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Leadership Tips From My Dad


Lee (L.B.) Weiss (Sept. 21/25 - April 30/82)

My dad has been dead for almost half of my life, yet I think about him every day. I am grateful to have had a funny, loving and wonderful dad who left a legacy of decency and wisdom.

L.B. had a saying for almost any situation. Something about his style made these sayings stick, perhaps a combination of his humour, timing, cheeriness and innate common sense. After he died, many friends wrote our family, saying they will always remember L. B. for saying such-and-such. My mother compiled these snippets of wisdom, and when I reviewed them recently, I realized how much my dad had taught me about sales, coaching and leadership.

If any of the following touch you, please feel free to quote them as 'L.B.isms':

"THERE ARE MORE HORSES ASSES IN THIS WORLD THAN THERE ARE HORSES."

This saying works for me on many levels, especially in work relationships. If I am dealing with someone who is acting badly, either being rude or inconsiderate or demanding, I try not to stay in their sphere. Following my dad's advice, I give myself permission to only deal with people I like and respect.

This saying also reminds me not to be a horse's ass myself (not always so obvious to me). A client who I adore recently canceled a seminar on the day it was to run. He had a number of good reasons for canceling, however, our agreement states that he pays me the full fee in this situation. As I was writing up the invoice, I felt uncomfortable, and my father's saying popped into my head. I could have rightly charged the full fee, and felt like an ass for being petty when this client has given me so much business. Or I could do something different. I charged him half.

"THE LAST CHAPTER HASN'T BEEN WRITTEN ON NICKI."

As I was misspending my youth (dropped out of university, lived in a teepee on one of British Columbia's most beautiful gulf islands, picked apples and oysters), my father continuously reassured my mother that I would turn out OK.

I am grateful for my father's confidence in me. He was able to see my potential when others couldn't, and his assurance that I could do anything I wanted and be successful still resonates through me.

My father was a coach in the truest sense of the word. He saw his children, and our friends, bigger than we saw ourselves. He could clearly see a path for us, and told us what he saw. He saw that my kind sister who was good with her hands could be a wonderful occupational therapist, and that my brilliant sister-in-law could be an ace accountant. He told me to go into sales.

I was completely offended. Sales? He told me that when I was 20 years old. At the time, I thought sales was anti-intellectual, manipulative and boring. L.B. saw it differently. He told me I was a noodge and a noodnik (translation: a persistent pest). He told me I was a hard worker, smart, a good generalist, persuasive, talented with people, had people's best interests in my heart, and liked variety. He told me that I would be wildly successful. After university (yes, I went back and finished), I remembered what he had said. I got my first sales job, and loved it.

"DIFFERENT IS EASY. GOOD IS HARD."

L.B. had great instincts. He had an uncanny sense about new products that wouldn't fly, a process that was too complicated, people who were a little too full of themselves, or a wheel that didn't need reinvention.

He was a stickler for quality and competence. My father was a corporate accountant who always had a business on the side. One was a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor. He was constantly hiring and training teenagers to scoop ice cream that was exactly 2 ounces, to treat customers well, to not rip him off, to be able to count back change and to work hard. Regularly at the dinner table he talked about what constituted good work and what incompetence looked like.

He taught me that there are no short cuts to good; the only route is through repeated practice.

"NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE."

My father taught his children to be self-reliant, to practice delayed gratification, and to not burn bridges by being in debt to others. "Pay cash" was his credo.

As kids, we were always running out of money. Our eyes were always bigger than our wallets. (I know lots of big kids today who have the same problem.) My father taught us the art of leading a balanced life, and the lesson that living debt-free would give us choices. He taught us that borrowing money from friends could wreck a friendship.

In this age of instant gratification, where bigger and more is better, I bless the wisdom he left me. It has never steered me wrong.

"WHAT'S A NICKEL OR A DIME WHEN YOU'RE OUT FOR A GOOD TIME?"

My father the accountant was always careful with money. Some may have called him cheap. Yet, whenever we were on vacation, he loved to live it up. He didn't spend money in an extravagant way (he was a product of the Great Depression and World War Two), but in a cheery, life-affirming and fun way.

He always said to be generous to yourself and to others, particularly if you are down on your luck.

"I WISH SHE HAD THE COURTESY TO TREAT ME LIKE A STRANGER."

My father would say this about his problematic mother-in-law. Apparently, my grandmother wasn't always so nice to him.

This leadership principle is so amazingly simple. It says: 'If you don't like me you can be indifferent to me, but mean is unacceptable.' I notice a fair amount of meanness in the workplace that takes the form of passive aggression. We've all seen it but maybe not put a name to it: gossip, withholding or not fully sharing information, criticizing management, and not supporting colleagues. We wouldn't treat strangers like this.

"THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE AREN'T THINGS."

This saying taught me to value my relationships above everything else, to depend on myself and to be accountable to others, to be decent, and to have fun.

I don't want you to think I wasn't given tons of things by my parents, because I was. However, I was conditioned from a very young age to believe that the world didn't owe me a living. I was given a serious work ethic that I will always carry with me. If I want something, I go after it. I won't step on people to get whatever it is, and I won't cheat or steal, but I will work until I get it or don't want it anymore.

What's this got to do with sales, leadership, and coaching, Nicki?

I'm hoping that you see some value in my dad's teachings and sayings, and that when you work, sell, manage, coach, and lead, you are a good example to those around you.

My dad lived with a spring in his step, integrity in his heart, and his own brand of humour. Your living example will be what ultimately makes you great as a sales manager/coach/leader.

Thanks, Dad.

Love,Nud-nicki

About the Author

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.

Nicki guarantees increased sales performance when sales managers become better sales coaches. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, Something for NothingTM, which has powerful tips and techniques for sales managers who are ready to make this transformation. Sign up at http://www.saleswise.ca You can email her at nicki@saleswise.ca or call 416-778-4145.

Leadership is best defined by the quality of your thoughts, decisions and actions. It is also underpinned by the quality of the tools you use in your role. Be seen to bring true leadership to your organization and act with the authority that it brings to you.

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