Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Russ Kathrein

About three years ago, when I was approached about writing a column, my initial idea was to explore the phrases and analogies that I’d often used with my team. I’ve been known as an analogy guy for most of my career. I was okay with that reputation because I strongly believe when you’re making a point using an analogy, it’s easier to see the answer.

So, I thought it might be fun to share a list of sayings, or “Russ-isms” that I’m particularly known for. I don’t take credit for creating any of them, but I sure have used them a lot throughout my career to explain my thoughts.

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• “Your first loss is your best loss.” If you must take a financial hit, take it early rather than waiting to try to minimize your losses. This is true with buying and selling of commodities, collecting outstanding A/R, or just delivering bad news to a customer or your boss.

• “Pigs get fed. Hogs get slaughtered.” There is nothing wrong with winning, but if you are too greedy, people will pick up on that and not want to do business with you.

• “Inspect what you expect.” If you are asking people to do things, you need to show them that you are following up on what you asked for in order to hold them accountable and show that what you asked for is important.

• “Fire quickly. Hire slowly.” If you know someone is not right for the job, take fast action. You will do them and yourself a favor. When you are hiring, take your time and get second and third opinions from your team.

• “Treat the disease, not the symptom.” Too often we do a quick patch to resolve an immediate problem and make it disappear, when we should, in fact, look to fix the root cause so the problem never happens again.

• “Be the leader you would want to follow.” Being a leader is not something you are born with. You learn that over time. One of the best ways to develop your leadership skills is to think of the leaders you have had and then be the kind of leader who displays those good traits while avoiding the bad ones.

• “Pedaling harder is not a strategy.” This is similar to “Just try harder.” Like a fly bouncing against a screen to get out, sometimes you need to take a step back and see if there is an open door in another direction.

• “A camel is a horse that was designed by a committee.” Sometimes we meet in order to design something simple, but we get bogged down with all of the things that we add because “it would be nice to have…” If you just need something to get from point A to point B quickly, you do not need to add things that would be nice just in case you didn’t have water or needed to traverse over sand.

• “By choosing not to decide, you still have made a choice.” This is a lyric from the rock band Rush, but it rings so true. Too often, people are afraid of making the wrong decision, so they make no decisions at all and let fate decide the outcome. That is a decision in its own right—and likely not a good one.

• “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right!” The power of positive thinking is amazing, however the disempowerment of negative thinking is equally strong. Don’t step into the batter’s box convinced you are going to strike out. Think positively and knock the ball out of the park.

• “Don’t let the camel get its nose under your tent.” I didn’t realize I had such a camel thing. Desert caravan wisdom says that if you allow a camel to get his nose into your tent, soon the whole camel would be inside the tent with you.The analogy works when it comes to sharing too much information with the wrong people at the wrong time.

If any of these connect with you, feel free to use them in your interactions with your team.

Russ Kathrein is with the LBM Division of Do it Best Corp. based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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