No. 24 – Guidelines That Will Serve Your Children Well (and Us, Too )

Many years ago I found a book by Richard R. Conarroe, published by the American Management Association titled, BRAVELY, BRAVELY IN BUSINESS.

Getting out of college and anxious for a career I typed these notes on a sheet of paper, folded it and kept it in my wallet for over ten years to unfold and read periodically. Recently, I found that folded piece of paper and discovered the things that made for a successful career that many years ago still holds true. And they will for your children too. See for yourself:

  • Pick the people who can most strongly determine your success and stay in direct, personal, continuous touch with them.
  • Never assume that the way things are today is the way they will be tomorrow – or even after lunch.
  • Never fail to consider the future significance of what you say and do.
  • Know what it is you can do better than anyone else and do that.
  • Never say anything about anyone you wouldn’t say in exactly the same way to his face.
  • Search for the seeds of victory in every disaster – and seeds of disaster in every victory.
  • Don’t lie. If you can’t tell the truth, keep quiet. When you start lying, you are dead.
  • Never expect someone to keep a secret. There are no secrets.
  • Bet on people – but be prepared to lose.
  • Unsolvable problems don’t disrupt the routine; they are the routine.
  • Everybody’s motives are different. Make certain you know what motivates each person you deal with.
  • Know exactly what your goals are.
  • Follow your own instincts. They are probably no more wrong than everyone else’s carefully reasoned logic.
  • Build a reputation as a winner by smiling when you win – and when you lose.
  • Keep every promise you have made – or that others think you have made.
  • Never assume that others are operating under the same rules you are.
  • Success has many ingredients, but the greatest of these is confidence.
  • Don’t win too soon. You’ll miss half the fun of playing the business game.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 23 – Go for the CEO Job! (Someone’s going to get it, might as well be you)

Every organization needs a leader. Motorcycle gangs have (official and unofficial) designated leaders, as do Red Cross workers. Children on school playgrounds follow the leader, just as dogs do in a pack. Regardless of your calling, someone is going to lead the charge; no group can do without a conductor. It might as well be you.

In business, they’re formally called chief (fill in the blank with chief operating, technical, legal, personnel, administrative, technology, information, continuity, risk, nuclear, marketing, manufacturing, financial, purchasing, quality, country, security, learning, or strategic) officer—which can lead to the CEO job.

Being the person in charge — the leader — is a lot bigger rush than base-jumping. It’s rad. It’s cool. And it’s awesome.

One psychologist told me, “Everyone wants to be a chief, but most feel it’s unrealistic, so they turn it around and act like they don’t want it anyway. But they wouldn’t turn it down if offered.”

Over many conversations with hundreds of CEOs, I asked why being the leader in the enterprise is a good gig. They told me that you have the best chance of any job in the organization to:

  • Turn things around; make things happen.
  • Be the coach, the mentor.
  • Make a difference.
  • Get to select the people you’re around.
  • Be able to do something about the problems you complain about.
  • Make your own decisions.
  • Minimize doing things that you think are stupid.
  • Choose the chances you’re going to take.
  • Make decisions that can change the world.
  • Be able to help more people.
  • Do what you think is right.
  • Be the boss you always wanted to have.
  • And control your own destiny.

As one CEO put it, “I figured I’m as smart as others running the show. I decided to be the boss that I always wanted to have.”

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 22 – Three Big Steps That Help You Learn How to Improve from What You’re Learning

“You don’t have to come into a situation knowing it all. But you do have to come in wanting to learn,” said my favorite CEO mentor, Curt Carter.

Without lots of information, you don’t have a chance of being a leader. You can’t argue your point or even discuss it unless you have tons of facts and material. You can’t be a change agent, be globally aware, be innovative and creative, be really good at your job, be decisive, manage your career well, or develop people.

Gathering useful knowledge from many sources is one of the most underrated qualities of a leader. Good leaders constantly seek information, collect it, and store it into their brains, computers, or with trusted administrative assistants.

Curt has told me many times, “I am always in the mode to learn something every day. I ask myself, ‘What’s here that would be beneficial to understand?’ I read everything I can and tap into everything I can.” He told me, “I’ll learn something new every day until I die. I may not use it but I’ll have learned it!”

Learning is one thing; getting better from it is another. Conscious, incrementally improved repetition is the key to improved performance.

3 Steps to repeat over and over:

  1. Pick something you want to get better at and set a goal around it.
  2. Pick apart what’s necessary to reach the goal. Part by part, piece by piece, deliberately drill the parts. ?(Well-done parts make for a well-done whole.) On each part, get feedback and seek causes and remedies to problem areas.
  3. Take that feedback, make changes accordingly, and concentrate ?on improving at least a little. Take the slightly improved, and repeat the effort, feedback, and ?slight improvement. ?Social scientists find that you have to repeat an action 28 times before it becomes a habit. I don’t care whether you do it 8, 28, or 228 times, just be sure that each time you are practicing a little bit better execution than the last.

Every task you do, from the most menial to the most significant, can be improved with this conscious preparation: leaving voice-mail messages, writing reports, making cocktail-party small talk, public speaking, selling, negotiating, and so forth.

The best in their field have an attitude of lifelong learning. Warren Buffett says that if you end your day without knowing more than you started, you’re not doing something right. Tiger Woods says that he wakes up every day knowing that he can be a better golfer. The artist Goya at age 82 wrote in a corner of one of his paintings, “I am still learning.” At age 77, actress Jane Fonda hired an acting coach to hone her skills.

When you see yourself improving, it becomes interesting. Big changes don’t happen overnight, but change can happen from this minute of practice to the next minute, from this day to the next.

No investment is guaranteed in life except the investment you make in yourself. Continuously learning is to invest in you.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 21 – Be Your Own PowerPoint Instead of Using It

Debra Benton Speaking

When I start a speech, generally after every other speaker has used a number of slides, I explain to the audience, “You’ll find that I don’t use PowerPoint. There is a reason for that. I believe you have to be your own PowerPoint in life. You can’t walk around with a group of slides over your shoulder explaining what you want people to remember. You have to live, breathe, show, and emote the effect you want to have on people.”

That’s taking nothing away from those who effectively use the technology. I just chose another approach in presentations so that I:

1) differentiate myself from others
2) rely on my physicality, choice of words, and mindset to communicate
3) practice what I preach (i.e. professional presence and executive effectiveness)

Next time you present, try it without any props except your own preparation and brilliance. You might find out that you explain yourself better than any technology can add to your speech.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


No. 20 – Tell People What You Feel

Standing outside a seaside restaurant in Malaga, Spain was an older woman dressed head to toe in a perfectly tailored aqua colored pantsuit apparently waiting for someone to join her. Sunglasses on her head and (likely) an Hermes scarf draped across one shoulder.

To this awkward-feeling college girl on Spring break, she looked the epitome of grace, confidence, and comfortableness with her happy facial expression, erect posture, and poised demeanor. After patiently waiting, an equally dapper young man joined her (I’m assuming her son) and gentlemanly escorted her to their table. She listened to him earnestly, touched his arm occasionally, spoke with enthusiasm, and laughed easily. I thought to myself, “that’s what I want to be like when I get older.”

Today, I am that older woman. Sometimes young women in my audience come up after a speech and say, “I hope I look like you when I’m your age.” It makes me feel good. And then I feel regret that I did not compliment that woman I saw in Malaga those many years ago. I was seated right beside her; I could have leaned over and said, “You’re a striking woman. You’re what I want to look like when I get older.”

Today if I see someone who makes me want to compliment him or her, I do it immediately and clearly because I don’t want to miss the chance to make someone feel good. It takes such little effort to maintain someone’s self esteem, and the payoff is so great for both of you.

– Debra

P.S. If you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me.


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