Stop Trying to Fit In and Start Being Remarkable

remarkable

Everyone wants to fit in. To be a part of the crowd. Some people go to extremes to remain invisible whether at school, the office, the gym, or anywhere else in pubic. Blending in is part of our culture. Why do you think brand names like Nike, Levi’s, Coke, Asics, Hollister, and Target are so valuable? They represent the main stream. Sure they offer quality and value but they also offer a strong emotional connection to safety. I’m safe if someone sees me wearing Nike, shopping at Target, or buying a Diet Coke.

But success doesn’t come to those who play it safe. Success isn’t for the faint of heart, or those who want to be part of the crowd. No. Success usually comes to those willing to take chances, to challenge the norms of society, to stand out and be remarkable.

Are you remarkable? Do you stand out at work or are you one of the crowd? Do your co-workers look at you as a thought leader? A progressive thinker? Or are you one of the many doers that get things done but not the one “cutting the edge?” Do you invest in building your personal brand? Are you working to create awareness around your ideas and opinions or are you silent, laying back, waiting for the next set of directions to come your way?

History is a great teacher of the correlation between remarkable and success. Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and The Beatles all were remarkable for their time. Dimon, Reagan, Lincoln, and Gates made bold decisions, often unpopular, but remarkable in ways that led to great discoveries, financial stability, and peace through power.

We all have the ability to be remarkable. We may not all be Thomas Edison’s or Michael Dell’s but we each possess unique characteristics that if amplified make us remarkable. A great sense of humor, the ability to provide calm during turbulent times, or being able to rally people together for a common cause can be remarkable characteristics. What makes you remarkable?

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How Great Is Your Company? Answer These 4 Questions.

happyworkGreatness is determined on many levels.  Seldom is it one thing that defines a great company.  This year’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work for include: Google, SAS, CHG Healthcare Services, Boston Consulting Group, and Wegmans Food Markets rounding out the top five.  What makes these select few stand out among the millions of companies doing business every day?  Is it the free lunch that Google offers or the casual dress code at SAS, or the leadership development programs offered at Boston Consulting Group that make the difference?  More than likely it’s those things plus other less tangible things that have elevated these companies to becoming employers many people aspire to work for.  If you’re considering a move, or simply trying to decide if you should stay or go, look at the following 4 areas and answer the questions I’ve posed.  This may provide you with the insight you’re looking for to make your decision.

  1. Employee morale.  Some companies conduct regular surveys of their employees to measure morale and job satisfaction.  Poor morale can lead to many negative side-effects for a company and its employees.  Here are some signs you may have a morale problem:  increase in sick time, customer service levels dropping, longer than scheduled employee breaks, increase in personal phone calls, visible avoidance of senior management.  Typically low employee morale is the result of uncontrolled stress or strain in the workplace.  However, in companies with strong employee morale you see higher engagement, lower usage of sick-time, and perhaps most importantly a culture of innovation that leads to strong customer satisfaction levels.  Engaged employees offer new ideas, suggestions, and solutions for how to improve things across the business.  The key driver to making this happen?…managements ability and desire to listen and act in collaboration with their employees.  How is your company’s morale?
  2.  Creativity.  Positive energy generates positive thoughts.  Positive thoughts produce creative ideas and solutions.  When a company’s culture is negative or numb, it loses its ability to create new ideas, concepts, products, or services.  Creativity is a required ingredient for innovation and invention.  Without it, you will successfully secure your spot in the purgatory of status quo.  Companies that thrive in a highly creative and innovative world have mastered the power of creative thinking.  They have accomplished this by instituting a level of controlled, creative tension.  Management expects employees to generate new ideas and employees expect to be heard.  This dynamic of a two-way-street creates a steady stream of creative traffic that produces ongoing positive results for both the company and its employees.  Is your company a culture of creativity, what example can you give?
  3. Turnover.  Life is all about relationships and the workplace is no different.  According to a recent Dale Carnegie Training study, the #1 reason people leave their job is because “their boss sucks”.  People don’t leave companies…they leave to get away from other people.  Companies with high turnover, which I would define as more than 10% annually should take a deep look into what is driving their turnover.  Often times exit interviews and surveys are the relied upon methods for gathering feedback from a departing employee.  However, these tactics come after the fact…when nothing can be done to salvage a high-value employee who has decided to leave.  High turnover can also suggest a disconnect between the management team, the company vision, and employee goals or quotas.  What’s the turnover rate at your company?
  4. Transparency.  It’s either there or it isn’t.  You know as an employee how your work impacts the top and bottom line…or you don’t.  Management communicates a clear vision that includes the company’s goals, the timeframe for achieving them, and regular updates on the health and progress of the business relative to these goals.  Creating a culture of transparency requires time, commitment and most importantly trust.  Management must trust the employees with information, and employees must trust their management to provide this information with accuracy and honesty and hold it in confidence.  A breakdown on either side of this relationship ultimately leads to the elimination of transparency further leading to many of the above symptoms taking hold:  poor morale, turnover, and lost productivity/creativity.  How much do you know about your company’s goals and objectives?

P-cubed = Profit

Profit

For-profit companies operate with a simple goal – make a profit.  Profits are the essence of life and growth for all businesses.  Investments in talent, innovation, and new markets are all dependent upon a company’s ability to generate profits with which they can invest back into its business.  In the absence of profits, some businesses start on a path to leverage…borrowing today on a bet that tomorrow will be better.  Many times this approach leads to disaster.

There are three (3) critical factors in driving profits for any business.  And while there may be thousands of criteria that enter into a profit equation, just about all of them can be bucketed into these three categories.

  1. People.  The first ingredient required to drive profit.  People generate the ideas, relationships, and creative thinking that’s required to grow a company.  Great leaders know how to identify the right people to introduce to their specific work culture.  Many companies make the mistake of seeking only the “top performers” from their competitors.  Unfortunately this approach often leads to failure and disappointment.  Why?  Because leaders often lose sight of the fact that beyond the person, they also need two other factors to succeed…a plan and process, and herein lies the problem.  No two companies operate the same, have the same plan, or the same process/infrastructure to execute with.  Therefore what makes someone successful in one environment does not equate to success in a different environment.
  2. Plan.  As the saying goes, “failing to plan, is planning to fail”.  Successful companies have a plan including a 12 month, 3 year and 5 year plan.  They know that the further they look into the future, the more uncertainty the plan takes on – but that doesn’t stop them from the exercise of planning.  The biggest benefit of having a plan is not always the plan itself but what was learned and gained from the act of planning.  Deeper insights, critical understandings, and lessons learned, are all positive outputs from a detailed planning process.  Once the plan is made it MUST be communicated or cascaded throughout the organization.  Without clear line of sight, employees are left with an empty feeling that results in a numbing effect taking ahold of the business.  This leads to morale issues, turnover, and a general decrease in quality of products produced or service delivered.
  3. Process.  The process factor is one of the most overlooked factors in generating profits.  Existing companies feel that they know what they do, and start-ups feel like they’ll figure it out along the way.  Both are wrong.  Processes must be documented, monitored, measured and improved.  The Toyota Production System, otherwise known as TPS, pioneered the Kaizen – a philosophy that embraces continued improvement.  All processes can be improved or enhanced.  To drive improvements requires a deep understanding of your people (internal and external) and your plans.  A great book that illustrates this philosophy is The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker.

Focus on these three factors and they will help you build a better road map to achieving stronger profits.  But remember this…it all starts with having the right people.  As Herb Brooks, the coach of the 1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey team said when putting his team together, “I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right players.”  This quote validates the importance of knowing your culture, how it operates, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and what type of individual would thrive within it.  It all comes down to people…and it starts with you.