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Posted: October 18, 2009

The dog can’t eat your homework…

...and other rules for life and success

Laurence B. Valant

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, "Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance."

13 - The dog cannot eat your homework.

One of the best differentiators of people is the ability to get things done on time, not some of the time, but all of the time.

People within any organization can identify those who deliver and those who consistently say "gosh I'm sorry, but the dog ate my homework." Those people, who own such a homework hungry dog, never seem to disappoint us. They are consistent in their non delivery. When they do something completely, thoroughly, and on time, we are genuinely surprised.

Admittedly, the group that gets things done on time and on budget typically is a small percentage of the whole, unless you are fortunate to be part of an unusual and high-performing organization. If you are part of a group that does not deliver on time and on budget, choose to take responsibility for your commitments and meet your responsibilities on time and on budget, even when others don't.

Reliability is a choice, a good choice if you have no interest in continued mediocrity, and if you are willing to set aside the mumbling about how unfair management is in general and your boss is in particular. With discipline, anyone can become a performer; you know, the type that the non-performers resent and fear.
And, think of what your actions will do to improve your dog's reputation.

14 - Know your limitations.

As Clint Eastwood said to Hal Holbrook in Magnum Force, "A man's gotta know his limitations." I would add both men and women must also know their strengths as well!

If I recognize my strengths and limitations, I can provide myself as the best resource possible for helping achieve that which I undertake - I kid no one, least of all myself. I spend no time pretending or justifying or excusing myself. I know my strengths and capitalize on them, and fix my limitations.

When I understand my limitations, I can act to complement them or minimize them. I clearly can focus on what I must do to become more complete and more able, and therefore of more value to those with whom I live and work.
I greatly admire those remarkable individuals who know their limitations, get to work on changing those things they can change, and become examples to everyone who knows them.

15 - What you say in a voice mail or email can, and will, be used against you.

It is an undeniable fact that when I leave a voice mail or send an email, I should understand that the addressee may not be the only person who will see or hear the message. I should expect that many others may get to listen to what I said, or read what I wrote. Therefore, my words had better be the truth, and they had better be said with the intent to help, not hurt.

• Make it a life rule to think twice before hitting "send."

• Never leave any voice mail that takes longer than 30 seconds!

• Use voice mails to leave call back information and a brief message that details why you are calling and what you need from the recipient.

• A quick reply left on a voice mail can prevent phone tag - but keep your responses simple and straight forward.
Everything I say or write reflects on me. What I say to someone may not be published, but my words still impact that person and often others.

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Laurence B. Valant is President and CEO of Valant & Co., a Denver-based business performance improvement consultancy that has worked with almost 300 firms to increase their value by billions of dollars. He is co-author of the hot-selling new book, “Make Plan! With Effective Execution” and now, “Lead and Manage!” Valant can be reached at or at 303-589-3840. If you want more information or would like to order a copy of “Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance,” please visit

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