3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #2 – Write it Down

Goals

In my previous blog, 3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016 ,I wrote about the power of visualization; having a crystal clear mental picture of exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Hint #2 for helping you hit your goals is to write them down.  There’s something about committing goals to paper that transform a goal to a mandate.  Imagine if the Constitution was never written down and signed, or the Ten Commandments, or a speed limit sign.  When our brains see something in writing we see it more as a rule, a definite, a conclusion.

After you’ve visualized your goal take the time to write it down.  Include as many details as you can.  All the things your brain saw when you visualized the goal should be captured on paper.  Be specific.  Include pictures where possible.  If it’s a new home, find a picture of a house you’d love to own, cut it out, and keep it with your written goals.  If it’s a trip to Iceland, find a picture of Iceland and include it with your written goals.

Make sure your written goals are visible.  Don’t write them down and put them in a drawer somewhere.  Keep them out and in front of you.  Your nightstand, your desk, the refrigerator.  Remember, your subconscious brain will continue to work overtime on bridging the gap between your current reality and the goal you’ve set.  The more you review that goal the harder your brain will work to reach it.

Stay tuned for Hint #3 on Friday.

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #1 – Visualization

Goals

We all know goals are an important part of success.  Whether our objective is personal or professional, having a goal provides us with a “thing” to focus on to achieve that objective.

Over the years I have found 3 actions that have improved my ability to reach my goals.  I’ll share my hints this week.  Today, my first hint is visualization.

Visualization is a powerful way to gain clarity of your goal.  What is it you really want?  Can you see it?  What does it look like?

When I was younger I had a poster in my room with a picture of a mountain range in Arizona.  I was mesmerized by that picture and promised myself that one day I would live near the mountains.  And while I never got to Arizona I did move, and live in Reno, Nevada for two years at the base of the Sierra Nevada’s.  A goal achieved.

So what goal are you striving for in 2016? Is it a new house?  A new car?  A specific weight you’re trying to reach?  A book you’re trying to write?  A new job? A vacation? Bungee jumping?  Taking up a new sport or activity?

Find a quiet place to think.  Close your eyes and visualize exactly what the goal is you’re going after.  What does it look like?  Be as specific as possible.  Where is it?  What color is it?  How does it look?  What will you be feeling when you reach the goal; your emotions? When will you reach it? What’s the timeframe?

The more detail you can place around your goal through visualization the more likely you’ll be able to achieve it.  In his book The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield talks about how visualization activates the subconscious mind.  The more you visualize your goal the more your subconscious mind works to bridge the gap between your current reality and the goal you’re focused on.  He goes on to say, “Your creative subconscious can only think in pictures, not words.”  Having a clear picture, a visual, of the goal you’re trying to achieve is the first step to successfully achieving that goal.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s second hint on improving your success in reaching your goals.

 

 

Leadership Is About Acting Now

  

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.  In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he says, “late is the first step to not finishing.” Many suffer from analysis paralysis.  Trying hard to solve for perfection.  Trying hard to not make a mistake.  Leaders however think about decision making differently.  They have the  courage to act and the confidence to own their decision no matter the outcome.

I might, turns into I can.  Leaders say I will, instead of I could.  I may, becomes I must.  I should, changes to I am.  Leaders think in the here and now.  They understand the importance of being decisive and accountable.  They look to the future with a clear understanding of their current circumstances.  Leaders are well-rounded.  They are continuous learners, who through learning, are constantly challenging their own perspectives, ideas and opinions.  Leaders are not afraid to change tact given new information.  They are more concerned about getting it right than being right.

In his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner conveys a philosophy of “sooner is better than perfect.”  Doing things sooner often times requires getting comfortable with uncertainty.  The point being, once you have taken action you can always do a course correction.  Leaders are constantly acting.  They are in perpetual motion.  They’re never sedentary or static.  They’re fluid, dynamic, evolving.  

Leaders know that every journey begins with the first step.  Sometimes the step is in the wrong direction.  That’s okay.  They’re comfortable with change.  They’re confident in the midst of ambiguity.  They thrive on the thrill of what they can learn.  They’re curious.  They’re bold.

Be curious.  If being curious is too bold of a starting point then be cautiously curious.  Strive to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  But act.  Taking action provides  the leader with learnings.  Those learnings add to the leaders inventory of skills, experience and perspectives.  With those ingredients the leader is able to garner the followers they need to successfully execute on their vision.

Keep moving.  Keep making things happen.

How Happy Are Your Employees?  Find Out in 3 Easy Steps.

  

Turnover. Theft. Sick time.  These are just a few ways poor morale manifests itself in the workplace.  Data shows that most employees leave a boss not a job.  Data also shows that stealing office supplies is actually less costly to the company that stolen time. Water cooler talk, extra long lunches, and lengthy hallway conversations are examples of stolen company time.  There’s a difference between hallway conversations that foster collaboration versus those that fuel the rumor mill.  But how do you, or can you – the boss – tell the difference?

Some companies spend thousands of dollars to survey and test for employee morale.  From an informal Survey Monkey to much more formal nationally recognized surveys, companies try to measure the engagement level of their employees on an ongoing basis.  What’s important to note is that these are only tools.  Best case they are a snapshot in time.  Worst case they are the result of highly skeptical employees providing the responses they think “big brother” is expecting.  Truth be told – and a truth many companies don’t want to acknowledge – is that most employees are highly suspicious of these “confidential surveys”.  I’ve worked in more than half a dozen firms where these survey’s were used and employee sentiment is generally the same everywhere.  This means that the results produced by these surveys are potentially flawed.  It also suggests to employees that it’s easier for management to send a survey rather than engaging them directly.  

If you really want to know what’s happening in your business be courageous and try doing these 3 things:

  1. Skip Level Meetings.  These are meetings where the boss meets with employees one ot two levels down in the reporting structure.  These meetings are meant to be informal.  The goal is to establish trust and to work to let the employee know how much the leader cares about them and their team’s morale.  
  2. Town Hall Lunch & Learns.  Keep groups small, no larger than 20 employees.  The speaking executive or manager should present a short “State of the Union.”  At the end of the presentation turn it over to the employees for questions.  If there are no questions the executive should work to engage the audience by asking for their opinions and why they feel the way they do.
  3. Management by Walking Around.  Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the first leader to practice this tactic.  It provides the leader with direct insight into the day-to-day workings of a business.  It also allows the leader to be seen as engaged and “in the fight” alongside their employees.

Whether you decide to try one, or all three, the key is to be authentic.  Employees know when you’re running through the motions.  They can spot inauthentic leaders a mile a way.  If you really don’t care, nor are willing to take action to address concerns you may hear, you’re better off not doing any of these things.  Of course if that’s the case you already know just how unhappy your employees already are. Remember they’re only modeling what they see from their leaders.  Care deeply, act deliberately.  

Why Empathy is Important for Sales Leaders

Empathy

Sales is tough.  Rewarding but tough.  Not every one is cut out for a career in Sales.  It’s the ultimate “what have you done for me lately” profession.  This year’s top performer is next year’s runner-up.  Being a salesperson requires high energy, discipline, tenacity and focus.  Great sales people possess the ability to visualize their success.  They can see themselves on the stage receiving The President’s Award, or cashing that big bonus check.  They’re high achievers, hard workers, and by and large, emotionally charged people.  Great sales leader have many similarities. But the really great leaders have more empathy than your average sales leaders.

Empathy allows you to connect.  It makes you human.  Empathy allows you to feel, or perhaps more pointedly, allows you to understand how the someone else feels.  Having empathy is different from having sympathy.  Many people feel they are the same.  They’re not.  They’re wildly different.  Sympathy is about compassion, “feeling sorry for”, whereas empathy is being able to relate to another person.

Great sales leaders can relate, or empathize, with how challenging it is to find good prospects.  They can empathize with how exhausting making 100 dials a day can be.  If it were sympathy, I’d be saying “I’m sorry you have to make those 100 calls today…I sympathize for you.”  But that’s not the case.  The goal of a great sales leader is to have their team know, that they know, what it’s like to walk in their shoes.  The team wants to know the leader has “been there, done that.”  Great sales leaders are able to demonstrate empathy without effort because they can simply relate.  They’ve carried the bag, they’ve suffered the rejections, they’ve ended their day emotionally and physically exhausted without a sale in hand.  They’ve lived it.

Great leaders are not scared or intimidated to show empathy.  They don’t see it as a weakness to say “I went an entire week once not selling a thing”.  They’re not excusing low or poor performance by providing sympathy.  In fact, instead, what they are saying is I’ve had some moments like that myself and here’s how I pulled myself up and turned the corner.

We’re emotional beings.  Period.  We want to know we connect.  We’re pack animals.  Knowing we’re understood is critical.  Top performers, no matter what the profession, just want to be understood.  They don’t want sympathy and they don’t want anyone to “cut them slack”.  They want encouragement.  Not cheerleading.  There’s a difference.  Encouragement provides direction, a path.  Cheerleading provides nothing but a temporary high.

If you want to supercharge your leadership focus on developing your own personal level of empathy.  How do you relate to others?  What do you say to people who are struggling?  If you can improve your empathy skills you can improve your results, and the results of those around you.  Now you’ve created two wins.  Now you have momentum that will carry you and your team forward, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

Can You Tell If Your Culture Is Broken?

broken

Sales are down, customers are complaining and the board is losing patience.  You say you have a brand problem.  People aren’t aware enough, confident enough, or convicted enough to buy what you’re offering.  Why?

Is it because your marketing budget isn’t big enough?  Maybe you’re not running enough ads?  Or perhaps you haven’t paid enough attention to SEO and key words?  It could be some of these things, or maybe all of them.  I’d be willing to bet it might be something entirely different.  It might be your culture.

What you produce is a direct reflection of who you are, how you act, and what you value.  These are the things that make up a company’s culture.  They’re the sticky things, the messy things, the complicated things.  They are the ingredients that many executives (notice I didn’t say leaders), shy away from addressing.

I’ve read literally hundreds of company websites that proudly talk about their culture using words they refer to as their “values”.  They advertise these words like awards, placing them on a shelf like a trophy.  Inside the company however is a different realty.

Years ago I had a boss tell me, “if you have to put your values on a website they have no value”.  She further explained that “saying something is so, doesn’t make it so.”  I agree.  If, as an example, you list integrity as a value then what does it mean for the companies who don’t list integrity?  Does that mean they’re bad, or operate dishonestly?  Do you really need to say you value operating in a truthful manner?

I’ve seen countless companies where there is a disconnect between the stated values and the real culture.  The employees know it.  They see it.  They’re living it.  They’re wondering if anyone else notices the disconnect.  They become numb to the words because that’s all they are …just words.  Instead they watch actions.  They look for proof.  When they can’t find proof to validate the words the culture cracks.  It becomes fractured.  It fails to deliver a delightful experience to the customer because the delivery mechanism – the employees – is fractured.

Leaders hit this challenge head on.  Leaders are not afraid to tackle the hard stuff, the sensitive stuff, the messy stuff.  They stand in front of the company leaning forward, and take complete responsibility for the disconnect.  They own it.  They believe it’s their job to fix it, no one else’s.  They’re a leader.

The leader knows that fixing something, or improving it, begins with honestly.  They know that to make a positive impact they must be able to be honest with their team.  The team is too smart to misled.  They know the deal.  They’re listening for the truth, not fluff.  Only then will the team rally.  Only then will the team consider the remarkable.  Only then is the delivery of a delightful experience possible.  Until then…the broken culture is incapable of mending the brand. But the only way forward is for the leader to walk the talk.

The question is, do you have the courage to see things as they really are and deal with the messy part of business, or will you ignore it, explain it, and excuse it?  The choice is yours.  Be a leader.

 

5 Investments You Should Make in Yourself Today

books

Your mind and body are indeed your most valuable assets.  Most people would say their home.  And while on paper that may be true, without your mind and body nothing else matters.  Here are 5 investments you should make to strengthen both:

  1. Read – Your brain is the most important organ in your body, controlling all bodily functions including your muscles and other organs.  Reading, especially fiction, improves your brain connectivity and function according to a recent Emory University study.  In addition to the health contribution reading has on your brain, it also helps in developing your thinking skills, perspective, and decision making skills by filling your brain with more ideas and insights.
  2. Exercise – Study after study, year after year, we know that exercising each day produces huge benefits for the body, mind, and soul.  According to WebMD, the body’s release of endorphins caused by exercise increases self-esteem, reduces the perception of pain, and creates a positive feeling in your body. Knowing this, how could anyone argue against the value of exercise?  If you’re working out now, great job.  Continue.  If you’re not exercising now, start with just 30 minutes, 3 days a week.  A walk, a jog, push-ups, whatever you chose but start.
  3. Pay it Forward –  Time is your most scarce resource.  Some people horde it.  Others squander it.  I’d suggest you invest it in others.  I spend hours each week with people in my network.  I’ve helped countless friends and associates with resumes, interviewing tips, sales strategies, branding practices, and other areas where my expertise can add value to them.  I am most excited, most engaged, most rewarded when I know I’ve helped someone improve and develop themselves.  For me, paying it forward creates a feeling of pride, improves self-confidence and raises self-esteem.
  4. Clothing – Here’s a tricky one. Remember the saying, “dress for the job you want”?  Whether you like it or not we’re a society of first impressions.  That means that what you wear does matter.  You don’t need to break the bank for a good look.  Guys, you don’t need a dozen suits in your closet.  You can alter the look of one suit with ties.  One black, or blue suit, has endless possibilities by changing your tie.  Ladies, same thing for you with the exception of accessories.  Pins, necklaces, blouses can quickly change the look of a single suit.  If you’re working in a more casual environment dress “crisply”.  Pressed shirts, nice jeans or kakis, etc. Remember, work is still work, not a party, not a social gathering.
  5. Accessories – Everything from glasses, watches, briefcases, portfolios, pens, earrings, jewelry (not too much), pocket squares, cuff links, and shoes.  This is another area where investing in just one or two accessories can make a big difference.

Stop Hiding, It’s Time to be Remarkable.

dog

Long hair, short hair.  Clean shaven, beard.  New York accent, southern drawl.  Short, tall.  Heavy, slim.  Most people think of physical attributes when considering how remarkable they are.  Sure, David Beckham or Kate Beckinsale certainly turn heads but what truly makes you remarkable?  The answer?  It’s what you do and how you do it.

All of us have encountered remarkable people in our lives.  These are the people we remember.  The ones that made a difference.  They are the people that cared enough, shared enough, and gave enough to us that we walked away feeling beyond satisfied, feeling completely fulfilled.

The great author, Seth Godin, was one of the first to raise the concept of remarkable in his book Purple Cow.  Everyone can be remarkable. Few do, but all can. It’s a choice.  The fact is you’re already remarkable, you just need to show it.  We were all born with talent.  Your first job is to be self-aware enough to identify what your talent is and then live it.  Your second job is to understand your current circumstances and determine what actions you can take that will result in someone seeing you as remarkable.

Maybe you don’t want to be cold calling all day but that’s your current circumstance.  Your choice to gear up, toughen up and lighten up will come through your interactions as remarkable instead of choosing to be beaten up.  As inspirational writer John Maxwell says, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”  Not only is he right, but your attitude also determines just how remarkable you are, and can become.

Remarkability is not just about being different, or memorable.  If it were we’d have to include people like Hilter, Hussein, and Nero.  Being remembered is not being remarkable.  Being remarkable is having a positive impact in someones day, week, or life.  While others may define remarkable differently I would simply say that it’s about making others smile, happy, or feel fulfilled.  Perhaps that’s why nurses, pharmacists and fireman always top the list of most trusted professions, because in life’s most critical moments those are the remarkable ones we turn to.

Making the choice to be, act, and do remarkable things is all yours.  The world is waiting…needs you…to be just that – to be remarkable.

 

 

4 Ways to Super-Charge Your Leadership

Headshot11.15.15

 

If you want to super-charge your leadership skills here are 4 things you should pay close attention to:

  1. Behaviors – What you do, when you do them, how you do them. Do your behaviors change depending on circumstances or do they serve as an unshakeable foundation even in times of crisis? Be cognizant that people are watching. Your colleagues, bosses, clients, partners, are all noticing your behaviors.
  2. Routine – In a recent Harvard Business Review, it was reported that great leaders have routines. They do things in certain ways, at certain times. They are disciplined and methodical in their actions. Leaders who are skilled at identifying their surroundings and circumstances are able to develop the routines that add the greatest value resulting in better results.
  3. Adaptability – Great leaders are capable of modifying their behaviors and their routines based on their circumstances. This requires the leader to be both a teacher and student all at the same time. Recognizing the need to adjust, and as importantly how to adjust, sets great leaders apart from those individuals who manage. Managers watch over a process. Leaders evaluate circumstances, determine a better way, garner resources, provide vision, and secure alignment. To do this, a great leader must be able to adapt.
  4. Seek feedback…genuinely and often – Interesting research from a number of trusted sources indicates that leaders who request regular feedback are more effective. Feedback improves your ability to empathize and connect with others. Unfortunately many people interpret a request for feedback as a weakness or perhaps insecurity. Leaders who ask from a number of sources – not just their boss – gain deeper insight into the organization, its issues, challenges, opportunities, and people. Having the ability to see into your circumstances is critical to your success. Don’t let others perceptions of feedback affect yours or worse prevent you from asking.

Great leaders learn, teach others, learn more, and repeat that process. Take these 4 elements and weave them into your daily leadership actions.

 

 

 

Where Wisdom and Experience Intersect

wisdom

Great leaders possess many characteristics.  Courage, foresight, perspective, and vision are just a few thoughts that come to mind when thinking about leaders.  Leaders are not all-knowing, nor do they have to be right all the time.  In fact, knowing everything is impossible, and being right all of the time simply means you haven’t tested the boundaries.  Good leaders fail.  Great leaders fail often.

It’s been said that “wisdom is the result of experience, but experience is often the result of lack of wisdom.”  So where do the two intersect?  People ask you for advice because they admire your wisdom.  Job opportunities because of your wisdom.  Yet if it weren’t for all your failures you’d have nothing to offer, you would lack wisdom.  Great leaders possess this knowledge because they understand the importance of failure. They are able to see failures as deposits into their bank of wisdom, not withdrawals or setbacks.

Wisdom allows us to take chances.  It allows us to predict outcomes.  It enables us to maximize our chance for success but it does not guarantee our success.  Wisdom gives us the courage we need to attempt something that carries the risk of failure but doesn’t prevent us from trying.  Failure must be an option as we try new things and expand our horizons.  Wisdom helps us see that what we gain from these failures often times outweighs succeeding on the first try. 

So when confronted with a choice between a sure thing and one that presents potential failure, look first to your wisdom bank.  Do an honest assessment of what you will gain versus what’s at risk if you chose to take the chance.  Know that if you do take a chance and fail, you now have wisdom to share with others.  It is this wisdom that increases the value of your insight, perspective, and experience.   It is this wisdom that makes you unique.  This is the wisdom that enriches you personally, and the wisdom that develops you as a leader.