Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leaders Must Lead: The Three "F's" of Leadership

There comes a point in every relationship, organization, business, and related activity when leaders must lead. The various teams have done their designing. The committees have reviewed it. Management has approved it. Now, it is time for leaders to take control and execute it. This is true whether we are talking about building a rocket ship or selling a house; once plans are made they have to be executed.

Leaders are the people that make it happen. They execute the plans and insure the goals are met. Whether they are leaders of a large group of fellow associates or they are an individual performance leader, such as sales leader, they set the pace and standards of the job to be done.

Leaders accomplish this through other people. A team leader will guide and direct his team insuring all the members maintain their focus on achieving the desired results. A sales leader will work with all parties of a transaction to insure they stay focused on making the transaction. The primary function of leadership in any situation involves working with and through other people to achieve the results of the goal.

Working with and through other people can be challenging but that is why you are the leader. As a leader it is important to learn and apply the three F’s of leadership in all their work relationships and interactions with other people. A leader should treat everyone with respect by being:

1. Fair

2. Firm

3. Frank


Your reputation is one of the most important assets you have. How people perceive you will determine how willing they are to work with you. As a team leader a positive reputation will make your associates put out the extra effort needed to accomplish any goal. As a sales leader your reputation will bring business and clients to you.

Being fair is simply treating all people the same. If people know they can trust you they will want to work with you. Be honest with all parties and work for a win-win solution to any problems that arise.

Make time for all your associates and business partners. This will go a long way to helping you achieve the reputation of being fair. Showing favoritism in any business relationship can have strong negative consequences.

Even in businesses where professional and corporate guidelines/rules appear to restrict your relationship with one party or the other in a business transaction you can still be fair in your actions. Be honest. If you cannot do something tell the party you cannot. By following the guidelines to the letter you are maintaining your fairness in the business relationship. Simply applying the rules equally to all parties with fairness and honesty helps you achieve your goals.


In the old days when you said a leader was firm you meant he ruled with an iron fist. There are still times when a leader has to be strict but being firm means more than this. It means being a decisive leader, one who can make a decision and follow through with it.

When being firm you need to stick to your principles and company policies/rules in all your business relationships. Don’t be indecisive when it comes to doing what is right or wrong. Let your principles and policies guide you in your decisions and how you implement actions.

When you make a decision stick with it, don’t be wishy-washy about it. You are not a “yes person” but you are the leader and at times it is your job to make the hard choices that are necessary to accomplish the goal.

Being firm also means when your decision or plans need to be changed you change them. But, you base the need to change on the facts needed to reach your goal. A good leader knows when and how to be flexible and adaptable.

Be open the suggestion, ideas, guidance and advice. A good leader does not make decisions in a vacuum but in the end a good leader makes the decision.


A good leader is an honest leader. His very principles demand truthfulness and honesty. He shares all the facts that he can with his team and/or clients to help them accomplish the goal.

When working in a team environment a good leader deals with all situations with truthfulness whether with the team or an individual. If praise is justified he gives it honestly and freely. If correction is needed he handles it with the same frankness, dealing with facts.

An individual leader such as a sales leader is frank with his associates and clients. He gives them all the facts, both good and bad, so they can make the best decision for their goals.

By following the three “F’s” of leadership a good leader will find the interaction with fellow associates and clients easier and more rewarding. Developing a reputation of being fair, firm and frank in your business relationships will help move you from being a good leader to being a great leader.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Your Main Job Is To Make Me Look Good

When I think about the advice I have received from my various mentors one of the earliest was from a first line supervisor at Kraft Foods back in 1972. This is one of those words of advice that I still follow today. His name was Dick and he would tell me every chance he got:

“Your main job at this company is to make me look good.”

I used to laugh at him and continue doing my job, not paying much attention to him. Over time I began to realize what a golden nugget those words of advice were. I have tried to apply them to every company I have worked for and every position I have held in those companies. No matter how what your job is, applying these words of advice will make your job easier and your chances of success will improved.

I apply this rule in both directions of the hierarchical chain of command by equally trying to make my boss look good to his boss and making the employees who work for me look good. By applying the rule in both directions I am the one who ultimately looks good.

There are many benefits to be earned by making your boss look good. The most obvious is if your boss looks good to his superiors then he is more likely to get promoted out of your way and you can take his job. Another benefit of this approach is that your boss’s boss may notice your hard work and realize you are carrying the operation and again promote you in recognition of your effort. I have successfully used both of these tactics to gain a promotion on several occasions.

When applying the rule in the other direction to those who report to you and making your direct reports look good there is nothing but positives to be gained. One of the first positive results are that you develop a sense of trust and respect among your employees. Having the trust and respect of your employees is an extremely important aspect of achieving success. I have seen good managers fail by not earning the respect and support of their employees. They can make your life miserable and sabotage all your efforts if they do not feel you support them.

There are many ways to make your employees look good and they are easy to apply. One of the best is to offer training in all aspects of the job and helping prepare them for the next position or level by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Encourage them to share their ideas and motivate them to learn all they can about the operations. Most importantly give your employees the recognition they have earned for their efforts and share it with their fellow workers and to your superiors. Not only do you win the support of the employee being recognized but of all the other members of the team.

Once you make your employees look good your superiors will notice and therefore you look good in their eyes. You will develop a reputation among your superiors as a good trainer and leader. Your employees will work hard to ensure you meet your goals when they know you are supporting them. One of my greatest achievements that I look back on, is the employees that I have helped encourage, train and develop for promotion.

In both of the situations described I have helped create a positive leadership environment for the entire team. By making your boss look good, you look good which makes for a win-win situation. By making your employees look good, they will work to make you look good and once again you have created a win-win situation. This is a sign of true leadership; when all parties can achieve their goals and meet the companies goals together.

Even as I write this advice I am following the words of my mentor because my goal as a leader is to “make you look good.”

Thursday, February 20, 2014

CYA - The Basic Rule of Leadership

CYA – The Basic Rule of Leadership

While attending Florida Southern College I took a night class entitled “Industrial Psychology.” The teacher was a retired Vice President of Human Resources for a major international heavy equipment manufacturer. The first day of class he walked into the room, went to the blackboard and wrote in large letters “CYA”. He then told us if we did not learn anything else in his class we would learn what CYA meant.

He went on to explain that in the real world of business this is one of the most important and basic rules to success and survival. Whether you find yourself in a positive or negative position, using CYA gives you an advantage over your competition. In all areas of business you needed to CYA or Cover Your Ass.

Every class after that he wrote CYA on the board and left it up for the entire period. Then he taught the fundamentals of industrial psychology while weaving in his own personal experiences. Throughout the class he referred to the board and ask, "How can you apply CYA to this situation?"

When broken down CYA involves two processes.

1. Documentation

2. Follow-up


Documentation is simply “put it in writing.” Whether it involves communication or an event, write down what was said and/or what happened. Too often not remembering exactly what happened or what was said results in a totally different outcome than what you expected.

In a conversation what was heard by one party may not be what was said by the other. Often the conversation is held in a noisy or busy area with lots of distractions. Other times the conversation is held while one or both parties are in a hurry and there is no true communication occurring.

To help avoid misunderstanding take notes during the conversation or as soon as possible after the conversation write down what was said. I have always carried a little note pad in my pocket to jot down memory notes to be used later to help retain or recap the conversation. Often when I get a few minutes I will send a note by email to the other party summarizing the conversation. This will also serve a record that we had the conversation.

At times I have kept a business journal or log of my daily activities. This is a great tool for keeping notes on the day’s events and important communications. Several months later if you have to review an event you will be glad you have this information documented.

Another good habit to get into is to save all correspondences in a file. You never know when you may need it. This is one of the great things about email. It is a written record and easy to save.

One of the phrases I hate to hear from one of my managers is, “I assumed ….” I was taught very early in my business career the old adage that when you assume, you make an “ass-u-me” and I get very upset when it happens to me. This can easily be avoided by learning to follow-up on events you are involved with.

If you make an assignment don’t assume it will be done, follow-up.

If you have assignments don’t assume you have done it correctly, follow-up.

If you are involved in communication with another person don’t assume there is an understanding of what was said, follow-up.

If you do anything, take the time to follow-up to insure it is done correctly. This extra step in your work process can eliminate a lot of wasted steps in the future.

If you write it, proofread it, another form of follow-up. Years ago I asked my assistant to type a letter to the Vice President of Operations of the company I worked for telling him of the production record that was broken the previous night by our second shift team. She typed it up and brought in for me to sign and I did.

Several days later I got a call from the VP asking if I had read the letter I had signed before I sent it. I learned a big lesson on follow-up that day. I pulled out my copy of the letter and read where she wrote, “The second shift set a new production standard for the operations.” The problem was she had left the “f” out of shift. Needless to say I now read what I sign.

It may sound like you are being paranoid by keeping all of these notes and constantly checking up on people, but it is not. It is a valuable tool to help make you a better leader and manager. It will help you evaluate your past performance and help you make plans for future improvements. By applying CYA in all areas of your work you will reap the benefits.

So, everyday “Cover Your Ass.”

(First published April 2011)


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interviewing: Asking the Right Questions – When Yes and No Is Not Enough

Have you ever finished an interview and realized you don’t know any more about the person or event than you did before you started. How would you rate the interview, pass or fail?

Before I realized what I was doing wrong, this happened to me all too often. Whether you are interviewing a new employee candidate, a potential client in real estate, a service provider professional or your children, the type of questions you ask will determine the answers you get.

Early on in my career I learned there is a simple solution to this problem. The key to a successful interview is not to ask “yes or no” questions. Simple, but listen to yourself the next time you interview someone.

If you ask only yes or no questions you will only get yes or no answers. When I am on the other side of the table I have been taught not to provide too much information and I love yes and no questions. All I have to do is answer the question and I have provided the interviewer with exactly what he asked, albeit not what he may have wanted.

Never ask a yes and no question, always ask for more information, opinions, descriptions, explanations, etc.

Let’s look at some examples:

A. Have you ever been terminated or laid off from a job?

B. Explain why you left your last 3 places of employment?


A. Do you want to sell your house?

B. Why do you want to sell your house?


A. Did you see the accident occur?

B. What did you see happen?


A. Can you cut down the tree in my yard?

B. How would you cut down this tree hanging over my house?


A. Did you kick your brother?

B. Why did you kick you brother?


Even though these are simple examples you can see where in each case the “B” question will provide you with a better picture and more information from which you can form an opinion.

Yes this is a simple solution but as I said earlier listen to the questions you ask and I believe you will be amazed at how many are yes and no questions. I still have to watch myself to avoid this trap and practice it every day. When I do it right it makes my job a lot easier and successful.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Michael J. Webb Reviews Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth

A New Review of :
Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth

didn't like it didn't like it didn't like it didn't like it didn't like it
Days of Future Past, December 23, 2013
By Michael J. Webb (Charlotte, NC)   
This review is from: Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth (Kindle Edition)
Reading Gray's poetry is like opening a time capsule of thought, feelings, and emotions. It resurrects vivid memories if of the past and foreshadows expectations of the future. Definitely worth the read, and worth revisiting from time to time as remembrance fades. To paraphrase a famous song from the period, Naked Eyes reminds me of "Knights in white satin, poems I've written, never meaning to send . . ."

Click Here to order your copy of Naked Eyes from


Monday, November 4, 2013

Latest Reviews from for Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth by Larry B. Gray

Latest Reviews from for Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth by Larry B. Gray

5.0 out of 5 stars Collection of Inspiring Poems, November 2, 2013
This review is from: Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth (Kindle Edition)
Reading this inspiring, thought-provoking collection of poems gives you a glimpse of the author's life experiences and his heart and emotions as a young man. These are extremely well written, creative and expressive poems. I could relate to many things he was feeling in these poems. I really enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend it!

5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry to Make You Think, October 29, 2013
This review is from: Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth (Kindle Edition)
Thought provoking and interesting, these poems will give you glimpses into several different realms of life from love to death, from darkness to light. It's a great little book that will create a sense of peace and calm while relaxing in the evenings. I recommend this book!


5.0 out of 5 stars Treasure from youth., October 21, 2013
Chris Ammann (Valrico FL)
This review is from: Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth (Kindle Edition)
Naked Eyes by Larry B. Gray is a true time capsule of 1970. This collection of poems shows a young Larry B. Gray pondering everything most intelligent young men do as they cross from adolescence to adulthood. Love, hate, war and death all come into play. I personally found myself again and again identifying with the words of the young Larry B. Gray and wished I had written many of them. Kept in the time frame of the turbulent late 60's and early 70's and it is to see these timeless poems as the treasure they are. In closing I could have included many of the passages to illustrate my point here but I left them out as not to spoil the reader's joy of discovery as I had.

Sincerely Chris Ammann
To be clear I was given a copy of Naked Eyes but the review is true and honest.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Collection, October 31, 2013
This review is from: Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth (Kindle Edition)
I too used to write poems as a young man in the 1970s, though none of mine survive. Larry Gray kept his and has now published them, and they make an intriguing record of a young man of that era, his likes and doubts and dreams and fears. Some have an air of mystery, such as the intriguing "The Mystic Morning God," which I especially liked. This is a fun collection that brought back to me many memories of my own youthful life and my attempts to capture it in verse. I wish I had kept my writings.

Click Here to order your copy of Naked Eyes from


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Naked Eyes - Poetry of Youth by Larry B. Gray

Now Available From and
Naked Eyes
Poetry of Youth
by Larry B. Gray
The late sixties and early seventies was a time of change in our world. The belief that everything was perfect was coming to an end. America was bogged down in an unpopular war in Vietnam which for the first time was broadcast nightly into everyone’s living room via TV. Between the anti-war demonstrations and the civil rights movement, political unrest was rampant. Drug use was widespread as people tried to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”
The poems in this collection follow no central theme and are random glimpses of my thoughts during this time of coming of age. Each poem has the date that it was written printed at the top of the page and reflects my little world and how I felt at that time.