"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest" Benjamin Franklin

Earlier this spring, I had the privilege to speak at and attend the Spring MAILCOM conference (mailcom-conference.com). One of the presentations by industry expert Marlene O'Hare focused on how the practical wisdom of Benjamin Franklin can help us manage our operations well.

Benjamin Franklin was not only a founding father of our country - he was also the first Postmaster General of the United States and a very successful businessman, leader, inventor, writer, and person. He was considered one of the smartest and wisest men our country has ever produced!

There is a lot we can learn from Franklin that can help us be better managers and help our operations be even more successful. Following is a list of some tips inspired by his wisdom:

Benjamin Franklin's Keys to Management and Operational Success
Strive for Excellence. "Whatever you become, be good at it." Excellence does not happen by chance. We must intentionally choose to excel at what we do, including making the choice to become more effective leaders and managers.

Be Prepared. "By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail." A plan is needed to accomplish our goals. Charging in without any thought to the end result and how to achieve it is a sure way to fall flat on your face.

Don't Fight Change. "When you are finished changing, you are finished." Change is inevitable. Focus on proactively making positive changes - and avoid being only reactive and having changes thrust upon you.

Less Talk, More Action & Actions Speak Louder than Words. "Well done is better than well said." We all know that talk by itself is cheap. Talking about a project doesn't get it done - we must take action to see the work through.

Don't Procrastinate. "Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today." It's easy to fall into the procrastination trap. One tip to avoid this trap is to have time-specific and measurable goals. And when you achieve key milestones or goals remember to take time to reward yourself and enjoy the sense of achievement.

Be Organized. "For every minute spent in organizing, one hour is earned" and "A place for everything, everything in its place." To maximize our productivity and achievement of our goals, we need to take the time to plan and to organize our resources. The time we spend planning and organizing our work really does come back to us with interest.

Avoid Busywork. "Never confuse motion with action." Our time is limited and the expectations on us keep growing. We need to use our time well by avoiding unnecessary tasks, delegating when it makes sense, and focusing our attention on the highest value work.
Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes. "Don't fear mistakes" and "You will know failure. Continue to reach out." Fearing making mistakes can immobilize us. Taking risks and making mistakes provide us a special learning opportunity - provided we learn from the mistakes and grow from them.

Know Yourself. "There are three extremely hard things: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self." Self-awareness is the first tenet of emotional intelligence. Be honest with yourself, and seek input from others regarding your strengths and areas for further development.

Get Moving. "All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are moveable, and those that move." Which class do you fall into? The most successful people in life are those that actually move and get things done.

Act Quickly on Opportunities. "To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions." Opportunities are everywhere. Our challenge is to be quick enough and smart enough to seize them when they arise.

Engage Your Staff Actively. "Tell me and I forget; teach me and I remember; involve me and I learn." Experiential learning is at the core of developing ourselves and our team members. Give people a chance to learn by doing real work - and reinforce what they did well and patiently coach them when they could do better.

Don't Give up. "If at first you don't succeed, try again" and "Energy and persistence conquer all things." Striving to achieve our goals can be downright exhausting, right? There are times when we all feel like throwing in the towel. But pushing through those down times will eventually result in significant achievements - and when we look back we will say it was worth the effort.

Wise Up. "Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late" and "I wish I knew then what I know now." We can accelerate our acquisition of wisdom by intentionally seeking out growing experiences, and by taking time to reflect on what we have learned from our experiences. We can also tap into the wisdom of others who have gone before us by reading their words, listening to them speak into our lives, and observing their actions.

Be smart. "The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance." Franklin modeled being a life-long learner. We can take advantage of traditional education sources like colleges and universities, and can attend conferences like MAILCOM and National Postal Forum. We can also read trade journals (like this one!) and good books. It's not enough to hear a good idea - the real value comes when we put it into practice.

Keep Trying. "Diligence is the mother of good luck." One tip is to break down our bigger goals into small units of work and then completing them one at a time. Another tip is to choose to forego some of our time spent in front of the TV, PC or iPad and concentrate on getting our priority goals completed.

Seek Knowledge and Wisdom. "If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it from him" and "The doors of wisdom are never shut." We have many potential sources to learn and develop more wisdom - take advantage of them! In addition to our personal life experiences, we can learn from the experiences of others through mentoring, involvement in professional associations, attending conferences, taking classes and workshops, and reading what they write about their experiences and lessons learned.

The final piece of advice I wanted to highlight is the encouragement to continue to grow as a person. Franklin said "Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man." Good luck as you continue on your journey to be a better manager - and person!
*I want to thank Marlene for allowing me to share a modified version of her presentation.

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, MDC, EMCM, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 829,000 customers. Wes leads his teams with the able assistance of Supervisors Allison Rowden, Jessica Eberhardt, Heidi Fouts and Matt McHill. Wes is also the Director of Marketing for Mail Systems Management Association (msmanational.org) and speaks regularly at conferences like MAILCOM, National Postal Forum and others. He received the prestigious Franklin award in 2010 in recognition for his contributions to the Mail Industry.