Published by Scott Neilson on 02 Jan 2014

New quote for the New Year!

“You can’t delegate responsibility, you shouldn’t delegate control, but you must delegate authority.”  Scott Neilson

Effectively delegating is difficult for many people, but it is an important skill to develop in yourself as well as your team.  It is essential to having a swiftly moving, high performing organization.  Without it, your organization will be limited by your own personal bandwidth.


Published by Scott Neilson on 20 Nov 2013

Afraid of failure?

I am going to bombard you with quotes on this subject…

People marvel at how great leaders have overcome huge obstacles and personal failures to achieve greatness…and yet they allow their own fear of failure to render them powerless…to freeze them into inaction.

My Father once said to me, “The question is not whether or not you will ever make a mistake, but when you do, how will you respond?”

One thing in common with many great leaders is that they are not afraid of failure.  They recognize that there will be obstacles and setbacks, but have confidence that they will find a way to overcome them.  They even look at their failures, and how they responded to those failures, as the key to their ultimate success.

MJ Picture 2

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  24 times I’ve been

trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.

  And, that is why I succeed.”  Michael Jordan



“The only way to avoid failure is to do nothing…but, that is not leading.”  Scott Neilson

On many occasions I have observed that people are afraid of making decisions or taking action for fear of getting a “blemish” on their record if things do not go perfectly.  They believe that it will tarnish their records and damage their careers.  Failure must be avoided at all costs…everything must be safe.  So, they do nothing.

Leadership coaches and gurus regard resilience as an essential leadership skill.  Resilience means encountering obstacles and experiencing setbacks, and overcoming them.  Well, you do not develop resilience if you do not have setbacks, and the only way to avoid setbacks is to do nothing…but that is not leading.


“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.”  Benjamin Franklin

How many times have you undertaken a task and had it go perfectly?  Aren’t the situations in which you have had to overcome unforeseen circumstances and obstacles the best examples of your strengths and abilities?  So, what is there to fear?

At the end of the day, fear of failure is as much about worrying about what other people will think of you as it is about the actual consequences of being wrong.  If you worry about what people will think, you will not try.  If you do not try, you will not succeed.

Now think about this.  If you were to interview a dozen people about their opinions of an event or an accomplishment, you would get a dozen different opinions…and some of those will be good!  So, which one are you worrying about?


“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.”  Marilyn Ferguson

Great leaders are said to have great confidence.  They are confident in the clarity of the direction they have chosen and what it takes to get there.  They are confident that there will be setbacks, but that they will find a way to achieve those goals.  They are not afraid of failure.  They are free to make it happen.

“Where there is no fear there is no danger.”  Grasshopper (Kung Fu Television Series)



Published by Scott Neilson on 11 Nov 2012

A timely quote

“There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”  Jimmy Doolittle

I have been so impressed with the level of support New Yorkers are giving each other in this time of crisis.  People are coming out from all over to help with hurricane relief efforts…mostly volunteers.  They work tirelessly and for nothing…nothing except the gratification of feeling that they have contributed to the greater good.  Some are getting a pat on the back, some are getting recognized by the reporters writing stories about the efforts, but most are happy with the “Thank You’s” they are receiving from the people they are helping and knowing that they are doing some good.

Too often we overlook the “volunteers” in our organizations…the people who are willing to do something extra just for the satisfaction of contributing…just for the opportunity to learn.  We tend to look down on them as if they must not be capable of anything better if they are willing to do it for nothing.  I guess we are cursed by that old maxim…if it costs nothing then that is what it is worth. What a loss…for all involved.

There are actually many people who are motivated by more than what is in it for them!  The effort they make is far more than routine…their commitment to achieving the goal is extraordinary…their motivation is simple.



Published by Scott Neilson on 28 Oct 2012

I don’t get it…

“In the absence of clearly defined goals,
we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.”

Author Unknown

I like this quote.  The point is simple; the impact is huge.  Daily acts of trivia mean wasted time and money, both of which will lead to organization failure.  The reason people do this is because “it has always been done this way”, or they do not know what else to do…and they need to look busy for fear of losing their job.

  • Be clear on your goals, and the action plans and timetables to reach those goals.
  • Be clear on everyone’s role in carrying out those actions.
  • Be sure that the tasks people are asked to perform are value added!

It sounds simple, but it doesn’t happen as often as it should…and people press on peforming daily acts of trivia…and businesses spend a lot of money accomplishing little.

You may think you are being clear…it may be clear to you…but is it to them?  Check it!

Published by Scott Neilson on 17 Oct 2012

Right here, right now…

“Being a leader is not about forever, it is about moments…it is about THIS moment and what you do with it!”  Scott Neilson

One problem people encounter in leading is believing that every decision they make is forever.  It isn’t…particularly in business!

A decision is made at a point in time with the information you have available to you at that moment…and we all try to make sure that we have the required information to make the best decisions possible.  However, you should recognize that the moment you make a decision, new information becomes available that may make that decision obsolete.

The decision making process is a moving target.  Trying to envision all possible future scenarios and make one decision that never requires modification rarely, if ever, happens!  If you are waiting for that you may never make a decision.

Get comfortable making the decision that is right for the moment considering your best prognostication for the future.  Make it clear to those around you that this is the course you are on given what you know now.  Know that new information WILL become available and when it does, you will make the required course corrections.

Published by Scott Neilson on 10 Mar 2012


“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try!” Yoda

I love this quote…always have…always use it when people tell me they will “try” to do something.

I often wonder if people realize the strength and conviction they sap from themselves when they say that they will “try”…as opposed to saying that they will “do”. They are not envisioning success. They are not dedicating themselves to accomplishing a goal.

  • “ Try” has no commitment.
    • “Try” tacitly accepts failure as an outcome.
      • “Try” only means that you will make some effort, but it does not state any determination to succeed.

As a leader you cannot accept that! You must first recognize it as a lack of commitment and call the person on it. My guess is that they are not even aware of the mediocrity they are embracing. Step up their level of commitment…and performance.

  • Point it out! Explain the difference between trying and doing!
    • Have them restate their planned actions in “DO” terms.
      • Show them how to envision success and make it happen!

Another one is “hope”. How many times have you heard people say “We are doing this and that and I HOPE to get the product out by X date”. That drives me crazy! How can people base their performance, company results, and customer satisfaction on Hope? It is a subtlety that we often miss because we are so accustomed to saying it, but it makes failure an acceptable outcome.

Again, as a leader you MUST point this out. Explain that hope is not going to ensure success, and identify actions that will.

Published by Scott Neilson on 06 Feb 2012

Great Quote…on Taking Action

“When something is inevitable, make it immediate.”  Unknown

Take the case of building the right team to lead your business, or just to perform the tasks of your department.  Whatever the level of your operation, the issue is the same.

One of the most common leadership failures is hiring too fast and firing too slowly.  When a position is open and the right person is not available, it is hard to wait. The tendency is to alter your expectations…compromise on some of those skills you were looking for…fill the role with the best AVAILABLE person, not the RIGHT person.  We talked about that in the post “Select, Don’t Settle”.

…people on the shop floor in your operation are aware of an individual not carrying their share of the load long before you are. 

On the flip side is the mistake of waiting too long to let someone go.  If a person is so bad in a position that you want to let them go, then allowing them to continue in the role can be more damaging than having no one in the role at all. 

The longer it takes you to recognize poor performers and act on them, the more damaging it is to your organization. 

  • It damages the motivation/energy of your team.
    • It affects Quality…Productivity…Innovation.

People in the organization know when one person is not performing.  If the situation is not managed they become demotivated, which effects their energy level and their own commitment to performance.  They see that sub-standard performance is not managed.  They lose pride in their work and you get substandard performance from people who would normally be strong performers.  Left unchecked, this will spread throughout the organization. 

Worse, you fail to draw the best from your employees…in which they are bringing their own creative energies to the workplace.

However, the most damaging impact of failing to identify and remove poor performers is that you become perceived as a weak leader.  You should recognize that the people on the shop floor in your operation…i.e., not the managers and supervisors…are aware of an individual not carrying their share of the load long before you are.  They are closer to it; they see it every day.  However, you cannot expect them to inform you.  It is against “the code”.  You have got to find out on your own.  When you do, you must act. 

People will not resent you for cleaning house…they will respect it.  They know it needs to be done, and it makes their lives easier because chances are that they have been carrying the load for that person all along.

The organization will not fall apart.  It has been my experience that people on the shop floor will be motivated by the move and will step up to fill the void.  As I said above, chances are that they have already been doing that.

Most critical is that if the individual you are removing is in a position which is visible to the customer, chances are that the customer already knows as well!  Think about that!  Being decisive and having a plan in place to manage the transition will build confidence with your customers.

Pretty serious stuff…when something is inevitable, make it immediate.  Sounds almost humorous, but it has a real effect on your business.  There are many other applications of this concept in your business…not just removing a poor performing employee.  The implications on your leadership are the same in each!

Published by Scott Neilson on 03 Jan 2012

Quote for starting the New Year

“Be mindful of the responsibility you have to those you serve, but also to those who serve you, for without them you achieve nothing.” 

Simple message.  There is little that you do by yourself.  As a leader you need many people to carry out the tasks required to move your organization forward.  Be aware of their needs; be aware of your responsibility to them.

Published by Scott Neilson on 21 Jun 2010

Another quote on the “how to” in business leadership

“Be mindful of the responsibility you have to those you serve, but be more mindful of the responsibility you have to those who serve you.”

In other words, it is critically important to take care of your employees, perhaps more so than it is for you to take care of your customers.  To a large degree, it is your employees that take care of your customers, not you.  If you treat your employees well, they will do the same FOR your customers.  If you treat them poorly, they will do the same TO your customers. Both are a reflection of how you have treated them and how they feel about YOU!  Think about that!

How you get things done is a reflection of YOUR character as a person and as a leader, and it creates an expectation of how people will expect you to act in the future. 

Similar to the last quote, I like this quote because it speaks to “how” you get things done as a leader, more so than “what” you get done.  In this case, though, it is speaking to the “how” as a reflection of Values rather than Process. 

As a result, it defines the behavior that people within your organization will come to emulate.  It defines the culture that you will create in your organization, and how the organization will grow to operate in the longer term.  It defines the character that the organization will come to have and for which it will become known, inside and out. 

It will define YOUR legacy.

Published by Scott Neilson on 27 May 2010

Leadership Quote by Terry Francona

Heard this one the other day…I thought it showed great poise.

Terry Francona…Manager of the Boston Red Sox was being questioned by the media about the batting slump that David Ortiz was experiencing for the first few weeks of the season.  Is he over the hill?  Has he lost it?  Should he be replaced?  How long will you wait before changing him out for someone else?  How do you plan to react?

He replied, “You can’t react to everything”.  The implication was right on.  As  a leader, you can’t react to everything.  Sometimes you have to let things play themselves out a bit before jumping in and taking action.  Immediately acting on everything raises the level of pressure on the situation, and creates an atmosphere in which everything becomes a crisis.  It creates a level of stress which inhibits everyones ability to perform effectively.

By letting things play out a bit you show poise and calm, which is so needed by your constituents…in this case the other team members, the fans, and the owners.  You demonstrate that the situation may not require intervention at this moment.  You diffuse the pressure.  You make it clear that you are aware of the situation, the implications, and that you have it under control.  It is critical to your constituents that they know you are in control of the situation.

In this situation Terry Francona was absolutely right.  David Ortiz is a pro.  He, like any other professional athlete, will have slumps and hot streaks.  If he were to have gotten all excited about this situation it would have made the situation worse.  It would have put extra pressure on Ortiz to resolve his problems, and it would have demonstrated to the team that they had better not go into a slump, or they would come under the same kind of scrutiny.  That would negatively affect the performance of the team.

What Terry Francona did not only silenced the media and took the pressure off Ortiz, he protected the core of the rest of the team and the organization from the same kind of pressure…a great leadership response on his part. 

The result of Terry Francona’s leadership was exactly as one would expect…Ortiz did come out of his slump in grand fashion and has been on a hot streak for the past several weeks.  Now, one could say that Ortiz would have come out of his slump anyway, which is certainly true.  But, the bigger effect of his actions is in how the rest of the team, the fans, and the ownership respond to his ability to manage the media and public scrutiny of their performance. He minimized the effect that external inluences could have on the performance of the team.

(By the way…I am to be congratulated on my objectivity in this post since I am a die hard Yankee fan.)

Next »