On Motivation and Action


One of the challenges in business, especially in sales, is staying motivated. Most people would rather not work, much less work hard, and if the work is physical, then forget it! There are all kinds of reasons for this, but most of them simply boil down to a head game of some kind or another. Perhaps we’re afraid of rejection. Perhaps it’s a tendency to procrastinate – even, or especially, when the alternative is particularly unproductive.

It is said that 90% of failures in business are a failure to execute an otherwise effective plan. It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling or what environment you’re doing it in – be it retail, inside sales, outside sales, or even cold calling. The reality is that we are often our own worst enemy. Get out of your own way. The plan works; work the plan.

The Chinese philosopher Laozi is often quoted as saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” A more literal translation of what he said would read, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with placing one’s foot on the ground.” That is to say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins [by taking action!]”

Don’t let your head win. It’s mind over matter. You can do just about anything you set your mind to. It’s about not making excuses and taking action!


Thoughts on the Promotion of Vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday


In the Catholic Church, today is “Good Shepherd Sunday” in reference to the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter in which Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11. It is also World Day of Prayer for Vocations across the Church. I thought I would take a slight break from my usual thoughts on business and management and offer some thoughts on vocations through the lens of business.

It is no secret that there is a critical shortage of men responding to a vocation to the priesthood. While statistics for the Ordination Class of 2015 show an increase of 20% in ordinations compared to the Class of 2014, much growth is still needed to replace an aging presbyterate.

What then, can be done to promote a significant improvement in the number of men earnestly discerning a vocation to the priesthood? I suggest focusing on three factors: The Position of Fathers as the spiritual head of their families, recognizing and promoting the Universal Call to Holiness as the primary vocation of all people, appreciating the Voice of the People in discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

The Position of Fathers

In a June 2003 article in Touchstone Magazine titled The Truth About Men & Church, Robbie Lowe examines the impact of the church attendance of fathers and mothers on the church attendance of their adult children. While the entire article is well worth reading, he summarizes the effect of fathers, specifically, rather nicely:

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

Clearly, the importance of fathers as the spiritual head of their household cannot be undervalued. Even for the most devout of mothers, when paired with a father who does not go to church, only 2% of children will become regular worshipers.

It is unfortunate that many of today’s fathers belong to an entire generation that went under-catechized, if not un-catechized all together. Nevertheless, it is not their knowledge of the teachings of the Church, or even the quality of their own spirituality that counts here. Faithfully attending is what matters. It’s about having values, demonstrating the importance of those values, and making a valiant effort.

The Universal Call to Holiness

Having established the importance of the role of fathers as the spiritual head of their household, basic, fundamental catechesis at all age levels is necessary. If parents are to be the primary educators of their children, then they must be given the tools and equipment necessary to perform the task at hand. This includes the requisite training.

A primary focus of this catechesis effort, at all ages, must be focused on the Universal Call to Holiness as the primary vocation for all people. Too often, we focus on the academic study of theology, without actually instilling a sense of the divine. From the earliest ages, children must be taught that the Lord not only loves them, but desires to have a relationship with them, in which he will reveal his unique plan for them. Then, they must be taught to intentionally foster this relationship with the Lord, to listen to his call, and courageously accept his will for them. Especially with the young, the pedagogy of St. John Bosco ought to be seriously considered, especially when dealing with young men.

The Voice of the People

During the Rite of Ordination of a Priest, after the Gospel, but before the Homily, those to be ordained are called, by the deacon, by name. Then, a priest – usually the Director of Formation or the Director of Seminarians – addresses the Bishop:

“Most Reverend Father, holy Mother Church asks you to ordain these men, our brothers, to the responsibility of the Priesthood.”

The Bishop responds, “Do you know them to be worthy?”

The Priest continues, “After inquiry among the Christian people and upon the recommendation of those responsible, I testify that they have been found worthy.”

The Bishop continues, “Relying on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, we choose these, our brothers, for the Order of the Priesthood.”

Finally, the people respond, “Thanks be to God.” The people then give their assent, according to local custom. In the United States, this is commonly done by applause.

I share this, because even in the Rite of Ordination, itself, the voice of the people of God proves to be an unmistakable and powerful affirmation of one’s vocation.

In the aforementioned statistics on the ordination class of 2015, there are some statistics that are particularly interesting.

On average, responding ordinands report that they were about 17 when they first considered a vocation to the priesthood. They were encouraged to consider a vocation by an average of four people. Seven in ten (71 percent) say they were encouraged by a parish priest. Other frequent encouragers include friends (46 percent), parishioners (45 percent), and mothers (40 percent).

This speaks powerfully of the importance of the voice of the people of God to the promotion of vocations to the priesthood. While parish priests make up the overwhelming promoters, friends and parishioners, even more than mothers, prove a powerful motive for considering the call of the Lord. The fact that the average ordinand was 17 when he first considered a vocation to the priesthood is a bold testimony to the voice of the Father calling to young men.

If we are going to have faithful priests, the people of God must first seek holiness for themselves and then consider who of their sons and brothers the Lord calls to the priesthood. But most importantly, they must actually, vocally call him to service.

While these general ideas do little to outline specific practices to promote vocations, I believe that they outline a groundwork that research tells us is important to the cause at hand. The faithful would do well to consider how their own communities might meet these goals and what specific actions they can take to achieve them.


When It All Hits the Fan: Dealing with Adversity in the Workplace


We are all human and sooner or later, we are all bound to make a mistake. This is true for business as much as it is for life. Sometimes, these mistakes are small and inconsequential. At other times, they require some damage control and cleanup. And on the very rare occasion, true catastrophe strikes. Whether we’re trying to figure out how we missed our sales goals, why we didn’t deliver a project on time, or how to ease a client with legitimate pain-points, there are a five keys to getting through the shock of the mess or the temptation to place blame for the whole ordeal – neither of which are productive.

Acknowledge the Situation

The first key is to Acknowledge the Situation. In the 5 Stages of Loss and Grief, Acceptance is the final stage, following Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression. In business, we tend to first want to deny our own responsibility and blame someone else. But throwing our coworker under the bus doesn’t do anything to actually fix the problem and blaming an employee is a sure fire way to get egg on our own face. Instead, acknowledge the problem for what it is. Determine any break downs, failures, or root causes without needing to assign blame. Call a spade a spade and tell it like it is. It may not be pretty and it certainly won’t be easy, but people will appreciate the honesty.

Take Control

After Acknowledging the Situation, Take Control of it. Whether we are personally culpable or could have done anything to prevent the situation, we are in the unique position of being able to do something, right now. Determine what actions need to be taken to right the ship and set us back on the correct course.


It is said that 90% of failure is a failure to execute an otherwise effect plan. Only 10% is caused by an ineffective plan or no plan at all. After we Acknowledge the Situation and Take Control, we have to actually do something; we have to Execute the plan.

Learn from It

Once we have actually solved the problem, it is worth while to examine the root causes and adjust our systems to prevent similar failures and shortcomings in the future. Perhaps we need more frequent followup on the progress of a project or better communication with our supply lines to ensure materials and products are available. Whatever it is, learn for the situation and make sure that the same organizational weaknesses do not cause future problems.

Move On

Finally, Move On. There is no point in dwelling on failures or problems. If it was really bad, some day you’ll look back and laugh at the mess that was and how you fixed it. But dwelling on it wastes energy and resources and is simply not productive.

These simple steps allow us to effectively and efficiently address problems as they arise without engaging emotion, freeing up time and resources to pursue our objective and be productive.

For more reading on how to overcome adversity in the workplace, check out The Oz Principle, by Roger Conners.


The Power of “Why”


Earlier this week, I wrote about the Importance of the question “Why?” In providing purpose to your team. That sense of purpose drives higher commitment and efforts on the part of the team, leading to better results.

But taking some time to answer “Why?” can do far more than just better results, it can also lead to increased organizational efficiency. Consider our previous example: I was asked to redo part of a project because it was not aesthetically pleasing. The reality is, I completed a task without understanding what the overall reason and desired outcome were. As a result, part of the task had to be redone, creating an inefficient use of time and resources.

But understanding “Why?” can do more than prevent inefficiencies, it can create efficiencies, too. By giving our employees more information, we provide them with the resources to make informed decisions, i.e. correct decisions. And if we empower them to make< those decisions, our leaders have more time to devote to more demanding things. This allows us to better utilize our limited resources and gives our employees a sense of autonomy – a whole other topic for a different day. Allowing your team to make some decisions – and, inevitably have some failures along the way – also allows you to identify natural talent that’s already on the team.

There are really all kinds of reasons to stop and answer, “Why?” Giving purpose, preventing inefficiency, creating efficiency, empowering, learning; these are really just the beginning.


The Importance of “Why?”


Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve constantly asked the eternal question – “Why?” My mother will probably tell you she wishes she had not humored me so much back then.

Often times we interpret this as questioning our reasoning or authority. The reality is, this is frequently not the case. “Why?” might just as easily be asked in order to understand. I recently asked my own boss the question and got the look. I had to explain: there is a reason she asked me to redo something a certain way. On the surface, it appeared to be a rather arbitrary matter of personal preference. I needed to understand why so that I didn’t make similar mistakes in the future.

Frequently, as leaders and managers, we understand what is going on. We know the objective, the process, and the reasoning. We just want our teams to complete the task and accomplish the objective. If we don’t share at least some of this information with our teams, however, the tasks can seem pedantic or merely a matter of preference. That makes them easy to dismiss without too much – if any – effort or consideration.

On the other hand, a little but of “why” goes a long way in helping the team to appreciate the importance of what is being asked of them. “Why?” creates purpose: to our clients, our company, and our team.

The next time you get asked, “why?” take a moment to give some context to your team. They’ll be much happier to have a purpose to their work and their commitment will certainly be higher.



Believing Success is Possible


Over the course of my career, I have led several teams to great accomplishments and the awards and recognition we received along the way are a bit of a badge of honor for me. Somewhere along the way, I learned an important lesson: people want to be on a winning team, but more importantly, they want to be on a team they believe can win. This has never been more clear to me than a project I was working on for a nonprofit organization several years ago.

Just ten days before we were supposed to launch a new project, we lost a significant pledge that put us short of our goal and left us with less than the minimum funding to make the project successful. Replacing $3,500 in pledges in just ten days was not optional; it was the difference between success and failure. For a small, fledgling nonprofit, this was a lot of money.

Desperate to replace those pledges, we went door to door and people literally laughed at us; they simply didn’t believe the money could be raised. I have no doubt that our own uncertainty was visible. It became obvious: this isn’t going to work; we have to find another way.

With just six days left, we launched a campaign to find 100 people willing to donate $35. Suddenly, our goal was not only possible, but plausible and our progress was measurable. People wanted to be a part of our project and many pledged two or three times.

I learned a valuable lesson over those ten days. People laughed because they didn’t want to be a part of failure and let’s be honest, I was pretty sure we were going to fail. Having a plan is only the first step, however. Sharing that vision and plan with our benefactors was the difference between success and failure. I have no doubt that so many people gave so many times because they believed the dream was possible and they wanted to make it happen. Most importantly, they wanted to be on the winning team.

As managers, we sometimes get caught up in simply demanding performance from our teams. We know the importance of our success; we know the goal; we know the plan. But if we don’t take the time to share these things with our team, they don’t share our vision; they don’t believe success is possible, and they are left laughing at us. On the other hand, if we share the vision, the dream, and the plan, they just might give us two or three times what we ask for.