by Dr. Nguyen "Tom" Griggs
When I was around 15 years old, my dad (a.k.a., “Pop”) and I were working on his old ‘79 Dodge Ram Charger. It was banged up, had no air conditioning and the radio could barely stay in place in its holding brackets. As we worked, my dad had a life talk with me. He shared five rules for living that he abided by and made him successful.
I was honored to retell these points during his eulogy in June 2016. Seeing friends and relatives laughing and nodding in agreement told me that these are true pearls of wisdom. Allow me to share these points with you. I’ll frame them in the context of being successful in the areas of teams, leadership and conflict management.
1. Work hard and work smart. My dad was a very hard-working person. He advocated common sense, but knew that determination could only take you so far. Armed with only a high-school diploma, he and my mom became successful, but also embraced technology and efficiency.
Working hard and working smart are work styles that have their merits and are needed to be successful. Remember, nothing beats hard work, but smart work saves you for another day. Make a point to understand each of your team members’ work styles and strengths while recognizing them for it.
2. Be good to your family. We had an unusual life in many respects, but eating meals together, Sunday outings and holidays were valuable. My parents owned liquor stores and then “graduated” to hourly rate motels, but normalcy was still valued.
Can people tell what you value in your schools from how everyone acts and treats each other? Schools espouse courtesy, respect, honor, etc. But, if you asked parents and students which values they see being displayed, you’ll know what you actually practice. Also, be open to hearing feedback from everyone so that you can improve in how you work with others.
3. Save your money. My dad told me when they started off in life, they were so poor that my dad would buy a 20-ounce beer on Friday and make it last until Sunday. My dad valued saving money as much as he liked making money.
Think of your talents and abilities as currency. How well do you spend or save your currency? Think of your energy, creativity and passion for being a professional martial artist as assets to be shared and invested wisely.
4. Try to help a few people along the way. One of my parents’ goals was to be altruistic and charitable. They would donate to churches and various non-profits. They also gave a great deal to their respective families in the U.S. and Vietnam. “My mom is from Vietnam.”
One of the biggest gripes that my clients have is the notion that people want something for free and never seem to reciprocate the gesture in other ways. So, you have two options:
A) Don’t give discounts, breaks and favors to clients. You own and run a business and your bottom line and profitability come first.
B) Be more selective and make it clear what you expect in return for your help. Think of this as a quid-pro-quo deal. For example, giving a student a free private lesson in return for an introduction to their kid’s PTA/PTO president, etc.
Either option works. But, if you feel guilty, remember the old adage that says, “I always helped everyone else until I had neither business nor home. Now who’s gonna help me?”
5. Always keep your word. Even when my dad was exhausted, if he promised to take me somewhere, he did. He exercised good judgment and restraint when it came to saying yes. He was happy to think before giving you an answer and hated having to go back on his word.
A major source of conflict is mismanaged expectations and perceived deceptions. Parents, students and staff members can become upset if they feel you misspoke or lied to them about something. Clearly communicating expectations in the beginning is a key to keeping things good.
Thanks for allowing me to share these concepts with you. We’ll explore each of these points in more detail in the coming months and further apply them to your business. As an instructor at a commercial school, I understand many of the martial arts business challenges. As a professional speaker and consultant, I teach organizations to develop black belt leaders that others want to follow. Until next time, keep getting better, my friends.
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