Before You Choose Behavior, Choose Its Purpose

By: Dan Kennedy on: December 8th, 2009 1 Comment

Our dog’s favorite activity is stealing crumpled wads of paper from my waste baskets and racing around the office with them, tearing them up into little tiny pieces spread from north to south.

She is a shredder with no receptacle. She is an interesting dog in many respects. Notably her fierce independence. She will play with a crumpled ball of paper thrown for her but she prefers picking one out, standing onhind legs, and taking what she wants.

Even after a leg operation, she hates being picked up to a couch, chair or my lap and wants to jump and get up there on her own. Too bad more people don’t have such a profound preference for self-reliance.

Cleaning up her paper mess, once before a work day here with Sydney Biddle Barrows, and a few days later,before a consulting day with Ron LeGrand and Entourage, made me think about the making of messes and the cleaning up of messes. This is nothing new for me to mention, but I thought I’d mention it just the same,as so many entrepreneurs make so little headway so slowly because of their aversion to messes.

Personally, I wouldn’t know how to work in a neat office, not under extreme pressure of multiple deadlines,most linked to messes created by putting things in motion before they were fully assembled, heck, fully designed.

Most people consider this mess-making a character flaw,a dysfunction, something to be fixed with color coded filing systems and therapy. But, then, most of those puzzled by and critical of our mess-making aren’t rich, won’t be rich, and aren’t capable of bringing anything from fruition to profitable function beyond a turtle pace if at all.


Carla insists this dog has gone on “play dates” with other dogs. I see no evidence of such communal cheerfulness. The little fur ball is extremely territorial and aggressive, and makes it abundantly clear it does not like any creature,small or large, wandering into whatever she has defined as her space- dog, cat, squirrel, bird walking (flying or in trees is usually okay). And she is dictatorial as well, demanding of what she wants when she wants it. Awakened earlier than her preference and placed on floor,she returns and demands to be placed back on the bed and left alone.

Not by accident, one of my most practiced skills is stirring up sense of inadequacy in others.

Most bosses who achieve truly extraordinary success with their businesses have different reputations. They are known as tough, demanding,unreasonable, often apparently arbitrary, and not interested in being liked; focused on results.

They reward winners and productive people,usually better than anybody. But they are unabashedly intolerant of anybody who is fouling their territory, being it a lowly maintenance worker failing to polish the faucets in their hotel’s restrooms or the salesperson caught deviating from the prescribed upsell procedures.

Jack Welch has tried to put a warm ‘n fuzzy face on in his books and speeches about leadership, but carefully read his own works and authoritative books about him and his amazing piloting to profits of GE and you will find a leader ruthlessly intolerant of inefficiency,unproductive behavior, not “getting with the Program” with a mandated minimum 10% fired every year just to clean out the pipes.

Being liked by all, striving to make everybody happy is not what real leadership in business is about.

By the way, I got in big trouble in kindergarten for whacking some little girl solidly in the head witha big wood block when she attempted encroaching on my territory and interfering with my construction project.

My father’s question was:”who got to the blocks first?” and comment “defending his territory.”

See, your business is your territory – YOURS – and defending it means making sure it functions as you judge best and dictate.

Conrad Hilton said: “It’s perfectly fine to differ with my way of doing things. As long as you go buy your own hotel to run.”

The idea of’my way or the highway’ has gotten a very bad rap, yet it still seems to be the governing policy of the super-successful entrepreneurs. Again, most consider this viewpoint and behavior as anti-social, politically incorrect, sociopathically insensitive, in need of fixing. Except those using it to get more things done at a faster pace than 99.9% of thepopulation.

Somebody who should know said to me, recently, that “the employees at the office are scared of Bill.” I said: “I should hope so.”

The giant Amway empire I grew up with (and many years later, consulted to) lost its way when its co-founder Rich DeVos gave up the reigns to a collection of lucky sperm club heirs and corporate bureaucrats. It has become a sad shadow of its once dominating self, weakened and corrupted.


Because the top “independent” distributors who actually controlled and control all the business liked, respected and also FEARED Rich DeVos but do not fear – and in fact, have disdain for his successors, who have desperately tried to be liked by all the key leaders, to offend none, lose none, mollify, cajole.

A legendary story I was privy to has DeVos suddenly landing by helicopter in a top distributor’s backyard,marching in and “suspending” him from all compensation for three months and ordering him to cease the offending practices immediately.

This key distributor was actually the “customer”, actually more in control of 25% of Amway’s business than Amway. I heard high-ups describe DeVos’ action in this instance as reckless, unreasonable,impolitic.

But the offending practices ceased. In 5 minutes. And the blades whirred. And Rich returned to Grand Rapids. It was a short and efficient meeting. And the story struck fear in top distributors’ hearts for years to come.

Rich was able to build a business from a garage with one product to a multi-billion dollar global juggernaut, putting he and his partner on the Forbes list of 500 richest Americans for many consecutive years for a reason.

There are Reasons for exceptional success. Behavioral reasons. Including behaviors considered dysfunctional by most others.

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    One Response

    1. Rob Anspach says:

      … to be honest I’m a pain in the ass…

      … although not ruthless in anyway… I keep a keen eye on everything, but a slob at my desk (yet I know where everything is, so dont dare straighten in out) – I know my limits but expect others to know my limits and course correct before I tell them… and I swear the thoughts I’m thinking I expect you to be in close proximity to get the vibes so I dont have to verbally yell at you or spend wasteful energy vocalizing…

      …but behind all the jerko type disfunctionalism is an entrepreneur that lives for results, strives for profits and adheres to his own set of rules that go beyond the scope of normalcy …

      … but most Billionaires have a tendency to be bullheaded risk takers that strive for world dominance…. (I’m still working on this one!)


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