Creating a Flake-Free Zone

By: Ken Keis

"I could never think well of a man's intellectual or moral character, if he was habitually unfaithful to his appointments."
-Nathaniel Emmons

Creating a Flake-Free Zone

Although true success is built on trust and truth, in North America there seems to be a drift toward being "flaky."

Websterís defines flake as a markedly eccentric person or oddball. More and more, that slang term is being applied to a personís lack of professional conduct, behavior, and character.

Be forewarned. This is article contains a rant, so hang on!

I grew up in an agricultural community where our word was our bond . . . and we did what we said we would do. Our ethics were similar to the Klingon Code of Honor in Star Trek: Klingons would rather die than dishonor their family name.

In the past couple of years, I have noticed a troubling trend in business edict and the unprofessional conduct of individuals. There is an undertow of self-centeredness and lack of conscience toward accountability, responsibility, or integrity for their actions. These individuals/organizations -- either intentionally or unintentionally -- have only one thing in mind: themselves.

What is truly disturbing is that they actually defend their destructive behavior. In the Star Trek world, the Ferengi have that attitude; the values of self-centeredness and profit-for-self are more important than any other character trait. That is a corrupt condition that leads to the Enron and WorldComís of the world.

What about you? Are you an Enron, just at a different scale? Before anybody gets defensive, let me share some examples, then encourage you to combat this malignant tumor eating at the fabric of our communities.

In recent months, in preparation for writing this article, I have been documenting superb examples of flaky behavior. See if you can relate to any of these.

- An individual called our office wanting to learn more about the assessment products we offer. At first, she refused to give me her first name, company, or how they were going to use our assessments. After a couple of minutes, she said (no way to prove it) that she worked at the personnel department of a large online auction company and was collecting information on assessments. She refused to leave her last name, contact number, etc. Thatís flaky behavior.

- We purchased printing equipment to run our own print shop and increase the quality of our materials. One of the machines was not working properly so it was replaced with a new unit. Unfortunately, the supplier left the old printer (not working) in our office for 6 weeks before picking it up. A dozen calls and messages left with the supplier produced no response. Only after threats of leaving it outside in the rain did they come to pick it up. Thatís flaky behavior.

- An individual spoke to us after one of our presentations, wanting us to give him free access codes for our online assessments because, according to him, it did not cost us anything. He was relentless and even belligerent that we did not comply. Thatís flaky behavior.

- After receiving a quote for landscaping in my yard, I emailed the owner of the company that I had a few questions before we went ahead. No reply. I called his office a few days later; they said he was very busy. Still no phone or email replies from him. (This is specialized work so I could not get someone else to quote.) Over the period of 30 days, I called 4 or 5 times; the owner finally sent an email. I have a couple of final questions. After my 5 phone calls and 3 emails, there has been no response. Thatís very flaky behavior.

Note: How could I ever use their services in good faith? If there is a problem after they have my money, I expect I would have even more trouble getting them to respond.

- A couple of weeks ago, a training firm called about using our assessments with their clients. This inquiry was based on our organizations certification and partnership with a large coaching federation. In their initial conversation with the team, we recognized that I had personal experience in the market and application they were proposing. A teleconference was set up between me and the individual conducting the assessment review. Moments prior to the call, she emailed that she would not be able to keep the appointment. That was fine; we rescheduled. For the second call, she simply didnít show up. Later that day, she apologized, saying another meeting went late. Having no respect for other peopleís time and schedules is very flaky behavior. In a respectful way, I told her how I felt about her behavior. She chose to discontinue further discussions with us, offering a false excuse for not doing business with us. More flaky behavior.

In this rant, I want to make three points.
1. Nobodyís perfect.
2. We all fall short on our promises once in a while.
3. It is OK to change your mind sometimes.

I am talking about the characteristic of being flaky, which infers a habitual way of acting and thinking . . . a personís primary method of conducting business and life. Being flaky a lot of the time reveals a foundational value of not respecting yourself and others; you are acting in an unprofessional manner.

Iím sure all of us are guilt of being flaky at one time or another. The key is to learn from the process and reduce or eliminate it.

Sooner or later, flaky conduct catches up with an individual or organization -- just ask the Enron executives. It significantly erodes and eventually reduces the success of an individual and/or an organization. It is shallow and it hinders your ability to fulfill your higher calling and your potential for achievement.

What to do about reducing this process?

1. First, set the example. Be aware that your conduct is always leaving its mark.
2. Donít confuse honest mistakes and errors with a flaky behavior. There must be some grace applied in this matter.
3. Establish standards that you expect from others but make sure you are willing to apply them to yourself.
4. Everyday items are just as important as the big things. Here are some suggestions.
- Return all phone calls the same day or at least within 24 hours. If you cannot connect with the person, leave a message.
- Reply to all email within 48 hours.
- Keep your appointments. If you cannot, immediately contact the person to reschedule or cancel.
- Treat suppliers, vendors, and friends with equal respect. If you are flaky with business contacts, you are probably flaky with friends, too. After all, the way you are anywhere is the way you are everywhere.
- Be real with capabilities or possibilities and be up-front in the process. If sales reps get upset when you are up-front with them, thatís fine. You are simply creating a flake-free zone. Quality sales reps understand the sales process and respect your role in it. Tell your business and personal contacts that you expect them to be up-front with you.
- Stop over-promising and under-delivering. Start under-promising and over-delivering.
- Stop focusing on you (self-centeredness). Start focusing on them. If everyone you dealt with were completely self-centered, you would need a life-preserver, for sure.
- Donít use your personality as an excuse for your behavior.

There are many other examples. To make your own list, simply think of all the events where others behaved in a flaky way with you.

A person or organization can appear flaky for many reasons. Here are some examples.
- Pressure to perform, which causes stress
- Self-centeredness
- Unclear values
- Low-self worth
- Lack of personal identity.

Action Steps

Strategies to Create a Flake-Free Zone

1. Vow not to be a flake or to participate in othersí flaky behavior.
2. Carefully and honestly review your own behavior in all areas of your life, to reduce your potential to be flaky.
3. Hold others accountable (the best you can) for their flaky behavior. Use the "Iím not going to take it anymore" attitude.
4. Enjoy the accountability process. Many times, individuals are simply oblivious to the impact their conduct is having.
5. Once you hold someone accountable as having a flaky attitude, let go of the outcome. You cannot control the behavior of another individual or company.
6. Caveat: Everyone at some time or another will have a flaky moment so donít expand an isolated event into a general character trait. Apply grace.
7. Set personal and business guidelines on the way you prefer to do business and share your guidelines with others. That helps set your expectations and lets others know where you stand.
8. Assessments may help you to confirm that your life is balanced and that you feel confident to create a flake-free zone.
9. Remind yourself that you operate whenever possible in a flake-free zone. Choose to work with and relate to flake-free businesses and individuals.
10. Have fun.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose,

Ken Keis

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Ken Keis is an internationally known author, speaker, consultant, & President of CRG. Many professionals herald CRG as the # 1 global resource center for Personal/Professional Development. For information on CRG Resources, please visit

For information on Kenís Training and Speaking Programs, please visit

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