Managers Being a Friend at Work or Just Friendly?

Friends at work

Anyone who has ever become a supervisor or manager knows the strain of drawing fine lines around relationships at work. Some companies have very explicit fraternization policies. Others are far more relaxed.

Friends at work

The size of the company can also dictate the level of relationships people are permitted to have. On one hand, smaller, more entrepreneurial start-up or emerging businesses rely upon close internal relationships to grow and thrive. Bigger, perhaps publicly traded, companies often get far more formal in their administration of HR policy because they need consistency to protect themselves from higher risks and defend themselves from an employee complaint.

The Manager’s Seat

Sitting in the manager’s seat is where all of this comes to a very personal focal point. Can you or should you become friends with any of your employees?

In a recent post, I presented a six-step framework for building high performing teams by elevating the level of trust within the team. To build trust, business leaders must provide special empathy towards their employees. The right kind of empathetic conduct may easily slip into the friend zone.

Friends

First, let’s deal with the exact context of the word “friend”. In my experience, it represents a genuine bond; some extra level of trust you don’t share with just anyone. Yet there are consequences for a manager who creates a true friendship with an employee.  Here are just a few of the possible risks:

  • Your judgment toward the individual can become biased
  • Evaluation and compensation can be compromised
  • Resentment from other employees

Genuine friendships that may have developed at work while you were in other roles may now need to be adjusted if that friend becomes a direct report.

Showing Empathy

As a leader, keeping your friend list in check doesn’t mean you need to stop being friendly. The traits that make someone friendly usually center around the whole ability to show empathy. 

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. Empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner. Although there may be a genetic basis to empathy, research suggests it is possible to boost your capacity for empathic understanding. [from Psychology Today]

empathy at work

Managers and leaders who increase their empathetic listening skills will rapidly improve their connection to their employees.

Question: How do you handle friendships at work? Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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The Character of a Man

Like millions of others around the globe, I watched the ceremony and celebration as George H.W. Bush, “41” was laid to rest. Being a native Houstonian, I took special pride in calling him neighbor. 

You can argue the politics, but you will be hard pressed to doubt the character of this man. Was he flawless? I doubt it. Being a serviceman myself, I know firsthand the flaws we all possess. Yet as you study the spirit and inner nature of this man, you will be equally hard pressed to find a better model for decency, humility, unquenchable spirit, and a passion for mankind.

41 was famously spotted at venues all over Houston. He was quick to drop in on a local eatery (sending Secret Service agents into a frenzy I am sure). While there, he mingled as a good neighbor would. There was no air of superiority about the Bush’s. They loved their town, the people in it, and the joy of letting us know.

When his passing was announced, the media went into a virtual 24 hour, round the clock coverage; at least that’s what we got here in Houston. It was wonderful. The outpouring of stories about HW was amazing. I paid special attention to the references to the substance that made this man. 

According to all of the stories, people were moved by the brief moments they spent with him. They knew they had been touched by a special spirit, and tenderness that they seldom feel. 

Think about that. If you are searching to make a difference somewhere, look at what George H.W. Bush did in his time on this planet. Again, you can debate his politics, but you cannot deny his character.

Mr. President 41, THANK YOU from a neighbor. You did it well. We are grateful.

#4141 #GeorgeHWBush #leadership

Saying Thanks to Old Mentors for Their Inspiration

This week families across the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It means many different things to different people. As one of my clients shared when I asked about his plans, “lots of food, too much to drink, and too much football.” (Sounds like my kind of gathering, but I digress).

The spirit of this holiday is to pause and reflect. More importantly, it’s a time to offer thanks for the many blessings in life, whether material, emotional, or spiritual.

Thanking Leaders from the Past

I was reminded this past week there is another kind of thanks we seldom share. A good friend and fellow coach whom I’ve known for decades was telling me how she recently wrote a blog citing mentors and leaders she has known. The central theme was a note of gratitude to those former bosses for being great leaders; senior managers who inspired and motivated their following.

Hearing my friend share this poignant idea, I was convicted that I have not done enough to say thanks to those who have guided me. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people who have come into my life at various stages, investing time and energy to share their views and experience. The collective wisdom has helped me make better choices along the way. It has shaped my values and principles.

As I think through my list, the reality is that many, not all, of those I count as great inspirations, have passed away. Their legacy remains with me, but I no longer have the chance to say thank you to all of them personally.

I’m going to list the names but won’t go into detail about their impact. Simply stated, I thank you, one and all for spending the time you spent to help a young man. So in no particular order:

  • Jack Whitaker
  • George Jared
  • Tim Balter
  • MSG Jimmy Howard
  • Col. Hal Gaines
  • J. Wayne Stark
  • Col. Gaither Bray
  • LTC Jap Champion
  • Everett Gambrell
  • Dr. John Bisagno
  • Gene Elliott
  • Harriet Wasserstrum
  • Lane Sloan
  • Mary Kole
  • Dick Hendee
  • Mel Maltz
  • Dr. John Lockhart

Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. You didn’t have to do it, but you did/do.

Who In Your Life?

Take a moment and think about those in your life who made the commitment to mentor. If you can contact them, do so. Spend a minute to give back.

Use the lessons they gave to continue your leadership growth toward the ability to make a difference. They did. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your turn to be a stepping stone for someone.

 

 

Leadership Starts at Home

Fathers

If you are already in a leadership position or want to be in one, you should reflect why? Are there certain skills you demonstrate? Have you always been in leadership? Or do you know you have potential that others may not yet recognize?

Fathers

While our adult life and the effort to earn a reasonable wage both create opportunities to use leadership skills, there are core values that begin much earlier. Leadership begins at home.

Father’s Day

Sunday, June 17th will be Father’s Day. The tradition started roughly around 100 years ago, but its exact origins are disputed. Some historians believe it began as an American movement.

But there are two different accounts as to who invented it and the reason behind it. Some believe the holiday was founded in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. A year and a half before, there was a mine explosion in a nearby town called Monongah. 360 men died, 200 of whom were fathers, who left behind widows and children.

A woman called Grace Golden Clayton was moved by this and went to visit her Pastor, Reverend Robert Thomas Webb. She suggested that there should be a special day dedicated to honoring fathers. Grace chose July 5, 1908, to celebrate the first Father’s Day, because it was the nearest date to her late father’s birthday.

Unfortunately, Grace’s Father’s Day was unsuccessful, as it was not promoted outside of the town, and more importantly, her town held a huge July 4, Independence Day festival which overshadowed her event.

Meanwhile, other historians believe a woman called Sonora Dodd from Washington invented the holiday instead. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1910, Senora began to wonder why there wasn’t a day dedicated to fathers. Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father, following their mother’s death.

She wanted Father’s Day to be celebrated on June 5, her dad’s birthday, but the church felt they needed more time to prepare, so instead June 19 was chosen.

The United Kingdom’s celebration of Father’s Day is thought to have been inspired by the American version.

The Father Figure

Our experience with our Fathers influence who and what we become. If you were blessed with a Dad who was your first mentor, you are very fortunate. Life lessons, coping skills, hobbies, crafts, sports, and other life-long behaviors are nurtured by loving, caring Dads.

Sadly, too many of us suffer from relationships with Fathers that leave much to be desired. Perhaps even physical or emotional wounds were created that take years to overcome.

If you were in the first category, congratulations. Hopefully, the teaching and encouragement provided by your Father helped shape and mold the leadership values you use today.

However, if you count yourself in the second group, you have work to do. Throughout my career, I have encountered professionals who had the bad home life. Interestingly, they do one of two things. Either they perpetuate the brutish behaviors and emotional abuses with co-workers and employees or they turn 180 to run in an opposite direction, vowing never to be “that guy”.

The ones wanting to improve and grow beyond their bad start often make amazing leaders. Why? Because they are open and receptive to the things that can shape them into much better people. If your heart is open to that, good leadership frequently follows.

My Story

I never knew my Dad. He died before my second birthday. Fortunately, my Mother had the wisdom and foresight to know I would need mentoring from men. She worked diligently to build a small but dedicated network of men in our community who were willing to take me under their wing. Over the years I watched these men model what they told me.

Jack was my Scout Master. From ages 9 to 12, he was my rock. He was there for everything a young boy ever wanted to ask. Then there was George who taught me woodworking. But the lessons in the shop were not limited to just the tools and the wood. There were life lessons like don’t try something important when you are angry. Don’t use the wrong tool for the job, you’ll break the tool, ruin the material, or hurt yourself. Closer to high school Dan came along. He showed me his business. He taught me about inventory, cash flow, and sales. Those lessons were often discussed on the tennis court or wading in a stream, catching fish.

The collection of influence I received helped me to realize natural gifts and talents I could use while I learned other things. Leadership started at an early age and has grown ever since.

It Begins at Home

Regardless of your position in life right now, if you are a parent, you have a big responsibility. I’m not talking about the obvious care, feeding, and safety of your kids. Instead, I am talking about creating an environment for learning, growth, decision making, and creating in your kids their own sense of responsibility to others.

Setting a moral compass with strong core values of right and wrong, service to others, and love of something much greater than yourself; those are principles that build strong leaders. Our country and the world need the next generation of leaders prepared and ready when they become the “next one up”. You can start now building that legacy for yourself, your family, and the community around you. YOU can make a difference.

8 Warning Signs That Your Supervisor is Incompetent

bad boss

We have all had bad bosses, but how do we know if our supervisor is really a bad one? Here are 8 warnings signs that your boss can’t do the job, along with ideas about what a great supervisor should look like.

bad boss

1. Never Has Time for You. Is your supervisor “too busy” to meet, even when it is important, or does he or she cancel when a meeting has been scheduled? Good supervision means being responsive to supervisees—giving them the time they need to get information, understand assignments, and especially receive clear feedback.

2. Micromanages. Does your supervisor insist on checking every bit of your work? Does he or she over-control so much that you think, “why didn’t you just do this yourself?” The very best managers know how to empower subordinates to help them take on responsibility, show some initiative, and grow and learn on the job.

3. Is Untrustworthy. Are you afraid to be open and honest with your supervisor because he or she might use the information against you? Does your supervisor say one thing and do another? Good supervisor-supervisee relationships are built on trust.

4. Puts Me First, You Last. Does your supervisor spend all of his or her time on their own career, and show no interest in your advancement? The very best bosses take a genuine interest in their employees’ career growth and development. Truly great leaders are like good parents. They take pride in the accomplishments of those they supervise.

5. Can’t Manage the Workload. Is your boss incapable of handling his or her own supervisory workload? Are decisions and assignments always made late, or not at all? Great supervisors make sure that they can manage their own workload and also spend the time necessary to effectively manage and lead their direct reports.

6. Focuses Exclusively on the Negative. Is your boss always pointing out what you are doing wrong, and ignoring what you do correctly? Does every speech from your boss take a negative tone of “what’s wrong?” The best bosses focus primarily on the positive (and keep a motivating, positive attitude and outlook).

7. Thinks Punishment is Motivating. Are you always looking over your shoulder waiting for the boss to lower the boom? Punitive management is always a bad idea. It de-motivates people and gets them to focus on avoiding mistakes rather than getting good things done. And, punishment is a major, debilitating stressor for employees.

8. Can’t Communicate Clearly. Is it difficult to determine what your boss really wants? Do you find that your boss rarely listens to you? Effective communication is the key to good management. Giving clear directions and listening to subordinates are crucial to success at work.

There is an old saying that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. While that may not always be the case, in many instances the supervisor is responsible for making the job a good one. Good managers make jobs interesting and rewarding, and they work hard to make their supervisees better.

This guest post provided by Dr. Ron Riggio.

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

Decisions: The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

The squeeze

Making things happen takes effort. Leaders know that sometimes all the best effort gets wasted on outcomes that fall short of expectations. You face leadership decisions throughout your day. How do you make the effort worthwhile?

The squeeze about decisionsConsistently making the best of your own effort and that of your team is what separates one leader from another.

You know the types of decisions:

  • Organizational change
  • Moving your facilities/offices
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Simply growing the business
  • Expanding your vision

What ways can you drive better outcome and avoid the squeeze?

Planning

Much is written about data-driven decisions. In big business gathering the data is both more achievable (deeper pockets to spend on big data) and harder to do (broader range of variables). Yet you don’t need the high end, rocket science-like data to drive your planning. You do need valid information.

For smaller companies and entrepreneurial endeavors, you need simple trend line information like:

  • Recent sales, perhaps seasonal data
  • Expenses, what are you spending?
  • Payroll information
  • Materials/supply usage
  • Buyer profiles, who’s buying your product or service?

The process of planning for your next big decision can uncover blind spots, things you haven’t yet thought about. Once the unknown is revealed, you may decide the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. That is, you will not realize the return you expected for the effort and resources you may be planning to spend.

Culture

The culture of your team drives everything. The team effort derived from a healthy work culture can often produce amazing results. Culture can overcome limited resources.

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sources say he never meant that literally, but it does indicate a bias toward the power of a high trust team effort. A powerful and empowering culture within your team is a more reliable path to success.

Culture isn’t inherently about workspaces and perks, like comfy chairs and ping pong tables. It’s about the habits people have formed, how they make decisions, how they respond to challenges, pressure, and discomfort, and what they believe is good or bad for success. Culture is based on what’s been incentivized, rewarded, reinforced, and possibly even punished in their workplace.

Process

What process has your company or team developed to be able to execute on decisions made?

Ready, Fire, Aim! Is not a process. It’s a train wreck. ~Doug Thorpe

The process you devise for achieving success accomplishes several things, all at once.

First, it allows you to score some wins. Finding the right blend of people, technology, and a procedure is a process. When a particular combination of those elements is producing good results, you have a winning process.

Scoring wins for your team builds momentum. Strong, viable businesses have their unique momentum. But you must have some wins to be able to build momentum. Overnight success is seldom that. Rather it comes from sustained hard work and dedication to winning ways.

Keep finding ways to improve the process. The business world is not static, it’s dynamic. That is, it keeps changing. So, too, must you.

The Bottom Line

While you certainly have learned a lot about making better decisions, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to executive decision making. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources to help you get the most out of the decisions you make:

Check them out – you’ll be glad you did!

Question: What are some ways you avoid making decisions that “aren’t worth the squeeze?” Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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It’s Not Over til It’s Over

finish strong

There’s an interesting phenomenon in business and in personal affairs. When a work project or season of life has been particularly protracted, some of us have a hard time staying the course to reach the period at the end. People don’t always finish well.

sliding homeThere is something about sensing the finish line that causes us to lose focus as we stop doing those things which have proven successful or when we celebrate prematurely.

Here’s a quote from a colleague who was sharing experiences at a big client project.

You’re halfway between 3rd base and home. Don’t start sliding now.

Finishing Well

Some long-running TV shows are notorious for having less than satisfying ending. Skeptical? Think fade to black for “Sopranos”. Or the confusing ending to “Lost”. Even the wildly popular “Seinfeld” had its detractors when the final episode aired.

It’s not easy to finish well. Finishing is a great deal more difficult than starting. Day 1 holds much more excitement than both Day 2 and certainly more than Day 176. It is why New Year’s resolutions die early deaths. We don’t finish well.

What can we do? Here are five things to consider.

  1. Renegotiate your relationship with Perfect. Perfectionism is the enemy of good. Too many of us stop what we have started because we realize it won’t be perfect. Instead of accepting a good outcome, we stop altogether. If we believe it cannot be perfect we decide to abandon the effort.

How sad. Would perfect have really made that much difference? How much is the incremental difference between good and perfect worth anyway? Change your need to be perfect. Get a new deal. Then use your skills and talents to generate as much good as you can muster. Forget about being perfect.

  1. Manage the right thing or things. Is time management really more important than managing your energy? Regardless of the time of day, energy levels vary. You can produce better outcomes when your energy levels are at their peak.

Brain function and awareness operate better with increased energy levels. Instead of watching the clock, learn to pay attention to your energy cycles. Save the really big tasks for windows of time when energy levels are high.

  1. Set achievable, incremental (and achievable) goals. Leave the huge, impractical ones alone. Those will only serve to frustrate and overwhelm you. The guys who choose to climb Mount Everest do so by training on smaller climbs. They work up to the big goal.

Remember the old joke about “how do you eat an elephant?” Answer “one bite at a time”. Goals are like that. By failing to choose the right set of incremental goals, we can become discouraged by one monumental goal.

Keep your goals measurable, achievable, and shorter duration. Build up the cumulative effect of completing a consistent series of smaller goals.

  1. Build in accountability. I tend to be somewhat a loner. Solitude is actually good for me; I like it. Yet staying in a solitary operating mode gives me way too much opportunity to avoid deadlines. I can find dozens of convenient excuses to not do the important things I should be doing.

This is where accountability comes in. Being accountable to a partner or a team wipes out the easy excuses. Promising deliverables to others makes you aware of the need to complete the task at hand.

finish strong

  1. Don’t stop short. Just like the baseball quote above, don’t start sliding into home base too early. You’ll never get there.

Run through the finish line. Sprinters even lean into the tape. They don’t hit it in an upright position. They lean in.

Make whatever last lap effort you must to give yourself the power to finish strong. Lean into your finish. You can relax and celebrate after you reach the end of your task.

Question: What have you done lately to finish strong? Leave a comment

PS – This article’s title came of course from the great Yogi Berra. American baseball legend Yogi Berra first uttered the phrase about baseball’s 1973 National League pennant race. His team was a long way behind when he said it and they did eventually rally to win the division title.

It’s not the only offbeat quote from the sportsman – there’s also the existential “It’s like deja-vu all over again” or the wry “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours” – but there is something about the never-say-die, no-matter-the-odds-we-can-do-this spirit of “It ain’t over…” that finds a place to inspire, time and time again.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend and share it to help others find it!

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Homeward Bound – Making the Shift from Work to Home

Homeward bound

Busy professionals face many similar challenges. Finding the elusive work-life balance is likely one of the biggest problems.

Homeward bound

You spend your days leading teams, making decisions, solving problems, and guiding the big work effort, but how do you make the transition going home? I’m talking about the change that happens as you leave the office or facility and walk through the door at home.

At home, you face a spouse, children, the pets and many other combinations of personal living arrangements. They may not care what kind of day YOU had. They had their own issues.

How do you avoid the kick-the-dog entry or worse yet, the lashing out to your life partner or kids? How can that be avoided?

I’m the guy who loves simple, but elegant solutions. Remember I speak a lot about finding common sense ideas to improve your leadership effectiveness.

Are you ready? Here is the most basic, yet powerful set of tools I can recommend to solve this homeward bound transition. This is how you get ready to walk in the door at home and be a better YOU.

The Answer

I’m going to give you 4 simple questions to ask yourself during the commute. Print them out, put them on a reminder note. Stick it on the visor of your car or on the flap of your briefcase or backpack.

Every day as you begin the trip home, ask yourself these 4 questions:

1.What did I learn today that’s going to be valuable?

2. What did I do well today?

3. What are the 3 greatest blessings in my life?

4. How can I be the best _________ (Mom, Dad, Spouse or friend) I’ve ever been, right here, tonight?

Make the Shift

To find and keep your sense of balance between work and life, you must allow yourself a shift. Few of us can make the change with a snap of our fingers.

While I coach on a whole-person basis, the reality is few of us live one perfectly harmonized existence between home and work. Somewhere there is a change we make. Sadly for some, the change may not be effective, so problems get created with the family.

They don’t deserve the tension and pressure you may be feeling. As a leader, you have to figure out your own way to decompress from the day.

Centering your attention on these 4 simple questions just might make a big difference that can save a marriage, or endear a family member.

I like to ask the question “do those you lead endure you or are you endearing?” Endure or endear? Wow. Think about that.

What Are You Waiting For?

waiting

There comes a time in life when you’ve done all the thinking, study, analysis, and planning you can do. You reach a decision point. Then it happens. You freeze. You cannot go forward. You’re stuck.

waiting

The question is then, what are you waiting for? What is it that holds you back, makes you balk? How can you make the call?

Leadership is about being able to avoid the waiting. Making decisions is the big “so what” about being a leader. As the leader, your team is waiting for you to decide. Which way are we going, if at all? When? How?

While your ability to decide can make the difference, the timing of the decision is just as important.

First a story

I’ve often told the story of my banking experience during the implementation of ATM machines. The machines were new, unproven technology. Analysts agreed this was the next big thing. My bank had not yet entered the fight. The competition was running fast to adopt the technology.

We held a big executive summit with our senior leadership team. Case studies were prepared and presented. Our chairman and CEO, Ben Love, absorbed all of the information as only he could do. Then in the blink of an eye, he said “No, we’re going to wait this out. Let’s let the other guys get the arrows in their back.”

His analogy of course meant that pioneers were the ones who suffered the most when exploring new territory. We waited for a period, something like 18–24 months. Then we entered the market.

Not only did we avoid the high cost of early adoption failures (and there were many), but we dominated the space. We helped form the Pulse network which was the early version of the utility service that allowed all the machines to talk to each other and exchange transaction data. There was a cost to be on the network, a fee we profited from for quite some time.

In this case, Ben’s waiting was prudent, wise, and ultimately very profitable. However, too often the wait is a fail all its own.

The flip side

In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team. The idea was that Netflix would run Blockbuster’s brand online and Antioco’s firm would promote Netflix in its stores. Hastings got laughed out of the room.

We all know what happened next. Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010 and Netflix is now a $28 billion dollar company, about ten times what Blockbuster was worth. Today, Hastings is widely hailed as a genius and Antioco is considered a fool. Yet that is far too unfair an explanation.

Antioco was, in fact, a very competent executive — many considered him a retail genius — with a long history of success. Yet for all his operational acumen, he failed to see that market forces were moving in a new direction.

Let’s make it personal

Waiting

Yes, there are hundreds if not thousands of business case studies where CEOs failed to make the right call. But this issue is more personal.

Each of us with any leadership duty at all, whether at work, at home, or in the community, face the challenge to make decisions on behalf of our tribe.

When we freeze in place, we jeopardize everything we may have been working on. Here are three main reasons we wait before making the decision. And a little something to do about each one.

Fear

Fear is the obvious and easy answer to why we wait. When faced with an unknown about the future we have fear. As the reality settles in that our decision may have big consequences, fear rises up.

Fear can be overcome by determination. When I sense fear about making a decision, I look first at those who rely on me. I ask the question, will they be better off moving forward or staying stuck where we are.

If the consequences of my decision will not directly harm my tribe, I can move ahead with more determination.

Confidence

Confidence, or lack thereof, is a distant relative of fear. Building confidence as a leader is one of the most common expressions of concern I hear from my coaching clients. Lack of confidence causes us to wait.

There is not a good executive out there who hasn’t felt a little doubt from time to time, tugging at their confidence. Prior success only goes so far in helping to make new decisions with confidence. Yet building momentum as a leader can do more for confidence than anything else I know.

High achievers seldom celebrate wins in the day. Beating a deadline, making a delivery, executing a difficult task, are all examples of wins you can and should be celebrating in your own way. I’m not talking about becoming arrogant. Rather I am talking about realizing the momentum that might be building on your team.

Celebrate that. Let it help build your confidence as a leader.

Procrastination

Yes, just old-fashioned procrastination can cause us to wait. Ironically, people with tendencies toward perfectionism are the biggest procrastinators I know.

The logic goes like this. I need this to be perfect, so I’ll wait for the right time, resources, or events to align so that the outcome will be perfect.

Perfect is the enemy of good. ~Voltaire

You don’t have to be perfect to be a winner. Success comes from action. Feel the urge to wait because of trying to be perfect? Decide first what good can look like. Then do it.

Question: What are you waiting for?