Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Foundation of Success is Confidence

Lance Armstrong is a winner, no doubting that. Warren Buffet is an investment success story without question. Steve Jobs has successfully created businesses that achieve greatness. Was it just luck these individuals perform at the highest levels of their chosen professions? Was it a special mental gift they possess no one else has?

There is no doubting these three successful men have special talents that helped them to succeed, but the one common trait I see in successful leaders, these three included, is confidence. I’ve heard people respond to this notion with, “Well if I had won 7 Tour de France races, was worth billions of dollars, or owned all of the music known to man I could sell for a dollar a song, I’d be confident too!”

Which do you think came first the confidence or the success?

To fully achieve success one must possess the confidence to first believe it can happen, and then have additional confidence to make it happen. Consider the general attitude in this country right now. If you believe the press this country is in doom and gloom with no end in sight. That is the easy mental option; just cave in to the pressure and roll over until it passes. Sadly, many businesses are responding in exactly that fashion. How are you responding?

Remember the leader is the one who sets the expectation the rest of the management team will follow. Are you leading from a position of strength?

Confidence means being able to look at the bad news, accept it as is, and devise a plan to overcome it. Confidence means the leader is commitment and convinced the organization he or she leads will emerge from this recession even better than when they entered the recession. Confidence is having the strength to make the necessary efforts to operate a business in spite of the negative news surrounding them. Leaders who are confident see the proper steps to take in order to be stronger, faster and more profitable.

There is a significant difference between the confidence to make the right decisions and the bravado to try and convince people the decisions made were right. Without any research to support this opinion other than personal observation over the last 25 years in business, I believe those who have the confidence to make proper business decisions frequently make the exact right decision. Conversely, it is also my observation that the manager who is insecure and lacks true confidence regardless of the amount of bluster and bravado they spew seems to possess the innate ability to most often select the wrong decision.

It isn’t a curious coincidence that successful people are confident in what they do, it is essential they have that confidence to achieve that success.

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Offer New Benefits for the Information Age

To keep up with employee shifts and changing needs, employers have looked for ways to offer new and different benefits. Some of them became government mandated and some of them corporately created. Today, as fast as the world is changing so must employee benefits.

One of the greatest complaints of employers is the cost of benefits now that medical has become the monster in the benefit room. What can organizations do to serve employees without breaking the bank? Join the information age.

Next Gen employees are information junkies and they have many information needs a corporation can meet with minimal cost.

Companies need to make available free podcasts or online self-study seminars for employees on among other things finances, wellness, marriage, and family. These are not those black and white movies from the 50’s on how to be a happy homemaker. This is raw information where employees can learn how to better manage finances especially in these economic times.

Wellness programs start with the mental side of dealing with stress, dealing with family issues and dealing with the scary times for those just beginning their work careers in today’s economy. Bosses are not the experts on these topics and sending employees to a one day, one size fits all seminar holds little value. Informational downloads can be appreciated at the employees leisure.

Not only will this offer new benefits to meet employee needs but it creates a culture of personal growth which is a great work culture that will foster organizational growth because the growth mindset has been established. Help the employees with their educational and informational needs and help your company create a culture of growth in the process.

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Establish a manager growth program — build the knowledge base

I am hearing from some executives that growth in this economy just isn’t going to happen in their industry so what can they do to maintain the growth mentality in the organization? If you are in one of those industries that are significantly stagnant you must maintain the growth culture in other ways, such as knowledge growth, specifically in your managers.

The managers are going to always set the tone for the rest of the employees, whether it is a positive outlook, a negative outlook or a growth outlook. In order to keep your managers fresh, keep them growing and keep them in the right frame of mind, provide a book study that will improve their skills.

I’ve had a number of clients in the finance industry this year order my Russell’s Rules book for their managers to study and discuss in their weekly meetings. The rules are short, simple, to the point and have implementation action steps that are easy to do. By using practical application leadership books, you keep the knowledge base growing, the positive discussion active and the workforce happy with better leadership approaches being used with them.

Some basic steps for knowledge growth:

1. Make sure the book is something your managers will actually read.

I consider Peter Drucker one of the best leadership authors of all time, but unless your manager team is deep into the science of leadership and business, they will not finish a Drucker tome. Short, to the point and immediately applicable books might not make the best seller list, but your managers will make it to the back cover.
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A Shark Won’t Let You Park

The average American watches 30 plus hours of television in a week. That’s a little over four hours a day parked on the couch, letting your mind idle making no progress to be better. Ever wonder if your life feels stale? Maybe it’s time to turn off the TV and get into some shark infested waters.

Not only do sharks never sleep, they keep everything around them more active and alert. The Japanese population enjoys fish as a steady diet, and to feed this population fishing boats had to venture further and with larger holding tanks to catch enough fish. Freezing the caught fish wasn’t an option as frozen fish doesn’t suit the Japanese palate. So the problem facing the fishing industry was how to transport large holds of fish without the fish arriving stale tasting. The fish in these large holding tanks on the boats for days became listless and sluggish without a predator in the tank and actually tasted poorly and people stopped buying fish.

So how did the fishing industry solve this problem? They put a shark in the holding tank on the ships. Although the sharks would eat their small share of the caught fish in the tank, the rest of the fish would arrive alert, and quite lively, and yes, very tasty.

We are creatures of habit. If our habits are sitting on the couch watching TV, then we are embracing listlessness and our minds dull in the process. Put a challenge in your life and you will be livelier, alert, and be able to rise to overcome more obstacles.

What shark do you want in your tank?

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Why Try Hard to Fit in When You Are Born to Stand Out

I had a message on my desk the plant manager wanted to see me. As a newly promoted fresh-faced department head I hadn’t been jaded to the fact I was wanted in the plant manager’s office. To my eagerness this was an opportunity for face time. To shine. To please my boss.

He asks me to close the door and have a seat. The tone was stern and unemotional. His first question to me was, “Russell do you want to be a success in this business?” Of course! There was never a doubt. How could he question this? I answered immediately, “I’ll do what ever it takes to be the best manager I can be.” He smiled, sat forward in his seat and said, “I knew you’d see it my way.”

He continued, “The first thing you need to do is get rid of the boots.  (There were plain black not the red ones) I don’t care how polished you keep them and how nice they are, they’ll always be sh*tkickers in my book and no one in management in this company wears those things to work. Second, you have a personalized license tag on your car and Continue reading

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7 Ways to Create The Insider: Because Every Customer Wants “In”

Back in the dark ages I owned record albums with “hidden” soundtracks and “backmasking.” Monty Python’s Matching Tie and Handkerchief album had a second, or “hidden,” groove on one side of the album that only played if the stylus hit it accidentally. We called this the “third side” of the album.

The Beatles White album has a message recorded backwards under the song Revolution Number 9. I had access to a radio studio turntable, so I could play the album backwards and hear what the words really said. These were the surprise prizes that were shared from person to person; the “inside” information made us feel in the know, clever for having figured it out, and part of a special crowd.

DVDs now do the same thing with Easter Eggs. They are exciting to discover, and the customer feels special and rewarded. And the best part for the customer — sharing the “secret” with someone else! For example, the Cars DVD has hidden treasures aficionados enjoy. If you’ve seen “Boundin’ with Mater,” you are an Insider!

Even TV shows. The little icons prior to commercials on Fringe spell words in code.

What are you doing to create the buzz of word of mouth marketing for your surprise prizes?

Do you know about the “secret menu” at In and Out Burger? Have it “Animal Style!” Are you a Maker’s Mark Ambassador with your own barrel of private stock bourbon? Now you want to be an Insider don’t you?

Define the “Insider” Continue reading

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County-By-County Report Sizes Up Americans’ Health

Press Release: How Healthy Is Your County? New County Health Rankings Give First County-by-County Snapshot of Health in Each State

Washington D.C. – The County Health Rankings—the first set of reports to rank the overall health of every county in all 50 states—were released today by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at a briefing in Washington, D.C and on

Check out the county where you live to see how you stand.

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Don’t Just be Optimistic, Be Opportunistic!

Lately I’ve been listening to people who are always upbeat and excited about life and their optimism is great but it’s missing something. “Sure the economy will turn around.” “I have my health.” “There are a lot of people a lot worse off than me, so I have nothing to complain about.” Some of the optimism seems Pollyanna to me and wishing and hoping optimistically isn’t enough! You need to be opportunistic!

When I bought this house I live in on the lake I was looking for not just a nice house but a good deal and great investment opportunity. That fact that we found a house underpriced because of an acrimonious divorce just wanting to get rid of the last connection they had was my good fortune! Had we not signed the papers the day we did the opportunity would’ve been lost because literally there was a couple flying across the country from Seattle to come put a contract on it. They were in the air when we inked the deal! Oh yea! That’s opportunistic!

Those reading this can scoff but winners take control and grab opportunity when it presents itself. I got to watch the Panthers beat the Packers at Lambeau Field because I grabbed opportunity. I got to see a Styx concert in Vegas for free because I grabbed opportunity. I met my breakeven figure for the year before the year started because I grabbed opportunity.

Opportunistic seems to have a negative connotation to it, I figure that’s because there are more people who miss out on opportunities than those who grab it. Be the one to grab opportunity and elevate your optimism to opportunism.

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Kick Ass Friday

I’m Ripley. Russell is giving me this opportunity to get your attention and I hope you listen better than those acid-blood creatures I despise.

All I know how to do is kick ass and chew gum, and I’m all out of gum. Whether it’s aliens or corporate dweebs I have low tolerance for bad behavior. So should you. Business executives and leaders in this country have gone soft and when times got real tough over the last two years these wimps went around screaming, “Game over man, game over!”  Get a grip you bunch of Hicks.

It’s time for leaders to be real leaders again and it’s time to stop coasting into the weekend and start kicking some ass at the end of the week.   So listen up and take some action because here are my 10 tips for making today a Kick Ass Friday.


1. Embrace the day and stop whining, “I’m glad tomorrow is the weekend — finally it’s here.”

2. Take one project you’re working on and make a focused effort to take a giant step to move that project forward.

3. Eliminate all meetings from any Friday so everyone know you expect them to drive business on the last day of the work week. No sitting in comfy chairs wasting a potentially productive morning.

4. Plan to come in Monday renewed, reinvigorated, and thrilled to tackle a new week. You come ready to play or don’t come at all.

5. Call a customer or client today to thank them for their business this year. They will be shocked and you’ll be remembered.

6. Make lunch count. Who do you need to take to lunch today? Client? Boss? Employee who never gets to go out for lunch?

7. Create a list of 5 things you must get done by next Friday. Go for the hard stuff.

8. Be intolerant. Make today a no whining, no bitching, no complaint day. Ask everyone to focus on the positive.

9. Refuse to listen to the news or read a paper. Take a day off from the “News Terrorists.”

10. Give your best effort until the very last minute of your work day……no coasting. THEN you can celebrate a great work week.

Get it done because you know you should. This is Ripley signing off.

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3 Ways to Cripple a Competitor

When I speak at conventions and conferences in breakout sessions, one of my main goals is to shut down one other concurrent session. I want to have such a large audience eager to hear my information that I have standing room only and one other speaker has an audience of 3 or less. It works regularly and I’m proud of it.

Does this sound cruel to you? Does this sound like I have my priorities all askew? I am in a competitive world just as you are and everyone should be looking for ways to make your business such a draw it cripples your competitor.

I learned this years ago when I was working a cable television trade show and part of my compensation was to have a booth. It just so happens my booth was in between HGTV and the Playboy channel. Because of my antics in the booth, the games I was running and the prizes I was giving away created an excitement that drew a critical mass of people. Once there was the critical mass, people started to noticed and wondered what they were missing and the crowd grew even more. In fact for that show I out drew both of my neighbors purely because I created the right excitement and enthusiasm and had a plan to draw a crowd. Isn’t that the purpose of a trade show? It’s the same purpose for your business.

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