People vs. Systems

By Michael Kline
Published in Conway Daily Sun
Picture Systems, systems, systems... for years, it seemed like all I talked about. The fact is, most large businesses have serious systems
challenges and most small business have a serious lack of systems all-together. The truth is, your systems are designed perfectly to produce the results you are getting. Repeat that and read it slowly: Your systems are designed perfectly to produce the results you are
getting. Slow sales? That is a result of your sales system. Blame it on the weather? The economy? Your sales team? Your systems allow for these factors. Even if you sell parkas and it never gets cold, perhaps your sales system has a lack of diversification. Just about everything that happens is the result of your systems or lack of systems.

I hear your point that your systems didn't cause your key supplier to go bankrupt, or your mall's anchor tenant to move out, leaving you with no traffic, or for your most productive employee to get married or retire. So how can I constantly preach that everything that happens to you is your responsibility? That everything is within your power? I thought you would never ask!

About every few months, most organizations have a challenge that, if left unaddressed, could jeopardize the success of the organization. It would make sense then, to have a system for adapting to change. Now before you roll your eyes and tell me I'm crazy, this isn't some deep philosophy of embracing your inner thinker or forgiving your mother.
This is about a real, tangible, teachable, practical and useful approach to handling change and activating your team to their battle stations.

I've always preached that to produce predictable results, you should design your business around systems, not people. Then, you hire people to run the systems. This remains basically true for many small startups because most small startups are not launched by people with a natural orientation toward creating systems. Either way, your systems will be obsolete very shortly anyway. The marketplace is moving at break-neck speed, so no matter how good your idea is today, it is likely to require minor or major adjustments soon. What's more, is that even if you were smart enough to create all the systems (hint - you're not), how do you inspire everyone to follow your systems? How do you create the accountability for following the systems? How do you find time and energy to create the next new system after you're in the deep weeds trying to juggle everything you have to do? Right, you create a system for
creating systems!

This “Mother of all Systems”, will need to have a rhythm to it - our recommendation is a quarterly review of systems and the people running them. Annual employee and system reviews are far too infrequent to be useful. (If you don't do it at all, you should feel a little panicky right now). Covey's first habit of highly effective people - Be Proactive. That means find and fix problems before they happen. The way to get ahead of the curve and stop living in crisis mode, always "putting out fires" is to get into the practice of "fire prevention". Quarterly review of all systems and the people running them and weekly accountability with every team member reporting in on their contribution to the systems. This is hard core, focused, highly productive, strictly enforced, take no prisoners, all-business, no-more-Mr. Nice Guy, my retirement is on the line, grown-up work time! The Industrial Age is dead (no newsflash there). So why do we still try to motivate and correct employee behavior with the old model?

To do all the above will require a team of people who love working with you and with each other. We need to create
a serious game that people take seriously and still have fun playing. Professional sports players take their work very seriously, work very hard, are extremely disciplined, held accountable, and have fun loving their work. Why then, in the typical workplace do we think that people can't enjoy their work life the same way? Let's be brave enough to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to count on the team, to invest in the team, to nurture the team, to engage the team and to hold the team accountable. It's time we took all the wisdom from the great business books we read and figure out what it would mean to really apply the lessons. I mean to really, really apply the lessons. My greatest joy is helping an individual or business discover how to put into practice, a system they created to produce the results they want and to repeat that process with predictability. You can get this process started on your own by reviewing your own goals, the systems you have to reach those goals and the people running those systems. Contact me if you get stuck, I'm good at un-sticking.

Its summer, so I hope you're reading this from somewhere beautiful. If not, we can work on that as a new goal! Because my systems allow me to be where I want, pursuing what I want, I'm in Scottsdale this week, renewing my personal and professional skills. I promise to find some time to work on my next column about systems for communicating vision and co-creating goals and strategies with your team.

How to be Thin, Tan & Rich in 4 hours

By Michael Kline
As published in Conway Daily Sun

When you start a new job, your employer teaches you their systems. Experience has proven these methods produce the results they
want with predictability. Never mind that many businesses need to create more and better systems. Let us imagine you went to work for a well-funded, progressive, brilliantly staffed and professional company with excellent systems. Perhaps you could imagine that you bought a franchise with the same qualities and every franchise that has implemented thPicturee systems has been a wild success. It creates wealth for its owners and employees and a lifestyle that allows you to pursue happiness in your personal life. You would be enthusiastic about going to training and working the systems. You would quickly learn that some of your fellow franchisees (or employees) misunderstood the deal. They thought the systems worked on their own. You watch those people flounder. You know you must work the systems constantly to produce real results.

In all of life, do the same principles not apply? There are principles (systems) by which we live, that when practiced in a dedicated fashion, any person can produce predictable results. We teach children the value of doing their homework, and they get good results. Most adults do not do their own homework. We teach children to keep
trying, to believe in themselves. When applied, this principle produces achievement and self-esteem. Adults seldom believe this about themselves, beyond the comfort of what they already have proven they can do. We teach children to be kind to one another, and as a result, others will be kind to them and they will be happy, positive people not hung up on the small stuff. As adults, we keep saying we want people to be kind. By that, we mean we want other people to be kind to us. Mostly we are often unkind to ourselves, being self-critical and/or not taking care of ourselves, and this drives much of the unkindness to others as we protect our turf, fight for credit and compete for attention and love. Somehow, we find it hard to be motivated to use these simple “systems” taught to us as children. Perhaps we do not deserve them or we’ve been disappointed so many times we’ve lowered our sights.

Teachers, employers or franchisors hold us accountable and coach us to success. The lack of accountability and self-discipline is one of the biggest contributors to failure in business, health, relationships and a life less fully lived.

It makes sense to take advantage of proven systems. This removes some of the risk and fear of inventing your own wheel, and launches you on the fast track for success. You could apply the same thinking to every aspect of your life.

Let us say that your goal is to create some wealth, good health and positive relationships, to engage in meaningful work and be able to contribute to your community. Sign me up! There are systems for all of these. When you have some control over your life, you reduce stress, improve health, create wealth, improve self-esteem, decrease ego, improve relationships, feel more positive… is there a pattern here? You already have that control, but are you using it? By the way, it does not matter if you are just starting out or an accomplished millionaire with a thriving family, it is relative and the tools for pursuing life mastery remain the same.

My first self-improvement training program was Brian Tracy’s Psychology of Achievement from the 1980’s. Dozens of genius-trainers later, I am now studying directly under Jack Canfield, as I see him as the master of creating user-friendly, practical training for life success. Maybe you prefer Tony Robbins or Wayne Dyer, or someone more or less spiritual, etc. It doesn’t matter. I promise they all carry essentially the same wisdom. The proven systems for living a great life have not changed through the ages. Our environments have changed. Modern gurus can help us apply the wisdom to our current circumstances.

These are lessons we study over a lifetime, but we have to start somewhere and we need to take action sometime. If not now, then when? I suggest a good time and place to start would be Friday June 13th, at Granite State College. I will be teaching a half-day introductory workshop, based largely on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. I am doing this as part of my training program, so I’m happy to work for free. The only cost is $39 per person to cover the room, refreshments and material. Details and registration are on my website listed below. Learn the systems. Work the systems. Live the life you want.

Become a Sponge

By Michael Kline
Don’t you just love to absorb information? I suppose you’d say it depends on the subject; I hear you. As a kid in school, I paid attention in History, English, and Music; not so much in trigonometry or chemistry. Unfortunately for me, I earned a scholarship to study Chemical Engineering and Military Science. What were they thinking?!

With our children, as with our employees and applicants, we need to stop measuring only so-called aptitude and pay attention to passion. We need to stop measuring only IQ and start measuring EQ (Emotional Intelligence). When we have a passion, we can soak up knowledge like a sponge.
So, for what knowledge would you be a sponge? What information or lessons would benefit you? Not feeling passionate about learning? If you’re passionate about the benefit of the lesson, you could easily get excited about the lessons. Let me explain.
Let’s say you are passionate about buying your first house, retiring on a golf course, or whatever your goal might be. Let’s assume your work contributes toward that goal. Then being passionate about the goal, means you should be pretty excited about the work and the lessons that help you achieve more with that work. I already admitted to not really paying attention to math, but I think the equation was: if A=B and B=C, then A=C. In this case, if lessons = better pay, and better pay = goal, then lesson= goal. That’s mathematical proof. If you can’t get excited about the work that gives you your goal, you must not be very excited about your current goal.
In recent years, I’ve been trying to devour books, audio tapes, guru blogs, and as many live seminars as I can find. Here in rural New Hampshire, we don’t have much access to seminars. I suggest you take advantage of everything you can get; relax, this isn’t just self-promotion.
To prove my point of how important frequent and consistent education is, I teach my own seminar series as a service to the community. To be clear, we do charge for the seminars to cover our costs of advertising, etc. With such small class sizes, you don’t have to do a lot of math to know we don’t make a living by selling seminars. Speaking of math, when you try to calculate the return on the training investment, the results are a staggering no brainer. Kline Seminars exists to further the mission of improving the quality of life in the valley by improving the success of our small businesses. Another excellent source that is a perfect complement to my seminars is the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council’s boot-camp series. I’m looking forward to the fall lineup; from what I hear on the street, it’s going to be excellent.
Additionally, you should consider looking online for webinars or tele-seminars and buy recommended books and audio seminars on your most important topics. According to Brian Tracy (one of my favorite motivational speaker/authors), if you read a book a week, related to your field, you will have learned the equivalent of a university PhD in that field.

Finally, my best training tip ever – buy books on Audio CD’s (or download) and put them on your iPod. Now, walk an hour or more a day listening to your training programs/books. We all want to be a little healthier and we all want more time to do things like read or exercise – do them at the same time!
Become a sponge, my absorbent friend – soak up everything you can that relates to your goal in any way. You’ll quickly become unstoppable!
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website,, or e-mail,

Living an Extraordinary Life

By Michael Kline, Conway Daily Sun, Aug 23, 2011
Do you have an extraordinary life? What does it take to realize such a thing, and is it possible for ordinary people to obtain? I suppose we need to know what we mean by extraordinary. I feel fortunate to live such a life, and yet I can’t define it except to say you’ll know it when you’re there, and that if I can do it – well, anyone can.
The most astonishing thing to me is how simple it is to get an extraordinary life; problem is, it only becomes clear once you know you’ve already achieved it.
You would be hard pressed to find anyone more ordinary than me. The humblest of beginnings taught me well. A series of successes and failures taught me still more, and more importantly taught me that there is really no such thing as successes and failures; only outcomes and lessons. If I can schlep along, hammering out an amazing life, then surely you can too. Finding happiness or perhaps we should call it peace, or maybe contentment, or comfort, or fulfillment, or confidence, or faith; finding that elusive quality to define our life as amazing, is within the grasp of every ordinary person.
Is the answer money? I know you’re waiting for me to say something deep and meaningful about the riches of life not involving money. Bologna I say. I had the privilege of stating with nothing (being a slow learner, I even got to repeat it a couple times!). I’ve come to place a real value on having some money. Cash can be an ugly, divisive weapon that ruins people’s lives. It can also be an important tool that eases a great deal of stress; but so does faith or confidence. Money buys opportunities, but so does creativity. Money allows us to take care of ourselves, so we can contribute to others, which is the biggest favor we can do for ourselves. Money frees our minds and our time to pursue more leisurely thoughts and activities. These pursuits enrich our lives, expand our minds, and improve our homes, families, and community. These efforts help us find our own voices, so we can then help others find theirs, and nothing says extraordinary better than that experience. So I say money is not necessary, but it sure can help. If you have the ability to make, and the discipline to save money, life can be much easier, but remember, emotional pain and baggage has no budget. Hard mental and emotional work on yourself is the most worthwhile investment you can make, but there are no short cuts for anyone.
For me, the arrival at my happy place involves a deep appreciation of my past, faith in my future and the relationships I enjoy with family, close friends, community, and work. Work as a business coach deals with helping people make money and live a better life in a balanced and healthy way. I am so grateful I get to be of service to others and make a living doing it. Making a living is the financial reward; the love is the spiritual reward – well balanced.
I’d like to say my clients are extraordinary people, (sorry guys), but the truth is, they are really ordinary people just like you and me. They are ordinary people living extraordinary lives; even if some of them don’t know it yet.
I believe that if you are reading this article, you have the power and the responsibility to create or recreate your life into an extraordinary experience. You can do this through ordinary work, with ordinary skills, but not with ordinary attitude or beliefs. In fact, maybe I can define it after all - you arrive at extraordinary the moment you say it is so.
Your assignment is to know yourself, control yourself and motivate yourself. Try to remember who you really are and what’s important to you. Practice self-discipline and push yourself to take action beyond your comfort zone on a regular basis. Find the inspiration you need wherever and however you can, but not just in theory – make a commitment to take action right away. Get a constant source of fuel for your spirit and use it to get in the game. When you follow your passion and help someone else follow theirs, you will create two extraordinary lives at once. More importantly, you will become addicted to helping still more follow in your path. So come on, be ordinary; just do it extraordinarily well!
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website,, or e-mail,

When to Fire a Client

By Michael Kline
Imagine if you only worked with clients who inspired you and appreciated your knowledge, skills and passion. Imagine a world where most days, you felt almost guilty getting paid to do the work you do because you find it so rewarding. Welcome to my world. I consider myself incredibly lucky to get to do the work I do. Most of my regular followers know it wasn’t always this way, of course. I have spent plenty of time being grumpy, wrongfully unappreciative of my life, and wasting time placing my energy in the wrong places. Decades of hard work and lots of difficult and expensive lessons have taught me that happiness is a decision. There are plenty of people in this world whom I was born to serve. That makes me happy. I want happiness. Like you, I’m happiest when I feel productive. Productivity drives happiness. Passion drives productivity. Let’s follow our passion.
Are you doing the math yet? Passion = Productivity = Happiness = Success. If you work in your area of passion, and you work with clients who feed the passion, you can only be successful and happy.
If you truly want to grow your business and enjoy your work, you would do well to limit your work to those clients who feed your passion. It may be time to drop the duds. Eventually, you will get frustrated, limit your service to them, or get short with them. If you’re trying to please clients who are not your target market, or who don’t truly value your service, they will eventually become unhappy with you and fire you anyway. It is far better to be proactive with your less-than-festive client relationships. Here’s what I suggest:
Make a list of your favorite clients. I don’t mean just financially speaking, but that’s an important part, so let’s get that out of the way. Analyze the profitability of the relationship – those who pay the most are not necessarily the most profitable – sometimes they end up costing you money depending on the time, energy and resources they demand. Make a list of the best clients you have now, and write down why you identify them as your best. Write down if the issue is financial, friendly, inspiring you to do your best work, refers others to you, make you more inventive, a joy to work with, etc. Now make a list of your least favorite clients and their traits and characteristics that earn them a spot on that list.
Can any of the negative clients be coached into becoming a better client? If not, can you afford to tell them that you can no longer service them? You’re not going to like this – but I would argue that you cannot afford to keep them. It’s time to refer them out to someone else with whom they may be a better fit. If you take the time and energy now wasted on your worst clients, and invested it in marketing yourself to your ideal target audience (prospects with traits similar to your best clients), you will greatly improve your cash flow, your energy, your productivity and live a longer, more fulfilling and happier life.
At this point, most of you are in one of two camps. One, you argue that this is easy for me to say, but reality requires you to “suck it up” and stick with the dud clients. Or, perhaps you believe me, but you’re panicking over the thought of losing revenue. There is a caveat. If you’re going to make your life enjoyable and make more money, you’ll need a good plan to find the replacement client who will pay you more to do better work. More important than the good plan however, is to create the room in your life for the better clients in the first place, and to create the desperate need in your gut to go get the new clients, so you can stop taking the lazy, unfulfilling path of least resistance you’ve been stuck on. It’s scary, lonely and difficult; why do you think everyone isn’t wildly successful and happy?
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, , or e-mail,

Grateful vs. Satisfied

Grateful vs. Satisfied
By Michael Kline
All the great teachers of personal success, life happiness and general well-being talk about gratitude. I agree it is one of our most powerful tools. In business, as in our personal lives, we have the opportunity to use gratitude to make our lives more fulfilling. The conflict comes when we confuse gratitude with the notion of being satisfied.
We’re told the easiest way to have what you want, is to want what you have. If we took this advice literally, and we all wanted what we had, there would be no desire for self-improvement; we would still be living in caves, and no business would ever be started. So if we don’t mean the words literally, what do we mean? How do we balance the benefits of being grateful with the benefits of still wanting better for ourselves?
First, let’s make sure we all understand the value of gratitude in the first place. Most powerful is the art of expressing appreciation for what we do have, shining our focus on the positive. We get more of that on which we focus our energy. If we focus on what we don’t have in our lives, or what’s wrong, we are more likely to get more of what’s wrong. If we focus our energy on what we do have and what’s good in our lives, we generally get more of what’s good. This goes hand-in-hand with having Faith (in the spiritual sense) or Confidence (same thing using a business word). When we express gratitude, we cannot be feeling fear at the same time. Fear of things not working out, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of looking like a fool, fear of losing our job, our business, our home, disappointing our family, our employer, or employees – all these fears disappear the moment you express gratitude for what’s going well. In the environment of gratitude, you are free to stop asking the question “Why doesn’t anything work for me?” and start asking “How can I create more of what I want?” When you ask either of these questions out loud, you are likely to hear your brain start thinking of answers to the question you ask. You don’t really want the answer to why bad things happen – you do want the answer to how to make good things happen – so ask the right question, and listen carefully for the answers to flow.
Gratitude is a powerful tool. Do choose to be happy with what you have. Do not be satisfied with what you have as being all there is, or all you need for the future. If you are not happy with what you have, having more won’t make you happy either. Be happy first (yes, that’s a choice). Then go about setting bigger goals and being grateful for the gifts you have that allow you to go after them.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, , or e-mail, .

The Important Work We Do

By Michael Kline

This past Independence Day weekend, I worked at our stores every day. In between customers, I wrote this column and worked on some seminar projects for clients. Of course it occurred to me that the 4th of July is a perfect weekend to celebrate our nation’s history and enjoy fun time with family and friends. Does working through a holiday diminish our lives in some way? Actually, I feel a little bit lucky to have the honor of working so our visitors can enjoy there long weekend with their families. Living in a vacation destination, we need to serve and entertain our visitors on their holiday. We can take off on a week day and play when it’s a little less crowded and more enjoyable anyway. But this has me thinking about the value of our work.
Is the work you do really, really important? Did you save a life today? If not, what great contribution did you make to society that really matters? If you have a seemingly mundane job, please read on.
It doesn’t matter if you are support staff at a software company, a hotel desk clerk, server, lawyer, accountant, nurse or retail clerk… the work you do makes other things possible – important things.
You are making a valuable contribution. If you’re the nurse who literally saved a life today, your contribution is easy for all to see. If you are the retail clerk at a clothing outlet who helped a mother dress her daughter for a big event which boosted her self-esteem and made her confident to grow into the hero of our future, your valuable work may be less readily appreciated, but is no less valuable to the world.
Maybe you’re the host at a campground that rented a piece of ground to a guy in a truck. That $20 plot of dirt may have allowed a father to bond with his kids in a way his generation never did. This effect of your work could last for generations of child development and respect and caring for ourselves, each other and the earth. What could be more important than contributing to the experience of a family camping vacation?!
You see, it doesn’t matter how menial your work may seem, it exists because it supports a bigger world and when you look at the bigger picture of what really happens as a result of your work – you realize you are a super hero. Your approach and attitude can change your work from mundane acts to critical, life-changing heroic acts making the world a better place.
This is important work we do; put on your cape and go save the world!
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website,, or e-mail,