If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.
- Anita Roddick
Founder, The Body Shop
We are not here merely to make a living. We are here to enrich the world.
- Woodrow Wilson
Whether you are extraordinary at something, or everything, I bet you strive to be the best in whatever you do. Or at least you want to believe that of yourself. (If you don’t, why not?)
You’re inspired by people who add value to life and work.
In fact, if all of us were to add value all the time, it would be nirvana on this planet. Oh well. Not yet. I keep envisioning it and working towards it anyway.
It works both ways. If we want to receive value, then we must also add value. When we do, we get far more in return than we ever dreamed possible. So what does this have to do with riding a dead horse? It’s pretty simple really. If we get stuck riding dead horses, we can’t possibly be contributing the optimal value. And if we aren’t, then we can’t even get onto the trail of greatness.
Did I work on the battlefield?
Did I do what I thought was right?
Did I do all that I could?
Did I love all that I should?
To everyone in my sight?
What did I do with my life?
Did I exercise giving
And forgiveness with all my might?
Did I honor my freedom
And did I live in the light?
Did I cherish my moments?
Did I take a good enough bite?
What did I do with my life?…
- Lenny Kravitz
What Did I Do With My Life?
The time is ripe for those who want to take a quantum leap in every aspect of their life. Go from Doing Great to Leading with Greatness.
Greatness is resident within each of us. Each moment is an opportunity for greatness. For all too many of us, we miss these moments because we are sound asleep with the TV still running, the ping of incoming emails …a new lullaby… and the cell phone on 24/7.
We all have to wake ourselves up now and again. The surest way to do that is to ask yourself if you are always adding value. Or are you riding a dead horse?
Most of us, me included, have had times in our lives where we found ourselves riding a dead horse or two. So it’s critical for both outstanding performance and a having a great life that we take a hard look at our current conditions – and ask ourselves if we need to ride a new horse or just change saddles. And then we need to consciously renew our vows with our life and how we lead it.
Whatever tact we choose must offer a new perspective, renewed passion and commitment. Outcome: Significant improvement in results and quality on every level. That translates into prosperity.
Always Add Value is one of my 52 Quintessential Principles of GreatnessSM codified to keep us moving from great to greatness.
I forget to apply this principle myself every once and awhile In fact, just last week I was asked by a really sharp association leader, “What value will you bring to my membership?” What caught me most off guard was that the Value Added editorial thrust of this issue was already in the works. Here I was being confronted with having lost sight of this very principle. Will the learnings ever stop? Nope. I sure hope not.
These on-target questions inspired me to re-think how I add value by what I do. I responded that her high achieving and accomplished members match the profile of my clients. They are successful in their chosen fields, they want to expand their referral network and are seeking to improve their results. Coaching entrepreneurs, family firms, executives and professionals, I appreciate their business challenges and professional concerns.
All of these movers n’ shakers want to improve the performance of their firms, attract new and maintain current revenues and customers. But that’s not all. What I’ve learned is that these truly accomplished folks relish the opportunity to fine tune and to stretch. Even more so, they know that becoming a better communicator and leader ensures that they will thrive in these challenging times.
I also added that we all aim to keep our personal and professional lives in balance. It’s just such a struggle when buffeted constantly with destabilizing sound bites and constant emails announcing disruptive shifts in our world and demands on the personal front. Add that to having to deal with the pressures of invigorating a work life, keeping the home fires burning and just having fun. Whew! That’s why powerful people look for coaches who add value by moving them to greatness and to building legacies that are unforgettable.
I could have kept riding my dead horse, not “hearing” what I was being asked. Instead, I took in the question and changed my languaging so that I could add greater value. On the other hand, if my response fell on deaf ears, then I would need to change horses by seeking out another grouping of people who would be more in sync.
In the process of re-stating my value added, I was reminded that more and more of us are wanting to realize our visions for a better and sustainable future for our selves, our loved ones, our workplace, community and our planet. What I’ve found is that today’s vanguard leaders are seeking to make meaning as well as money, and build legacies as well as bank accounts.
What’s become paramount is that if we are to reach our greatness, we all must take a good look at our lives, our leadership and our relationships asking the probing questions:
Am I riding a dead horse? Can I breathe life back into my horse by changing saddles? Or is it time to find a new stallion?
Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.
- Marianne Williamson
The heat is on these days for those of us in business. Many are feeling the pinch of lost or dying industries, fickle customers, and tremendous pressure to constantly improve performance against new competition.
Our family-owned business faces these same issues. We had to decide whether to ride our dying horse to its last breath or to change saddles. But first we had to take a hard look at what our business encompasses, who it serves and what’s working or not.
We decided we must change saddles: change our approach as our traditional product line’s heyday is fast disappearing. Manufacturing overseas has created a shrinking US customer base. This is no surprise. It’s a reflection of entire US industries being shaken down.
Fortunately we realized that we were riding a dying horse in time.
We examined our existing business to determine if it had any life left in it or if it could be resuscitated. The old 80-20 rule was quite apparent. (Actually this ratio was updated by my late mentor, Dr. Edwards W. Deming, to 95-5%.) For those of you unfamiliar with this rule, it applies to almost every expenditure of energy, effort, money, etc. For example, we found that 80-95% of our revenues were coming from 20 to 5% of our customer base. As is usually the case, the remaining % of our customers were the ones we least enjoyed and took too much of our resources.
So we had to either get off the old horse and find a new one, or try another saddle. Or both.
That’s what we are doing. We are focusing our mature business so that we can add the most value and jettisoning the rest if they continue to perform at unacceptable standards. We enticed our high-powered 34 yr old daughter to join the firm and to launch a start-up company around an exciting new product line for our existing valued customers as well as for a new untapped growing customer base.
Clearly another saddle: another way of riding the same horse. It’s the only way to ride out the change and do well.
I could write a whole book on what this means for our economy and our everyday quality of life, let it suffice to say that those who put Always Adding Value first and foremost will be the winners in the race to greatness. I could rave on and on about how Nordstroms knows what it’s doing and won’t lose me as a customer. Or about Gourmet Garage, a local retailer in Manhattan, their service and quality is unbeatable. Not like my local country market where the veggies look like they’re about to keel over. The traditional conglomerate supermarkets can’t even compare.
Flying across country recently, I was surprised to find Continental Airlines had a focus on me, with employees who smiled and appeared to be enjoying their jobs. United goodbye! Lest me not forget Staples, once the savior of all small business, and Bed,Bath & Beyond the ultimate solution store for homeowners. Now Staples has far too few staff working its floors and BBB doesn’t have the quality reputation of its early years. I can’t forget Sears! Their Appliances Division vs. our local appliance dealer – not even a doubt. Our local store won’t install or resolve problems post delivery. Cost effective but no value added that’s for sure. I want someone to stand behind what I buy from them. It’s Sears all the way.
Adding value isn’t always about products and services. It needs to be a key driver in all aspects of our lives… from the boardroom to the bedroom. To reach greatness you must also know how to rally others to their greatness.
We may see ourselves as “together” folks who know what we want and even have it all. Each of us needs to unfailingly double check our QLQSM… our quality of life quotient. Ask yourself constantly and consistently, Am I in a satisfaction range that fits what I want? Determine what needs to be jettisoned and what needs more value added for you to reach and sustain optimal satisfaction and live your greatness.
A pervasive theme I hear all too often is of pain and betrayal, disappointment, disillusionment and discouragement. And exhaustion. Always in overdrive. Many know better, but the challenges are coming even faster these days. We need more hope and action. We need more enlightened leadership. It starts with you and me.
When The New Saddle Doesn’t Work, Get A New Horse!
My client, Dick, a division head, age 49, really believed in the product and mission of his company. A perfectionist, he drove everyone to the brink of exhaustion. Always under the gun himself, he demanded the impossible. Yet growth was lackluster. His relationship with his team and colleagues tenuous at best. Frustration mounting, he would yell more. Exploding on occasion. He’d come home, blasting his wife for anything that wasn’t quite right. But try as she did, she was never sure what that was. He adored his kids too. But had virtually no conversations with his daughter. When she became a teenager, she only grunted responses to his in passing queries.
He came to me to improve business results. What we uncovered was that his personal life was so enervating and frustrating that he couldn’t be in his stride in either part of his life. His discontent seeped into his working relationships and kept him on edge. We worked on getting him refocused on what matters most, and where he needed to put his efforts first and foremost.
At the same time, he took steps to rectify his marriage. First he had to really be present. When that didn’t work sufficiently, he went to couples counseling. Finally it was apparent, he was riding a dead horse. His life was passing by. It was time for him to change horses, or at least get off this dead one. In the process my client learned that he had to contribute to all of his relationships if he wanted to get extraordinary results and a Soul fulfilling life.
Now that he has cleared out the debris that was holding him back, he is rockin’! Fast forward, he leads the most profitable division in his company, enjoys his life fully and even has more than a two sentence conversation with his daughter.
When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
Dana, an owner of a 3rd generation family business, that was a long time giant in its industry, came to me wanting to ensure that her company would survive these challenging times. She described a board of outsiders and family members that were no longer adding value, if ever. Yet they all were dependent on the company coffers.
What we uncovered was that she wasn’t feeling fulfilled. Guiltily she admitted that she’d been there, done it. It was time for her to ride a stallion of her own or just raise horses! What we uncovered was that family members of the Board were not adding value. In fact they were standing in the way of forward momentum. Family tensions were high. It was a case of the old traditions in conflict with new thinking.
Dana had a choice: first change saddles, stay with the horse. If that didn’t work, change horses. Move ahead.
In the end, the family members were bought out. Dana has created a new life with tons of fun time with her best buddy husband, financially secure while she invests and consults to other family-owned businesses.
Cutting our losses and changing horses may be the only answer.
When Changing Studs In The Bedroom Is Your Salvation
Susan, age 34, is a leader in her field with multiple advanced degrees and a high 6-figure income. Success is her middle name. But when it comes to her love life, she is on a steep learning curve. Willing to do whatever takes to change her living together relationship into a marital one, she bends over backwards. In the process, she leans more and more his way, slowly but surely losing her Self once she enters the front door. The new love glow disappearing she doesn’t know why but she’s just not happy. More and more he lets her know that she isn’t everything she could be or should be. Each day she’s feeling less and less sure of herself. He’s sure they don’t need to get married, but can live together indefinitely. I’m sure she’s on the way to becoming a Stepford Wife!
Fortunately I got them to see that they had different agendas and ideas of what they want. As a result, value wasn’t being added, it was being chipped away. Nice people, but just not a match. Susan could have continued to stay, chipping away at who she is to become what he wanted. He would have lost respect in the end. This was a win-lose deal.
Susan cut her losses and has since moved on. What she learned was that at work and at home she deserved to be appreciated fully for who she is and that it is her responsibility to ask and get what she wants or move on. Her rule of thumb is: If it doesn’t add value, try to change how you are riding your horse. That doesn’t work, find a new horse.
Always adding value is what leads to improving quality, positive growth and continuous development. And that translates into receiving enormous added value in return.
Whatever your situation, if your horse is dead or on its last breath, be sure to ask yourself:
What is keeping me from adding the value I can uniquely offer the world?
© 1997-2009 Karen Sands/Future Works Institute, Ltd. All rights reserved. May not be duplicated, retransmitted or reproduced without permission. Future Works® is the registered trademark of Future Works Institute, Ltd.
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