Don Soderquist

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Donald G. Soderquist (January 29, 1934 – July 21, 2016) was an American businessman known for his work as chief operating officer and senior vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

“When was the last time you set your mind to wandering beyond today to imagine a brighter tomorrow? Let your mind go, dream a little, and you might just discover that anything is possible.” –Don Soderquist “The Wal-Mart Way: The Inside Story of the Success of the World's Largest Company, Thomas Nelson, April 2005, p. 107. 

Quotes from: 

Don Soderquist “The Wal-Mart Way: The Inside Story of the Success of the World's Largest Company, Thomas Nelson, ISBN 0785261192. (2005) 

Don Soderquist “Live Learn Lead to Make a Difference, Thomas Nelson, ISBN 1404101497. (2006, 2014) 

On working hard [edit]

  • “We not only worked hard—but we had a lot of fun doing it. We never saw the dynamics of work and fun as incompatible. If you’re going to spend a large percentage of your waking hours at work, why not enjoy it?”
  • “It doesn’t matter what business you are in, it is essential that the primary motivation and driving force behind everything you do is based on the impact it will have on your customer.”
  • “Complacency is the mortal enemy of growth and continued success. It is easy to take success for granted and presume that because we have been successful in the past, success will continue to be our friend in the future.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that you have to work harder the more successful you become—your competitors have learned from your success and are all out to beat you.”

On Striving for Excellence[edit]

  • “Striving for excellence means never being satisfied—always doing things to keep improving, even if it means changing everything we do. It means we never feel that we have arrived. We don’t believe our press clippings. We don’t get complacent and pat ourselves on the backs. We talk about what we could have done better. We believe that we can achieve extraordinary results when we strive for excellence in all we do.”
  • “High expectations are a powerful driving force, helping you become better than you already are. Sometimes you need to go one step further and step out on faith, even when you don’t have history or research to predict success. As the biblical writer said: ‘Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see’ (Heb. 11:1). Yes, past performance is the greatest predictor of future performance—but if we lived by that credo alone, no one would do anything bold and new. Sometimes we need good, old-fashioned faith.”

On Having a Personal Mission and Vision [edit]

  • “I was—and am—deeply concerned about the deterioration in ethical standards in our country; the blurring of right and wrong; the dilution of the biblically-based values that made our nation great.  It was apparent to me that significant moral erosion was taking place rapidly in every corner of our modern culture—education, politics, sports, entertainment, churches and families.”
  • “Vision is the beginning point of any great endeavor.  Vision is a picture of how we would like tomorrow to look—or, put another way, how we would like ourselves to look tomorrow. Every good leadership book identifies vision as an essential characteristic of a leader, and every good leader has learned his or her responsibility to create and communicate a vision.  But the danger is that talk of a vision has become so prevalent—maybe even so commonplace—that many leaders take the process and discipline out of vision-casting for granted.”
  • “The role of the leader, then, is to paint a picture of that vision in such a way that those he or she is leading will embrace it and make it their own. In that way, all of the energies of the organization are focused on the same objective. That’s when vision happens.”

On Leading Well[edit]

  • “I believe that leadership skills are transferable and can be taught.”
  • “I believe there are hundreds and thousands of stories just waiting to be written by organizations and companies who have leaders that inspire people to accomplish things that seem impossible. The only way that can happen, though, is if the leader believes it is possible—has even a mustard seed of faith—and can convince his people that the seemingly impossible is indeed possible.”
  • “When was the last time you set your mind to wandering beyond today to imagine a brighter tomorrow? Let your mind go, dream a little, and you might just discover that anything is possible.”
  • “Too many leaders are afraid of letting their minds wander too far; they put fences around their dreams. If you want to accomplish great things, you must dare to venture beyond today’s realities. The thinking behind ‘Imagine the Possible’ was that we needed to push even further, beyond the self-imposed limits of our current thought processes and previous experiences."
  • “It is vital for a leader to carefully dialogue with people to set goals that stretch them and grow the organization. He or she can push—but the goals must also be achievable and supported with adequate resources. The worst thing a leader can do if people react negatively to an unrealistic goal is ignore their concerns simply tell them to ‘do whatever it takes.’ What too often happens is that the people take the leader at face value and begin cutting corners, which may in turn lead to stretching or reshaping the truth, to that point that good people make bad and possibly illegal or unethical choices.”
  • “If you want to be an effective leader, you need to cultivate one-on-one feedback from trusted individuals throughout your organization, touching all the different levels. Not people who will tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.”
  • “A leader must keep his or her eye on the core customers and core business. I have seen many executives focus so much on new growth that they let the core business slip away.”
  • “One of the greatest things Sam Walton taught me is that a leader stays involved in his business and close to his people so that he can determine the best course of action without wasting time.”
  • “Today’s great leaders will make sure they have all the important information, appropriate discussion, and reflection so that they can act decisively when time is of great importance.”

On Expressing Gratitude [edit]

  • “Bottom line: it is clear that few things will diminish your life more quickly and profoundly than being ungrateful. Conversely, nothing will enlarge your life more quickly and dramatically than gratitude. I know poor people who are convinced they are rich.”

On Keeping a Sense of Humor[edit]

  • “I hope humor is a part of your life, too.  It takes a positive attitude and a strong desire to enjoy life to see the humor around us, but having a little laughter sprinkled throughout your day is a great way to live.”

On Being Optimistic [edit]

  • “Ultimately, optimism is the exercise of faith. It is believing that what is invisible, what seems impossible, or what seems to be too daunting, can actually be.”

On the Importance of Culture [edit]

On Putting Your Values First[edit]

  • “I’ve come to realize that beliefs and values together determine how a company operates and whether it reaches its full potential.”
  • “I have seen companies that have shady practices thrive for a period of time. But the success never lasts. Whether it is a scandal or a long-term erosion of customer loyalty, doing business—doing life—without values is short sighted and leads to failure.”
  • “Values identify what you stand for. In a sense, these values are the very foundation of your culture, those basic principles on which you are unwilling to compromise.  It is extremely important that the values in any organization be clearly articulated for and understood by everyone in that organization.”

On Doing Things Right [edit]

  • “Do whatever you’re asked to do. No job is too small or menial that it doesn’t need to be done well. And no one is too good for those small jobs."
  • "Do things right the first time. If you don’t have time to do a job once, you certainly don’t have time to do it again."
  • "Your attitude affects everyone around you. Attitude is contagious, and a positive attitude can make the difference between a task completed with excellence and one done with shoddy workmanship."
  • "Take pride in what you do. Remember your name is on every ‘fence’ you build. Do your best in everything, so you can look back on your work with pride."
  • "Go back and correct your mistakes. We all make mistakes. The wise person admits them, corrects them, and doesn’t leave them for others to clean up.”
  • “Customer loyalty doesn’t just happen; you have to work on it every day. It isn’t only big things; it’s a lot of the little things done over and over again. Over time, these little things demonstrate to your customers that you really do care about them and are genuinely interested in satisfying them. It is important to understand that you don’t do it only to increase sales, you do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

On Choosing to be Joyful [edit]

  • “Joy is not based on circumstances. You can experience a deep, abiding joy no matter what you have to be happy or unhappy about in your world. Joyful people radiate something deeper, something based in their heart and will. Others sense this joy and feel uplifted. I realized that’s what the phrase Scatter Joy is all about—reflecting that deep and abiding joy to the world. “
  • “Sometimes it takes a decision, an act of the will, a step of faith, to be joyful—and then God can plant something real and abiding in our hearts.”

On Keeping Humble [edit]

  • “A potential danger of being a leader is that we can begin to think that we have all of the answers. After all, we have achieved an important position, we think, and we’re above taking advice and doing those so-called little jobs. I have seen too many leaders develop a large ego. Well, large egos frequently lead to arrogance, and when people become arrogant, their judgment can be impaired. Impaired judgment usually leads to failure.”
  • “Humility is a marvelous partner to joy. I hope you will discover the joy of serving others.”

On Living Your Values[edit]

  • “I frequently ask leaders if they know what their personal values are, and most say yes. Then I ask them: ‘Have you written them down?’ Most say no.  Values are incredibly important! They determine who we really are—what our character is, the real you when the mask is off.”

On Listening [edit]

  • “Listen. Listening is one of those dynamics that sounds like the easiest thing in the world to do, but in reality is one of the hardest.”
  • “People need to feel that someone cares about them; that someone is listening to their ideas. The return on investment of a ‘thank you’ is infinite because it costs nothing—but what matters most to people are time and attention.”

On Creating Teamwork [edit]

  • “When people feel good about themselves, then they feel good about others.  When people feel good about each other, they can work together as a team, and when people work as a team, they are able to accomplish exceedingly more than anyone could hope to expect.”
  • “Whether your organization is a large corporate entity or a small business with only a few employees, a winning team is born the day leaders purpose to make people feel that they are significant an that their work has value by treating them with dignity and respect.”
  • “Giving people a sense of significance is the best motivation, the best way to get people fired up about their jobs, their company the contributions they can make. Find little ways of impacting people’s self-esteem, and get out of their way. Then watch as they get the job done and do so with an attitude of pride to be part of the team.”

On Treating Everyone with Respect [edit]

  • “It’s easy to say that we respect other people, but sometimes our actions don’t back up our talk. Those in leadership positions should always show respect for everyone—but especially the people who work for them. When you demonstrate to people that you care about them, they will be much more inclined to follow you.
  • “How you treat everyone you encounter is the measure of the genuineness of your respect—and the heights you can each as a leader.”
  • “You and I can have a tremendous impact on the job performance of the people around us—but more importantly, we can have an impact on their entire lives. It could happen during a five-minute conversation, with just a few words of encouragement delivered at the right time and in the right way.”

On Acting with Integrity [edit]

  • “Leaders demonstrate integrity and character by their actions an their words. They keep their promises. They demonstrate by their behavior the true depth of their beliefs—and it aligns with what they say. When you watch and listen to them, they make you feel like you want to be better yourself.”
  • "A bottom line principle of business—and life—is, to do what is right, even when no one else is looking. Likewise, we ought to do the right thing even if others around us seem to be backwards.”
  • “We as leaders, ought to model integrity every day. It starts with how we handle the dilemmas that may seem small. Your decisions and actions set the tone for the culture and reinforce the expectation of others.”

On Building Trust[edit]

  • “Trust is the foundation of all life’s relationships. It is an essential ingredient in successful leadership. It is not something we are entitled to, either. You have to earn it.”
  • “The way a new leader acts early in his or her job will show what kind of person he or she is. During that time frame, everyone develops their own long-lasting perception. And those perceptions—hard to change—determine how they respond to the new leadership long into the future.”
  • “And once trust is broken, it takes a long time to heal—if it ever heals at all. Sadly, during my career, I saw several people—sharp, talented people—lose trust and never regain it.”
  • “If you want to lead, never forget that the standards for you are set very high. People look up to you. Trust is a precious commodity in all of our relationships. We can’t afford to lose it by compromising on our values. People are watching and counting on us.”

On Trusting God[edit]

  • “I hold the simple belief that if you live your life in the right way guided by values, God will take care of the rest. God’s plans will always be better than the ones we come up with ourselves.”
  • “What really matters most is your relationship with God.  If you hear and heed nothing else in this book, what I hope and pray what you take with you is a renewed sense  of trust in the plans and purpose our loving God has for your life. With Him, you will have everything you need to best to live, learn, and lead.”
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