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Why I write the way I do and why it is important

February 17, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 36 Comments

your_success_typewriterMy demeanor has always leaned toward the more serious end of the spectrum. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been intrigued by business, leadership and the multitude of elements that make it work. That being said, it makes sense that I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost my entire working career. In the mid 70s, my passion for business found three powerful vehicles that allowed me to reach and interact with other business owners – public speaking, coaching and writing. I started my first coaching company in 1978 and never looked back.

I regard my ability for public speaking, coaching and writing as gifts that allow me to have a positive impact on the lives and businesses of others. At 64 years old, the passion, thrill and fulfillment is as powerful as ever.

But because of who I am, what drives me and how I’m wired, I focus on and write about the tough stuff – the real stuff – that owners and leaders deal with on a true day-to-day basis. My “no-compromise” reputation is a reflection of who I am, and people have come to expect and depend on me to talk straight and not candy-coat the issues. Still, I find it interesting that my presentations and writing receive feedback that call it inspiring and motivating. I truly never regarded myself as a motivational speaker…and yet my work has inspired many to take action. My coaching provides the tools, systems, thinking and leadership behavior that can be described as “best practices.”

Last week’s Monday Morning Wake Up on “Is it time to hit the ‘Reset’ button,” received a comment from a long-time reader and business owner expressing his opinion that my writing is negative in tone and seems intent on discouraging people from going into business. He was therefore canceling his email subscription to seek inspiration elsewhere. (Yes, I read every comment.)

Being the no-compromise leadership guy that I am, I willingly accept constructive feedback. Yet as appreciative as I was, this owner’s observation that I come across as negative deeply troubled me because that is so not my intention. I sent his comments to my team of coaches asking for honest feedback to see if maybe I need to take a more balanced approach. What I got back surprised me … and gave me a needed no-compromise smack in the head.

Strategies Coach Melanie Loboda said it best, “I believe that those of us who are passionate about what we teach can often be labeled as ‘opinionated, condescending, negative, or know-it-all.’ In general, I believe it is when we hit a nerve by calling out something or some behavior that we see that this happens. I think there does need to be balance. For Strategies, the balance is that there is always hope when we recognize the ugly that is rearing its head. There is hope of getting off the hamster wheel if we just open our mind to new thinking and behavior – that winning the gold doesn’t mean doing everything we love … It means combining that with what we are passionate about in order to create success.”

No one goes into business or leadership because they want to deal with employee issues, cash-flow problems, budgets, debt, drama and negativity. People start companies to bring a vision to life, to create opportunities … to win.

So here’s the bottom line: I write about what matters. I write about what’s behind the curtain. I write about the stuff that keeps owners and leaders up at night. I write about building extraordinary companies, dynamic cultures, financial literacy, accountability and achieving your full potential … and providing opportunities for your employees to achieve their full potential. I write about real problems and business challenges.

What I write about most are the disciplines for success. I push leaders out of their comfort zones. I hold the mirror up in front of them so they can look directly at the origin of most of their challenges … because all change must begin with the leader. Yes, I write to make you uncomfortable. I write to push you to take action, to pay attention, to listen and to confront reality head on. I push you to achieve your full potential because that’s the only way I can achieve mine.

This is Monday Morning Wake Up #317. That’s 6+ years of MMWUs. Add 14 years of writing Strategies Magazine, my three books – Fast Forward (first and second editions), No-Compromise Leadership and Wake Up! – and you have a writing voice and style that resonates with you. That’s why you keep reading my stuff. Along the way, my writing style, my message and my strategies may turn some people off. My stuff may not be a good fit now or never … and that’s OK. But over 10,000 people read my MMWUs and as long as that number keeps growing … I’ll keep delivering my No-Compromise Leadership message. And I will always listen and work hard to get better.

Neil Ducoff

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.

Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership , Uncategorized

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  1. Hi Neil & the Strategies team,
    i read your blog today with interest as i have attended one of your seminars and read my MMWU every week. i reread your books i bought which you kindly signed frequently, and intend to buy No Compromise for a friend who has landed a great salon manager position here in the UK

    Going back to the guy in your blog, well the saying goes
    “The Truth Hurts” so we can pretend things are not happening or face reality, all i can say is please do not stop telling the truth,
    it gives me a “Wake Up Call”

    kindest regards Paul
    Salon Manager

  2. I feel your pain. I know how it feels when someone comments about a project or idea that we have had, telling us it is negative, when in reality it comes from the depth of our hearts. Part of what you do, Neil, is to provide business education. Part of your message is to bring the reader to the realization of the necessity of that education. Others of us have something to sell too, and oftentimes the best way to deliver that message is for the recipient to be touched enough to respond, no matter the method of delivery. Do the ends justify the means? I would say, an emphatic yes, so long as both parties have a clear understanding behind the motives of the delivery. ~~Very truly yours, Pat Helmandollar, Savvy Salon and Day Spa

  3. I find this blog entry interesting because honestly over the last year, I had thought your weekly letter on Monday morning had become more negative. In fact, I wondered if someone else had started to write them for you as the tone and advice seemed different. You may say 10,000 readers but do we all read them? 5 years ago I opened your email first thing on Mondays and often forwarded them. In the past 15 months i find I don’t always read them. The writing didn’t sound like you and the tone was sadly different….cynical almost. Glad to hear you are asking your team for feedback. Everyone can improve with coaching. Good luck!

  4. Good morning Neil, each Monday with my coffee I read your MMWU. I admit sometimes it is weeks later, but I always read them. As a business owner of 2 years I take what I need in the moment and leave the rest. I DO have a passion for my work to share with people, I have cash flow deficulty, employee situations, and lots to learn. By you exposing your honest thoughts you let me grow in integrity, sincerity, and purpose.

    After last weeks post I felt compelled to do something different- in my weekly Eblast to clients I let them know my vision for this year. Employee additions on the horizon, goals, and reinforced my mission to them as the driving force of why I do what I do. Personally I found nothing negative in particular, but I know from my own life experience when I am swimming in a sea of Poop, I can’t find the wave to ride out of it and everything is dark from my perspective.

    Here in the northeast we are in a sea of gloom and doom because the masses say so, even my own team has bought into it! I am having record growth this winter, the numbers say we are on track but the media says we are not with all the snow. I continue to enjoy your thoughts and look forward each Monday to the gifts of your journey you wish to share with us. Thank you and God Bless for a great day

  5. This is a topic that hits home this week and was in the forefront of some issues that arose with the staff. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a button to push that translated everything we said into the way each person needed to hear it- while still maintaining the heart and intent with which it was said? Keep on truckin’ Neil! It’s nice to know there is always someone willing to take us somewhere when we are willing to buckle up for the ride…

  6. Hi Neil,
    I have been a follower for several months now and do enjoy your words.
    In reference to your cancelled follower, my belief is this…
    As business owners, we need both encouragement fluff and the straight talk that causes us to take action
    Everyone needs encouragement from time to time. That is what helps you to keep going.
    If you really want to keep going though, you have to change the situation that causes you to need encouragement! That is where the swift kick in the butt helps.
    What you give is not just that swift kick, you also give instruction that teaches how to change to get results.
    Keep it up! That is definitely your gift!

  7. Amen brother! If we just end up trying to not displease everyone then we’ll just be spinning our wheels and actually standing for nothing. It’s about paving a road and people have the choice to get on board or not. It’s that simple. I don’t think people are intentionally out there to be negative or hurt someone’s feelings but I do believe the ones that get turned off in those ways often are the ones who can’t take an honest look in the mirror of accountability.

  8. I love this. I was just having a conversation with a friend about how in all different industries people at ‘the top’ who want to share their knowledge with others are often viewed as negative or condescending. Often times, there are other emotions at the root of those people’s feeling. As a stylist and also an educator it can be defeating sometimes when the people you are sharing your knowledge with are not receptive. As I grow in my role of educator, I’ve had to take a look at myself and I realized that my frustration with those people was resulting in negative delivery. So I was letting a couple people get under my skin and it would make me angry and then the information I was trying to convey was getting overridden by the tone of my delivery. It’s a very challaging thing to take critiques and look at yourself honestly. It’s even harder to admit this and perhaps make a change where you need one. I love starting my week with the Monday Morning Wake Up Call. It’s uncanny how the subject matter seems to reflect something that is going on in my life. I really appreciate Neil’s candor about well, everything. It is setting I love this. I was just having a conversation with a friend about how in all different industries people at ‘the top’ who want to share their knowledge with others are often viewed as negative or condescending. Often times, there are other emotions at the root of those people’s feeling. As a stylist and also an educator it can be defeating sometimes when the people you are sharing your knowledge with are not receptive. As I grow in my role of educator, I’ve had to take a look at myself and I realized that my frustration with those people was resulting in negative delivery. So I was letting a couple people get under my skin and it would make me angry and then the information I was trying to convey was getting overridden by the tone of my delivery. It’s a very challaging thing to take critiques and look at yourself honestly. It’s even harder to admit this and perhaps make a change where you need one. I love starting my week with the Monday Morning Wake Up Call. It’s uncanny how the subject matter seems to reflect something that is going on in my life. I really appreciate Neil’s candor about well, everything. It is setting such a great example to have a leader who not only cares enough to read peoples comments, but then actually does something about it. Great information and a great inspiration. Keep it up! such a great example to have a leader who not only cares enough to take people’s feedback, but then actually does something about it. Great information and a great inspiration. Keep it up!

  9. Greetings Neil, I feel the tone of your writing is “no compromise” not negative. If we, the readers choose to buy in to your MMWU’s then it most likely causes us to look at our own businesses and make changes to become more successful. Generally people don’t like someone else pointing out things they could do better. So while I feel reading your messages sometimes cause me to do things differently, I feel it’s for the good of my company. I don’t feel your tone is negative at all. It just holds us accountable to be better business people, that’s why read and enjoy your MMWU’s!

  10. I love this. I was just having a conversation with a friend about how in all different industries people at ‘the top’ who want to share their knowledge with others are often viewed as negative or condescending. Often times, there are other emotions at the root of those people’s feeling. As a stylist and also an educator it can be defeating sometimes when the people you are sharing your knowledge with are not receptive. As I grow in my role of educator, I’ve had to take a look at myself and I realized that my frustration with those people was resulting in negative delivery. So I was letting a couple people get under my skin and it would make me angry and then the information I was trying to convey was getting overridden by the tone of my delivery. It’s a very challaging thing to take critiques and look at yourself honestly. It’s even harder to admit this and perhaps make a change where you need one. I love starting my week with the Monday Morning Wake Up Call. It’s uncanny how the subject matter seems to reflect something that is going on in my life. I really appreciate Neil’s candor about well, everything. It is setting such a great example to have a leader who not only cares enough to take people’s feedback, but then actually does something about it. Great information and a great inspiration. Keep it up!

    (Something happened with the last comment this is the correct one!)

  11. Reading you for years , and I will certainely not still be in business after 18 years and loving it I without you and strategies .you make me from a ego hairstylist opening a salon to a business man . So continue shouting to wake us all up to be the best we can be .and do not compromise . Don’t doubt the impact you having on us

  12. Dear Neil, I am a recent subscriber to MMWU and the reason I subscribed is BECAUSE of your writing style. Yes you do sometimes push my buttons, but it’s in the “Oh crap he’s right” way. It’s good when someone’s comment makes us take another look at what we do, or how we do it. It can lead to change, or it can reinforce what we already know. You should thank the person who challenged you, it prompted today’s newsletter an the research that went into it : )

  13. Neil, I love your mmwu’s. It’s your way of holding us leaders accountable. I also use a line I heard from you years ago…..what’s more important your emotions or your success. Being direct is is the only way to send a clear message. Thank you for your vision and consistency.

  14. Thank you Neil,
    This rings true for all leaders. We follow our passion. Express it how we express it and 95% of our clients LOVE it. There is always the 5% that remind us to look at what we are doing and change it or recommit to it. Nice to know that at your level of leadership and experience that 5% rule is still in play.

    My personal experience in the recent past has been to look at the 5%. change what I can and recommit. It has made me a stronger person/leader.

    Love your MMWU

    Mary

  15. I love reading what you write because it always resonates with me and weirdly enough, what I seem to be going through at that time. It’s like my Monday meditation! It will always be easier to look outside and see what is wrong with the world, but what you do is a little different. You see what is going on outside (in business experiences) and then reflect on how to be the change. I appreciate your advice and the much needed kick in my butt!

  16. I would like to thank you for your commitment to no-nonsense leadership. I value your wisdom and passion for excellence. Discomfort reminds me that I have room for growth and that I’m still working on me and it. When I was initially introduced to your strategy /coaching I didn’t welcome it with open arms, (smile). However about 14 years later, it’s that type of foundation that inspired me to want to reach my maximum potential. Thank you

  17. Neil, I would allow you a hell of a lot of negativity just to rest my mind on one Monday morning morsel of knowledge pulled from 40 + years of experience. I don’t find negativity, nerd with a twist but not negative…
    Keep writing, the congregation will always ebb and flow.
    Sam

  18. It would be very unrealistic to read a blog that says being a leader is wonderful and fun and rewarding all the time. You always teach me that sometimes, when things are not right, I need to hold up the mirror. It’s a lot easier to say “They always….They never….”
    I need your writing and appreciate it and have never thought it was negative. So I would like to THANK YOU for your inspiration, The person who wrote you about negativity did exactly what we all have the option to do. Don’t read it. I have been following you since those newsletters came out many years ago and I thank you. No compromise.

  19. I have followed you, listened to you, and learned from you for at least 20 years….You have kept my nose to the grindstone of success…. Has it always been easy? NO But it has been worth it…..In a book I recently read they talk about the 20-60-20 rule of employees….. 20% are always striving to do and or be there best, 60% can be swayed to be a part of the top 20 or the bottom 20 and the bottom 20% are always a step away from leaving….I think it pertains to this situation also…..You can not please everyone nor should you…..We just lost someone who chooses to be in the bottom 20% and leave…Keep doing what you are doing and hold your head high…..NO COMPROMISE!!!!

  20. I am grateful to have you Neil as a life resource for what we do in the salon. I’ve owed my business for 28 years, The truth is that we need this information (mirrored) in our face.
    Its so uncomfortable, and not every person is strong enough to lead or manage a business.
    I have weathered many storms in the salon. I’m still in business.
    You must stay open to all especially now with the world changing at rapid speed.
    Thank you
    Myrna Marin

  21. Hi Neil, Your matter-of-fact approach works well for me. Your no-nonsense approach to writing and business is a breath of fresh air in an industry that leans loose. Our industry needs an MBA approach and is better for having you as a resource.

  22. It has been a number of years since I attended a weekend Strategies Seminar. It was hard work and since that time I have tried to incorporate all that I learned. These days I am not behind the chair and my sole focus is my business. Managing, accounting and all around sounding board. I LOVE the Monday Morning Wake-Up. There are times that I can honestly read and think, ” glad I am past that hurdle” and there are times when I am reminded that I ain’t done yet!!!!
    What I love is the way the topic is approached and simplified in such a way,so, that I can forward it to a staff member if the message applies to their department or is on topic regarding a conversation we had.
    Keep doing what your doing. No one likes to admit when their way may not be the best way. I am a hairdresser first, having started in this industry when we were all “beauticians”, and have been around the block more then once! I did not go into the industry to be a business person, but, here I am. 21 years later I look for that Monday Morning Wake-Up to keep me going!
    In an industry, that had as many salons closing as opening any given day, I am thankful that their is someone passionate about teaching, reminding and sometimes hitting us with hard facts.And for that I am grateful.
    Thanks…..

  23. Neil, your Monday Morning Wake-Ups are eerily spot-on for whatever my current business issues are. So, yes, I let you get under my skin — voluntarily, every week. I am sincerely grateful that you make me uncomfortable and, subsequently, a better leader. Now don’t let this swell your head, but I actually refer to my conscience as “Neil.”

  24. I have observed throughout my life that most people, left to their own devices, will gravitate toward the lowest common denominator. Complacency is everywhere. Sound negative? Sounds accurate to me. Many will blame their shortcomings on others, gossip out of fear, and take the path of least resistance. People need examples . They need role models. They need vision in not only business practices, but ethics and morality. Sometimes, they need a soft shoulder, sometimes a hard kick in the ass. Not everyone has the vision or fortitude to lead or at least provide a positive example. You and your company have done that with class. Thank you.

  25. Hi all,

    Well, I didn’t write today’s MMWU to rally my fans. This is the most response we’ve ever received on any MMWU. But I have to say, each and every response touched me deeply.

    I can promise you this:
    1. I’m too old to change … so you’ll keep on getting my style of writing.
    2. I am grateful for any and all constructive feedback. Growth comes from pushing yourself to get better.
    3. You all raised the bar with your “expectations” … and I will not disappoint.
    4. I continue to love my work.
    5. I will do my very best to help everyone that needs help.
    6. I too believe that my company, Strategies, is a “class act.” We work so very hard at this.
    7. Leadership is a lonely occupation. I will ensure that you’re never alone.
    8. Tell us what you need help with … and we will respond.
    9. Everyone can do better.
    10. When it’s not fun … I’ll stop.

    Love you all,
    – Neil

  26. Neil,
    Thanks for being YOUI! I have been accused of being negative, to agrresive and to straight forward! The more push back I got the more I loss myself. The changing moment was when I spoke to an employee who started with me when she was 18 and worked for me for ten years. She said ” Yes LaVonna you push people hard, yes you see more potentional in the average person then they see in themselves and you give them a stright path to help them hit that potential and live there dreams…. and I am telling you it is not always easy being on the recieving end of your motivation. BUT, I would not be the women I am today if it was not for you! THANKS, I love you!” 🙂 and Neil, I would not be here growing my dream again to new hieghts, if you were pussy footing around with me! So thanks for not only challenging me, helping me look in the mirror, training up great leaders in your organization, but most of all for, motivating me to do what I no I need to do, to get were I know I want to be so I can spend the last 25 years of my career living the dream!

  27. Hi Neil,
    There is truth in all your advice. We get blinded by our everyday activities and we need someone to wake us up to reality. I love your insight and frankness. We need every bit of your wisdom to keep us on track of our goal and dream. You keep telling us how it is!
    Thank you!!!!
    Bibi

  28. Neil, none of us are perfect. We struggle everyday with something but it is truly an amazing part of what we do each day …when we come to our salon and know today no matter how busy we are …we are on a path to becoming better business owners, leaders, coaches, because of the information we have learned from you and your team. After 27 years in business I still read and accept that I could possibly do it better by checking myself against the pulse of your writing!! I hope your reader wasn’t serious?
    Thanks for all your wisdom.
    Douglas

  29. miss the “strategies” newsletter….alot …something about holding that in your hand and then being able to hand it to someone you believe will benefit by it as well…I know Iknow “hit the forward button”….but it’s just NOT the same

  30. Keep doing what you’re doing the way you do it!! We business owners need to hear the tough stuff! Owning your own business is not for whimps! Some of us want to whine and complain but as you said, the buck stops with us. Personally, I love the kick in the pants I get from you in MMWUC!!! It inspires and motives me to keep on keepin on and to not give up!
    Love you and what you do!

  31. Very inspiring and true post. You’re right no one wakes up wanting to deal with headaches of debt and stress. You write to inspire future leaders and to encourage leaders already in place. Great post!

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