Monday, December 20, 2010

Year-End Reflections

As we turn our sights toward 2010, it’s time to reflect on how your progress is going and how are you going to achieve your objectives. A number of significant events have taken place in our global environment that may be forcing you to look at your life and business much differently than you did a year ago. Take some time to reflect on the following questions and honestly evaluate where you are, where you are going, and how you plan to get there.

Did you achieve your 2010 objectives?

If you have not achieved your 2010 goals, what is standing in the way?

Are your marketing activities generating the necessary results?

Are you working with enough clients to achieve your goals?

Do you enjoy working with the clients you have?

What are your goals and key objectives for 2011?

Are you looking to expand into any new markets? Why or why not?

Careers and business are not just about numbers, activities, strategic plans, objectives, and revenue. All of these things are important and in many cases critical to build a sustainable living, but they are only one-half of the equation. The other half of the equation is you. Your personal ability to grow requires honest reflection. Look at yourself and your experiences this year with as much objectivity as you can. Reflect on you and your contribution to the success of your business.

What did I learn – new skills, knowledge, insights, etc? (List them all.)

How have my newly acquired skills, knowledge, and insights contributed to the success of my business?

What did I accomplish? (List all your wins and achievements.)

How did those wins or accomplishments impact the success of my business?What would I have done differently and why? (Be specific and honest with yourself.)

What were the most significant events of the year thus far? (List the top three.)

What did I do right?

What do I feel particularly good about?

What was my greatest contribution?

What were the fun things I did?

What were the not so fun things I did?

What were my biggest challenges, roadblocks, or difficulties? (Be specific.)

How am I different this year than last?

What will I do differently for 2011? (Be specific.)

For what am I particularly grateful?

Feel free to add additional questions that may provide meaning for you.

As you can see, it is very difficult to ignore the power of the I’s and the my’s in those questions. You are a critical component to the success of your business and an honest, objective evaluation of where you are could be the difference between success and failure. Your ability to achieve your desired goals and build a sustainable business begins and ends with you. There will always be outside forces generating obstacles or pushing and pulling your business in different directions. The most powerful asset you have is you. Make a commitment to honestly evaluate your contribution as a business asset and make the commitment to reinvest in yourself and grow. The success of your business depends on it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Concept of Leadership

Throughout the years, volumes have been written which list and elaborate upon the characteristics of leaders. You need only check the literature on the subject to discover that there are many characteristics and combinations of characteristics as there are leaders. With all of their differences, however, leaders do have some fundamental similarities.

1. Successful leaders have mastered the art of self leadership and authenticity. Authenticity conveys genuine, reliable, trustworthy leadership.

2. Successful leaders have taken time to crystallize a personal vision of the future which will become the foundation or cornerstone for a shared vision. They are able to attract as well as inspire commitment among the people whose collective effort will make this vision a reality.

3. Successful leaders understand how to align and maximize resources to realize a vision. The leader’s role is to create alignment between vision, strategy, structure, processes, and people with focus on attracting and maintaining a loyal customer base.

As a leader, you must be many things to many people. First, you must have the ability to create a compelling vision. If your vision is to motivate people, it must take them to new levels of achievement. Then, you must be able to develop and implement the strategies that will guide people toward the vision, analyze the alternatives and possibilities, and set goals that will drive the organization to sustained success. To do this will require that you are able to function successfully in several areas. The first is your role as a visionary.

Leaders who are able to involve people in realizing a compelling vision provide a beacon for the future and a standard of excellence. Vision plays an important role in developing a winning organization. A compelling vision can play an important role in developing a winning organization. A compelling vision can motivate and empower everyone in an organization to seek higher levels of performance and achievement. People want to do a good job because realizing the vision is important to them. A compelling vision is inspiring and it is energizing. It provides an image of a better future that causes people to drive themselves to higher levels of achievement.

In the final analysis, you can’t really force people to be motivated. You can only create an environment in which people are motivated. A vision will release creative energies to successfully attain the desired results. It provides a reason for change and exploring possible uncharted waters with enthusiasm. It gives meaning to work and it encourages innovation. Individuals recognize the importance of their personal contribution to the overall whole. Vision helps everyone realize that their best interests are served by the success of the entire organization.

Vision alone is not enough however. Look for a future post on the Leader as a Coach.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Business Value of Developing Trust

Trust is one of the primary essentials to the success of any team.

Outstanding teams will inevitably deliver exceptional performance when the element of trust is present and strong within the culture. Trust is, of course, the belief that those who you depend on in your team will meet your expectations. When trust is present, your team members will work effectively together, share information freely, share challenges and mistakes, admit lack of knowledge, and commit themselves to the success of the team. It’s easier to build trust when working in the same physical environment because you will be exposed to many visual clues. Researchers say that people often take less than four minutes to make a trust judgment based on someone’s voice, body language, and words. However, in today’s business arena, there are times where a team is functioning remotely and developing trust can never be forgotten or pushed to the wayside.

When people fail to work well together, it is often because there is no trust. When there is no trust, there is fear and suspicion, and these are a major deterrent to innovation and results. Without trust, the best and brightest ideas never surface. Even worse, when there is fear and suspicion, commitment goes away. Commitment and fear are almost mutually exclusive.

Trust can never be mandated, as it must always be earned. There must be honest, complete, and open communication delivered in a way that fosters mutual respect. Your employees must feel free to ask questions with the confidence they will receive support and the necessary information. Each employee must also feel free to openly express his or her thoughts and feelings. There can be no hidden agendas or clandestine activities. An effective leader must become an expert at ensuring that everyone is kept informed and feels that they are in on things.

In his book, Building Productive Teams, Glenn Varney introduces what he calls the Trust Cycle as a means of showing how leadership can prevent cynicism and establish trust. The Trust Cycle shows “Trust is developed from adequate to total information so that the individual can influence or make decisions, which builds more trust.”

There are many factors and behaviors that build trust, and even though developing trust is a very individual experience, research has shown there are some common factors which help create an environment of trust. Trust can be enhanced when a leader focuses on building strong relationships with and among the team. Review the following categories and concepts as it relates to your department, team, or business unit. What can you do to build stronger relationship and deeper trust within your team? How will it impact the overall results?

Results: All team members are focused on and produce results, exceed customers expectations, meet delivery times, and measurable results are documented.

Integrity: Team members can be trusted to mean what they say when they say it, show commitment to the team, do what they say they will do, communication is essential, and behavior is in the best interest of the team.

Change: Team members are willing to change and adapt, open to other view points, and are flexible.

Empathy: Putting yourself in a team member’s shoes and showing care and concern are culturally sensitive, and sensitive to the impact of all decisions.

Trust is difficult to gain, but easily lost. Building trust requires consistent and ongoing commitment from management. It requires executive sponsorship in the form of authentic leadership. There is no room for missteps.

The results are worth it.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why Great Teams Create Competitive Advantage

Every business has the ability to create real competitive advantage. All you need are great teams.

I am asked constantly what it takes to create competitive advantage, and not just from clients. Just about everyone I come into contact with is looking for the elusive answer. “How can I set myself apart from my competitors? How can I take business away from them?” The answer is easy: competitive advantage is created by people. Capable people put into strong teams. The internal behaviors of your organization are how companies set themselves apart from the competition. The attitudes, the level of commitment and motivation, and the resulting culture are what create competitive advantage.

I sometimes get blank stares when I give inquirers that answer. It’s not the answer people expect, and often not the answer they want. The “people” answer involves culture, and rah-rah, and touchy-feely, and that makes many managers and business owners uncomfortable. They would rather hear that the answer is buying into new technology, or re-arranging their office or store, or changing vendors. But consider that your competitors all have the same access to technology, the same access to vendors, and the same access to facilities as you do. The only difference-maker is your people, and the team culture, and how well that culture is able to innovate and think creatively. It’s how deeply the teams are committed to push the product envelope, the quality envelope, and the customer-service envelope. It’s how well your teams are positioned to connect with the customers and the markets you compete in.

Great teams create products and services that connect to customers at an emotional level. They create products and services that exceed the expectations of the customers. Great teams will take a customer transaction and turn it into a pleasing buying experience. A customer experience that is positive in every aspect is how the organization develops a relationship with the customer, a relationship based on credibility and trust. That relationship results in a loyal customer, one that recommends your products and services to friends and family. The organization then sees customer growth, revenue growth, and long-term success.

The notion that team cultures provide competitive advantage is not new by any means. Many organizations have created exceptional success this way, such as Johnson & Johnson, Toyota, Disney, Google, McDonalds, and General Electric. These companies have achieved success by creating teams that performed at levels far beyond what is typical. This is also how small companies outgrow their competitors and become world class market leading companies. Every large Fortune 500 organization started out a small business, and created great teams that were committed to the vision and focused on creating excellence.

Are your teams committed and focused?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Good Listeners are Hard to Find

Have you had a conversation recently with someone whose attention appeared to be somewhere else and not really listening to you? Did you ever have a conversation with someone where you really felt like the person you were talking with was engaged in the conversation and was really interested in what you were saying? These are two very different experiences aren’t they?
We know when we are being paid attention to. The other person’s body language, eye contact, and tone of voice are focused and inviting and surrounding distractions seem irrelevant. Every one of us can remember a meaningful conversation and what it felt like to “be heard.” Being heard is something everyone thrives on. We all want to be heard, and we all want our issues to be validated. This is especially so for members of your team or staff. This is double-especially so for customers.
Emails, voice mails, text messages, and the limit of 140 characters on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are the very common forms of today’s communication. Technology has given us the ability to share ideas with anyone, at anytime, and anywhere in the world. Our global environment requires this technology to be successful, and it will foster continued innovation and efficiency.
However, the true essence of business is built around people and the future innovations that people can and will inspire. It seems these days that the technology we’re surrounded by exists for the purpose of inspiring communication and collaboration. Communication and collaboration is what usually needs to efficiency, innovation, and overall success.
While I am quick to admit that the advances to communications and the speed at which we can communicate are necessary, I also see that it often adds to our dysfunction. Our society has become inundated by communication overload, and so we take departures from good manners in trying to absorb and address it all.
Take a step back and evaluate your listening ability and techniques. Do any of the following apply to you?
• Check and answer email while talking on the phone (personally or professionally).

• Respond to texts while in a meeting or at your child’s soccer game.

• Watch your children IM or text while doing homework or at the dinner table.

• Spend time updating your Facebook wall instead of reaching out to someone meaningful and having a real conversation.

• Engage in a conversation with an employee, while you shuffle papers and respond to a receptionist call that Mr. Smith is on line two.

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all guilty of one if not many of these listening infractions. We get caught up in the crazy and scattered pace of life. Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves that good listening is essential to effective communication, and here are some simple habits that can improve our listening ability:

Take time to listen. Stop, take a deep breath to clear your mind, and really listen to an employee sharing ideas or to how your son’s day at school unfolded.

Be attentive. Put the world on hold and pay 100% attention to the person talking with you. They believe what they have to say is important and so should you.

Listen with an open mind. Don’t be judgmental. Listen to everything the person is communicating and before judging the value of the information, ask questions to better understand the scope and depth.

Listen for feelings. People repeat those things that are important to them. Listen to what is said but also to how it is said. Feelings often speak much louder than words.

Listen for retention. While listening, summarize the highlights of the conversation in your mind so you can play it back to the person with whom you are talking. It will help you implement the important details later, and it will send the important message that you were really listening.

Finally, listen to others like you want to be listened to … you will be astounded as to how much more you will get accomplished and learn if you stop and really listen. And, you will be amazed how much you miss if you don’t!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Creating Personal and Professional Success

All too often, we let ourselves get stuck in a professional or personal position where goals are pre-defined for us. Unfortunately these may become comfort zones for us, and then we are reluctant to challenge those goals. The result is frustration where no one feels fulfilled and the goals often are never reached. However, sometimes developing a successful business does not come easily or in a time frame that is initially envisioned. This is not only frustrating, but often creates self-doubt. Research shows that one of the key factors to achieving success is the commitment to a plan and persistence to see it through.

There are a set of common sense principles, that if followed will provide significant outcomes toward your personal and professional success. These eleven principles will give you some additional direction in creating a balanced, successful life. As you continue to read, challenge yourself to identify which principles if implemented will take your business and life to the next level. Success, accomplishment, and life balance are right around the corner if you choose to do something about it. It is up to you to “carpe diem” – seize the day!

Earn trust by giving it. We live in a cynical world and it is becoming commonplace for people to want to see “it” before they believe “it.” Trust in the business world is critical, and you can build trust by being a person of your word and encouraging people to trust you by trusting them.

Take responsibility for your actions. Do what you say you are going to do! Admit it when you are wrong and take corrective action immediately. Make sure your actions are consistent with your values, and remember actions will always speak louder than words.

Get the facts before making a decision. Take the necessary time to collect the facts in order to make the best-educated decision. However, do not overdo it—too much information can cause paralysis by analysis, which causes inactivity, and inactivity causes failure.

Go the extra mile. Decide to make a difference! Go the extra mile for your customers, your family, and yourself. The little things always matter and they will add up to a stronger business and better relationships.

Put first things first and last things not at all. Use your “must do” and “should do” lists effectively. Focus on the activities that will impact your business and life goals—let the rest go. Simplify your world by knowing what is important to you and prioritize accordingly.

Accentuate the positive. Focusing on the negative will always net negative results as well as make everything seem incredibly challenging. Focusing on the positive will unveil new possibilities and opportunities that will directly link to your goals … and it just feels much better.

Center your life on specific goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistically high, and time trackable goals are the key to success and the fulfillment of your purpose.

Devote yourself to lifelong learning. What goals have you established to exercise your brain muscles? If you are unclear about the answer to this question develop those goals now! Develop goals that will force you out of your own comfort zone—it will be a liberating and exhilarating experience.

Discover and follow your calling. We refer to it as discovering and following your passion. Understanding your passion is critical to your success and living a life of balanced fulfillment. Living your passion is not the impossible dream; however, it will always require focused commitment and the desire to be the best you can be.

Concentrate on what you do well. Everyone has been given specific and unique gifts. Determine what yours are and maximize them. Do not try to be somebody else—work on being the best YOU! Listen to others, learn from others, but follow your unique direction.

Pour a solid foundation of hard work. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Hard work is essential for a successful business. Hard work is required for success in personal relationships. Hard work is required for any kind of worthwhile goal accomplishment, however, some of the hardest work I have had to do, I enjoyed the most.

So which of the eleven principles did you make a written note to address as it relates to improving your business, your life, and your current level of accomplishment? One of them, half of them, all of them … the number you selected is irrelevant. The commitment to take action is the most important step of all. Success in life is a continuous and evolutionary process. There really is no destination; there are only self-imposed limitations. Every day provides new challenges and if you are looking in the right places, life also provides the necessary solutions.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Building a Successful Team

Everyone in an organization plays an important role in its overall performance. From mail room to board room, every individual must contribute to success.

It’s no longer enough to be good, you must be exceptional. It is no longer enough to have satisfied customers, you must seek to develop a loyal and delighted customer base. It’s no longer enough to maintain. You must be aggressive, responsive, and quick. Your challenge is getting everyone on your team or in your department committed and focused on achieving organizational success. As an effective team leader, your role is to build the best, strongest, most productive team possible. One that can meet and overcome the adversity that surrounds it. Your team or department’s results, or lack thereof, will be a direct function of the cohesiveness of your team.

Creating a winning team begins with creating a culture in which your employees are encouraged to challenge, to question, to create, and to innovate. Surround yourself with the best people the organization has to offer. Don’t limit yourself by focusing only on people with seniority or rank. Bring people into the team as they are needed based upon their expertise or abilities. Beware of hiring your friends or drinking buddies, as this could be a recipe for disaster.

The ideal team should be led by different types of mentalities, so you get a blend of perspectives. For example, some team members will naturally focus on people issues (feelers), while others will focus on short term tasks and objectives (doers), and still others focus on strategy, vision, and long term planning (thinkers).

Create a culture where people are encouraged to be their best and perform their best. As the goals or projects dictate, you may want to involve multiple team members in different aspects of the project as needed. Furthermore, it may not always be necessary to involve everyone from beginning to end. Always be sure; however, the goals are specific and that they are aligned with the vision, values, and strategies of the organization as defined by management. Alignment must also occur between the department’s activities and its outcomes. If continuous improvement is to occur, your team needs to focus on continuous improvement in all areas. Therefore, measurements and expectations must be developed and reviewed regularly. Get team members involved and delegate ownership of processes and challenges which rightfully belong to them.

The momentum of the team keeps a project going so the probability of success is enhanced. A team’s collective power is much greater than that of any one individual. A sound team culture means the whole effort exceeds the sum of its parts!


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Holding on to Customers

In today’s ever important service arena the key to winning customers has nothing to do with price or even product. It’s more about emotional connection. In the past measuring customer loyalty was a challenge mostly because organizations didn’t understand loyalty. We now know that loyalty is tied to consistent and positive points of connection. Because emotions are perceived as soft, messy, and hard to deal with, emotions make many organizations nervous. Organizations can’t ignore this critical ingredient anymore because the emotional connection with a customer is the basis for creating and building customer relationships.

How can we measure the emotional effect on loyalty? The Gallup Organization suggests using measurements that assess things such as overall brand loyalty, confidence, integrity, pride and passion for the brand. The brand can be the company’s name, its products or services, its

people, its policies, etc. Although many of these areas refer to the products or services, connecting with a service provider has a huge impact on the customer’s perception of the brand.

If you want to find out who your loyal customers are, find out how likely they are to recommend your organization to someone else. Remember, one of the key measurements of loyal customers is their desire to recommend your organization. There is a direct and strategic correlation between an organization’s revenue growth and its customer loyalty score.

How does your organization’s measure customer loyalty score?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Distraction Zone

It hits most of us in the afternoon hours when we’re starting to crash and doze. It’s the time zone between the afternoon hours of 2pm and 4pm (no it’s not exactly a time zone) where we lose focus and can be distracted by anything. We zone out. We sit at our desk with a large cup of coffee in a feeble attempt at being productive and try to zero in on the tasks at hand:

What should I do first?

What is the priority, really?

Do, I really want to start with “that” project?

Should I wait until this afternoon to start making phone calls?

Should I rework my web page/marketing material?

How about if I give _______ a call and see how they are doing?

Sitting in the distraction zone without having a real plan with clear priorities is a success killer. You are already challenged by a not-so-alert mental state, and without pre-planned and focused priorities it will be impossible to accomplish anything.

Focus is what is necessary to accomplish goals and objectives that will lead to success as you define it. Focus provides a clear image, a clear path of direction. This is especially true while we sit in the distraction zone.

How do you achieve focus? Start with the end in mind. Decide where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. You need to ascertain what the “big picture” is in order to determine and execute the necessary action steps. What is the vision for your company or department? What do you want to be known for and why? As a result of accomplishing your vision, what will change for you personally? The answer to these questions will provide the motivation for success.

Establish a Plan. After you have established your desired vision, you need a plan … a plan that not only includes the vision, but a plan that lays out the mission (how you plan to accomplish the vision in a two to five year time frame). An assessment of your challenges and potential obstacles needs to be conducted. Based on your direction and combined assessments, you can then create and proceed with sufficient and necessary critical goal categories that will bring the plan to life.

Implement the Plan. The critical goal categories are the broad goals established in your plan to begin the action planning process. Next, specific and detailed goals, which must meet the SMART criteria, need to be created. They will provide the daily, monthly, and quarterly plans as well as the needed performance metrics. These action steps must be identified with time lines, and the time commitments need to be immediately entered into your planning system. Having an unorganized time management system will inevitably lead to unforeseen challenges and disappointing results.

Continuous Goals Review. It’s important to know what measurements are critical to the success of your plan and monitor them closely. Seek out assistance through a coaching or mentoring relationship where someone helps keep your feet to the fire. Creating the personal, professional or business success you are looking for means avoiding procrastination. It requires persistence and unyielding focus on the critical measurements.

Make a difference today! We cannot control tomorrow … we can only plan for it, and yesterday is a cancelled check. The only thing we can control is today! Make a decision to focus your action steps first thing every day and make the commitment to yourself (no matter what) that you will accomplish want needs to be accomplished. Long-term success comes from the dedication to do the right activity well and do it every day!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Key to Success: Persistence

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
- Calvin Coolidge

Persistence. Determination. Will. Perseverance.


These are key difference makers between individuals and teams that succeed, and those that do not succeed. A persistent mental attitude is powerful. Military commanders work to develop this sort of mentality into their recruits throughout basic training, because they understand its potency on the field of battle. That same potency also benefits every successful person and organization.

In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, the corporate leaders that took their companies to exceptional levels of success were analyzed to identify the characteristics these leaders all shared. Jim Collins referred to this group as “Level 5 Leaders”, and there were two traits shared by all of them. One of these was a very strong will and persistence.

As a country, the U.S. gained a sense of persistence after the 9/11 tragedy. As a world leader we knew it was necessary, though it did not change the intensity of the horror, the sadness, or the trauma the events caused.

Martin Luther King, like many historical heroes, was persistent in order to share the power of his vision—no matter what amount of ignorance or violence stood in his way.

The NASA program exists today because its members have been persistent through many setbacks. The Kennedy administration had a vision and a goal to put a man on the moon. Many thought that vision was grandiose and unachievable. But in 1969, the vision became a reality. Later, NASA would see its most tragic setbacks with the losses of the space shuttle Challenger and the space shuttle Endeavor.

Captain Chesley Sullenberger was piloting US Airways flight 1549 when immediately after taking off from New York’s Laguardia Airport, a flock of geese left his airliner without engine power. His persistence kept Captain Sullenberger focused on his emergency procedures, and he successfully landed his powerless aircraft into the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew.

These are all examples of exceptional people who were persistent and achieved amazing results in extreme situations. However, I would submit to you that their persistence is required in everyday life and business. I believe that every person involved in the above examples always demonstrated persistence. However, we saw their real capability because they were faced with adverse, challenging, life, or vision threatening situations.

We are all currently faced with unprecedented changes, many of which many are out of our direct control. Recovery and regaining success in life and business will come because of our conscious decision to be persistent.

Make the commitment now to do what is necessary to make your personal life and your professional life successful. Look at each of your challenges as an opportunity for success. Use your talent, experience, and education to your advantage. Develop a plan that leverages your background and experience. Review your every plan and your mix of activities and make sure they are the right activities. Reach out for assistance as often as needed.

Make the commitment to be persistent… it’s the difference between success and mediocrity.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Accomplishing Goals 101

“All things are created twice. There is a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things. You have to make sure that the blueprint, the first creation, is really what you want, that you have thought everything through, Then you put it into brick and mortar. Each day you go to the construction shed and pull out the blueprint to get marching orders for the day. You begin with the end in mind.”
Stephen R. Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I am constantly amazed at how we as a society approach goals. We all know how important they are, but too few of us really create them, let alone follow through and accomplish them. Think of how New Year’s resolutions have almost become a joke for us. It is almost always assumed that most of those goals will go unheeded.

Part of the problem is that the vast majority of us have never been formally trained on how to effectively plan and achieve our goals. It is not taught to students in school, and most certainly not taught to the workforce. In fact, most individuals are probably unaware that there are systematic approaches available to create achievable goals. A good goals creation process includes a framework that helps develop a clear vision of the end results, and the effective mechanics of accomplishing that goal. Effective mechanics includes identifying obstacles and action steps.

Developing Blue Prints
Goal accomplishment begins by establishing a relationship between where you are now and where you want to go. Begin this process with a personal and professional inventory or assessment that will help you identify your current dreams and aspirations. Define what do you want to accomplish, achieve, own, do, and be? Be careful not to let your practical mind limit your dreams and ideas. Grant yourself permission to think big and out of the box.

In addition to allowing yourself to desire and dream, take a moment to assess where you are mentally, socially, physically, financially, in regards to your family as well as with your ethics. We usually have a tendency to evaluate, focus, and measure effectiveness only in our professional and business lives. The common measurement is financial success. However, what we are all really after is balance. We do want financial success, but we also want the time to enjoy the benefits of that financial success. We want time with our friends and our family, and we don’t want to trade health for wealth.

Through the dreaming process we determine what we want to achieve, what
we want to do, and what we want to be. Next an evaluation or assessment process provides a clearer picture of our strengths and areas that we may choose to improve. The next step is to prioritize based on your dreams, evaluations, and assessments those specific items or goals that are most important to you now and that you want to take action on. This is the final step to providing the blueprint for your success.

As Covey indicates creating the brick and mortar is the second phase. Blueprints alone will not generate success. An architect can create a perfect blueprint, but without the appropriate building supplies and a contractor to do something with the supplies, the perfect house will never be built. The same fundamentals apply to goal accomplishment.

Bricks and Mortar
First, all goals need to be written down. Many people have goals but readily admit that they have not committed them to writing. Writing forces you to clarify your thinking and serves as a reminder of your objectives. Written goals will keep you on course in the midst of interruptions and distractions. Using a RAC Goal Planning Sheet© is an excellent mechanism to commit goals to writing and create a working document that will provide the focus necessary for success.

Working through the Goal Planning worksheet provokes the thought necessary to identify the obstacles, brainstorm all of the possible solutions, and then identify the required action steps needed to accomplish the goal. The components of the Goal Planning sheet are the bricks of your success. What provides the mortar to hold the bricks in place? All goals must have an overall target date with time specific action steps.

All the identified action steps need to be transferred to your personal planning system, which will provide a constant reminder of your plans and objectives. As you arrange your actions steps and timetable, remember that the goals are personal and you are in control. If for some reason you miss a designated date, examine the situation and find out why. There is always the possibility of unforeseen circumstances. You have the ability and authority to change a timeline. It is your blueprint.

However, those time sensitive dates will hold you accountable to yourself and others, which allows you to accomplish more sooner. Be careful to make sure that you are moving dates based on valid reasons and choices. Do not let fear, procrastination, and frustration (common, everyday occurrences) get in the way. The potential rewards of accomplishing your goal or the possible consequences of not accomplishing a goal should always be in the forefront of your mind to help you make the appropriate time sensitive decisions.

You are the architect of your life—personally and professionally. If you are dissatisfied with your results, take the initiative to change them. Take charge of your life and create the results that you’ve always dreamed of.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Leaders Take Charge of Change

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

The times are unprecedented and uncertainty is everywhere. From high gas prices at the pump to high level politics in Washington DC, everything is vastly different from just a couple of years ago. The resulting negativity is also unprecedented, and coming from everywhere and everyone.

Talk to the average citizen and the feedback will not be rosy. But we make things worse for ourselves because of how we are used to “giving in” to status quo. We escalate our own frustrations by defaulting to the position that all of the circumstances are beyond our control and/or influence. Some of the circumstances are indeed unchangeable. Our armed forces are trained to adapt to their environment in order to survive. Civilians need to do the same, whether they are business owners, CEOs, or just an average citizen. Failure to adapt is often the root cause of both business failures as well as personal failures.

Maya Angelou’s words resound with a realistic common sense. When circumstances are dictated by forces outside of your circle of influence, adapting might mean an attitude adjustment. Frustrations, anger, resentment, and all the other negative emotions will only serve to slow down finding an alternate approach or solution. Leaders will adapt their attitudes and hence will facilitate adapting their approach so they can maximize their results.

Leaders exhibit a positive attitude that leads to positive behavior. They do not let anything stand in their way—circumstances within their control or circumstances beyond their control. Attitude is a state of mind and if you are focusing your life on negative aspects, you will experience negative results. Leaders focus their attitude on the positive and will naturally lead to positive action, and positive action will lead to far better outcomes. Rather than focusing on what cannot be accomplished, leaders will focus on what can be accomplished.

Your attitude plays a role in everything that you do from your interaction with the global community, to your business, and to the people that surround you daily—your peers, clients, family, and community members. Leaders recognize the role attitude plays and this key to their achieving success. Do you want to be known as the highly successful person who exhibits an impeccable attitude of positive behavior or the neighbor, dad, wife, husband, mother, or business owner that exhibits a dark and dismal attitude? With whom would you want to interact? With whom would you want to do business? The answers are fairly obvious as most people prefer to be associated with positive and optimistic individuals.

Here are ten questions that if answered honestly will demonstrate whether your actions reflect an attitude of a leader and highly successful individual, or if your actions represent the doom and gloom of a pessimist. Take a moment and address each statement with one of the following answers.

No, I do not do this.
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, or
Yes, I do this consistently.

(Remember, honesty keeps you from fooling yourself!)
1. I take full responsibility for how my day turns out.

2. I am confident that I can succeed at whatever I do as long as I simply take the right actions.

3. I spend time visualizing tremendously rewarding success instead of picturing failure.

4. I maintain a positive expectation of every action I take.

5. I look for the best in every situation and the opportunity in every problem.

6. I focus more of my time on seeking solutions rather than staying absorbed in the problem.

7. I see myself as someone who is capable, enthusiastic, and committed.

8. I speak in a positive, powerful, and uplifting manner.

9. I persist with passion until I succeed at whatever I do.

10. I embrace change, and love to learn and grow from new ideas and experiences.

If you answered yes to every one of the ten statements, congratulations, you have the leadership qualities of a highly successful person. However, if you had to answer just one question with sometimes or no then you have room to grow, work, and develop. Just about everyone will have room to grow and develop. This should not come as a shock to anyone, as keeping a positive frame of mind is now more of a constant challenge than ever.

Change is here to stay. The things that are changing around us today will be fixed, repaired, modified, and replaced by other changes in the future. The only thing that is guaranteed is change will continue to accelerate and come at us faster and faster. However, the key to successfully navigating change is determining the focus of your attitude!

The choice is yours, so choose whether you focus on what can’t be accomplished, or what can be accomplished.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Time is an Investment

One of the greatest lessons in time management is learning the difference between spending time and investing time. Spending alludes to cost, and the dictionary defines spend as “to use up, exhaust, consume.” When you incur an expense, you have no expectation of a return. But if we think of our time as a capital investment, we adjust our mentality to expect a return on our time in the form of increased revenue, opportunity, or even a personal satisfaction that advances us toward our goals.

Unfortunately most of us all too often use time in the context of an expense, with no expectation of a return. To make matters worse, we do a poor job of prioritizing time. We spend inordinate amounts of time engaged in frivolous activities that do little or nothing to propel us toward our life goals. For some reason, we don’t value time as money. Though we certainly know better, and we might even say it. But we don’t walk the talk. Most of us are trained not to waste paper. We turn off lights, so we don’t waste electricity. Yet we continue use our time unwisely. We utilize our time—precious moments of our lives that can never be relived—as if we had an unlimited supply.

Too often we spend our time doing what someone else wants us to do, or we do things that seem urgent rather than those that are really important. The result is that many unimportant tasks get done in a thorough, timely fashion, while important activities get hastily done under hasty circumstances. The result is a compromised effort and compromised quality. Time is money. You can expect dividends if you invest wisely, and you can expect losses if you spend thoughtlessly.

Time reflects who you are. It indicates what you think of yourself and others. It reflects how focused you are in achieving the goals you have set for yourself. Orchestrate each day of your life to achieve a high level of performance and satisfaction personally and professionally. Make sure your activities and how you invest your time is aligned with your personal goals and with the goals of your organization.

Stop spending time and start getting results.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Customer Driven Organization

The economy is down, and challenges are up. Business owners are desperate for business success. The key to success is creating a customer-centric business.

A customer-driven business is one that has recognized that the typical organizational structure with the CEO at the top must be turned upside down to put the focus on the customer. The vision of the organization includes the customer, and the focus is no longer just on customer satisfaction. Today’s focus is on exceeding customer expectations.

Becoming a customer driven business means everyone’s collective efforts being focused on the vision of the organization and the mission at hand. Exceeding customer expectations is no small feat. Leadership must ensure that this value is consistently communicated, which helps foster a team culture that is solidly entrenched in achievement, continuous improvement, and customer focus. An organization can only survive if customers are satisfied. But the organization will thrive if customers are captivated by a memorable customer experience.

Create customer loyalty by going the extra mile for your clients. Look not to satisfy them, but to exceed their expectations. Do more than they expect and you will delight them. Word of mouth referrals are still the most powerful form of advertising. Delighted customers tell others who, when delighted, will tell others and so on and so on.

Consistency is very important toward creating customer loyalty. Many businesses are very accommodating with a new customer, but tend to get lazy as times goes on. They focus on getting new business (which costs five times as much as keeping a customer) instead of revitalizing and improving existing business. As a result, they fail to maintain their service standards with existing customers. Research also shows that 70% of the customers that take their business elsewhere do so because of poor or rude service.

Nothing is more important to an on-going business relationship than honesty and integrity. Live up to and exceed those customer expectations!


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Power To Change Your Fate

Peter Drucker said “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We all have the power to create our future state of success. Unfortunately too few of us actually put that power to good use.

In any endeavor, coaches and consultants look to define the current state of an individual or business, as well as the future state. The future state is what success looks like, and the intended outcome or deliverable. Both the current state and future state our influenced by our view of the world. Our perception of reality means everything, and it encompasses everything as well. Perception is not just how we see things visually, but also our decision-making and bias patterns. Perceptions are influenced by our belief system, our past experiences, our upbringing.

As I've written in the past, you are in control of you, your attitudes, decision-making, thought patterns, and your emotions. And you are in control of your barriers. As a matter of fact, many of our barriers are self-imposed. This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that we are already empowered to take down the barriers, but we often fail to. We forget that we are empowered, and we fail to realize that the barriers and limits are self-imposed. These are the habits of thought that most often prevent success.

I often hear people complain that they are not moving up the ladder, or their business is suffering, or their lives are unfulfilled. Yet the can't say why success is evading them. Many people might say their lives or businesses aren’t functioning very well but they can’t identify what is wrong. The root of the problem is usually our habits of thought working against us. Our attitudes are doing us a disservice. If you fall into this category, start a daily diary. Keep it with you wherever you go, and document every thought about yourself that pops into your head. Keep this diary religiously, and review it after a month. What do you see? Many unhappy thoughts? Go through the diary carefully, and you will see patterns emerge. Those unhappy thoughts will usually fit into one or two categories. These are the areas that will need your focus to create improvements. , you will see your negative thoughts fall into specific categories and these identified categories will become the focused areas in which you can commit to improve. Once these areas have been identified, you can engage a process to help create the best action plan for improvement.
Create within your mind your reality and the reflection you want to see. Believe in yourself. Believe in your ability and business acumen. You have value. You have a set of experiences that no one else has. Be confident in who you are and commit to be the best you can be!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Set Aside the Profit Motive?

“The world is upside down”. I have spoken these very words a million times since the bottom has fallen out of the economy. But perhaps we have always been a little upside down, and only now really seeing the results.

I would submit that a significant part of our issue is really the profit motive (blasphemy). Businesses that are least likely to survive these challenging times are most often those that focus more on the profit motive, rather than focusing on delivering a competitive product or service that provides value.

Business owners often ask themselves “How can we make more money?’. But the companies that will sustain success in this economy will set aside the profit motive and ask:

“How can we build a base of loyal customers?”

“How can we efficiently improve the quality of our product or service?”

“How can we deliver it better or faster?”

“How can we improve our product or service so that everyone will want to buy it despite the down economy?”

The successful companies will think outside the box to answer these questions, and make changes to maintain competitive advantage and perceived value. Most importantly, they will not spend dramatic amounts of money to accomplish this. The answers are usually associated with modest changes in their business and operating processes, or customer service procedures. But it does require vision and leadership. To quote one of my favorite leadership authors, Warren Bennis, “The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon.”

Companies that set aside the profit motive and instead focus on customers and delivering value are those that maintain their customer base, and their profits. Focus on the customers first, and the profits will come. Consider companies like McDonald’s, or Apple, or Wal-Mart (there are others) who have exceptional customer loyalty, and have remained profitable in this economy. Customer loyalty is a key to sustained success, and these days, maintaining that loyalty is more important than ever before. Just ask the American auto industry.Some findings on customer loyalty...

  • 68% of consumers change their place of business for little or no reason.
  • It costs between five and seven times more to find a new customer than to retain one.
  • A 5% reduction in lost customers can increase profits by up to 75%.
  • Only 3% of businesses have a 'lost customer' reactivation program.
  • Existing customers are not as price sensitive as new ones, they require less sales time, administration and advertising.
  • A first-time customer has a 30% chance of becoming a long-term profitable customer. If they buy three times relatively quickly, their chance of becoming long-term more than doubles to 67%.