Carl Mays: Keep your tools sharpened and your tool belt on

Jun. 27, 2013 @ 11:34 PM

My 43-year career as a writer, speaker and consultant has offered me opportunities to keep on learning – and helped me realize how much I don’t know.

The things I have learned so far, both general and specific, have been based to a large degree on the types of groups to whom I have spoken, the people I have met and the experiences I have had along the way.

The subject matter for today’s column came to me this week when I was asked a question I have been asked before: “To what kind of groups do you speak?” I said, “You name the group and more than likely I have spoken to it.”

The questioner quickly responded, “What about cemetery groups?" I replied, “Oh yes, I have spoken to one of the oldest and largest end-of-life organizations in America – several times. They’re a great organization. They have funeral homes, cemeteries, a crematory, chapels, mausoleums, reception centers and memorialization programs.”

The questioner met my response with a surprised look, then asked, “What about bankers?” I replied, “Many times, banks, credit unions – and savings and loans, back when they were players in the financial world.”

Then, with a grin and sort of a laugh, he asked, “What about pig farmers?” With my own grin and laugh, I replied, “Oh, yes. Swine Association, Pig Association, Pork Producers Association.” The questioner soon got the gist of my saying, “You name the group and more than likely I have spoken to it.”

Of course, there are some groups to whom I have not spoken. Some haven’t invited me. Others I have turned down. With some we couldn’t agree on contract terms. But the fact is, the reason the scope of my work has been broad is because all groups and individuals need certain tools in order to find some success and enjoyment in what they do.

The tools include motivation, from within and without. As Zig Ziglar succinctly expressed, “People say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend both daily.”

A second tool everyone needs is the ability to get along with others. Whether we call it human relations, customer or member care, teamwork, leadership or whatever, I like to say, “If you can’t get along with people, then you’ve got a long row to hoe.”

Whether you’re a funeral director, football coach, pig farmer, corporate CEO or frontline employee, not having this tool decreases enjoyment and success in what you do.

The tool to communicate well is invaluable. If you’ve read many of my columns or other written work, or maybe heard me speak, then you are aware the American Management Association reports that 90% of all problems in any organization is a direct result of poor communication.

Of course, depending on the type of work you do and the organization with whom you work, or the family and community of which you are a part, along with other affiliations, there are specific individual tools needed in order to function well and experience success. And, holding together the tools of motivation, human relations, communication and specific individual tools is the very important “attitude” tool. The other tools are dulled by a bad attitude and are sharpened by a positive, upbeat, winning attitude.

These tools are needed during the good times and the bad. They are needed when we experience a feeling of being on the mountaintop or feeling “lower than a snake with fallen-arches.” And, to some degree, we all have experienced such feelings. So, we all need to remember to keep our tools sharpened and keep our tool belts on.

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit