Friday, May 29, 2009

Scared Straight

Last night a colleague told me that my largest client might address budget challenges by cutting all programs for next year.

I hate to admit this…I panicked. I drove home thinking about the implications of my calendar all of a sudden being wiped clean. What would I do? How would I pay bills? What was my Plan B?

I have some pretty serious future plans and a jolt like that could scramble those plans like eggs in a bowl.

Tens of thousands of Americans are gripped by the same fear today.

So, this morning I got a handle on myself and said, “Collins, it’s time to do two things: Put to use the things you tell other people to do, and do a better job of creating a realistic Plan B, just in case.”

My first call this morning was to someone who would know the reality of the news I heard last night. Their answer: it’s a myth. No such idea is in the list of potential solutions the client is considering.

So, I had gotten jacked up due to rumor. Not my smartest reaction. I’ll do better next time.

My second call was to someone whose counsel I respect and trust. My question was, “If you were in my shoes what would you do?” His advice was wonderfully wise and on the mark. He put me on the road to a realistic Plan B.

Tough times are here for most people. Getting overly excited about every bit of scary news is a great way to go crazy.

Better to have at least a half-way plan that you will implement, than a gradiose plan that you won't or can't perform.

Get to work. You take care of you.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

5 Minutes to Git It, or Git Gone

One of the folks in my program in Clinton today did not have a perfect workday yesterday. She is a manager of a childcare center and she switched some teacher assignments around and came close to having a mutiny!

“I couldn’t believe how some of those women acted,” she said. “We have children in the center who act more mature than some of those teachers did.”

Evidently someone’s apple cart was upset. Or, as some older Asians might say, someone was messing with their rice bowl.

To say that change is difficult would be a cliché. But, as that great American philosopher, Jimmy Buffett, would say, “clichés say what they mean and mean what they say.”

The interesting thing about change is that new research shows the, “bit-by-bit” acclimation to change doesn’t work as quickly and effectively as dramatic change. The fear/shock factor is greater with big change, but once people understand that this is the new reality most of them Cowboy Up and settle in to the new way.

I love the last thing the childcare manager told me. She said, “I told them that they had five minutes to either get their purses and quit and go home, or they could get with the program. They didn’t like it, but everyone stayed.”

In today’s work world, a steady paycheck’ll do that to ya.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Vikings and a Very Good Life

Do you know the word “enthrall”? It means “to captivate or charm, spellbind.” I like the sound of that.

In your life, of what are you enthralled? One of the things that enthralls me is the concept of being a Tar Heel. I know, I know, it sounds silly, but the things I perceive as the spirit of Carolina, and what Dean Smith referred to as The Carolina Way are wonderful concepts on which to base, not just an athletic program, but a life.

OK, no more preaching, let’s get back to “enthrall.”

It isn’t always a good thing. For instance, I love beer. In fact, at many times I have been enthralled, captivated, by the feeling I get after a few beers. In all honesty, though, there have been times when I have been too captivated by that feeling. Get the picture?

So, here’s where this get’s interesting. The secondary definition of enthrall is “to enslave, to subjugate.” The word enthrall is Viking in origin, from the eighth century. A “thrall” was a slave to Viking family. Prisoners of war might be enthralled to Vikings as slaves. A homeless person might voluntarily “enthrall” themselves to a family so they would have a place to live and food to eat.

Here’s the question: Of what are you enthralled? What ideas, habits…people…enthrall you in such a way that they are positive influences in your life? You’ve probably modeled some areas of your life on mentors of whom you are, or were, enthralled.

However, look at the other side. What ideas, habits, and people enthrall you in such a way that they are negative influences? Look around your workday and your life. What’s slowing you down? Are you enthralled by a habit that seems comfortable, but just isn’t working anymore?

Is it time to step out of enthrallment, out of bondage?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No Pill, and a Poke

Sorry about being late with today's blog...have been under the weather.

Went to the doctor's this morning and tests supported my belief that I have some sort of virus. My mother wondered if it was the "C1H1N something." No, Mama, it's not swine flu.

 Now, I'm thinking, "Fine, just give me some sort of pill and let's knock this thing out so I can get on with life." 

But, nooooooooooooooo, evidently it's not that kind of virus. "You'll get over it," my good friend and physician Gary Bean, MD, said. 

I asked, "Ok, so I'll get over it. But can't you speed that process up?"

"Nope. But, just to be on the safe side, let's check to see if it's any sort of spinnoff from a minor bout with prostratitis."

And you can see where the...OW!...examination went from that point.

The lessons I had reinforced today were these: Things are often not as bad as you imagine they might be. Not every problem can be solved simply. Some take more time than you would like. And, learning a simple lesson can be uncomfortable in ways you had not anticipated.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Idiot and the Inchworm

Ok, so it's 2 pm in North Carolina and the day is half gone and I'm pretty hot because I wrote a great blog this morning and couldn't log on to post it.

Kept trying all kinds of passwords and thinking about what a dope I was to forget the simple info that I use every day to log on...and then start trying to go through Blogspot's system for reporting a problem...and that might as well have been written in Swahili or Venutian for as much sense as it made to me.

Thhhhhheeeennnnnn...I calmed down a little and realized that I had been using the incorrect email address to begin with. Not their problem, mine. I felt like an idiot.

Life has been kinda stressful for awhile and I'm realizing that mistakes like this are probably being caused by my being preoccuppied by the challenge I'm facing and it's causing me to be a little scatterbrained. Soooooooooooo, I need to slow down a bit, be sure of my steps in whatever I am doing, focus, and move ahead.

A wonderful recent devotional quoted a Buddhist as saying that life is like an inchworm a time.

Only bad things happen fast....good things happen slowly.

I'll post the great blog I wrote this morning on Tuesday.

Have a wonderful, safe Memorial Day Weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Platinum Rule

What if, on the first day you arrived at a new job, they handed you a program similar to the game day programs you can buy at sporting events?

The program would feature each of your new fellow employees with a picture, a bio, some specific information about how to communicate effectively with them, and keys to their work style.

Wouldn’t that help you quickly, efficiently, and effectively step into your new role?

There is such a program…but you have to develop it yourself. The key is knowing how to look for clues that tell you the types of things the program would tell you, especially communication and work style.

Go to, then Search for Tony Allessandra. Click on the video titled Platinum Rule. It’s only 1:59 minutes and it is the key to understanding who people are.

Good luck!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

David and Felice, All the Best

Today, two of my best friends, David and Felice, were married in Los Angeles. They have the type of relationship we all want…not always perfectly smooth, but always together. Please join me in wishing them every happiness.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Wright Dream

Took a trip to the Outer Banks this past weekend for a wedding. Stayed at a wonderful place, the oldest hotel on the island, Days Inn at Nags Head.

I’ve dodged going to the Outer Banks for decades because it was so hard to get to them; two lane roads, lots of trucks, lots of small towns to slow the drive. But now, with the new interstate and intrastate 4-lanes, it’s a breeze! Three-and-a-half hours and you’re there! It takes about the same amount of time to get to Myrtle Beach.

I rented a bicycle and took off for a ride on Saturday morning and realized I was staying about a half-mile from the Wright Memorial. For the entire bike ride I thought about how much the Wright Brothers must have wanted to fulfill their dream of man-powered flight.

They had looked across the United States to find the best place for the wind they needed and it was at Jockey’s Ridge, North Carolina. Needless to say, the Wright Brothers did not have the highways I enjoyed, they had trains, wagons, and ferries. They lived in hotels and tents with no AC, no running water at times, nor any indoor bathrooms. Believe me, camping at the beach is not the idyllic experience it might seem.

And how many hours did they spend tramping up and down the sand dunes carrying the gliders, and then the machine-powered craft?

But, they did it, and there are machines on the moon and spinning through space that are testaments to their imagination, initiative, courage, and just…flat out…step…by…step…determination.

What dream do you have? What can you do today that gets you one small step closer to it?

The wonderful speaker, Jim Cathcart, says, “How would the person I’d like to be do the thing I’m about to do?”

Have a Perfect Week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Are You Successful?

A professor at East Carolina University has asked me to be part of a research project that explores change in the workplace and how to deal with it. He sent me a list of the 10 questions that he needs answered for the project and one of them jumped out at me.

How do you measure success?

So, I’ll ask that question of you and suggest that it might be a wonderful topic of thought for you for the weekend.

How do you measure success?

For decades in many areas of our society the primary measure of success has been money. During the last 6-12 months a lot of folks have been questioning that definition of success as their pile of money (however large or small) as dwindled dramatically. So, is money a good measure of success?

Is contentment a good measure? Are you contented with who you are and where you are? The Buddhists believe that most pain and suffering come from wanting more. If you are content, you are successful.

Success comes in the short term…creating a Perfect Workday…and in the long term…creating a successful life. But, getting to the long term means creating a string of successful days in the short term.

What could you do between now and five o’clock today that would be one small step closer to being successful?

Have a great…successful…weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is Being Slack Un-American?

Here’s a question you didn’t expect today. Is being slack at work un-American?

If we are truly experiencing the most difficult economic time since the Great Depression (which, according to a variety of screaming headlines, we are) I believe that only increased productivity and creativity will pull us out of the quagmire.

If that is the case, then anyone who is not pulling their weight in the workplace is working against the effort to move the economy, and America, out of these tough times.

When I’ve asked the question "Is being slack at work un-American?" of a variety of people over the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten responses that ranged from outright laughter to, “Well, hell yeah, I thought everyone realized that!”

A few years ago the comedian Tim Wilson said, “The only good American is an illegal alien. They’re the only ones really working.”

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but “Am I doing my part?” is a question we all should be asking ourselves on a daily basis.

(Today is the 200th blog, thanks for reading)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You, Conflict and the Fan

Last night in Washington, NC (the first Washington, by the way) we were talking about how to terminate. The question, “Where do you sit?” came up.

One guy said, “I always sit with my back to the wall.” My question to him was, “That’s fine, but was the person you were terminating sitting between you and the door?” His answer was, “Yes,” and that was the wrong answer. In any termination situation whoever is doing the terminating should sit closest to the door…just in case.

Do you plan ahead for conflict or confrontation? It’s going to happen sooner or later and here’s a simple continuum that proves it: life progresses from structure to change to conflict to confrontation.

You might not be confronting another person. You might be confronting an idea, an institution, yourself.

What is you confrontation style? Do you immediately withdraw or do you jump forward and into the teeth of the conflict? Do you say, “That’s OK, we’ll do it your way,” or do you seek a compromise or win/win situation?

Here’s the deal: you need to be playing What If? on a regular basis. What if we have a fire? What if our sales are half what they should be…what if they are double what we thought? What if I decide I’ve had enough?

When things go..mmm…different is not the time to try to come up with a plan. Before things happen is the time to plan. If you don’t play What if? you’ll often end up having no other choice than to start cleaning up yourself …and the fan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The You You Might Have Been

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” George Eliot

I love the quote above, but it is also one of those thoughts that can prompt stress and disbelief.

Who did you think you would become, and how distant are you from that ideal?

I believe the key is to understand the deeper values, beliefs, and emotions that form the core of who you wanted to be. When you were young, if you saw yourself as a giving person and believed that the you of the future would be a great philanthropist there is nothing stopping you from becoming a more giving person. Sit down right now and write a check to the Special Olympics and I promise the feeling of philanthropy will grow.

If you saw yourself as a great athlete, you can start walking, or jogging, or lifting, or participating in an adults sports league.

The Mike Collins I imagined was probably more conservative and he led a more linear life. I have made, and am still making, decisions that slowly but surely get me back to that ideal.

Don’t give up on the you you imagined. You can still get there. You might look a little different, but the core can be the same.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek and Management

Let me say up front that I’m not a Trekkie, one of those folks who thinks the old Star Trek series was television’s version of The Bible. But, I had a chance to see the new Star Trek movie on Friday and really liked it. The movie had lots of action, super special effects, and a bunch of revelatory moments.

I was surprised about the number of times a scene tapped into my deeper emotions. What I realized was that I was letting the story teach me lessons. Many of the actors did great jobs of showing that while there was conflict between their characters on one level, on another level they were doing their best to help each other and to accomplish things that matter.

The workplace can be like that, especially in times of great stress. The old saying that, “Tough times show you who people really are,” is definitely true.  During difficult, challenging times the great people step up and concentrate on what really matters instead of letting the surface conflicts overwhelm them.

This week, when someone gets on  your last nerve, ask yourself, “What is it we are trying to accomplish? What really matters?” If you can get the other person thinking the same way you both can get closer to having a Perfect Workday.

And if you know even a little about the old Star Trek series and the dynamics of the major characters you'll like the movie. If you don't know anything about the series, and you like action movies, you love it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Get Into It

At first thought it wouldn’t seem that people WANT to be asked to sacrifice. But, that’s what I heard from a friend this week when we began talking about 9/11.

Tom Hemphill, the small business center director at Brunswick Community College, said, “The thing I resented was that Bush didn’t ask us, ask me, to sacrifice for the good of the country. He said, ‘Go shopping.’ He should have come to us and said, ‘We’re all going to have to sacrifice to win this war against terrorism. Now, here’s what you can do.”

All you have to do is read the headlines to know that once again we are in a tight situation. This time the challenge is internal instead of external. If you were too young, too unaware, too hesitant to step up during the civil rights or Vietnam eras you should understand that our current economic issues are the greatest challenges so far in our lifetimes.

So, starting today, I’m going on a crusade. President Obama may not be asking you, but I am: if you have a job, get into it and be more productive and creative. I’m convinced that the two factors that will pull us out of these tough times are two competitive advantages that Americans excel in: productivity and creativity.

Now, here’s the part some of you don’t want to hear. I don’t care if you don’t like your job. If you tell me, “But, I have bills to pay!” I understand, but I don’t care. The serious problems we are facing aren’t about you being able to pay for Spam. Our problems are about the United States as a nation surviving, continuing to flourish, and continuing to be the brightest opportunity in the history of mankind.

I’m sure that during the other times of challenge in our nation’s history; the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, the Depression, and WWII there were thousands of people who didn’t like their jobs. But, they stepped up, sacrificed, and did their share to move us forward. We owe them.

If you hate your job and cannot force yourself to get into it, have the guts to quit and give someone who wants it a chance. Believe me, there are thousands of people in America who would love to have your job and would probably be more focused, appreciative, and productive. It’s them we need in your job, not you.

One of my heroes, Becky Hudson, a mom in Wilmington who, with her husband, is responsible for 24-hour care of a daughter with Rett's Syndrome, says, “If you are into something in life that you can’t get out of, you’d better get into it.”

I’m not saying work harder…unless you should…and you folks who are slacking off know who you are (and, believe me, your coworkers know who you are!). I’m saying work smarter. Be more efficient and effective.

Stories have focused on the belief that the time of material excess is over. We’ve also gone through a period of “employment excess” (if someone has a better phrase for that please send it to me) in which we, as a society, had the luxury of wasting time, putting up with sub-par employees because it was too much trouble to get rid of them, overpaying for work because of union or political pressure and  overpaying for resources because we could, or simply didn’t want to confront the charge.

You have the opportunity to step up to the front lines by making a simple decision to, as President Franklin Roosevelt said, “Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.”

If you are waiting to be asked, I’m asking. From one American to another, let’s get into it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hello, Officer

Got a speeding ticket yesterday. Was coming out of Wilmington a lot faster than I should have been 'cause I was in a hurry to get to another seminar.

The officer was a nice guy, business-like and efficient. I've got the money to pay the ticket and since I haven't had any tickets in the last three years it won't affect my insurance.

The situation could have been a lot more stressful. But, the key to dealing with stresses are these: do you have the internal skills and external resources to deal with the event? If you do, they may be annoying, but not really stressful. If you don't have those advantanges, they can be overwhelming. 

I knew how to act during the encounter, and I have the resources to deal with it.

When difficult situations happen to you, do you have the internal skills and external resources. If you do, great; if you don't, where can you get them?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009



Well, OK, I'm not REALLY at the beach. I'm writing this blog in the library in Shallotte, NC...which is very near the beach...and am staying a mile or so away from the wonderful Atlantic Ocean, but it's likely I won't see it. Too much to do.

I've spent the day reading and creating a new seminar, "10 Secrets to Getting Stronger, Smarter, and Stress-Free." I'll be presenting it later this week.

The only thing that is keeping this from being a Perfect Workday is that I haven't had the opportunity to present a seminar...but, I get to do 3 tomorrow so that makes up for it.

You know...I'm we Southerners say, "It's a sin and a disgrace" that I'm this close to the beach and not taking time to see it and walk on the sand.

So, I'm going to the beach.

Now, what in the wide, wide, world of sports does this have to do with you, wherever you are? I'm betting that there is something simple and easy to do that you would like to do that would help you have a better day. It might be to take a walk, listen to a song, hug and/or kiss someone, read a paragraph in a book you like...whatever it is, if you can, stop reading this blog and go do it. Life's too short not to.

And life's too short not to go to the beach if it's this close.

I'm gone.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Is Your Cup Overflowing?

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meji era (1868 – 1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in.”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Is your day overfull? Can you be more realistic about your expectations? It's hard to have a Perfect Workday (or any day), and enjoy it, if you are frantically flying around with too much in your cup.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Where in the X%$#& is that ________?!

When was the last time you got cranked up because you couldn’t find something? Here’s a killer stat; the average American worker loses 2 weeks in time every year looking for stuff. We lose 15 hours a year just looking for car keys.

Try the 30-Second Secret. Don’t walk out of your house in the morning, or away from your desk at lunch or the end of the day, without straightening a few things up. Don’t go to a lot of trouble and don’t spend more than 30-seconds. You’ll find that the cumulative effort gets you organized and keeps you organized.

So, for the last three days, those are the big three challenges in the workplace; Lack of Focus (which leads to Procrastination), Miscommunication, and Disorganization. The ways to meet the challenges are using a To-Do List, Asking More Questions, and The 30-Second Secret.

Have a great spring weekend, and be sure and watch the Kentucky Derby on Saturday afternoon.