“If it doesn’t work in the real world, you’re wasting my time!”

This is my Real-World Proverb—PowVerbTM—that started it all. Here’s the story of how my personal motto came into being:

Everywhere I go, people are sick and tired of faddish and trendy promises that don’t work in the “real world” we actually live in. People are hungry for proven solutions, not mere academic theories. Anything else naturally results in the dreaded “flavor of the month” – meaning all the hard work is wasted.

Most of my professional career has consisted of leading organizational transformation efforts. One such initiative involved two divisions, totally approximately 1400 people, merging together into a single, most efficient operation.

After an initial 6 months of effort, I called an “all hands Town Hall” meeting in the auditorium to help everyone get a sense of where things were and connect on a larger scale to interact, address questions, etc.

Toward the end of the meeting, a small group of leaders stood up and approached the auditorium stage with a box. They addressed us all saying that, after working with me for 6 months, the division agreed that, while I hadn’t actually said these words, that they believed the statement on the enclosed plaque should be my official motto. After a few tense moments, I opened the box to reveal these words: “If it doesn’t work in the real world, you’re wasting my time!” The cheers from around the room proved that they shared those same sentiments.

I don’t know of anyone who genuinely wants to squander their life pursuing unimportant activity. Like me, most want to invest their time accomplishing goals that make a difference – that really mean something that matters. The only way to do that is to focus on real issues, real results…and the real world. Anything else is just wasting our time.

“Don’t just pursue happiness, create it!”
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Part of the foundation of human endeavors is contained in this sentence from the American Constitution. While working with an international transformation initiative, I enjoyed a discussion with several executives about the balance of the journey to operational excellence and how to generate rewards and recognition throughout the process to motivate and inspire the organization to continue that journey.

As I reflected on my experience over the years with work teams, I noticed a pattern among the most successful groups: they didn’t wait to enjoy some long-term goal. Instead, they actively participated in creating enjoyment/happiness along the way.

Taking ownership of every aspect of an activity – including the personal benefits that can be achieved every step along the way – provide a much more value-added environment.

Purposefully identifying personal values and connecting them to the tasks required to accomplish an organizational goal creates opportunities for growth and satisfaction throughout daily activity…making them anything but “routine”. The most successful leaders have discovered that pursuing happiness is noble in its own right, but creating happiness is far more relevant and rewarding.

“Be aware and care”
One important discovery about what world-class businesses do that is better than ordinary businesses, is that they make their processes simple, while not becoming simplistic.

Over the years, while working with numerous Fortune 500® companies, I had compiled a long list of insights – all contributing to their success. In an effort to simplify these keys to success down to the essential core, my team worked to organize, categorize, combine, and align – until we arrived at the almost poetic phrase “Be aware and care.”

“Be aware” addresses how these wildly successful companies were consistently aware of several things: their abilities, their metrics, their processes, their work environment – as well as those of their competition. In addition, awareness of the industry and other trends (economic, political, social, technological, etc.) were always at the forefront.

The “care” aspect of the phrase addresses that these companies not only were aware of these various important issues, but that they cared enough – about the customer, the employee, their cause – to make the effort to actually take action. To care enough to sacrifice the extra time and effort – and sometimes money – to “raise the bar”, to exceed expectations, and to genuinely connect to those they serve. This “extra” is what helped to make them “extraordinary.”

Interestingly, the very act of becoming aware of and “connecting” with the customers (both internal and external) tends to create relationships that cultivate caring. Each reinforces the other to create an upward spiral of growth and success. It is, indeed, fascinating that such a small – some would say “pithy” phrase, can contain such a big truth.

“The way to get action is to take it!”
We’ve all noticed a crippling problem rampant in organizations today that has been commonly coined “analysis paralysis.” People have become so mired in policies and procedures – so worn down by unbalanced risk management positions, that they find themselves unable to take action to accomplish their goals in the marketplace. Ironically, this attempt to mitigate risk, actually serves to compound it – leaving them at a standstill and acutely vulnerable against their competition.

Attempting to avoid risk altogether is a quick way to fail. The very act of taking appropriate risk is the foundation of healthy growth. The very term “taking” infers action. The key measure of life, whether biologically or organizationally, is based in movement of some kind. To stay viable in an ever-growing environment, one must remain ever-growing.

The most successful people/companies are those who are “getting action” are those who seem to continuously be in or around the industry activity, getting things done. They are busy getting the results others yearn for by taking action, not just talking about it. As matter of fact, the very act of taking action is what puts them in the action.

Taking action is the way to thriving rather than merely survive. In today’s ever more competitive work environment, a failure to take action will ultimately lead to the failure to even survive. This Real-World Proverb™ reflects how purposefully choosing to (appropriately) risk taking action is what gets action (results) in return.