At Leadercast a few years ago, I fielded a very timely question.

During lunch, a young man asked,

“How does a good leader handle layoffs? Especially when they need to lay off a good and valued employee?”

Here’s what I believe:

First, I don’t think a leader should ask others to make sacrifices until he’s made some himself. So I’d examine other company expenses to see what could be sacrificed instead. So many executives, when faced with the need to cut costs, will sacrifice employees ahead of their own corporate perks. Instead of looking at the big picture, they see only their OWN picture.

But if an organization is only as strong as its weakest link, then leaders should do everything they can to avoid removing a STRONG link. A good employee is simply too valuable to let go without exhausting other options.

I do the same when hiring. I’ve always believed that if you find a good potential employee, you do whatever you can to get them on the team – even if it means creating a position or changing the budget. I once even gave up my own budgeted salary for a year in order to hire the leader I wanted to run one of my companies.

You may not be able to sacrifice your salary to keep an employee, but if they’re truly valuable, you certainly should be willing to give up the box seats at the baseball stadium, or use of the corporate jet, or your company-paid gym membership.

And after all the budget-busting, if you still need to lay good people off, then make it your goal to help them find a new position. Tell them you will be their #1 advocate. Offer to be a reference in their job hunt. Network on their behalf. Write the recommendation letter and/or make the phone call to the potential employer. Do whatever you can to ease their transition.

Finally, ask if you can remain friends even if they can no longer be on your staff. Who knows what the future may bring? Besides, as a leader, your goal should be to add value to the people you lead. When good employees leave and take a new position, it might offer them better opportunities than what you could have provided.

 Originally posted May 20, 2009

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I believe it is a normal human desire to be concerned about how we look on the outside. There’s nothing wrong with that. What can get us in trouble is worrying more about how we look on the outside than about how we really are on the inside. Our reputation comes from what others believe about our outside. Our character represents who we are on the inside. And the good news is that if you focus on being better on the inside than the outside, over time you will also become better on the outside. Why do I say that?

The Inside Influences the Outside

More than twenty-five hundred years ago, the Proverbs writer noted that as we think in our hearts, so we become. That ancient idea has been both echoed by other wisdom writers and confirmed by modern science. Coaches teach the importance of visualization for winning. Psychologists point out the power of self-image on people’s actions. Doctors note the impact of positive attitude and hope on healing.

What we believe really matters. We reap what we sow. What we do or neglect to do in the privacy of our daily lives impacts who we are. If you neglect your heart, mind, and soul, it changes who you are on the outside as well as the inside.

Inside Victories Precede Outside Ones

If you do the things you need to do when you need to do them, then someday you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them. In other words, before you can do, you must be.

I have often observed people who seemed to be doing all the right things on the outside, yet they were not experiencing success. When that happens, I usually conclude that something is wrong on the inside and needs to be changed. The right motions outwardly with wrong motives inwardly will not bring lasting progress. Right outward talking with wrong inward thinking will not bring lasting success. Expressions of care on the outside with a heart of hatred or contempt on the inside will not bring lasting peace. Continual growth and lasting success are the result of aligning the inside and the outside of our lives. And getting the inside right must come first—with solid character traits that provide the foundation for growth.

Our Inside Development Is Totally within Our Control

We often cannot determine what happens to us, but we can always determine what happens within us. Jim Rohn said,

Character is a quality that embodies many important traits such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence, and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you were born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.

When we fail to make the right character choices within us, we give away ownership of ourselves. We belong to others—to whatever gains control of us. And that puts us in a bad place. How can you ever reach your potential and become the person you can be if others are making your choices for you?

Doug Firebaugh, author and multi-level marketing expert, says, “Winning in life is more than just money…it’s about winning on the inside…and knowing that you have played the game of life with all you had…and then some.” If you want to be successful, you must prioritize building your inside ahead of your outside.

Several years ago, teenage millionaire phenomenon Farrah Gray wrote a book called Reallionaire. He coined the term to describe “someone who has discovered that there is more to money than having money. A person who understands that success is not just about being rich in your pocket; you have to be rich on the inside, too.” At a tender age, he recognized that money without a strong character foundation can lead not to success but to ruin. If you have any doubt, just look at the number of famous child actors and young pop stars who have crashed and burned. Their stories are often sad because they focused on the externals of life instead of building internally to give themselves a strong foundation when fame and fortune came. Theirs is a fate we need to work hard to avoid by focusing on improving on the inside more than the outside.

From The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth

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What kind of impact do you want to make in this world? Most of us desire to do something that matters, something important. I believe that people are more important than anything else on this earth. So impacting the lives of other people is one of the most significant things any one of us can do.

How can we positively impact the life of another person? Through encouragement! I believe it is one of the greatest gifts you or I can give someone else. These are some of my favorite quotes on the topic. I hope they inspire you to make a difference in the life of someone else this week.

 “You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.” ~Zig Ziglar

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~Mother Teresa

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” ~Mark Twain

“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” ~William Arthur Ward

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” ~Booker T. Washington

“There are high spots in all of our lives and most of them have come about through encouragement from someone else.” ~George M. Adams

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth a greater effort under a spirit of approval then under a spirit of criticism.” ~Charles Schwab

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but reveal to him his own.” ~Benjamin Disraeli

“Treat a man as he appears to be and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“An automobile goes nowhere efficiently unless it has a quick, hot spark to ignite things, to set the cogs of the machine in motion. So I try to make every player on my team feel he’s the spark keeping our machine in motion.” ~Coach Knute Rockne

“How do you identify someone who needs encouragement? That person is breathing.” ~Truett Cathy

“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.” ~Dale Carnegie

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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
- Thomas A. Edison

Nobody likes to fail. But if we’re honest, we understand that failure is a part of life. There is no success without some amount of failure. Great inventors like Thomas Edison experience a lot of failures on the way to a successful invention. Even the best baseball players strike out much more often than they hit a home run. Anyone pursuing a goal of value will make mistakes and wrong decisions. So the key is to expect failure, to prepare for it, to be ready turn it into a lesson and a stepping stone to success. There is such a thing as a successful failure.

These are some of the traits of a successful failure:

1. Optimism. Find the benefit in every bad experience.

Thomas Edison redefined the failures in his experiments as “10,000 ways that won’t work.” He expected failure and counted it as one of the costs of finding a way that would work. By finding the benefit in the failure, he was able to keep attempting something great.

Optimism is not limited to a few people as a personality trait. Optimism is a choice. And while it doesn’t guarantee immediate positive results, it does result in higher motivation and stronger character.

2. Responsibility. Change your response to failure by accepting responsibility.

When we fail at something, it’s easy to blame someone or something else. Perhaps the circumstances or the people that we worked with. But failure is a learning opportunity. If I blame someone else, I’m just cheating myself out of that lesson.

Responsibility is more important than reputation. And it tends to lead to reward, which can lead to more responsibility. Your willingness to take responsibility marks you as someone who’s mature and can be trusted to learn from the failure and keep trying.

3. Resilience. Say goodbye to yesterday.

The ability to move on from failure is key to continuing to attempt great things. The mind can only focus on so much, so if we’re still too focused on what we did wrong, we can’t give all of our attention to attempting to do things right.

Here are five behaviors of people who haven’t gotten over past difficulties:

  • Comparison. Either measuring your failures against those of others, or convincing yourself that your circumstances were harder than theirs.
  • Rationalization. Telling yourself and others that you have good reasons for not getting over past hurts and mistakes. Believing that those who encourage you “just don’t understand.”
  • Isolation. Pulling back and keeping yourself separate from others, either to avoid dealing with the issues, or to continue to feel sorry for yourself.
  • Regret. Getting stuck lamenting or trying to fix things that cannot be changed.
  • Bitterness. Feeling like a victim and blaming others for negative outcomes.

4. Initiative. Take action and face your fear.

When we make mistakes and then consider trying again, we all feel some measure of fear. Facing the unknown, we easily come up with a list of things to worry about. But the act of worrying doesn’t help us at all in accomplishing our goals. As Corrie ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

Just believing that failure can be good isn’t enough to help us succeed. We need to act on that belief and take a step forward again in pursuit of our dream. Only then do we learn from our mistakes and make progress.

 

A successful failure is a failure that we respond to correctly: by finding the good, taking responsibility, moving on, and taking action. How do you respond to failure? Which of the above characteristics would you benefit from adopting?

 

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Well, Spring has officially arrived here in the United States. Although from what I hear, that’s not always apparent in some areas of the country. I love the feeling of new beginnings that comes with the arrival of this season, and I hope you do, too.

Reading is something I make time for every day of my life, because it’s so valuable to my personal growth. Today I want to share some of what I’ve been reading lately. As usual, I’ve captured great quotes and passages with my system described here.

I hope this list gives you something to read that will inspire and encourage you in your personal growth.

The Leadership GPS, by Denis McLaughlin

The Trouble With Jesus, by Joseph M. Stowell

Altar Ego, by Craig Groeschel

The Catalyst Leader, by Brad Lomenick

Start, by Jon Acuff

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