Common Sense – Revisited

Have you ever asked yourself where common sense comes from? How do we get it? Are we just born with it? Why do some people seem to have more of it than others? If something makes perfectly good sense to you, shouldn’t it make perfectly good sense to everyone else? I’ve been doing some research on the subject and I’d like to share some of what I’ve discovered so far.

“The only thing common about common sense is the fact that it’s not very common amongst most people”.  The more I observe the people around me and witness the strange things that they do, the more I believe that it’s not very common. Michael Dillon defined common sense as, “a rather uncommon ability to do the right thing without a lot of forethought; a close connection to deep intuition”. A participant in a recent workshop of mine suggested that common sense was the lowest common denominator of beliefs thought to be common, in most people. Common sense is often referred to as “horse sense”. (our ability to look at things in a straightforward, logical fashion.) To lack common sense would suggest a lack in street smarts.

The people we meet, the books we read, and the things we see shape us from the moment we are born, to the moment we die. Somewhere in the middle of all that lies common sense. The amount of common sense one has seems to be proportionate to the amount of life experiences one has had. For the most part, adults like to learn as they go along.We learn from our past experiences. Most people learn by doing, refining what they’ve done, and then they do it again.

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years” – Mark Twain. (It just seems to me that the older we get – the smarter we get. They should call it life-sense not common sense)

Have you ever been guilty of using the “common sense” excuse? Does this sound familiar? “How long have they worked here? If they had any common sense, they would not have done what they did. They should have known better!” I’m certainly guilty of using that rationale to try to cover up the fact that I failed as a manager to give proper instruction. As managers, we sometimes make assumptions based on what we think a person knows. We figure because we know, they should know. We surmise that, because they have worked there for a number of years, they must have learned how to do it by now. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fact of the matter is – If you haven’t taught someone how to do a task the way you want it done, then don’t assume they know how to do it. (There are no dumb students, only dumb teachers)

It’s very rare that we get to hire employees who are fully trained for the job, it at all. It’s the managers role to give his or her people the tools they need to perform the task, and then get out of their way and let them do it. Making sure they have been properly trained is part of your manager’s tool kit. Always keep this in mind: There is no such thing as common sense. The only way to turn a “can’t” into a “can” is to train the “t” away. After all, isn’t that just plain common sense?

Cats Can Teach You a Thing or Two About Managing People

I was never a big fan of cats growing up. It wasn’t because I didn’t like them – I just never had much use for them. I mean, what’s the point? They don’t fetch things; they don’t sit on command, roll over or play dead. And most of the time cats don’t come to you when you call them.

The other knock I had on cats was the smell. It’s like fish – I just couldn’t get past the smell. I knew if someone had a cat the moment I walked into their place. I now realize it has more to do with the host’s hygiene practices and less to do with the cat. My older brother has a cat, but unless you saw his cat running around his apartment, you’d never know it. My brother is fanatical about cleanliness (some would suggest that he is downright anal.) He cleans his cat’s tray at least three times a day and sprinkles the kitty litter with deodorizer to ward off any offensive odors.

My opinion about cats all changed after looking after my Ex-Wife’s cat Cali (as in Calico). I now think cats are cool. Cats can be managed – you just need to manage them differently than dogs. If you think about it, the same can be said about managing people. One management style does not fit all. Managers will be more successful managing their staff if they modify their management style to be more in-tune with the person (or in my case cat) they are working with.

Here are my top five tips for managing cats or people:

Be Patient: Cat’s perform better at their own pace. They will eventually do what you want them to do – it just may take longer than you’d like. Unless it is something critical or urgent, back off, take a deep breath, and chill out. Be patient; learn to pick your battles. Sometimes you have to give up control to get control.

Be Forgiving: Cat’s don’t hold a grudge and you shouldn’t either. People make mistakes. And when they do, you need to get over it and move on. Have your “Teachable Moment” but don’t keep punishing them for past transgressions. There is no future in the past; if you get my drift.

Be Consistent: Cat’s can be trained if you apply the “rule” fairly and consistently. Being consistent is the key. Maintain your standards; don’t settle for less than what you want. If they know that you are going to call them on it each and every time they get out of line, they will eventually toll the line. (Re-read patience – you’ll need it in spades)

Follow-Up: Cat’s do what you inspect not what you expect. Check in on them once in a while. You need to monitor their performance. If left up to their own devices for too long, you may discover that they have ventured off course. Managing is about finding a balance between over and under managing. Everyone likes to be managed a certain way. Find that balance.

Allow Playtime: Cat’s need their playtime. It can’t be all work all the time. We all need some time to put our feet up on our desk and do absolutely nothing. We all need some time to de-stress and recharge our batteries. Energized people are more productive and easier to be around.

Can’t Sleep? Try Counting Your Blessings

I can’t take credit for the title. I happened to be driving past a church the other day and noticed it on their sign board out front. I am a great believer in fate. I believe everything in life happens to you for a reason. It may not be obvious at the time, but eventually it will make sense. Eventually, you’ll be able to connect the dots. You see – things weren’t going exactly as planned and I was starting to question some of the choices I had made lately. That church sign helped me put things into perspective; it made me realize that at the end of the day, although things weren’t perfect, I was still better off than most. That sign was telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get on with it. Life is about choices. I can choose to keep feeling sorry for myself, or I can choose to work through it. I decided to suck it up and get on with it.

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You must find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour” – Mary Kay Ash

No matter how bad you think you have it – there is always someone else worse off then you. Case in point: My son and his wife had ventured downtown the other day to walk about and enjoy a cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe. They were walking through the local farmer’s market when my son recognized one of the homeless persons standing on the corner – it was an old high school class mate of his. At that moment he realized that he didn’t have it so bad after all. You see, he had been complaining about his job; about having to endure working for an ungrateful public for a measly $10.00 per hour. (His words not mine. I figure if you have a job – any job – regardless of how much you are being paid – it’s better than no job at all) However, when he put himself in his classmate’s shoes – he was thankful for the shoes he has.

“All human unhappiness comes from not facing reality squarely, exactly as it is” – Buddha

No matter how bad you think you have it – there is always someone else worse off than you. Case in point: A colleague of mine passed away suddenly, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. He went to the doctor complaining of headaches only to discover that he had an inoperable tumor on his brain and the cancer had spread down into his lungs. Life sometimes is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. My friend was one of the “good guys”. He was my hero. He was the one professor I most wanted to emulate. I was blessed to have known him because he made me a better teacher and person. His death inspired me to carry on his legacy.

“Every obstacle yields to stern resolve” – Leonardo Da Vinci

What are you thankful for? The next time you start feeling sorry for yourself, play the “Thankful” game. Take out a blank piece of paper and start writing down all of those things that you are thankful for. All of those things that you are glad are part of your life.  I am thankful for: Having known Professor Ron Knowles, my son Brad, my daughter-in-law Sam, my grandchild Chloe, my ex-wife Linda, french-fries, golf, College football on Saturdays, NFL football on Sundays, NASCAR, a glass of red wine and Annie who always makes me smile.

So the next time you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep – think of all those good things that are part of your life. Start counting your blessings. My hope is that you’ll come to realize that you don’t have it that bad after all. – Cheers



The Secret Is … There Is No Secret! You Always Get What You Give 2

A great deal has been written about the laws of attraction, spelled out in Rhonda Byrne’s bestselling book. The Secret. The secret is … there is no secret, in spite of what Oprah and her friends tell you. The truth is … you always get what you give.

Mind you, I give full marks to Rhonda Byrne for her great marketing skills. She has done a marvelous job of repackaging an old idea to make it appear new again.

Norman Vincent Peale first introduced us to the power we have within ourselves to turn our wishes into reality in his ground breaking book, The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952. Vincent reminds us that “Your unconscious mind has a power that turns wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough.”

Neuro-Linguistic-Programming practitioners (NLP) believe in the power of the human mind to reprogram itself. They believe that if you think it and act it, you will become it. They believe you must “Act” your way to success. A good habit is a good result – plain and simple. And we are adults and we can learn new habits. (Stop doing one thing and start doing another. Do it often enough – and it will become you)

Now I could be wrong, but it just seems to me …

If you walk around acting like there’s a dark cloud hanging over your head all day long, chances are you’re going to get rained on. And chances are no one else will want to hang around with you for fear of getting wet.

If you look and act like you’re no fun to be around, chances are you won’t have many friends.

If you rant and rage and shoot the messenger when someone comes to you with bad news, chances are the people who work with you will stop coming to you for fear of reprisal. More importantly, they’ll start to hide problems from you and by the time you discover them, it may be too late to fix them.

Now I could be wrong but it just seems to me …

If you refuse to dwell on the negative things that will happen to you in your life – and trust me, there will be some – then you will always learn from the life-lessons hidden in the rubble.

If you understand that nothing truly worth having ever comes easy, then you’ll never be afraid of hard work and putting in your time. You’ll discover that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.

If you think big, always aim high, but land slightly short of your goal, you’ll still be in a better place than you were before you started.

Now I could be wrong, but it just seems to me …

The secret to your success will not be found in a book or on a CD. The secret to your success has always been inside you. You just need to learn to get out of your own way. You need to reach inside and decide that this is your time. It’s time you started to believe in yourself. Think it, act it, and you will become it. You have the power to be who ever and what ever you want to be.