Boeing 767-1You value what you do when you see the value you provide. But you’re bored, and on the clock, and who cares anyway!

At the Boeing factory where I helped build the very first 767, sometimes my day consisted of nothing but installing hundreds of stupid little aluminum rivets to hold airplane parts together. I can still feel the shaking and pounding of the rivet gun in my right hand and the steel bucking bar bouncing in my left. It just had to be done. Sure, I got to go to the bank with a paycheck. And that was nice. But I hate boring, and sometimes this repetitive, noisy, hour-by-hour job got real boring. And I saw no value in that.

Until the day I went for a ride in the very airplane I had just helped build. No longer the employee who’d punched a time clock that morning, I was suddenly a passenger… a living human being, transported through the sky by the sum of the very parts I’d helped put together with all those rivets. I pictured hundreds and thousands of passengers riding on these passenger jets in the years ahead.

Boeing 767 InteriorBack on the ground, my rivets no longer represented time on the clock for which I received a pay check. Now I saw those rivets and parts as the very thing that would carry people safely through the sky from city to city. My rivets provided safe and fast travel for thousands of people… people visiting grandchildren, attending business meetings, or traveling for pleasure. People I’d never meet but who, nevertheless, would benefit from what I provided them. From that point on, I saw value in that.

How do you see whatever it is that occupies your time? What is it you’re providing? How is that valuable to people?

Today as a speaker, I sometimes finish a keynote presentation, and people from the audience come up to say hi and compliment me on the presentation.

And that’s nice… but when I get a note like the one that follows, then what I do as a speaker, standing on the stage, takes on new significance. When what I say rings true for audience members, and they take the key points home and improve their lives or relationships or business because of what I said, then my time at the microphone on stage is no longer about the hour telling my stories and making my points… it’s about helping people find a way to soar to new heights in their own lives and businesses.

“There were three key words that he used: Aviate, Navigate and Communicate. These three words have helped me in keeping direction as a new, small business owner. ‘Aviate’ – reminds me to stay focused on what I want out of myself and my business. ‘Navigate’ – reminds me to keep my eyes on the future and where I want to go. And ‘Communicate’ – reminds me to keep my mind open and listen to what I need to do to get where I want to go. I want to thank Dennis for what he gave me that day.” ~Emily McConnell, business owner

If you stop and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and you’re not seeing the value, picture how people benefit from what you do, the value they receive from your time and labor. Because you feel valuable when you provide value.

And you never know how far-reaching that will be!

Aviate • Navigate  •  Communicate

Book Dennis Bauer to Speak

compass-rose x100w

Thinking outside the box can be a bad idea.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Seriously… it was!

Far left lane, southbound Interstate 5 at night and, of all things in Seattle, it was raining. Hard!

Driving Rain2My 16-year old daughter with her hot-off-the-press driver’s license sat behind the wheel of my Chevy Astro van. I wanted her to get as much driving experience as possible. Heavy rain, road spray, and a semi in the lane to our right, which we were about to pass. Her knuckles white, she began to freak out. I sat there… calmly… praying.

Approaching the semi, windshield wipers screaming, I looked at my daughter and said, “Heather, just keep us between the white lines.” So she focused on that one goal. Keep us between the white lines. Forget the truck. Forget the rain. Forget the dark. Focus on one thing: keep us between the white lines.

And with that, she successfully passed the semi.

Out in front the sun came out. Birds began to sing. Glowing rainbows appeared. Happy unicorns danced. (OK, I made part of the ending up.)

Stay between the white lines. Driving doesn’t get much more basic than that, does it?

When you were in kindergarten, what did the teacher tell you to do when you were coloring pictures?

Stay inside the lines, right?

When you became an adult, though, what were you taught? Color wherever and whatever you want! Be creative! Think outside the box!

And that is great advice when things are going well.

But when things are going not so well, it’s time to stay between the lines. Get back to basics. At that point, stop thinking outside the box until the storm has passed. Keep us between the white lines.

When unexpected things happen to you… in business, or on an adventure, or in a relationship, or in a leadership role… when your knuckles are white, it’s time to zone in on what matters most.

Rainbow and Unicorn1What is the most basic thing in your endeavor? I challenge you to define it clearly. Then write it out. In a sentence or two, when you’re flooded by road spray and threatened by semis, what is it that matters most to your survival? Write it down.

You’re not promised singing birds and glowing rainbows and dancing unicorns. You might get all that, but it’s not guaranteed. What you ARE guaranteed is this: the best chance at survival and success.

 

Aviate  • Navigate  • Communicate

compass-rose x100wBook Dennis Bauer to Speak

ED000192Potential does not make you special. Nope, the world and every person in it is full of potential. But that’s not what makes you special.

Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, the Beatles… brimming with potential. But that’s not why they are special. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison… overflowing with potential. But that’s not why they’re special either. And young Johnny in his chair in grade school? Well, the teacher says “he’s got potential.” Ever see that on your report card? (Or am I the only one?)

Has “potential” become more ubiquitous than performance? Are we just sitting around saying “the sky’s the limit!” while sitting in our chairs looking at it?

I think this poster has it wrong. potentialAt least partly wrong in a major way. Because… dreams have no power. The world is full of dreams… dreams unfulfilled, dreams for which no action is taken. A dream will not take you to the sky.  Johnny needs a heck of a lot more than his dream and a heck of a lot more than his potential if he’s going to reach the sky. Johnny has to perform. And so do you!

Potential. “Johnny COULD do more, if Johnny WOULD do more.” Like, bring his homework home… and work on it. Like, turn in assignments… on time. Like, chat less in class… and listen more. Like text less… and open a book.

Potential is a toolbox full of construction tools looking at an empty lot. It’s a widget on the drawing board. It’s a book in your heart. It’s gas in the tank. Potential sits in a chair and achieves nothing.

Assuming you actually WANT to get out of the chair and reach the sky, what makes the difference between your potential and your achievement? What steps will you climb to build the house, produce the widget, write the book, reach the sky?

What if?

A favorite view I enjoy is heading north on I-5 toward Seattle at night. Around a certain curve, the entire cityscape opens wide, full of lights… office lights in a thousand windows. I always think, “Wouldn’t Thomas Edison be impressed!” Wouldn’t our world be different if Mr. Edison sat in his easy chair, gazing at the oil lamp, thinking wouldn’t it be nice to invent a 60-watt light bulb? And then went to bed? And dreamed about it? And got up, sat in his chair, and blogged about it? And posted on Facebook and LinkedIn about how wonderful his ideas were? Every day. For all his life. What if?

Edison discovered the resources he had available, knew where he was heading with his ideas, and methodically, step-by-step, followed the course that gave the world the 60-watt light bulb. And a power grid. And a beautiful view of Seattle at night.

How to navigate from the chair to the stairs to the stars:

ABCs of Navigate. (Cleverly borrowed from my book)

If you’re going to reach the sky, don’t wait — navigate. You need to know three things:

  • A. Where you Are. What do you have available? What are your resources, assets, gifts, talents and abilities?
  • B. Where you want to Be. What is the picture of what it will look like when you get there?
  • C. Your Course to get from where you Are to where you want to Be.

Thus, 1) you take your potential, 2) describe where you want to go with it, and 3) you plan the steps you’ll take to get there. Write this out.

How about you?

What CAN you accomplish or what CAN you become or where CAN you go? When you push the throttle forward, hit the afterburners, and point for the sky… really, what possibilities! You must put your potential into action.

Set aside time tonight or over the weekend. Write out your own ABCs of Navigate. Take time. Journal it. Put it someplace special. In writing it out, you discover mental clarity, direction, and hope.

Potential on afterburnersSet your course. Tomorrow, look at the first step on your list, and STEP ON IT! Get moving!

Yep, you need potential. It’s the gas in your tank. It’s what you DO with your potential that gets you to the sky.

Now… start the engine, put it on afterburners, and GO!

What’s YOUR dream… and what step are you about to take toward achieving it?

Aviate  • Navigate  • Communicate

compass-rose x100wBook Dennis Bauer to Speak

Basics keep you alive.

Whether facing 60-mile-an-hour winds on a glacier-encrusted mountain, or driving a car at night in the road spray of a Seattle rainstorm while passing a semi, or watching your organization’s spreadsheet take a nosedive when a competitor under-prices you in a commodity market… knowing what the basics are, and keeping your focus on those basics above all else, offers you your best chance of survival, recovery and success.

Not paying attention to basics can cause you to crash and burn.
 

Aviate • Navigate • Communicate

You want to avoid crashing. When you feel things starting to go down... Aviate! Basics. First things first.

In flying an airplane, Aviate • Navigate • Communicate, in that order, are the very first things you must do to be prepared for The Unexpected, and handle it well when it happens.

First things first: Aviate… get back to basics. Or… you can crash and burn! Not much else matters in life or in business if you lose track of the basics by getting distracted by interesting but unessential peripherals.

For a pilot, that means first and foremost, “fly the plane!”
 

2 Basics of Business

For a business, a non-profit, and an organization of any kind (dare we apply this to the government, too?), you simply must get, and keep, the two Basics of Business under control:

  • Cash Flow, and
  • Quality of Product/Service.

Everything else… marketing, sales, personnel, stock, R&D, facilities, planning, etc… is built on one, or both, of these two basics.

Seven days ago, Forbes author Steven Bertoni posted an article titled, Why Square Needs To Sell Itself–And Do It Quickly. onforb.es/1k066Kv…

You’ve seen the little square that plugs into a smart phone, a tablet, or an iPad? The guy who thought of it is the same guy that thought of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.Square Reader

The clock is ticking for Square. Jack Dorsey’s payment start-up is burning through massive amounts of cash as it tries to scale its payments business. Today the Wall Street Journal–citing unnamed people in-the-know– reported that Square lost $100 million in 2013 and is quickly eating up its $340 million supply of venture cash. Because of the cash bleed–Square is seeking a suitor desperately.

The profit margin for Square is very slim. If you purchase $100 worth of lattes, the article explains, Squares net is only 55 cents! And they’re not the only ones out there doing what they do. They’ve got competition.

For a viable business, Square needs to scale its way to massive payment volumes. That’s why Square is trying to sell itself to a rich owner with enough cash to survive the cash bleed as it hunts for larger customers.

And Square may not make it without selling out the company. With cash draining, they tried raising investment money but failed, so they went into debt, borrowing more than $100 million.
 

And you?

Small companies have to be just as careful to watch basics like cash flow. In fact, without positive cash flow, you’ll probably go down even faster because you may not have the connections, the network, to try to draw from. When you run out of gas, you’ll glide, but not as far.

One inviolable rule for your business or organization (or personal finances) is, “Don’t spend more than you make.” If you stick to that one, simple, old-fashioned rule, when you face The Unexpected, you won’t be going down because you’re out of gas.

I learned this (the hard way) when it appeared I was doing so well! In my video production business, we won bids to exclusively tape hundreds of figure skaters at the Ice Skating Institute World Championships in Boston one year and St. Louis the next, and we made over $40,000 in a week, two years in a row. A few months after the second event, I wondered why we didn’t have enough to pay the phone bill! So I did what I should have done from the get-go and ran a spreadsheet… where I discovered that the expenses of producing those week-long multiple-sheets of ice, with a camera and sales crew of 15, paying their wages and travel and lodging and meals, paying for extra equipment rentals, and around 1000 video tapes, etc., etc., my NET after all that was only $1500… for four months work!
 

Back to Basics!

Knowing the actual cash flow, and the actual net profit, the decision was easy… the 4-state area we served was where the profit was. No more big, fancy, impressive, feather-in-our-caps, world-class jobs that sucked too much gas from our small financial tanks.

Ever happen to you? How did it turn out?
 

Aviate • Navigate • Communicate

compass-rose x100w

4 Traits of Great Leaders

NOTE: This blog on leadership comes from friend and mentor, Bill Stainton, former Executive Director of “Almost Live” and winner of 29 personal Emmy Awards. He is an expert in leadership. With his permission…

(Bill’s blog: billstainton.com…)

 

fortunecover1The cover story in the current issue of Fortune magazine is “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.” Once again, I didn’t make the cut. I suppose it’s possible that I’m number 51, but my guess is that I’m further down the list.

But the story got me thinking: what makes a great leader? What are the skills that the truly effective leaders possess?

There are many, to be sure. But in my experience—both as a leader and in working with leaders across the country—there are four foundational skills that all great leaders have developed, and continue to develop throughout their careers.

A great leader:

 
Creates

Leadership is an act of creation. A great leader creates a team, creates a vision, creates a plan. I’m not saying he or she necessarily does this alone, but a great leader creates. Even if a leader inherits a team, she re-creates it in a way that furthers the goal, the vision. More than one leadership guru has stated that creativity is the #1 skill that leaders need today (and tomorrow). What many people don’t realize is that it is a skill that can be learned, nurtured, and improved. Great leaders take the act of creation seriously, and strive consciously and continuously to develop their creative skills.

 
Communicates

A great leader is a great communicator. Whether they are communicating to the team, the stakeholders, or the public, great leaders have the ability to get their message across both clearly and compellingly. And the really great ones understand—and use—the unmatched power of humor.

 
Inspires

Team members follow a great leader not because they have to, not because they’re told to, but because they want to. Why? Because a great leader inspires them. A great leader makes them want to be better than they currently are. But let’s be clear—there’s more than one style of inspiration. You don’t have to be the bombastic football coach or the fire and brimstone preacher to be an inspirational leader. Mother Teresa never ranted in a locker room at halftime (to the best of my knowledge); Warren Buffett doesn’t thunder from the pulpit. But both have achieved remarkable results through inspiration.

 
Decides

When, as a television Executive Producer, I was leading my team, I thought of my leadership style as a “democratic dictatorship.” It was democratic in that everyone had input, everyone had a vote. But ultimately, the call came down to one person—me. I was the dictator. Sometimes my calls weren’t popular. Sometimes they may not have even been right. But sometimes (e.g., when it’s not possible to have all the information necessary, when your options are equally good—or equally egregious, or when you’re simply out of time), you can’t know the right decision, or there is no right decision. At those times, it’s more important that the leader make a decision than the right decision. A leader who makes the wrong decision is simply that: a leader who made a wrong decision. But a leader who makes no decision is no leader at all.

 

About Bill Stainton

For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results–in THEIR world and with THEIR teams.

– See more at: billstainton.com…

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