Manage Well – available on kindle now.

managewell3Power Principle Choices: These subjects were selected by members of teams I’ve managed as their favorite sayings learned working with me.  In a surprise session, they unveiled a 31 day flip book with key sayings they had heard from me over and over.  Apparently, they are such a part of my vernacular they decided to keep notes.  Managers are teachers.

After working with a team in one company, I met for lunch with the manager.  It had been ten years since I worked in that company.

He shyly said, “We still use the PAL method.”

I responded, “What is the PAL method?”

He then explained that I had signed every directive and procedure with my initials, PAL.  They had studied the methods behind the memos and made a system out of them.  That is an honor.  But, I reminded him they should be learning and growing and not get too bound in prior principles.  However, principles are timeless.  Look for the principles.

If it works for them, then I am honored.  If it works for them it will work for you.  There are few others I snuck in besides the 31 and a few I left out for the next book.  Enjoy

Management is a craft.  A craft is when talent is developed with training and application.  There needs to be a base talent for leading and managing on which you build knowledge and skill and mix a little artistic individual expression.  No two individuals manage exactly the same.  How boring would that be?

After years of studying, going to classes, getting degrees, learning from mentors, reading every day, teaching in conferences, counseling with mentees, and just plain doing the do, one of my frustrations is the secretive nature of leaders.  It seems they want you to drag the most important tips out of them.  Really, that is intentional.  A good leader never gives away everything.  In fact, I’m going to give away the unspoken rule of leadership that did not make it into the team member selection, because I rarely state it publicly.

“Hold wisdom close.  Only release it to anticipating learners.”

One wise wisdom steward said it this way.  “Correct a fool (someone who does not want your correction) and he will turn and shame you with it.”   Ouch!  How true.  Over time, when a leader meets this truth a few times, she becomes guarded with what she shares and with whom.

Common Grounds: Training Tenacity


Exerting your vision through your people and customers requires training. You need to train team. You need to train prospects and customers. You need to train yourself. You need to train your board. You must perform with consistency, congruency, and tenacity.  They may resist.  Do it anyway.

Train Your Team

Customer Service: A relaxed customer service is failure in the making. Many inside service team unravel at this point. Every team member must understand the vision of the service group. They must breathe it and live it. It should affect every point of decision.Plus Training

The press tech, the manager, the finishing tech, the shipping clerk, and the prepress tech must breathe customer service. This means constant training on phone skills, face-face consistency, issue handling, and prioritization to customer need. How often do decisions get made based on equipment and supplies versus customer demand? Change it. Attend to it always.

Customer Knowledge: Team need to know who they serve. Communicate personal information about the key customers. Did someone recently have a baby? Take a once in a life time trip? Accomplish a certification? Why do you restrict this knowledge to the sales and customer service teams? When your team members know the customers they serve in simple ways, they take what they do more personal and increase excellence.

Team Technical: All falls apart if the machines are not running. Machines run with good files, good process, and good people. Good people are trained. They are retrained. They are over trained.

Train Your Customer

 “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

 Mission Criticals: Customers must be trained. Men and women around the world follow leadership into life ending battles. They grasp a purpose, attach to leadership, and thrust themselves into the oncoming firestorm. Your customers have a mission purpose. When you show them how their mission purpose connects with your service, you gain customers for life. They want to have loyal and mission attached service and will fight through budgets, purchasing departments, discretionary funds, and idiosyncrasies of their organization to work with you. Connect them. Educate them.

Linked Process: Customer process must be engaged. Discover their process and adapt yours to work with theirs. Educate them on your journey and your excellence. Take time to make them more knowledgeable on your ordering and delivering process than you are. They don’t care how you print it. They care how you interact with them at beginning and end of process. The better they understand, the easier their life becomes and the more they turn to you for service with a smile.

Train Yourself

Be the expert in your industry. Know substrates and capabilities and twenty uses for every machine.

Be the expert in your people. Learn something new every day about a team member. Surprise yourself.

Be the expert in your customers. Study their needs and demands. Know what they need before they know what they need.

Be the expert in your customers industry. Read industry articles and journals your customers read. Get outside your pocket of knowledge.

Be the expert in the mundane. Maybe the numbers don’t excite you. Maybe organization process is boring. Master the mundane. Take a college course. Go interview an executive or manager in another area of the organization and learn what they know.

Train The Board

There are executive stakeholders surrounding every decision you make. Official or unofficial, you have a stakeholder board. They may meet in a room or in the hallway. Get them trained. Keep them updated with quick, pithy mission points of accomplishment and plans. Let them be involved in your decision thinking. You may not have an official board of advisors, but you better have a list for your own reference.

Summary: This is quick and high level. Every organization must train these four and train them well. Skip one and risk failure. Tend to all and move forward.  Overcome your inertia.  Move on it.

ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Be Responsible side of the triad and Communications level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Action and Alliance

Everyone needs a good trainer.. Luke Larson, Unashamed Fitness

Find productivity improvements, lower risk and reduce expenses with 4A teams.  A good team gives bottom line results consistently and with increasing customer satisfaction.   Give managers support from the top to make this happen.  In the first article (Identify Structure) positive and negative approaches are identified.  In the second (Accountability and Adherence) the priority pair of As are outlined.  Now let’s deliver the goods.  Action and Alliance build team synergy. 

Courage and Consequence 

Action: Teams need action.   Teams need people of action.  Issues erupt.  Machines fail.  There is no greater pain than walking into a shop that is inactive for hours due to fear of action.  Costly hours have been spent with no product to show.  Somebody said he would do what she wouldn’t and nobody moved.  Inaction is death to excellence.  Dysfunctional team structure will exacerbate inaction.  Courage and consequence stirs action mode team.

Free action requires empowerment.  Right process and policy and procedure give each team member clear expectations and parameters for decisions to achieve organization objectives.  If staff needs to consult a manager more than once a week, empowerment is weak. 

Alliance: Build key alliances with vendors, suppliers, departments, team members, and customers.  Alliances require maintenance.  Build trust and tenacity.  Never assume loyalty.  Strengthen understanding and alliance with allowance for mistakes.  High accountability affords grace for mistakes.  Do not allow ignorance of the needs of partners and stakeholders.

Check Up on Action and Alliance:

Plus Checks: When team members are proactive are they given immediate and specific feedback?  Is proactive approach on every personnel review?  Do leadership team meetings include kudos for proactive solutions attributed to team members?  Is there an active and up-to-date list of alliance vendors, suppliers, and customers published to the leadership group with assigned action quarterly for communication?  Do you have fun events with partners and stakeholders?  Do alliances know your strategic objectives for the next 18 months?

Minus Checks: Are team members ignorant of business impact of product and services on the end customer of your customer?  Is a clear customer communication process of risk of missing due times integrated into every team member’s expectations?  Do team members hesitate to make decisions when management is out of office?

Transition Approaches for Each Dysfunction to Courage and Consequence:

Command and Control: Establish “do then report” into a few key activities.  Review your process flow for steering points where decisions can branch to failure and embed a manager call out into the routine.  Over time reduce these points with coaching.

Laissez Faire: Explain the business impact of the end customer of the customer to all team members.  Make this a part of your management communiqués and public interaction.  Establish “down line impact” mentality.  Help each person see the impact of their action on the next person in the process stream.

Helicopter Micro Management: Back off.  Get out of the way.  Identify where you need proactive small steps and find ways to compliment.  Focus on progress toward the end goal instead of the end goal.  Read a book on positive reinforcement theory and adjust your attitude.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Staff Rules: Establish clear vision, mission, and 18 month objectives.  Communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Establish buy-in.  Don’t do this quickly.  Lock yourself out and get a vision, plan, and timeline in your heart and mind. Discuss with the key influencers of the team. Establish lost leadership.  Bring firm vision for their discussion.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor E. Frankl

Summary: Action and alliance build a synergistic environment. Big progress is made.  Team finds solutions to long term issues on their own. Plaguing process glitches go away.  Responsible behavior now is the norm.  Joy takes over.  Move into 4 As Team.  Do it.


ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.


This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: The Fearful and The Brave

fearfulandbraveairshipPursuing growth takes courage. Often, it means a paradigm shift. The brave take bold steps. Every executive, director and manger come to moments of decision. Some require bravery. Some require casting off fear. A brave decision maker in any business or organization must know three things.

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving – we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Where are you going? Columbus was a brave soul. He cast off the shore of mediocrity and embarked into an historical trip. His bravery took him and his team into uncharted waters. As a decision maker for one or multiple companies or organizations, you need to do the same.

Uncharted Waters

  • Where is the industry? You need to know. What is growing and what is lagging? How will that affect your clients and prospects? What do you need to learn to move forward? What do you need to jettison to keep alive? Be bold.
  • Where is your niche? Is it growing? Is it growing in volume, complexity, confluence with related service and product, or number of potential clients? Is it shrinking? Do you need to make a bold strike to hold market share or to improve market position? Be bold.
  • Where is your risk? Can your team keep up the pace? Are they learning at a fast enough rate? Is your equipment and software and marketing set where it needs to be? What is your competition doing to put you out of business? Are you poised to meet the challenges? Be bold.

Who is going with me? All of us need to sort through good and not-so-good clients.

  • Some clients are dragging bottom. They are anchors on a sailing ship. Every Friday at 2pm they bring impossible requests and frustrate your team on their way to anticipated family time. They call your top sales members in the evening when they would rather be watching a child’s soccer game. Specs are never ready and cost you more dollars to develop with them than the profit on the order. Inventory your clients. Can you contain the anchors so they don’t damage progress for everyone? Is there a way to manage them and keep the ship running across the ocean at high speed? Be brave.
  • Some clients bring valued cargo into the hold. Every order is ready to go, priorities are understood, expectations are in line with your capabilities. You love to meet these folks for lunch and talk about the victories. Profit margins are ample because speed of trust enables lean operation on the orders. Payments or allocations are handled posthaste and receivables look wonderful to your accounting. Be brave.
  • Some clients sharpen your saw. No one shaves off fear quicker than these clients. No one creates fear faster than these clients. Every month, they have a new idea that challenges your team to move faster, brighter, and with more creativity. You love them and hate them. You would never grow without them for they point out the future of the industry. Just when you are comfortable at present product and delivery cycles, this client pushes you to higher productivity and variety. They don’t bring an order, they bring ten orders on the same day that utilized 90% of your team’s capability. They make you shine. Be brave.

What will we find when we get there?

Contentment lies not in quality or rest, but confidence that what we have done and where we have gone is the right journey. Decision makers pursue contentment not satisfaction. There is a constant dissatisfaction with status quo that drives the bold to stay bold and the brave to be more courageous. Are you dissatisfied enough to be bold?

Summary: Fear stifles and strangles. Bravery shifts and shapes. Take inventory on your plans to ensure they break the boundaries of fear and launch you into the future. You own the future.  Surrounded by fearful managers looking for the safe route home?  Take the lead. Be one of the brave.

 These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

 This article focuses the BE FOCUSED  vision line of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Razor Sharp Relationships – 10 Risk Taker Tips

Every executive, director, manager and minion is tasked with developing increasing levels of intimacy in right service relationships.  Intimacy?  Yes.  A satisfied customer can become a delighted customer.  A satisfied customer can become a dissatisfied customer.  An emotionally distant and dissatisfied customer is on the way to another shop.  A customer, who is an intimate associate, will stay with you and work through dissatisfaction.  So how do you move customers from fringe relationships to intimate foundational associates?

Like all common grounds notes, this one came from a client.  His particular struggle was intimacy with clients.  That is a tough subject.  Most of us like to separate our business relationships into a compartment of mistrust.  “Caveat vendor” and “Caveat emptor” pervade.  Getting to a trusted win-win relationship confidence assumption requires exposure and intimacy and increasing levels of personal revelation.  Sound risky?  It is.  Risk brings reward.


A good friend in the business took me into his back office and showed me a project recently that is a highly competitive move for him.  He exposed himself.  He knows I also work with his competitors.  Trust means I can do a better job helping him as I understand his needs and focus.  Trust means no one knows but me what I saw.

With one client, when I took an antagonistic department head into the inner workflow of the shop, I was frozen with fear.  Surely they would tear the client apart in front of some executive over a small disagreement of approach.  On the contrary, they reciprocated and let me into their workflow.  We built a cooperative system of workflow that ended up in our locking shop and customer into a 100% provider relationship.

Another client took me into their private conference room with a group of key decision makers.  This was a culturally and politically tense situation.  Without trust and intimacy this discussion would be over before we started. The executive could lose a lot of face if I did not relate to each person in the group well.  She was staking business strategy for the next three years on this discussion. The pressure was on.  In a few minutes one of the key stakeholders and I discovered a common interest in the field we were discussing and the group took off into a vibrant and open discussion.

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”  Stephen M.R. Covey, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything

Developing successful relationships from fringe to friend to familiar to faithful to forever is a principle I work to instill in every organization. The Road to Human Loyalty   It applies to staff relationships and customer relationships and community relationships.  There are a few “caveats” in this path and you need to take time to understand them, but they are deeper than starting out with a lack of trust.

So as you work on your plans for the next 18 months and consider your customer relationships here are a few tips.  Sure you will meet some disappointments when you apply them.  However, you will find you gain much more than you lose.

  1. Take time to listen deeply and unplug the filters of prior expectation.
  2. Be slow to judge motivations for the heart is a complicated web.
  3. Give yourself 20 seconds to consider and weigh before you respond to any situation.
  4. Reaction to medicine will kill you.  Response will heal you.  Choose response.
  5. The space between stimulus and response is filled by choice.
  6. Believe in your customer.
  7. Believe in yourself.
  8. Think of ten good actions you could take in response to a request before making a decision when feeling like you are being used.
  9. If you consider all your relationships as well, think again and be realistic.
  10. Do the thing you fear the most, give trust.

ROI - ROE COMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

This article focuses on Sales and Marketing level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Solving Workflow with Leadership

Quality is best managed by leadership.

The conversation with a commercial manager of multiple in-plants was revelatory. His responsibility covered a variety of situations of business and higher education where management had been sourced. Each instance had a mix of team members who were employees of the institution or business and team members working for the commercial sourcing group. Few of us ever have to work in such a complexity. One of the shops experiences continual quality issues. VisionWhat is promised and proofed sometimes does not match what is delivered in color consistency. Every shop has to solve this in their workflow. Yet, no shop can ever claim to have final resolution. Why?

Can quality be 100% managed by workflow? Policy and procedure and process never resolve every issue. It is the team member performing the task that must apply discretion and excellence. Machines glitch. Chemical mixes fail. Papers absorb and dissipate moisture. Files are changed two seconds before a run. People forget to communicate changes. All of these items impact workflow. The finest workflow fit to the greatest team and equipment and software and supplies does not accommodate for all variances or all combinations of variances.

Priority and pressure pre-empt. They do. An angry customer can fluster the best of press operators. A haggard executive can shift priorities on a job in process in order to take care of the urgent. When the job is restarted not all the conditions are the same. What was going to be on time is now threatened as a rush. Content may shift due to final edits and the customer overlooks the slight but critical impact on the final piece as they sign the proof and rush out the door at 4:30pm for a piece due the next morning. “Well you signed it!”, just does not please the customer after they have handed out the goof at their most important meeting of the month.

Quality is best managed by leadership. Some things are taught and some things are caught. Leadership is best taught by being caught. A production team will reflect the tenor and approach of the leader. If you’d like to have impeccable workflow then start with impeccable leadership. What you do in the shadows will be done in the light. How you handle decisions needing discretion will lead them when you are not there.

Proactive: Leadership looks beyond the specific request to the heart of the need. Instead of overlooking a mistake on a proof by a customer, a leader reviews with the customer and asks qualifying questions if something seems amiss. That is caught when a manager does an employee review or barters with a vendor or approves a request for time off. Do you give that example at all times? Then expect team members to apply during production.

Responsible: Leadership is ownership. A leader will listen to a dissatisfied customer, personally apologize whether involved in the job or not, and give a reliable expectation of correction. That is caught when a manager takes the heat for the mistake of another department with no bad remarks.

Supportive: Leadership undergirds in tough times. A leader will stay an extra few minutes to make sure the next shift fully understands the job in process. That is caught when a manager cheerfully goes over to help a customer stuff envelopes when last minute changes threaten a mailing.

Customer Best: Leadership cares. Care means I want the best for the other person. A leader will make sure all the pieces of an order are packed so no damage can happen in shipping.  That is caught when a manager opens the door for someone whose hands are full at the front door of the company.

Summary: Plant management is a 24/7 leadership opportunity. How you live in the hallways will flow over into your shop. Cutting corners with vendor contracts will come out in cutting corners among layout artists. No workflow quality check will replace quality leadership example.

ROI/ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

 This article focuses on the operations and communications levels of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Build Better Budgets with VISION!

Budgets promote vision with numbers. They just do. A lackluster budget process represents a lackluster vision. An engaged budget process with visits to key stakeholders and excitement for new or enhanced offerings brings engagement. A comprehensive budget plan that considers and promotes the vision of your key stakeholders/customers brings good support.

Organizations work through new budgets at different times of year. However, as the New Year approaches you ponder end of year purchases, vendor deals, moratorium weeks, supply arrangements, staff, rent, and a myriad of miniscule items specific to your shop. Do it with vision.

Visibility: GVision - Futureet visible. Make sure the right decision makers understand you are watching out for their needs. Visit, call, listen, and integrate their ideas. Help them see how what you do accomplishes their goals.  Put out a simple brag sheet on some special accomplishments.

Integrity: This is not the time to fudge numbers and hesitate. Admit defeats and mistakes. Project confidence you have plans to go forward and be there. A newer stake holder in a shop walked up to me one day, faced me squarely, and asked, “Are you going to be here for me?” Be there.

Sensitivity: Some of your best stakeholder/customers may be going through a rough budget.  Learn from them. Find ways to creatively assist them through your services. Another may be planning to explode and need more. Find the balance.  Make sure you are not steamrolling past another’s need or vision that catches you in a surprise battle.

Influence: You are who you are. You are the expert in your services. Go ahead and be a little bold. Communicate confidence and concern and competency to your customers. Update them with new ways you can serve them and changes that might affect their future. Take care of your normal alerts concerning mail, paper costs, etc.. Then consider something not as evident and show some proactive interest in their world.

Opinion: This is a good time to be assertive. Don’t be aggressive. Do be assertive. If there is a conversation ongoing that might affect you and your team, put in your two cents. Show you care and show your personal ownership of serving the needs of the organization.

Necessity: Make sure all the necessities of the organization are handled in your budget. It can be easy to look to the exciting items and expansion. That is good. Daily operations must continue performed with excellence. A good in-plant can invisibly handle necessities and become overlooked. Communicate you are printing those 200,000 or 2,000,000 pieces of necessity a month alongside all the extras and expansions.

ROI/ROESummary: Tying dollars in clear ways with visibility, sensitivity, influence, opinion, and necessity can give a total VISION to your budget for decision making stakeholders. They are buried in their own budgets of which you are a line item. Make it easy and supportive for them. When you need the extra push for added software, online systems improvement, facility build out, equipment, training, or people, they will remember you well.

Your budget covers every area on the THRIVE pyramid. Consider them all.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: Razor Sharp Relationships – 10 Risk Taker Tips

With one client, when I took an antagonistic department head into the inner workflow of the shop, I was frozen with fear.  Surely they would tear the client apart in front of some executive over a small disagreement of approach.  On the contrary, they reciprocated and let me into their workflow.  We built a cooperative system of workflow that ended up in our locking shop and customer into a 100% provider relationship”

Read the full article by Phil on GCWORLDBZ

Common Grounds: Razor Sharp Relationships – 10 Risk Taker Tips.

Renaissance Man – There is No Box

Danny DeVito starred in an acclaimed movie entitled, Renaissance Man.   He impacted others to believe outside the restrictions of present systems.  My junior year of university, Dean Musselman tagged me with that title.  As he reviewed my business, psychology, literature, religion, and sociology mix of courses, he both scratched his balding dome and complimented me for being broad in my quest for understanding.  Renaissance leads to revelation.  There is no box.

Wikipedia defines the Renaissance Man as “A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”), is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems”


My personal form comes in taking a few keen skills honed over many iterations in business, community, and congregation and offer them to you.  Most of us in our journeys do not discover who we really can be until later in life.  Some find the path early.  Finding and early path to late discovery is a joy.

Excellence in operations and communications really shouts what I want to say to you.  Business, community, and home are fields of prosperity.  Leadership in community (business, government, education, non-profit), leadership in the people services (non-profit, congregation) and leadership in the home (fathers and families) build the environment in which healthy, dedicated, morally and emotionally and socially competent individuals and groups develop in balance and holistic health.

Contact me to assist in improving your business results.

Contact me to assist in improving your non-profit or congregation results:

Contact me to assist in your family results:

Contact me to GET RESULTS.. 405.388.8037 cell/text