Career or business changes are a lot about making things happen. We get caught up in the inertia of our fears and are afraid of making a mistake.
When I start with clients who are in-transition, we meet at my office in Stamford and I cover the Five Behaviors Of Successful People. I do this to help them focus, get out of a mental 'rut', and move forward with enthusiasm, passion, and determination.
In retrospect, I actually cover these five areas with all of my clients, but I do it differently — I'm a bit more subtle:
TRACK & PLAN You need to know where you've been, where you are, and where you're going at ALL TIMES. This means tracking your time (schedule) minute by minute and accounting for all of your time and energy. You should be sticking to a plan, taking discrete steps each day, and taking it to its natural conclusion.
FAIL: If you're just winging your calendar or making large swaths of time blocks, you're not tracking effectively. If you don't have a plan (try setting up 90-day plans — they're manageable), you will fail.
BE BOLD One of the original taglines for my coaching practice was "Be Bold In Life". I still love it because it embodies the swashbuckler spirit that we all need to be successful in business. You need to take chances, uncover opportunities, and most of all, you need to be BOLD in your thinking.
FAIL: Just keep saying "I can't do that!". Or constantly ask for permission to do things instead of just doing them. Or not doing them because you know they're going to fail.
THINK & ACT This is the cornerstone of my coaching philosophy — figure out what needs to be done and DO IT. Don't second guess yourself and get caught up in analysis-paralysis. Look at your options, make a decision, and take action. Worst case, if your wrong, step back, reassess, and take action.
FAIL: Procrastinate, contemplate forever and try to come up with every permutation. Push for perfection.
CHALLENGE Life is a series of challenges you must overcome to keep moving and stay happy. Work, relationships, kids, etc. are all made up of small and large challenges that we must deal with. Here's the secret — embrace each challenge with enthusiasm and vigor or you will go through life with a glass half-empty existence.
FAIL: Moan, complain, and run away from your problems. The faster you come up with a plan and deal with your challenge, the faster you will get on with your life.
OPEN UP You can spend your life closed down and not interacting with anyone or you can open your heart to the world and make a lot of new friends. Try to make a new friend every day — an acquaintance, a connection — take an avid interest in your fellow man. Most of all — SMILE!!!
FAIL: Stay home, watch TV, cocoon, close your office door, keep your head down and let your voicemail/email take over all of your connections. Oh yes — forget to smile.
Did something scare you today? This week? This year? What really scares you? An angry boss? A lost client? A problem without a solution? Zombies?
And more importantly, what does your fear make you do? Do you shut down? Make quick decisions without thinking?
When you're scared, you make emotional decisions. Sometimes they are rational and sometimes they are irrational. Sometimes these decisions turn into irrational actions.
For example, did you ever blow up over something that turned out to be quite inconsequential? I tend to 'lose it' on myself when I accidentally drop something when cooking in the kitchen. In retrospect, it was an accident, I didn't plan for it, and I mistakenly dropped a dish of food. But I still 'lost it' on myself. I wasn't scared, but I still acted irrationally.
It happens to the best of us. I help my clients look at their lives as a huge long line or spectrum with being 'totally in-control' at one end and 'totally out-of-control' at the other end. Most of the time, when we're scared, we tend to feel that we have moved from the safe, in-control extreme to the perilous out-of-control extreme.
But that's not true. We've just moved a little bit on our control line. Here's a little secret: We're never really totally in-control either. Someone or some thing, somewhere has a bit of control over us or has the ability to careen us out-of-control. For example, our health, our kids, our spouse/partner, work, finances, etc. all can quickly have an immediate impact on our control system.
The faster you realize you are never in complete control AND that you are never in complete chaos, the faster you will move from being scared to a more meditative sense of reality. Realize that we spend our lives moving along this 'control' line without fear — we're just trying to get things done, we hit a road-block, and we solve that problem and move on.
Here are some rules I adhere to:
1. You are not at the far (deep) end of the out-of-control line. You've moved a bit out of control, don't be scared, and realize a small action can bring you back in control quickly. Don't stay in one place and begin to emotionalize your reaction. Worrying about what might happen will never really help you — you need to think rationally about your options and take action.
2. Take one small step. One micro-task which will allow you to start moving in the right direction and begin to feel better about your situation. Again, if you do nothing, you'll go nowhere. Even if you move backwards, at least you're moving — you can always course correct.
3. "Action expresses priorities." - Gandhi. Once you take action — any action — you will begin to stop worrying/being scared and start to make further decisions to help you get back into a control situation. Movement or action begins to eliminate most worry and fear. Get out of that haunted house ASAP!
Let me know how this works — the last thing I want you doing is spending a beautiful spring, scared, full of fear and stranded in worry. Life is SO much better than that.
"Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching around for what it gets." - Henry Ford I still get people today moaning about how it's bad 'out there'.
For many years, money fell from the sky. Executives and entrepreneurs walked around with their laundry baskets and caught the falling bills. Not singles . . . we're talking 50 and 100 dollar bills. Life was good. We bought big cars, homes, boats, and took 2-4 week vacations.
“Love your family, work super hard, live your passion.” - Gary Vaynerchuk, from Crush It! Great words from Gary in one of my favorite books (I require all of my clients to read). He is spot on with this one.
See how he constructs the quote — Family — Work — Passion. Not the other way around.
Unfortunately, many of the C-Level clients I coach work it the other way and find they're not happy, they have a shitty marriage, they never see their kids or their kids hate them, and their only passion in life is putting in mucho hours on the job. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Yes — you've got the three M's — Money, Mansion, Mercedes (or Maserati) — but deep down, you're not happy. Something is missing and time is running out.
So here goes — you can have all three — it's just how you look at them AND how you prioritize them. I am currently working with the CEO/Owner of a top engineering firm and we're currently spinning the sequence around to help him enjoy the benefits of his labor. He's built the organization from the ground up and now it's time to enjoy life!
NUMBER ONE RULE — Family Comes First. No exceptions.
I'm not saying to fill up your calendar with family-oriented activities and let work suffer. Within reason, try to start your workweek by making time for your wife/partner, kids, friends, etc. If there is a baseball game, a romantic dinner, a morning run, hiking at the park — make sure it is recorded and blocked off on your calendar FIRST.
Again, within reason — I understand you work for a living. But taking a vacation day once in awhile is fine, even encouraged. Leave work early to catch your son's or daughter's soccer game. Come in late because you took your family to an early breakfast at your favorite diner. You know, the one where you all sit together with no TV, no smartphones and just eat and talk.
ACTION: Get your assistant in your office right now and start blocking off your calendar. TODAY.
NUMBER TWO RULE — Work Super Hard. But work smart.
I know you work hard. That's how you got to your position in the first place. But what got you to the captain's chair probably won't help you stay happy there. You worked hard, put in the thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears. You made all the right decisions (and a few stinkers). You made the right connections with the right people. YOU HUSTLED.
Now it's time to sit in the captain's chair and start delegating even more. Don't act like Captain Kirk and accompany the away team on every mission, stay on-board the Enterprise and direct your resources in strategic ways. What got you here isn't going to keep you here for very long without compromising your home life, your happiness, and your health. You're not getting any younger either.
ACTION: Look at all your meetings and start culling them down by 10%. Stop reading every email/text that comes in. Have your assistant monitor your information flow and decide what get priority. They're the gatekeeper — ensure they guard the gate.
Cut down on one-on-ones with everyone — start to develop a sharper pyramid reporting structure with very few people touching you (no more than 5-7) Remember the Godfather? He had three direct reports — his Consigliere (who died - morte), and two Capos — Clemenza and Tessio. That's it.
NUMBER THREE RULE — Live Your Passion. But find what your REAL passion is.
Too many C-Level executives hit the big show and start to abuse the passion that got them there. They forget the fun, innovation, excitement and give in to boredom, politics, and hitting the targets for their buddies on the board. The world becomes pedantic and the passion flows out of them.
They try to make safe decisions and safe moves, and impact their business, their organization, and their customers. They prioritize their bonus, their safety, and their reputation over what's really important. I know it's hard, but sometimes you have to sacrifice the temporary pleasures to fully engage with what really matters. It's not all money (and if you believe it is - READ THIS - another mandatory book I recommend to C-Level clients).
ACTION: Sit down and assess what your real passions are right at this moment. What gets your motor running? What gets you excited about life? What motivates you to do GREAT work? You need to re-establish a connection with your passion and make sure you fill up your enthusiasm gas tank every day.
Are you crushing it every day?
"No excuses. Make it happen." - Rich Gee
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"If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything." - Win Borden "A ship is safe in a harbor, but that's not what ships are for." - William Shedd
I wanted to hit you early this morning with a few of my favorite and powerful quotes.
I've been doing a LOT of public speaking lately. Conferences, keynotes, expos, organizations, and corporate gigs have been littering my calendar lately. It's been a BLAST. And I've learned a lot about the people I present to.
They're scared. Not the monster in the closet with the knife scared, but a slow, rhythmic, fear that invades their life. Their thinking.
And their actions.
The markets are unsure right now. Business is unsure right now. People are unsure right now.
But this is one of the best times to strike out and do something DIFFERENT. Take a chance. Try something new. BE BOLD IN LIFE.
I promise you — there are a LOT of people out there right now making a lot of money based on their ideas, their connections, and their HUSTLE.
You can be one of them too.
So today's charge for you is to look at what you do everyday and do it differently. Make a change. Reach out to someone who you thought was untouchable. Start something new. Improve and expand what you do.
It will not only motivate and inspire you — it will energize and get everyone around you to notice your tsunami.
Make it happen.
Candidly, it hard to get things done. Of course, some things are easy, but many of them are quite difficult. We are always looking for ways to do things better, faster, and with less worry and work. Years ago, I came upon one of the most simple and powerful quotes I've ever read. It's from Mohandas Gandhi, who in his 78 years of life, gave us so many great quotes (and his actions too!).
"Action Expresses Priorities."
That's it. That's MY secret to getting things done.
Think about it — All of your actions, all the things you do, all the things you deliver — set your priorities. Once you take action, you instantly decide what you want to do first. Why? People tend to act upon those things that have meaning to them.
But I think it's deeper than that. I think when you don't know what to do, you need to just take action anywhere and suddenly certain things will start to fall into place.
But that's the problem today — we don't take action. We're afraid to — we procrastinate, over-analyze, and postpone because we are sometimes afraid of action.
Because action will ensure we have to make a decision — we have to do something that is sometimes hard, or we will have to deal with the results of that action.
But what we don't realize is that action moves us forward. It propels us . . . it forces us to rocket faster and faster. And sometimes we are afraid of that.
So ask yourself:
- How can I take action today?
- What should I do first? Second? Third?
- What should I stop doing?
So the next time you are putting off something — a decision, a task, a phone-call — just think "Action Expresses Priorities".
Ever see the last scene from The Bourne Supremacy? Here it is (start the clip at 1:25 in). In addition to the great soundtrack cut from Moby, you see Bourne walking off into the crowds of Manhattan.
Do you notice HOW he walks? With PURPOSE.
He has a fast stride, is focused, and is determined to move forward, quickly.
I want you to do the same thing. I want you to walk 20% faster than you do now. Why?
- You get where you're going faster.
- You use different muscles when you walk faster.
- You catch people's attention when you move faster.
- You breathe differently and your heart pumps a bit faster.
- It adds focus, energy, and action to every step you take.
Let me say that again — IT ADDS FOCUS, ENERGY, AND ACTION TO EVERY STEP YOU TAKE.
Focus - Since you're moving faster, you have to anticipate and react faster. So you have to hone in on what you're doing and focus.
Energy - Since you are moving your body differently and with purpose, you get the lungs, blood, and muscles all flowing.
Action - Combine both of these together and you are adding activity to a mundane process.
How many times do you catch yourself strolling or walking slowly? Ever think about how that makes you feel? That's right — it relaxes you, it slows down the energy, and allows you to focus (i.e., worry) about a lot of things.
Walking 20% faster will get you out of the doldrums, get your juices flowing, and honestly . . . ideas will pop out of your head. You WILL add power and purpose with every step.
Are you complacent, gun-shy, or just plain scared?
Right now, the east coast is bracing for Hurricane Irene to hit. It might be bad. It might be nothing. But it's smart to prepare. How does this apply to your career or business?
Let's face it — many of the meetings we attend — well — suck. Why does this happen? We have an agenda. Everyone is present. No one is distracted. Why is it when we're surveyed, meetings rank at the bottom of any business experience? Because most people don't know how to run them. So here are 5 simple tips to make your meetings run efficiently:
Flash of inspiration . . . Milton Levine’s eureka moment came in 1956, when he spotted a mound of ants during a Fourth of July picnic at his sister’s poolside in Southern California.
The other night, I played Call of Duty—Black Ops with my son on his new Xbox 360 (with Kinect!). It's an amazing system — and it's quite entertaining. Unfortunately, I played it all wrong — or at least that's what my son told me (vociferously). I either camped out in one spot and picked everyone off like a sniper, or I ran blindly into the fray as fast as I could shooting everyone in sight. As I was reprimanded by my son, the 'right' way to play is to move slowly and shoot strategically at your enemies. I disagree ;)
Today is January 20th. You’ve had 20 days to kick off 2011 the right way. You know, MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
You know when you get so caught up in your career and life you forget things? Well I did. I was going through some papers that take me back to 2001-2002 and I saw this phrase, "Be Bold In Life". That was my original coaching 'theme' that I communicated on my business card, website, and throughout my coaching.
Sweet Potatoes? Peas? Squash? Corn? No.Is it a loved one who passed away this year? Is it a family member who is serving our country overseas? Let's all take a moment and express our love and gratitude for all the people in our lives. But today, I would like to go a little deeper — what's missing from your INNER Thanksgiving table this year?
This is Part One of a multi-part series on Ethical Leadership. "I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics." - Richard Branson
I thought I would start with the most apparent way to lead ethically - by your gut. Why? Because I feel that most people are good and try to live their lives from a position of doing good for others. I know — there are some horrible people out there — but overall, I believe that the majority of executives are guided by good rather than evil. Unfortunately, some are pulled to the dark side by a number of different reasons (found in my last post).
Leading with Gut Instinct means that you listen to an inner voice — what scientists call 'your intuition'. Intuition is a feeling within your body that something is right or just not right. Did you catch that I said "within your body" and not just "within your mind"? We've all had moments of intuition - a certain colleague or a business deal. Sometimes we listen and sometimes we don't —intuition is the signpost pointing us to the right way — unfortunately, we sometimes take the wrong way.
"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level." – Dr. Joyce Brothers This is why I believe my gut. Our brain is made up of billions of neurons firing many times during the day. Thoughts, emotions, facts, knowledge, etc. all are accessible at one time or another. If you have a highly structured and organized mind, you probably don't use your intuition as much as the next person. You just go to the library, choose your book from the shelves, and access the info that you need.
Everyone else's brain uses a more complex system — intuition — to unconsciously make their way through that ball of wire we call the brain and access that one (or more) tidbit of information needed to make the right decision.
The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself. – Alan Alda "Be yourself" — (how I love that term) — intuition allows you to make decisions from where you stand, not from anyone else's perspective. This is a sign of a true leader - one that makes the hard decisions, efficiently and effectively.
So next time you need to make the right decision — use your gut. It will keep you on the right track.