been checked before proceeding, which includes having a backup plan to make modifications on the fly if any elements of the strategy are not jelling. Good management means understanding how to mitigate risk and quickly discover alternatives.

Not only must a plan be created but all of the essential accouterments must also be provided with appropriate resources, including capital, to achieve the objective topping the list. We can all learn from Apple, a company with the world’s largest market capitalization, about how to launch great products not just once but time and time again. Two obvious examples: the iPhone and iPad. Well before Apple even hinted about their existence, it spent years and huge amounts of money not only creating the products but also crafting/branding the messaging to help ensure success.

Apple is the master of starting with a whisper and building to a shout. First there are industry stories about what might be coming, followed by many different “teasers” directed at suppliers to whet their appetites, to consumers to build anticipation and, yes, to competitors to instill a bit of fear. When everything is in place, then it’s time for the big announcement that the new product will change the world.

Your organization can employ these same Apple tactics, fueled by a strong dose of perseverance and a liberal amount of perspiration. This all adds up to being “on your game” well before you proclaim it’s “game on” because, to succeed, you can’t have one without the other.

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.

In business and in life, we all spend time conjuring up negative thoughts that are not only unproductive but also make us crazy.

Do you sometimes second-guess yourself after a meeting with that important client? Maybe it was something that just jumped out of your mouth before you considered the consequences when you were talking to someone important or something as simple as wondering why did he or she look at you “that way.” It’s even worse sometimes when you’re the CEO or leader and you browbeat yourself over and over, pondering if you got the intended message out with the right balance of firmness, yet warmth and caring.

It is unrealistic to believe we should think only good thoughts, particularly in business when things move at a lightning pace and the path to achieving objectives is littered with potholes just waiting to cause a serious blowout. We must always be playing what-if games in our heads to determine a course of action if something isn’t working the way we expected. This means having plan B at the ready or even C and D if you’re losing ground and your worst-case scenario suddenly becomes your living nightmare.

All of this can lead to analysis paralysis and sometimes overwhelmingly questioning your own judgment. The difference, however, between an effective leader and one who is constantly gripped by second thoughts of uncertainty is the ability to compartmentalize negative thinking. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. However, with a little practice, you can turn your focus away from thoughts that are an exercise in futility, either because what is done is done and there’s nothing you can do about it or the odds of that doomsday scenario actually occurring are minuscule.

There are numerous techniques to employ to minimize incessant rehashing of our actions or decisions. Too many times, excessive indulgence in drink, food or other dubious activities is used as an antidote to ward off our demons. But at best, these diversions are temporary, extremely unhealthy and, many times, lead to even more serious problems.

Exercise, on the other hand, has been proven to have numerous psychological benefits. In my case, the best way to take my mind off business problems or my errors of omission or commission is to take a vigorous run or do an aggressive workout, and soon, the pain from my aching joints almost magically erases those irrational concerns that crept into my head just a few minutes earlier. It’s sort of like having a stomachache and then someone punches you in the nose, and all of sudden the only thing you can think about is the new pain in your nose.

A more disciplined and less painful approach is to chronicle all of your concerns, putting them in writing on a legal pad or tapping them out on your computer or iPad.

If you have multiple negative thoughts, list them starting with those that you perceive as the most serious. Under each concern, try to define the problem in as few words as possible. If you think you spoke out of school and said something you shouldn’t have, jot it down. Finally, go ahead and really beat yourself up by spelling out on your list the worse possible consequences. Once you see them in writing, much of your concern will suddenly dissipate as you realize your problems or missteps don’t seem all that daunting anymore.

For those remaining concerns that don’t make the “it ain’t worth thinking about” cut, the next step is to focus on what you need to do to mitigate any damage. You might just find that after you crystallize the issues in writing, you will stumble onto heretofore unthought-of remedies to your problems or your narrative takes on a life of its own and leads you in a new direction to find new answers for which you didn’t even have questions.

This method of mitigating concerns by reducing them to their lowest common denominator won’t cure all your problems, but it just may enable you to put your priorities in order and eliminate time-wasting worrying that leads to nowhere. As the often-recited Serenity Prayer states, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988, starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money. During a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003. In 2010, Feuer launched another retail concept, Max-Wellness, a first of its kind chain featuring more than 7,000 products for head-to-toe care. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at mfeuer@max-wellness.com.

A unique new book with an unorthodox, yet proven approach to achieving extraordinary success.

What does it take to grow rapidly and effectively from mind to market?

This book offers an unconventional philosophy for starting and building a business that exceeds your own expectations.

Beating the competition is never easy. That’s why it requires a benevolent dictator.

Published by John Wiley & Sons. AVAILABLE NOW! Order online now at: www.thebenevolentdictator.biz

Also available wherever books and eBooks are sold, and from Smart Business Magazine and www.SBNOnline.com. Contact Dustin S. Klein of Smart Business at (800) 988-4726 for bulk order special pricing.