The Language of Excellence

You Can’t Fix Stupid, but We Often Elect It!

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“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”― Mark Twain

As a retired business employer and author on management I have put to test my views of competence and incompetence through many years of observation and experience. My firsthand experience with people, in particular evaluating an employee on the job, is they fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Competent

  • Conscious incompetent (inexperienced but learning)

  • Unconscious incompetent (incompetent and doesn’t know it)

Combine incompetence with unawareness and you have “stupid!” And, to make matters worse, the “unconscious incompetents” usually think they are the smartest people in the room!  Also, a prestigious degree doesn’t protect one from being an “unconscious incompetent.” Stupid doesn’t mean uneducated and being smart in one area doesn’t keep you from being incompetent in another. You can be young and stupid or old and stupid. You can be new to your position, or heaven forbid, in your existing role for years. As an employer, I wanted to replace the unconscious incompetent as soon as possible. Why, because “You Can’t Fix Stupid”.

I’m not making this up.  I just read an article in the Post-Tribune titled Science Finally Proves You Can’t Fix Stupid. The article reports on the findings of  now retired Cornell University psychologist David Dunning who since 1999 had been researching stupid— “how totally brick-headed people are, and how little any of them realize it.” His findings demonstrate that dumb people can’t tell they are stupid. “The very factors that impose human incompetence also make them incapable of realizing it.”

Dunning wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ”What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge. A whole battery of studies … have confirmed that people who don't know much about a given set of cognitive, technical or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it's grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating or financial knowledge."  

I’m no longer in management but I’m trained as an observer of people and I can spot an “unconscious incompetent” person in a New York minute. You can find a swarm of them in the political arena particularly Congress–several new members stand out to such a degree as to mask the incompetence of all the rest.

As an example, David Rutter, in his Post-Tribune article observed, “The research has profound effects on public policy. When a politician starts a conversation about climate change with, "I'm not scientist, but ...," it usually means they have translated their total ignorance about science into a comforting self-delusion.”

Go figure.

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Read more about Tom Collins’s views on management and leadership in his book The Language of Excellence. For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores.
Audio versions of The Claret Murders and Diversion are available from iTunes, Audibles and Amazon. eBook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBook’s Store and Smashwords.com.
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

Five Best Books on Leadership and Management

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Sure, I write fiction, mysteries, but of all the books I have written I am most proud of the one non-fiction work, The Language of Excellence. The book codifies the leadership and management concepts that I used to succeed in business. Gary Slaughter, author and nationally recognized management expert, places The Language of Excellence as one of the five best books on leadership and management. This is what he recently wrote:

“Over the past fifty years, I’ve devoured dozens of leadership and management books. In fact, I’ve also taught hundreds of leadership and management workshops to Fortune 500 corporate executives.

In my judgement, The Language of Excellence by Tom Collins is among the best five books I have ever read on this subject. The other four include these classics:

The Motivation to Work by Fredrick Herzberg
The Practice of Management by Peter Drucker
On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
The Transformational Leader by Noel Tichy

Moreover, The Language of Excellence replaced One Minute Manager on my ‘best five’ list. OMM, written in 1982 by Ken Blanchard and Spenser Johnson, has sold over 13 million copies and been translated into 37 different languages. Despite OMM’s popularity, The Language of Excellence is far more informative and easy to apply.”

Most of my life has been spent in business. As a corporate executive I made and loss money for other people, before going solo. By the time I was running my own company, I had learned what worked and what didn’t work. My lessons were learned on the firing line and by reading and listening to the experts. I am a great fan of contemporary business authors like Jim Collins, Tom Peters, and Nancy Austin. But it was their predecessors, including Peter Drucker, who were at the cutting edge of modern business management methods and leadership concepts. If you are just starting in business, or if you are a seasoned business leader constantly searching for the answers, their works as well as The Language  of Excellence needs to be on your bookshelf. Better yet, they need to on your desk, and in the case of The Language of Excellence, it needs to be in the hands of those you depend on to help you succeed in business and life.

All five of the best books on the subject are available on Amazon and other online bookstores.

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The Language of Excellence is available in hardcover, paperback, and digital formats. Volume purchases for corporate training and gifting as well as signed copies are available on the author’s official website, www.authortomcollins.com. From now until December 25th enter the code GIFT at checkout for free shipping and a 20% discount. To buy now click on SHOP NOW.

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For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. Audio versions of The Claret Murders and  Diversion are available from iTunes, Audibles and Amazon. eBook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBook’s Store and Smashwords.com. 
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

Succeeding for the Long Haul

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The young Nashville based management team of Lonely Planet has been studying my book, The Language of Excellence. The picture was taken on September 5, 2018 when I met with them to discuss the book and answer questions. At the point in the discussion pictured, I was explaining that anyone can be accidentally successful. You can have your Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame. But you cannot accidentally succeed for the long haul. Long term success is not achieved by accident. Tom Peters and Nancy Austin in their book A Passion for Excellence say it this way:

“…there are only two ways to create and sustain superior performance over the long haul. First, take exceptional care of your customers (for chicken, jet engines, education, health care, or baseball, etc.) via superior service and superior quality. Second, constantly innovate. That’s it.” “There are no alternatives…”

It seems simple:
      Customer Care
      And Constant Innovation
Yet for most companies it appears too difficult. History is littered with the bones of short lived enterprises.

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The Lonely Planet team studied The Language of Excellence to learn management and leadership concepts required for long term success. Including concepts like the model for Excellence: 

I told the team that it was not enough for them to study the book. “To lead you must become a teacher. When all members of an organization understand the implications of important management and leadership concepts, magic happens within that enterprise.”

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To read what business leaders are saying about The Language of Excellence go to http://www.tomcollinsauthor.com/reviews-the-language-of-excellence. For more about The Language of Excellence at a discounted price for bulk purchases go to http://www.tomcollinsauthor.com/language-of-excellence/. For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. Audio versions of The Claret Murders and Diversion are available from iTunes, Audibles and Amazon. eBook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBook’s Store and Smashwords.com.

Published by I-65 North, Inc.

TWO CERTAINTIES

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Perhaps the most important model in my book, The Language of Excellence,  is the one for TWO CERTAINTIES. The term “death and taxes” in the flip chart image is often quoted as the two certainties in life voiced by Benjamin Franklin. The graphic pairs Franklin's common sense terms with the words “change” and “judged” because change and judged are better descriptions of the two certainties as faced by businesses. For deliberate long-term success, an enterprise must have an understanding and acceptance of the two certainties— (1) we either purposely change to improve, or natural forces erode and change us for the worse, and (2) what we are is determined through the judgment of others.

I wrote the The Language of Excellence as a teaching aid. I discovered by accident that when all members of an organization understand the implications of important management and leadership concepts, magic happens within that enterprise. It is as if someone pulls back the curtain and turns up the lights. Suspicions disappear, replaced by unity.

To learn about the behavior of change, to gain an understanding of the rule of the fewest, to be able to put a name to observed phenomena such as the life cycle and suboptimization tears down the iron curtain between “management” and “employees.” A team arises—a competent team, one that shares a core set of beliefs and a common sense of direction—eager to help write their own playbook.

I want to clarify that I claim no origination credit for the concepts in The Language of Excellence. They are a compilation of ideas collected, distilled, reshaped, blogged, and even tweeted during fifty years of on-the-job training and a lifetime of reading and listening to the great minds of business—people like Peter Drucker, W. Edwards Deming, Nancy Austin and Tom Peters. The use of graphics and trigger words that bring those visual images to mind was inspired by usability improvements contributed by icons in graphical user interfaces (GUIs), by the power of Tom Peters’s model of excellence, and by the effectiveness of Model-Netics, the graphic image-laden management training courses of American General during my brief tenure with the company.

The concepts inside The Language of Excellence, like the Two Certainties apply to life as well as business. The book is one of the best gifts one could give to a young professional. It can be invaluable to the entrepreneur starting a new business or to a seasoned executive frustrated by the difficulty of steering an unresponsive corporate ship.

The Language of Excellence teaches the skills for long-term purposeful success. The concept of the Two Certainties conveys that for that long-term success, you must learn to deal with and manage change, and you must accept that you and your accomplishments are what others perceive them to be. 

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For more about The Language of Excellence at a discounted price for bulk purchases go to http://www.tomcollinsauthor.com/language-of-excellence/. For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. Audio versions of The Claret Murders and  Diversion are available from iTunes, Audibles and Amazon. eBook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBook’s Store and Smashwords.com.
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

I-65 NORTH

Commenting on my recent post about my book The Language of Excellence, Marshall Martin said that even years later his business vocabulary still includes "ceremonialism, majoring in minors, indispensable man and I-65 North" among other phrases. 

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Those who haven't read The Language of Excellence are probably wondering what I-65 North has got to do with it. I use “I-65 North” as a metaphor about business. It is also the name of my publishing company. 

Business is a journey; one that involves constant change and where success is determined through the eyes of those who judge us. The role of a leader is to get people moving in the same direction toward a common destination with a clear understanding of the rules of the road for getting there. I-65 North conveys the idea of a journey with everyone traveling in the same direction—north. North is analogous to the idea of upward progress (the pursuit of excellence).

While the destination of the business journey is set and communicated by an organization’s leader, individuals are not robots. If you are on the team, it is because the organization believes in you as an achiever, but many things shape how each member of the team performs in pursuit of the destination. There is not one performance style that has a monopoly on success. The analogy of the interstate conveys this flexibility. Individuals determine their own rate of speed on the journey north, provided they do not go so slow as to impede others or so fast as to recklessly endanger others. As an individual within the organization, however, you cannot go south, east, or west. You as an individual are in control. It is your vehicle, but the leader sets the direction and destination.

Business is a journey. The role of the leader is to get everyone traveling in the same direction.

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For more about The Language of Excellence at a discounted price for bulk purchases go to http://www.tomcollinsauthor.com/language-of-excellence/. For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. Audio versions of The Claret Murders and  Diversion are available from iTunes, Audibles and Amazon. eBook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBook’s Store and Smashwords.com.
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

Stocking Stuffers



For free shipping plus
 a 30% savings go to www.tomcollinsauthor.com and enter coupon code C214 when ordering signed copies of books by Tom Collins.


"The Language of Excellence just may be the only guide book to personal and business excellence you will ever need to read. A must-read for achievers."—Robert Hicks, New York Times 

Regarding his mysteries "Collins has a knack for painting a picture in the minds eye of the reader, using the history of Nashville and consistency of the characters leaving you wanting more."

Last Minute Gift--It is not too late!

For free shipping plus a 30% savings go to and enter coupon thelanguageofexcellence.com code C214.


It is not too late for that last minute gift. From now through December 31st, you can save 30% on signed copies ofmy book on how to deal with almost anything business or life can throw at you. I think it is the best gift one could give to a young professional.  Your gift will be invaluable to the entrepreneur starting a new business or a seasoned executive frustrated by the difficulty of steering an unresponsive corporate ship. For free shipping plus a 30% savings go to thelanguageofexcellence.com and enter coupon code C214 when placing your order.

"Tom Collins' The Language of Excellence just may be the only guide book to personal and business excellence you will ever need to read. A must-read for achievers.”—Robert Hicks, New York Times bestselling author

Tom Peters on 21st Century Management

Tom Peters was one of the strongest influences on my life as an entrepreneur and executive and that influence is visible on the pages of my book, The Language of Excellence, dealing with leadership and management.  Recently, Peters was interviewed for the McKinsey & Company’s Quarterly.   You can read the entire interview by going to the McKinsey web site.

Talking about 21st-century management during the interview Peters says:

“My real bottom-line hypothesis is that nobody has a sweet clue what they’re doing. Therefore you better be trying stuff at an insanely rapid pace. You want to be screwing around with nearly everything. Relentless experimentation was probably important in the 1970s—now it’s do or die.”
His observation about experimentation is right out of the Model for Excellence—survival for long haul requires constant innovation.  You cannot continue to create and deliver the same product or service the same way and survive in the long haul. Experimentation and innovation are vintage Peters, and I might add the idea expressed also consistent with the teachings of Peters’s predecessor Peter Drucker.

Also straight from the Model for Excellence is Peters’s explanation to the interviewer of what business executives are in. It has nothing to do with products or services:
“If you’re a leader, your whole reason for living is to help human beings develop—to really develop people and make work a place that’s energetic and exciting and a growth opportunity, whether you’re running a Housekeeping Department or Google. I mean, this is not rocket science.
It’s not even a shadow of rocket science. You’re in the people-development business. If you take a leadership job, you do people. Period. It’s what you do. It’s what you’re paid to do. People, period. Should you have a great strategy? Yes, you should. How do you get a great strategy? By finding the world’s greatest strategist, not by being the world’s greatest strategist. You do people. Not my fault. You chose it. And if you don’t get off on it, do the world a favor and get the hell out before dawn, preferably without a gilded parachute. But if you want the gilded parachute, it’s worth it to get rid of you.”
While I gave the Model for Excellence its name, the model is drawn from ideas expressed in Peters’s  A Passion for Excellence. The model is explained in third chapter of The Language of Excellence. It was also discussed in an earlier blog post under the title The Pursuit of Excellence is the Only Sound Strategy.
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For signed copies of books by Tom Collins, go to the TomCollinsAuthor.com. Unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. Ebook editions are also available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore and Smashwords.com.
Published by I-65 North, Inc.

Mentoring and Coaching Services

Since publishing The Language of Excellence, I have been asked about training services.  Yes, I am available for training sessions as well as mentoring and coaching services.



In addition to mentoring services Tom Collins is available for selected readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, contact PLA Media at 615-327-0100 (info@plamedia.com) or to contact the author directly email tom.collins@i65n.com.
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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.


Winners—No Losers at Book Signing

The book signing event at the Franklin Art Crawl on Friday, August 1st,
was a great success. A good many fans stopped by the signing location at the law firm of Stites & Harbison that is located in historic downtown Franklin at 604 West Main Street.  In addition, an impressive number of new mystery readers purchased their first Mark Rollins adventure—a signed hardcover copy or the new audio edition.

Ed Binkley won the drawing for a 28-year-old claret from my private cellar. Two people won the opportunity to have a character named after them in my next mystery, Nancy Hagen and my friend Janet Jones.  If my memory serves me correctly, both Ed and Nancy purchased the audio edition of The Claret Murders during the event.  Janet is a long time friend and the wife of Ray Tarkington.
Previous character name winners at other signing events include:
Connie Maynord
Kathie Fuston
Mick Hendrickson
Edwin Myers
Sue Hadfield

Connie Maynord has a busy career as an actress and model. This past month, her on camera roles have ranged from a fun loving mature age Aunt Jackie, to a ghost/wife who has come back to a husband who is dying, to a happy Golden Girl!  She has been cast in the upcoming productions S.O.U.L. as Nurse Hazel and Candles as a News Reporter, and Connie is also an associate producer on Candles. In addition, Connie has had several appearances in commercials.  To learn more about Connie Maynord check out www.conniemaynord.com.

The new mystery is about one-third complete and has the working title Diversion. Diversion deals with drug diversion -- legal medications diverted for illegal purposes and all the bad things that surround addiction and drugs. Our character winners could be drugged out teenagers or just someone who can't get off their pain medication and has no way to get them except on the street -- from very unpleasant people. Alternatively, the winner could be a DEA hero who saves a teenage druggie from a horrible life or an undercover cop posing as an unpleasant person on the street selling happy pills. They might turn out like Kathie Fuston who in the early draft is a pregnant, unwed mother in the visitor section of the Manchester Jail waiting to find out if her man is going to be released.

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.


Don’t Count on Your Gut!

Most of the time, experienced and seasoned leaders are served well by their gut. That “gut feeling” doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from experience—their own and those of others who shared theirs. From those experiences, we develop biases (core beliefs) about what does and does not work. It is those core beliefs that drive our gut reaction to events and circumstances enabling us to make most decisions quickly without research, consultation, or analysis.

However, the excellent leader also knows there is a time when their gut is not up to the job. They don’t “bet the farm” casually. Material or bet-the-farm issues are often those that bring into question the very validity of your core beliefs given new conditions and circumstances. Yielding to your gut when you should be adjusting to new conditions on the ground leads to adverse results. When I look back over my 55 years of business experience, I can point to numerous competitors that no longer exist because their leaders followed their gut when the game board was in transition.

To be an effective leader, it is important to recognize when to follow your gut and when to take an analytical approach seeking advice from those with special know-how and experience. When the stakes are big, don’t count on your gut!

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Preparing for Opportunities and Contingencies

One of the best ways to look for new opportunities is through purposeful imagination. It inspired President Kennedy to say, “We need men who can dream of things that never were.” There are great undone things to be done. To find some of them, all you have to do is turn off the mental constraints and free your creativity. Purposeful imagination is at the heart of the “Blue Ocean Strategy,” and it is the counter to the “Tyranny of the OR.”

Opportunities are often created by events. Those at the right place at the right time to take advantage of events did not get there just by accident. As the French scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” Purposeful imagination is about preparing for opportunities and contingencies. How do you do that? It isn’t hard to do. It is thinking about things that could happen and then imagining how to react to them. It is about doing so with an eye toward the opportunities those events would present.

You do it by setting aside one day month, or a half day every two weeks, with your management team for the exercise of purposeful imagination. Future events that are problems for others become opportunities for the trained mind. While future events may not mirror exactly those practiced as hypothetical, your team will have gained the skill for quick reaction. Like building muscle memory for an athlete through practice, you will have trained your organization to deal with surprises as opportunities rather than problems.

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.




Succeeding for the Long Haul

On May 20, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40+ people fought the Franklin afternoon traffic to attend my session on Succeeding for the Long Haul and purchased a signed copy of my new book, The Language of Excellence. While we covered a lot of the material in the book, Tom Peters and Nancy Austin wrote the punch line more than 30 years ago. In The Passion for Excellence, they wrote the following:
“…there are only two ways to create and sustain superior performance over the long haul. First, take exceptional care of your customers (for chicken, jet engines, education, health care, or baseball, etc.) via superior service and superior quality. Second, constantly innovate. That’s it. There are no alternatives in achieving long-term superior performance…”
Peter Drucker said the only sound objective is the pursuit of excellence; anything else is at best only competent and that leads to marginal.

It is all about the Model for Excellence:


You can only achieve excellence through people who truly care about their customers. Moreover, you do not get to decide if you have achieved your objective. Excellence must be earned through the eyes of those who judge you, your customers. Once you achieve it, you can only maintain it through constant innovation. All that—the right people, superior customer care, and constant innovation—requires a common sense of direction [something I call I-65 North] and in-touch leadership for which traditionally “Management by Wandering Around” was an essential tool. Today social media has provided us with extraordinary new ways for the leadership to stay in touch with customers, employees, vendors, and even competitors—never has in-touch leadership been so easy. Unfortunately, few take advantage of it, and fewer follow the advice of Peters and Austin.

As I made my closing remarks, I was surprised by the appearance of Tennessee State Representative Glen Casada who presented me with a proclamation of the Tennessee House of Representatives recognizing me for my business and literary achievements—a nice surprise.

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.


Secret to Success for the Long Haul

Anyone can be accidentally successful for some period of time--they can have their fifteen minutes of fame!  But, long term durable success doesn't happen by accident. So what do those who achieve it do differently? What is the secrete for achieving business success for the long haul?  It is simple. However, very few ever follow this simple formula for achieving long-term superior performance. As for those who do, join me on May 20 to find out what they do differently. 


Plans Cannot Predict the Future, but Planning Can Prepare You for It

Rob Millard, founder and partner of Venturis Consulting Group, once wrote, “All too often, I find myself facing blank stares from clients who want me to help them craft a plan that will lead them to greatness. This is only possible where the future is certain. Which, of course, it is not.”

The point is that strategic plans are based on assumptions about the future, and those predictions are too inaccurate to reliably steer an organization. Thus, if you unwaveringly pursue a plan based on those inaccurate assumptions, you will eventually implement the wrong strategy—you will “successfully fail.”
Now wait just a minute! We know that planning is one of the five things that distinguish successful organizations from the “also-ran” and the unsuccessful. Now you are telling me that following that plan will lead to successfully failing?
You got it. The “plan” must be to change the “plan”! Plans provide an essential fixed point for reacting to future events—for revising your assumptions, tactics, and strategies as the future becomes clearer. You can’t accurately predict the future, but by revising your predictions and your plans, you prepare your organization for it. Make sense?

The inaccurate character of assumptions is why planning must be a continuous
process. Through that continuous process of changing the plan as the future unfolds, successful organizations achieve that success by doing the “right things.” It is because of the continuous nature of the planning process that I emphasize that the tangible product of strategic planning, “the plan” should consist of words, phrases, and sentences, not paragraphs, pages, and chapters. It is the “play book,” that coordinates and shapes an organization’s actions and decisions, and that is changed by those actions and decisions on the front line in reaction to an unfolding future. Taking a line from the Pirates of the Caribbean about the Pirate’s Code, “It is more of a guide than an actual code.”

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“In this exciting age of fast-paced growth and innovative communication technology, Tom Collins has managed to incorporate timeless principles with modern advancements to achieve results-driven success in today’s business world. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't be enlightened by its contents.”—Jack Grant, Business Management Consultant

Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes& Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Exceptional Customer Care—The Mystery Ingredient

I recently sold a vacation home and selected Allied to move furniture from Florida to Tennessee. They were a class act. I will not go into everything that made the organization stand out. I will just focus on the driver and his helper. We were not present when they picked up the furniture, but we met the truck when it arrived at the storage facility we had selected to house the items until needed. Throughout the unloading process, my wife and I were struck by the courtesy (politeness) both men showed to each other. Of course they were nice to us—the customer—but why to each other?

I have always talked about common courtesy as a job requirement in any organization.
Common Courtesy
Customers accept nothing less. If they do not get it, then when they have an alternative, and eventually they will, they will take it. However, this was different. It was common courtesy kicked up a notch—it was “kindness.” Both men showed kindness and concern toward each other and to us. It was something more than just common courtesy.

I decided to do a little research and it lead to a book by Ed Horrell, The Kindness Revolution: The Company-Wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service. Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert, writing about Horrell’s book said:
“From the rampant indifference that we all encounter on a daily basis, he recommends that companies, large and small, switch to an attitude of kindness. He's not suggesting that the boss simply tell everyone “to be nice.” He states that kindness starts at the top and penetrates every level of the organization. When everyone within a company treats everyone else with courtesy, respect and compassion, that attitude automatically gets passed on to the customers.”
Tom Peters, a writer on business management practices, states flatly that there are only two ways for an organization to achieve long-term durable success. One has to have exceptional customer care and practice constant innovation.

It may well be that “kindness” is the mystery ingredient. I recall the first planning session that I held with the new Juris team. The startup company at that time had only nine employees. When asked what kind of company they wanted us to be, the answer was “We want to be a company that likes its customers and is liked by them.”

How does one achieve exceptional customer care, common courtesy, kindness, and customers who like you? As a leader, you have to practice it yourself. You have to verbalize it and reinforce it through constant communication. It has to be a performance standard. It has to be a “core belief”—a fixed unshakeable point on the moral compass of the organization.

I was not surprised when, upon completing the unloading job and shaking hands with us, the driver said, “When they ask you how we did, I hope you can give us five stars.” That is right; the company measures and rewards performance.

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Listening for 900 Miles

Last week I drove 900 miles from Naples, Florida, to Franklin, Tennessee. I hate driving. However, this particular trip went by quickly. Why?

I purchased an audiobook before starting my road trip. The book turned a normally unpleasant fourteen hours into an enjoyable listening experience. It was one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher mysteries and had a little more splattered brain matter and destroyed knees than I prefer—but then there were a couple of drivers I encountered during the trip that I would have liked to introduce to Jack Reacher in a dark alley.

If you are planning a driving trip anytime soon, consider purchasing the audio version of my book The Claret Murders. Even if you previously read the book, you will enjoy having the mystery and the Nashville flood experience brought to life through the voice of the reader. The audio version is available on Amazon.com or iTunes. Did you know there is talk of TV and movie rights? If you missed it, you can read the announcement for release of the audio edition by going to http://t.e2ma.net/message/vcadh/rptxeh.

While I don’t recommend reading it while driving, I hope you will soon read The Language of Excellence if you haven’t already. It is my fifth full-length book and the first focused on business. I am particularly happy that the book is being talked about as a breakthrough for its clarity and simplicity in its treatment of leadership and management issues. The CEO of LIVESTRONG said it teaches you how to deal with almost anything business or life will throw at you. The book is available in print and eBook formats on Amazon, other online bookstores, and through your favorite bookstore. The Language of Excellence is the perfect gift for someone about to graduate from college or for those already in the business world in pursuit of long-term durable success. To purchase from Amazon go to http://amzn.com/0985667346.
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Tom Collins’s books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. Unsigned print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders, go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The eBook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Destination Is More Important Than Transportation

Which is more important—where you are going or how you get there?
To put it in business-speak terms: which is most important “Doing the Right Things” vs. “Doing Things Right.”

Execution is everything! I ran into this again last night. An “expert” was expounding on the virtues of “execution” as the reason behind the success of every great business.

If execution is everything, then great managers could make any bad idea (or destination) a success. It isn’t, and they can’t. Bad execution can rob one of their successes. It can lower results from what is profitable. However, being in the right place at the right time pursuing the right idea rules the day. "Getting the right people on the bus” may be the way to go from “Good to Great,” but having the right bus to start with is pretty darn important.

The issue of “Right Things” vs. “Things Right” gets to the core difference between leadership and management. There is a definite difference. Many leaders are not good managers—if, by management, we mean masters of execution. Leadership has more to do with being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and then, of course, getting people to believe the vision.

While there is a tendency of management experts to attribute the qualities of “doing things right” to organizations that achieve great success, most achieved that success by having done the “right things.” Unfortunately, time catches up with us. Once others begin to imitate such success, execution becomes the important differentiating factor. “Right thing” leaders like IBM, Federal Express, and eventually even Microsoft fall prey to the imitator with superior execution.

Perhaps the best summary is that Leadership (doing the right things—picking the right destination) is essential for achieving success. Management (doing things right) is required to stay successful.

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For more insight into the mystery of Leadership, read The Language of Excellence now available in print and eBook formats.


Tom Collins’s works include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels, Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. Unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders, go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Understand How You Perform Best

In writing about Managing Oneself,  Peter Drucker placed a great deal of importance on the need, particularly for knowledge workers, to understand “how you perform” best. 

Are you a reader or listener? Fail to understand which you are and then relying
on the wrong one and you will not perform or achieve excellence.  Drucker points to Dwight Eisenhower who learned by reading and excelled as Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe when supplied with written briefs.  But when he stepped into a new roll as President and attempted to follow the oral briefing methods of Truman and Roosevelt, both listeners, he appeared ill-prepared and equipped in front of the Press. The opposite was true of Lyndon Johnson, a listener, who inherited his predecessor’s staff.  Kennedy was a reader. Johnson never effectively absorbed written briefs.

Some of us (I’m one and you could also be) do not learn by either reading or listening.  We learn by writing. As it was for Churchill and Beethoven; neither reading nor listening is enough.  I must write about it to learn.  I must write about it to develop the idea or craft the strategy, the solution, the transaction, the opportunity, etc. We are sometimes mislabeled as people who have to “sleep on it”.  We make our best and most creative decisions after we have found a quiet corner and written about it.  

Just as listening and reading are not enough for writers, there are those who learn by hearing themselves talk. They need people in the room listening to their ideas and explorations.  Drucker, himself a talker, says that learning through talking is by no means unusual and notes that successful trial lawyers are often talk learners. 

There is no right method.  There is no wrong method.  But try to be what you are not, and you greatly reduce you effectiveness.  Once you have your own answer, tell others.  When those you work with understand how you “perform best,” the collaborative results are improved.  That, of course, means that next you should determine how others around you “perform best”.  Who are the readers and listeners? Who are the writers and talkers?  Understanding each other improves team results. 

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio editon of The Claret Murders go to http://amzn.com/B00IV5ZJEI. The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.



Drowned by Drops

Ever think of suing or, for that matter, going to court rather than giving in to someone’s demands? Here is a bit of advice from Charles Dickens. In his novel, The Bleak House, he warns that whatever one does they should stay away from the Chancery [Court]. “It’s being ground to bits in a slow mill; it’s being roasted at a slow fire; it’s being stung to death by single bees; it’s being drowned by drops; it’s going mad by grains.”

Even putting aside the vision of being “drowned by drops,” the cost of litigation in terms of money, time and disruption frequently outweighs the benefit—even when you are in the right. Therefore, mediation or negotiated settlement is usually the better course.
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March 11 reception to introduce my new book:
I will be having a VIP reception and book signing for the release of my fifth book,
The Language of Excellence, Tuesday, March 11 at Landmark Booksellers in Franklin. The event starts at 5:30 pm. Join me for a little wine, caviar, and other treats. Unlike my previous books, this one is not a whodunit; however, it does tackle a mystery—the mystery of leadership. The event is an opportunity for us to discuss the Two Certainties in life as well as some of the other concepts in the book for dealing with just about everything life or business can throw at you. Landmark Booksellers is located at 114 East Main St., Franklin, Tennessee.

If you are not able to join me for the March 11 event, you can purchase my books on Amazon, other online stores, or at your favorite bookstore. Books include The Language of Excellence as well as my adventure mystery series including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer, and The Claret Murders.