Lesson #1: Friends come and go; enemies accumulate. One of the most important assets to have in business is good working relationships. The more positive the relationships you have with your peers, the more effective you can be. I once read an article about what Fortune 500 CEOs have in common. It was not intelligence, education at the best schools, or affability. The common success factor for top CEOs was that they had developed a broad network of people who respected them and said they would be willing to work with them again. So pay attention to your relationships. If you make a mistake or get into a strained relationship situation, fix it, just as you would any other business issue—quickly and sensitively.
Lesson #2 Listen to what people say; they always reveal themselves. Being effective in business is about persuasion, getting people to feel comfortable about moving in a certain direction. It’s about motivating them. It’s about working with and through others to get results. You cannot be effective unless you understand where others are coming from—their motivations; how they win; their problems or objections to what you are suggesting. You can’t show someone how something is in their best interest unless you take the time to find out what their best interest is…or is not.
Lesson #3: Embrace change. The adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is misguided. It implies that you should wait for a problem to surface before you change anything. My experience is that once a problem develops, fixing it can be a long and painful process, one in which there’s lots of downside for all involved. The most successful organizations have a positive predisposition to change: new ideas are welcomed and rewarded; people are always looking for ways to enhance programs, products, and policies; small and large changes are constantly being made in every function and activity. Only in this way can an excellent organization remain at the cutting edge of excellence.
Lesson #4: Catch people doing something right. Appreciation is a powerful motivator. It is also an underutilized motivator. Many of us assume that money is the biggest driver for people in business. I personally feel that recognition is a far stronger motivator. People work hard to do a good job. You’ll get far greater performance from them if you make an effort to frequently recognize the value of their contributions, large and small.