Current Affairs

Don't Run Your Business Like They Run Washington

If your business was struggling with a budget issue, would it make sense for your president, executive officers and management team to appear on the morning news shows and travel to distant branches for news conferences in order to tell your employees and investors that things are bad?  Or would it make more sense if they actually did the work they get paid for and found ways to make the company more competitive, efficient and profitable?

A Government shut down is not needed. Wise leaders are needed. Cut from the budget unnecessary costs. For example, the $179,750 per hour for Airforce One (not counting the security detail costs) every time the President travels to a P.R. event to promote another initiative or a fund raiser. Another example, the costs associated with keeping the Capitol open for 21 hours while a senator quotes Dr. Seuss and Darth Vader. It's time for leaders to lead and to stop campaigning.

Now take careful note, I am providing an "equal opportunity" poke at both parties.  I've been in DC plenty of times to observe party leaders on both sides of the aisle staging press conferences to campaign their views and not working at the same table to discuss solutions. The strong debate of issues has always been a part of our history. But at least our forefathers took their responsibilities to heart and didn't leave the chamber until they reached an agreement (i.e. a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution.)

Business leaders know that hammering out solutions is hard work, and that is exactly what others expect of them.  The process isn't always glamorous or pleasant.  It takes courage, collaboration and compromise to move things forward.  I think it's about time for a return to the work ethic of our founding fathers.

What do you think?

-  Steven Iwersen

The Necessity of Leadership

"It is no use saying 'we are doing our best.' You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary."  - Winston Churchill

 These are certainly uncertain times. 

Leaders around the world, in every business (large and small) know that the success of their organization depends on how they respond to the circumstances and keep focus on the things that are absolutely vital for sustainability as well as future growth.

I talk with business owners and executives every day.  Each one, without exception, has a crowded schedule full of seemingly important demands.  And yet, a small percentage of these leaders have a skill that sets them apart from the throng.  These are the women and men who have learned to discern the necessary issues from the tasks of "just good enough."  Spend only a few minutes with this select group and you will discover that they are extremely committed to doing what they do best.  But there is something more that makes these people true leaders -- their devotion to accomplishing what must be done!

Churchill suggests that doing our best is not good enough.  You can do your best at all the wrong things and fail miserably.  Do what is necessary and finish it well - that is success.

Learning to be devoted to the necessary is not an easy task.  It runs contrary to popular culture.  But those who dare to challenge the status quo, giving more than their best, those are the ones most admired.  The moment you choose to go beyond your comfort zone into the victory zone is that moment you make a leadership decision and give whole hearted effort to what must be done.

Look at your responsibilities today and ask yourself, "Is this absolutely necessary?"  You will discover a new freedom and a renewed efficiency when you focus on the most important.  Often the difference between doing our best and doing what is necessary is simply following through and doing what is right, at the right time, for the right reasons!

Leaders ViewPointe:

1)  By all means, I will do my best.

2)  I will qualify each task, appointment, or meeting by asking first, "Is this necessary?"  Then I will ask, "Is it my priority or responsibility?"

3)  I will do what is necessary first.  Even if it is difficult or unpopular.

4)  Leadership is the art of being intentional.

Be confident today.  Inspire confidence in others. 

Reading the thoughts and influence of Winston Churchill during times such as these could be very helpful for leaders who desire to keep a proper focus.  Check out these great Churchill links:

I am looking forward to hearing of your leadership victories. -  Steven Iwersen



What Makes A Leader?

The American political journey continues with every new election.  Newspapers, televisions, automobile bumpers, front yards and mail boxes have been crowded with the usual "Vote for me...I want to be your leader" stuff!  Citizens vote.  Issues are decided.  Leaders are chosen.  And as soon as the dust settles, the process begins again.

America is in a constant state of change; always in the "becoming" stage.  That's part of the nature of freedom.  True liberty allows for new experience and growth, improvements and mistakes.  Freedom inspires new possibilities. It does not partner with a "wait and see" mentality; but encourages a "make it happen" attitude.  That environment counts on quality leadership.

We need leaders.  We need them in our homes, schools, businesses, communities, churches, military and government.  We need leaders who are not afraid to live and lead by the convictions of the heart.  We need leaders who are exemplary and not afraid to live by higher standards.  Without their influence we lack direction and purpose.

What makes a leader?


Dwight Eisenhower put it this way:  "In order to be a leader a man must have followers.  And to have followers, a man must have their confidence."

Followers make a leader.  Think about that.  It doesn't matter how good you are at articulating your goals or inspiring others to join the cause; you don't become a leader because you've decided, but more accurately because others have decided in your favor.  Followers make a leader.


Followers make a leader by the virtue of their trust.  That trust is earned by the quality of your life and the faithfulness of your word.

Eisenhower went on to say that "the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible..."

Now, are you ready for the truth about you?  You are a leader!  But you have not won that right or responsibility by the process of an election.  You are a leader because you have followers that trust you.  Yes, you have followers!

  • The child who looks up into your eyes hoping for encouragement or a hug.
  • The business associates and clients that have learned that you always keep your word.
  • The friends who know that you'll be there in the tough times, as well as the good.
  • Anyone who has confidence in you.

Leadership is not political; it is personal!  Take a personal interest in those who follow you and be the kind of person you would want to follow.

Leaders ViewPointe:

1)  Consider your influence.  Are you creating an environment where others have freedom to experience growth, explore improvements and learn from mistakes?

2) Ask yourself two questions: What am I doing that encourages trust and builds confidence?  What should I do differently today that will earn their trust?

3) Remember: Leadership is Personal!  It is to your credit to be more interested in the well being of those you lead, then to be consumed by an agenda that makes only you look good!

We are and will continue to hear many references about President Eisenhower during the current political campaigns. To Consider Eisenhower's Influence on the Political Scene Consider the following links:

Biography Info at

His Presidential Farewell Address:  This includes the full text, with audio and video links.  Click here for a direct link to the video.

Did Starbucks Get It Right?

My wife and I did what most Starbucks loyalists did the morning after the shutdown; we went early to see what might be different.  It didn't go well.  There was a whole new crew who had very little exchange with the customers and almost no eye contact.  The atmosphere was flat, quiet and people lined up, filed through and hardly said a word.  Even the usual background music was missing. The baristas were so focused on trying to get the drinks right that they forgot to keep the customers in sight.

Later that morning I stopped at another favorite location to see what might be different. Nothing!  They delivered the experience just like they always do - friendly and jovial, great coffee and a comfortable environment.  I asked the barista what he thought of the training.

"Well, I'm a college student," he replied, "and I had a class last night, so I didn't get in on it.  But I heard it went well."

I thought to myself, "He didn't need the training anyway.  He's very engaging and made my triple grande caramel machiatto perfectly."

A few minutes later I overhead the manager say to those who missed the training, "This is all you have to know about training session and in this order: 1) Quality first, 2) Friendliness, and 3) Speed of service.

Based on my experience that morning, I'm not sure that Quality First is the cure for the slowdown in sales for Starbucks.  I think that the answer is in the second standard -- Friendliness!  Customers pay for the "Experience" of enthusiasm, pleasant conversation, being known or at least being acknowledged.  Could it be that people aren't paying $4 or more for a "perfect cup of coffee"?  They pay instead for a few moments of feeling welcomed, a smile and the sense of community. 

Of course, the coffee should be great.  But great coffee served poorly won't be served very often.  Just as great service alone cannot cover for poor quality.  There must be equality in the experience of quality service and product.

Leaders ViewPointe:

  1. Paying attention to our friendliness quotient is a high priority with our customers as well as those we lead.  How do they feel about their encounters with us?  Do they feel important or connected because of the way we treat them?
  2. We must remember that we exist in an "experience" market.  What kind of experience are you providing through your leadership efforts?

How do you keep the balance of friendliness and quality in your work environment?  I'd love to hear about your best practices or how you're leading your team on this matter.   

Starbucks Leadership Says Its Time To Close The Doors!

We just returned from a weekend in Seattle. The weather was incredible - sunny!  The experience was spectacular!  And Starbucks was everywhere!  That is not an exaggeration.  Everywhere you turn a Starbucks is there to welcome you.

The original Starbucks store in Pike Place Market (opened in 1971) has not changed much over the years.  The decor, coffee, staff and experience are much the same. However, the Starbucks Company has been going through some significant changes in the past few months.  Driven mostly be a drop in stock values, the Board of Directors chose to put Founder and past-CEO, Howard Schultz back in the top leadership position.  Howard is a leader with a passion; a passion for coffee, empowerment and community.  Watch during the next few months and you'll see the changes unfold right there in your favorite Starbucks!

The most obvious shift you will see is a renewed focus on the basics – the basics that made Starbucks a household name and changed the way we “experience” coffee.  It is no longer a tin can commodity it is a vital part of community.  What basics will Starbucks CEO expect the company to embrace?  Coffee expertise, consistency, employee empowerment and training, and the customer experience known as the “third place”.   Schultz sees these things as non-negotiable.  They are the essence of a relationship that he believes must be established with the employees, in order to enhance the relationship with the customer.  As  Becky Carrol stated in her blog, "Starbucks is putting its employees front and center in their effort to transform the customers experience."

We don't have to look far to understand what is driving this leader.  Howard Schultz wrote in his book Pour Your Heart Into It (1997) the following:

"There is no more precious commodity than the relationship of trust and confidence a company has with its employees."

"The head of a company can't, and shouldn't always be the cheerleader.  He has to be willing to let his people see the weaknesses and the pain, as long as they understand them in the context of the company's greater accomplishments.

When the chips are down, it's wrong to give a rah-rah Knute Rockne speech. People want guidance, not rhetoric.  They need to know what the plan of action is, and how it will be implemented.  They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it."

These are great insights.  It is easy to say, harder to implement.  Vision is important for employees to understand, but it is equally vital that they be given an action plan and permission to pursue it.  Great leadership recognizes when to talk, and when to deliver!  Solutions are not always found in one more motivational talk, but in the opportunities of empowerment.  (In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer you can read Howard's memo to the employees for more insight into his commitment to them and his openness to their input.)

Are you ready for this?  Starbucks is getting ready to close the doors.  On February 26, 2008  over 7,100 stores around the nation will intentionally lock the doors at 5:30 p.m. and cease operations.  Don't panic, this is only for a few hours.  The purpose: to train and revisit the basics as well as ideas for improvement.  Will it result in a better cup of coffee?  Probably, but more importantly it will create a better sense of responsibility and ownership among the employees for the experience you and I have on a daily basis.

Melissa Allison, reporter for the Seattle Times wrote in the February 12, 2008 edition:

In an interview last month, Schultz said he was committed to "reinvent and reinvest in training the likes of which we have not done."

"I think our people are the reason we've been successful," he said.

"The equity of the brand is based on the experience they create, and we want to unleash that creativity and that passion.  They have it.  We just have to give them the tools and the resources for it to come out."

Leaders ViewPointe:

  1. Change is inevitable.  Successful leaders create stability during times of change by helping everyone get focused on the essentials that make the company great.
  2. The leader has a passion that is well-stated and well-worn through personal application.
  3. Growth leaders in every industry know and build on the truth that trust and confidence in the relationships are the key to a healthy organization.
  4. The greatest solutions and sustained growth comes from building opportunities through the right training.  (According to Joseph Michelli Starbucks consistently invests more in training, than it does in advertising.)
  5. Great leaders communicate with clarity - not just vision but also plans.  They are also open to the insights of those they lead.

Howard, I raise my Pike Place Starbucks mug to your success!

Send me a note or comment about your thoughts on the above ViewPointe's by clicking on the Headline above.

Getting Through The Giving Season

I once read of a woman who bought a hundred identical Christmas greeting cards during her frantic, last minute shopping.  Because of her haste, she did not take the time to read the contents of the cards, but instead signed and mailed all but one.  Many days later, she found the one remaining card on her desk and finally looked at the words she had sent.  She gasped while the card dropped to the floor.  She had sent this message:  “This card is just to say…a little gift is on the way.”

Getting through the giving season can be an extremely stressful task.  Yes, it is a wonderful time of year and the general attitude of good will and caring is a nice change of pace.  However, if we could tell the truth about giving, sometimes you can get tired of it.  I’ve heard people say, “I’m so tired of giving.  All I ever do is give.  Give, give, give.  It seems that is what everyone expects of me.  I’ve given so much, there just isn’t anymore to give!”

What are the causes of “Giving Exhaustion”?  Two, I know of specifically:

  1. Unrealistic expectations that others place upon you.
  2. Unrealistic expectations you have of your self.

When you live under the pressure of unrealistic expectations, you create an environment for distress!  Stress is a part of everyday life: but when magnified by those things we feel incapable of accomplishing we create distress.  The truth is we do the same thing to our employees.  The expectations that come with the Holiday season are not necessarily unrealistic, but when added to the current load of responsibilities your “Scrooge” begins to show.

How to Manage the Stress of the Holidays:

  • Plan for Peaceful Time.

The schedule can get way out of hand.  Things to do, stuff to buy, projects to finish before the year is over, and too many people to see.  Make some time in your calendar for yourself.  Block an hour or two each week for a chance to catch your breath.  Plan to listen to your favorite music, take a walk – whatever replenishes your peace of mind.

  • Prioritize the Expectations.

Take an inventory.  Focus on the holiday items that build character, family and community.  Give priority to the expectations that bring excellence to your relationships and lifestyle.  Make sure the workload truly reflects the most essential.  Then give yourself and your employee’s permission to celebrate the accomplishments of the year, as well as the giving season!

  • Remember What Has Been Given.

Express to your team members how much you appreciate all the effort that they have given through out the year.  Acknowledge that their unique gifts and talents are what help you succeed.

Leaders ViewPointe:

Great leaders are givers!  They are generous people who give others support, opportunities to grow, room to learn from their mistakes and encouragement to advance.  Don't look at what you can get from others, look for what you can give.  Their response to your example will be priceless!

Best Presidential Candidate: The One You Ask To Serve

I would like to pose an intriguing thought about the legacy of the best Presidents that have served the American people.


Here is the thought:  The best leaders were asked to serve, before they sought to serve.

If we could look back into the history of the United States at the lives and leadership of those who provided the greatest influence upon the issues of their day and the course of the nation’s future, we would likely find people content to lead without the title of “President.”  Back in the quiet rooms of decision where these individuals were asked to take on the ultimate responsibility of presidential leadership, we would probably find reluctant leaders. And that is the point!  They did not seek out the duties they simply served because of duty.

They were asked to lead because others saw in them potential and qualities necessary for the times.  They were leaders in their own right by their actions and interactions.  The question was not could they serve, but “would they serve?”   Some of these might include Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and others.  I am not suggesting that the best leaders did not entertain thoughts of becoming President, but that they rose to the occasion because of the confidence and encouragement of others.

What a contrast to today’s political candidate.  Through “exploratory committees” the candidate puts his or her big toe into the pool of public opinion to see if it is too hot, too cold, or just right.  Then, if the conditions are favorable, they announce that on a future date they will “officially announce” their candidacy.  That is when the begging begins,   “Let me be your leader.”

Giuliani, Clinton, Romney, Obama, McCain, and Edwards.  Did they hear the sincere request of trusting people or did they simply hear their own aspirations? 

Laurence Reisman, editorial page editor of the Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, struck an interesting chord that seems to have resonated across the nation with a recent op/ed that suggested that “the best candidate to lead the United States in 2009 and beyond would have been Dwight D. Eisenhower.” 

Reisman raises an important question about the qualities that would make for the best presidential candidate. 

Today's 50-year-olds hadn't been born when Eisenhower said he would enforce the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led to the desegregation of schools….Most Americans were not born when Eisenhower, then 54, devised Operation Overlord, then made the tricky decision to undertake it during a break in bad weather over the English Channel and northern France. Eisenhower's call, and the courage of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, led to D-Day becoming the turning point in defeating Nazi Germany.  World War II, Eisenhower hoped, would be a lesson to the world, to learn that war is "folly," steals food from the hungry and productive labor from workers. Is there one person running today who has credentials even close to those of Ike?

Today's candidates have a lot of experience - at getting elected.”

You can read the entire editorial at:

Certainly there are times that a leader must step up, lead with courage and get things done.  Confident leaders can see what needs to be done and lead others in the process.  They do it well, without conceit.  They do it consistently.  Those are the ones we trust.  We would ask them the most important question: “Would you consider taking the lead?”

Could it be that today’s candidates are so busy fighting among them selves that the American people have tired of the bickering and are wondering if there is someone else worth asking?  Is there a leader among them reluctantly ready to serve?

Are you the kind of person that someone would ask to take the lead?

Leaders ViewPointe:

  • The best leaders are usually the ones who have established confidence by the way they get things done.
  • Lead with courage.
  • You can be confident, without the conceit.
  • Be consistent.  That encourages trust.
  • Lead in a way that others might ask: “Would you lead the way?”