12 Things I Believe

Ed BurghardI  had the opportunity to talk with a class of students at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio about the principles of branding your community.  I always get energized when I get to chat with highly talented people who have a genuine passion for making a difference in their community.  These are the leaders of the future and it is rewarding to stimulate their thinking by sharing the expertise I’ve gathered over the length of my career.

This was a unique class of hand-selected students who are exploring the assets, infrastructure and public policies of Portsmouth to better understand the challenges and opportunities for economic prosperity.  It is exciting to listen to the observations and ideas of minds that have not been jaded.  The optimism for positive change is infectious.

I have every confidence this group of students will make a meaningful and sustainable impact on the direction of economic development in Portsmouth.  And, I hope some of the students will elect to pursue a career as an economic development professional.

I have another opportunity coming up to speak with students at Cleveland State University, and I am confident I will feel just as jazzed from that experience.

If you get a chance, I would encourage you to make yourself available to interact with students at your local College or University.  I guarantee you will find it personally rewarding and it will recharge your enthusiasm for your job.

If you do opt to engage with students, please consider giving the gift of your experience.  Shared what you have learned as the “secrets of success”. They want (and need) the benefit of your knowledge.

To that end, I thought I would share with you (and the students at Shawnee State University who have actually been assigned my blog posts as required reading), 12 things that I have learned over my 35-year career.  Hopefully many will ring true with you.

12 Things I Believe

Superior insight is the key to winning in business.

It begins with genuinely caring about meeting the true needs of your consumer or customer, and then delivering against them. Insight requires you to suspend your beliefs, listen, empathize, and walk the mile in their shoes.

Writing improves thinking.

I’ve learned it is better to fail on paper than in the market. Writing forces you to expose your logic to critique, and flaws are more easily identified. Writing is a means to an end. It takes courage to commit thinking to paper for others to judge.

Integrity and trust are earned by one’s behavior, not words.

I believe what is said behind someone’s back is a truer measure of the individual’s character than what is said directly to their face.

Success is best measured by sustained performance.

Leaving a personal mark requires focus on building organizational purpose and capability. Winning once may be simple luck. Winning time after time requires skill, passion, and clear vision.

Teaching somebody to fish is the greatest gift you can give.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Truth has boundaries.

My professors in theoretical mathematics taught you not only need to understand the conditions under which something is true; but, also the conditions that make it false. Many times when reasonable people disagree, it is because they are not looking at the same facts. Getting clarity on the “truth” of a situation by looking at it through another person’s eyes often leads to a third alternative solution. As boundaries are understood, they are often expanded. The only limits are those of vision. Seeing beyond your own horizon is key.

There are some choices that are always wrong regardless of circumstances.

A mentor of mine positioned this as choosing the harder right versus the easy wrong. As an Eagle Scout, I have learned the importance of having a strong moral compass to guide your actions. In business, it is sometimes helpful to leave your ego at the door; it is even sometimes helpful to suspend your personal values to understand another culture’s view; however, it is never right to abandon your morals.

People begin each day with the hope of contributing value and being valued.

Nobody consciously chooses to fail. The key to success is to help people achieve the greatness that is inside them. To see that greatness, coach it and nurture it so people can maximize their personal performance.

It is always better to inspire than inform.

People intellectually committed can achieve impressive results. But, great things are achieved when people are emotionally committed. I have always been impressed by the underdogs who defy the odds and win. They play with passion and often will their way to success. They inspire greatness in others because of their actions.

Agreeing to disagree is a valid outcome.

If two reasonable people cannot find a win: win solution that benefits both, then it is appropriate to “agree to disagree agreeably” and have no deal. This position avoids the destructive behaviors of manipulation, pushing for your position at the expense of others, and disrespect.

When you plan to win, and prepare to win, then you have a right to expect to win.

A disciplined process of thinking dramatically increases the odds of success.

Service above self is true leadership.

A servant leader is willing to place self-interest behind the goal of achieving the Organization’s objectives and helping others to win. It is a method for empowering people and enhancing Organizational productivity.

Your Turn

There is absolutely no way I have captured all the “secrets of success” in my 12 Things I Believe list.  What have you learned that you’d add to the list?  Please share your wisdom and help make the list more complete.  What is the most helpful advice anybody has ever given you that has helped you be successful, or that you discovered on your own?

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